For anyone seeking a good ghost story with a South Shore flavor, “Raising Scituate’s Sprits” should be a standard reference. Dozens of local residents supplied the stories of the supernatural that were compiled by Scituate residents Kathie E. Lee and J. Neal Gray. And since the book was published in 2005, many more have come forward with to tell their tales to the authors.
Late last month, Gray died at age 85 after a short illness, but another collaboration with Lee is in the offing. Tentatively entitled “Kindred Spirits,’’ the book will combine Gray’s photographs of Scituate with Lee’s prose and poetry commenting on them.
In interviews with the Globe, Lee, who teaches writing at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, spoke about reactions to the earlier book, and the shortcomings of the word “paranormal.”
I think the stories is the book are normal, though it’s not a part of everyone’s life. Perhaps it was in humanity’s antiquity, but I think we’ve blocked a lot of it out, and life has become a very different thing for us. I know my ancestors in Ireland would consider it very normal; they have these experiences that they call ‘second sight,’ and it was considered part of living.
Native American people or aboriginal people of Australia would go along with my Irish ancestors -- anyone who came from an ancient culture that taps into these experiences. They would just say, ‘Listen up. What’s wrong with you that you don’t get these subliminal messages?’
When our book came out, it helped some people realize that these things aren’t so strange. There was a young man whom I knew as a boy, but hadn’t seen him in maybe 15 years. As it turned out, his house was mentioned in the book, only because other people who had lived in this house had told me stories about it. The stories were about threatening, angry spirits, who didn’t want other people around.
This young man invited me to the house, which I had never visited.
And when I got there, he broke down and cried…..and he told me, ’For the first time in my life, somebody believes me. All the time, when I was growing up, I would tell my parents what I saw in this house and they would say I was being foolish or over-imaginative, or there was something wrong with me….Then I read this book, and it just confirmed my convictions, it let me know that I’m all right, that other people before me had the same experiences I had, and this was very, very real.’
I’m always surprised at who tells me stories. Every time I think that a person wouldn’t be open to them, they’re the ones who approach me. Just this afternoon, I happened to bump into a man at Scituate Hardware who came up to me maybe two years ago, and he was very much a pragmatic man, a hard-working mechanic, an older man, kind of gruff, and I thought he’d the first to say, ‘Aw, nonsense….I don’t want to listen to any of this.‘
And yet, he was the one who gave one of the most poignant stories, and he said it with such love and such conviction. It has to do with his father, who had passed away, and was still very much living in their house -- a different level, he doesn’t see him, but he senses him, and his father helps him find tools when he loses them.
This man is in his 70s, and he keeps the tools in his cellar in exactly the same place that his father taught him to. And one day, he went to get a certain tool, and it was not there. So he looked around and said, ‘All right, Dad, I’m going to just walk down to the back end of cellar, and when I come back, I’d really appreciate you replacing that tool that we both use so often.’
He came back five minutes later, and there was his tool, exactly where it should have been.
Now what is that? I don’t know; I don’t pretend to understand these things. But they happen, and they happen more frequently than you might think.