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  • For those of you who actually know me, this will come as no surprise: as a child, I was convinced that Abraham Lincoln haunted my house.

    I lived at 26 Gridley Boulevard (or Place, but "boulevard' was far more fun to say), a 1950s development in the Town of Paris, New York State. I am the youngest of seven children by a spread of 10 to 19 years, and my siblings understandably had no patience for me. Much of my time was spent playing with my miniature schnauzers Nicky and Inga, reading or with my imagination.

    That damn imagination will get you every time, especially when you're an easily-spooked kid, which I was. Remember, I grew up in the time of Charles Manson-induced fear (seeing his photo in the paper as a child was terrifying), hostages in Iran (the news said that they were my neighbors here in America, the Safe and Unassailable), a president being shot on television (Ronald Reagan reminded me of my father) and the murder of a musician who wanted peace (John Lennon, your death was one of my first memories outside of the bubble of my child's world; I was sorry then and I'm sorry now.). I had the message that the world was a damn scary place, and I had it loud and clear.

    This was exacerbated by the Martin family's trip to Washington, DC.

    Todd Martin and I were both in Mrs. Tucillo's second grade class. Todd's family had taken a trip to Washington, DC and soaked in the history and the sights. They bought a book. In that book was a photo of the blood-stained chair from Ford's Theater in which Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Todd brought that book in for show-and-tell.

    That was all it took.

    I couldn't get the stain out of my mind. A blood stain on a chair? A gun? Isn't that what took down Reagan? And then he DIED like my father's parents had done before I was born?

    Well, fuck me.

    At that point, after I'd gone to bed and my parents had retired to their room (and various brothers and sisters were wallowing in their respective teenage dramas in their rooms or out somewhere that my parents didn't know), I heard him. My adult mind wants to tell me that I heard him for years, and I know logically that it may only have been a few weeks, but I know that I heard him.

    It was Abe. Honest Abe. Abraham Lincoln. The courageous president whose children had died and broken his heart and who freed the slaves was haunting me because I'd seen THE CHAIR in a photo.

    He was polite for a ghost, I'll give him that...now. He kept to the hall that ran from my parents' room to the bathroom and contained my room and the sewing room. He just paced it. Back and forth and forth and back, he paced. I didn't know why he did it, and I never really saw him, except for the time I was sure I saw his stovepipe hat (which I may have seen in an attempt to avert my eyes from The Hamburglar, who was "Robble-Robble-"ing outside my window - another true story).

    Sometimes, the creaks indicated that there were two spectres. The second was George Washington; I never saw his tri-horn hat, but I knew.

    What these long-dead presidents wanted with me and my house, I never discerned. I just knew they were there. Pacing. Once they even made me wet the bed because there was no way that I was making my way down that hall to the bathroom. It was better just to scooch over and away from the wet.

    It stopped at some point, and I don't know why. My brother Jeff gave me a clock radio and showed me how to use the Sleep feature, so I'd have music to lull me into sleep, and in so doing banished the dead presidents for a night; maybe that did the trick. Perhaps my parents berated it out of me. Maybe the dual indignities of my parents splitting and me needing glasses in third grade gave me far more immediate problems than a pacing president. I really don't remember enough to know what exactly made it stop...made him stop.

    All I know is that no matter how much well I wish histories and films about Abraham Lincoln, I'm still a little bitter about the haunting.

    If he wished, he could make it up to me by inspiring a bestseller, but you know how those ghosts are: always in it for their own thrill. I've read a few scholarly work on Lincoln as an adult and the only thing keeping me from stalking those possessions of his enshrined in museums is the fact that he loved animals.

    That's right, Abe. Your biographers tell me that you loved animals, so I'll leave you to rest. And maybe someday, I'll stop blaming you for this old scar and blame John Wilkes Booth (because that's far more reasonable). Let's get all seance-y after my bestseller; Mary Todd would approve. Sound like a plan?
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