I know, all ghost stories promise that they truly happened. But this one did. Really.
A relative of mine by marriage had been hospitalized for weeks. He finally reached the critical phase. Frantic, his wife asked me to come to the hospital, where she suddenly decided it was time to pull the plug. Once she’d decided, she wanted it done immediately. She couldn’t, however, bring herself to be in the ICU when her husband died.
My relationship with him was less than congenial, but I was prevailed upon to stand by for his last moments. He glared at me until he could no longer see. His grasp on my hand left red marks.
Afterward, not wanting to leave the widow alone in an empty house, I stayed the night. She fell asleep, exhausted, and I settled down on the lumpy pull-out couch. Then I heard it: a low electric rumble from the stairwell. First came a click, then a hum, then a click.
The stairlift the deceased had once used daily was operating on its own.
His widow staggered to the base of the stairs. Eyes wide, together we watched the machine go up and down with no one in it.
“Has it ever done this before?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Never. Oh, God, is it him? Is he angry?”
“It’s a fluke,” I said firmly, putting my arm around her trembling shoulders and squeezing. Leaving her side, I toggled the stairlift switch to be sure it had been shut off properly. All was in order. We checked the plug, thinking there might be a short.
Still, we didn’t give in to our fears. The house stood near a saltwater canal. I remembered from an experiment in Mr. Mariner’s science class that salt water is a good conductor of electricity.
Convincing ourselves that was the explanation, we unplugged the stairlift. Without even a stutter, it continued to climb the stairs, pause, and return. The light at its base glowed yellow in the darkness.
I swore. The chair continued to hum and ascend, never slowing, never wearing down. For hours, the stairlift persisted on its relentless track.
It took a hammer and a screwdriver to make it stop.
Years have passed. The machine has been repaired now. It’s useful for hauling laundry baskets. Now the stairlift goes up and down when we want it to. Only on the night its passenger died did it make its ghostly run.