Spirits In The Night

Albert Vetere Lannon

© Copyright 2019 by Albert Vetere Lannon


Iím not a believer in ghosts, or spirits wandering among us, or in an afterlife with winged angels flitting around the heavens, but Iíve learned in my 81 years that there is so much we donít know about everything. We know that we donít know what most of the human brain is used for. We know that at the moment of death several grams of weight are lost, explained by religion as the soul leaving the body. And Iíve had a few experiences I cannot explain that leave me open to ideas I would have once rejected out of hand.

For instance, there is my late Aunt Josephine, my fatherís only unmarried sister, who held sťances to talk with the dead. My mother went to one where Aunt Josie was going to try to communicate with my father, who had died in 1969, and she came back somewhat shaken. She wouldnít talk about it with me, but there never was any evidence or suggestion that Josie was a fraud, or trickster.

And in 1982 I had my own out-of-body experience, my oobie. My wife and children had all had bouts of a nasty flu, and then I came down with it. I was a union business agent planning to run for president of the largest mainland local of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, so I needed to take care of business. I stayed in bed eating aspirin for the 102 fever and did my best to deal with union affairs by phone.

On the fourth day things changed. I was spiking 105+ fevers, and ended up hospitalized with pneumonia. But before that, I had this experience. An unseen presence came into my bedroom and summoned me to lie prone on a cloud. It then took me high into the sky on a journey completely around the world. Lots of cloud cover. Then back into the bedroom which was subtly changed.

The room was suffused with a golden glow, like sunlight through beeswax, and the window shades had been replaced by long strips of blue gauze hanging from dowels. Sick as I was I wrote it down so I wouldnít forget it, as if that would have been possible! At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and saw myself in the medicine cabinet mirror; my face was black and blue as if I had been beaten up. Fever dreams? Oobie?

Whatever it was, when I recovered I read all I could find about out-of-body experiences and set out to bring on an oobie, but without the life-threatening illness. I learned to deep meditate, and tried and tried to have an oobie, but never succeeded, and eventually gave up.

My mother died during open heart surgery in 1996. I had taken her to the hospital and my last words to her were, I love you. A week later I was getting ready to rehearse on an old alto saxophone in the San Francisco ground floor flat my second wife and I lived in. I was eight years sober, and trying out all the things I never had time for during my drinking days Ė tap dancing, playing the cello, trying to improvise jazz on the sax. I found that when came to improvising I had exactly one riff in my head; Charlie Parkerís reputation was safe!

I closed the doors and windows. It was a still and warm Mission District day, when suddenly there was a breeze coming through the room. The window and door rattled, papers rustled, my hair stood on end and without thinking I said aloud, Mom? And then it was gone. Mary said later that she had heard of similar stories where loved ones had not had a chance to say their goodbyes, to process the death.

Which brings me to the 2005 Day of the Dead procession in Tucson, where I had retired to in 2001 and soon married my third and last wife, Kaitlin. The All Souls Procession in Tucson began in 1990. A local artist, Susan Johnson, was grieving the loss of her father. Johnson had heard of the Mexican Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead years before. The joy of the celebration inspired her. So she decided to celebrate her fatherís life in a similar fashion. A few close friends and performing artists joined her. They created art from the day of the dead history and their own rituals. What began as a small personal celebration is now a huge gathering of some 200,000 each year.

El DŪa de Los Muertos originated in Mexico, before the Spanish conquest. It is believed that the idea originated with the Olmecs as long as 3000 years ago. This concept was passed to other cultures such as the Toltecs, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec and Aztecs, and then mixed with Christianity. It is a time when families gather to honor and remember deceased loved ones. It is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit the living families in homes, businesses and cemeteries on the first weekend in November.. A good introduction for both adults and children is the 2017 full-length animated Disney film, Coco.

Being a decent amateur photographer I set out in 2005 to take photos of the Fourth Avenue procession, using my tried and true Canon 35 mm that had never had a problem, never had a light leak. What lousy pix I took were of my own making. The film was the middle roll of a fresh three-pack from Walgreenís. No issues with the other rolls. The first photo I took (see above) was clean; the bright spot was my flash reflecting from the store front glass. But then, from the second shot until the last two, things got strange when I had the film developed.

My friend Ken Kisser, aka the poet Dr. E, had a chain of lights in front of him. Most of the 21 affected photos showed light chains of one kind or another, different colors, shapes, and locations.

But the two most intriguing were these: light streaming out of a papier-m‚chť horseís eyes, and there was no such light when I took the photo, and what seems to be a triple exposure showing a man climbing up somewhere. No such person was present.

Souls of the dead come to visit? Manifestation of Carl Jungís Collective Unconscious? Spirits in the night? Iíll probably never know, but I do know that the experience has left me open to unexplained phenomena being no less real with origins we still do not understand. Think about body energy, acupuncture, hands that can heal, charisma, the soul. We are often afraid of what we donít understand, and react badly, and we shouldnít be. I stay open and, and at the end of my days, still willing to learn. When I die, maybe then Iíll know. Maybe....or perhaps itís better not to know, and to preserve the mystery.

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