I firmly believe in ghosts, though I’m inclined to believe that the ghost phenomenon is probably many different types of experiences -- many of them having nothing to do with life after death -- that are as yet not scientifically studied, hence mysterious.
I prefer to believe that the following experience of mine may be explainable as something that could have arisen in my own imagination, and then been given life by my own fear, but I honestly think I could not have created this. I’m disguising the location and the ghost’s identity simply because I’m trying to preserve my own anonymity.
My spouse and I went to a large, posh lighting store to find the fixtures for our remodelled kitchen. I knew in advance that the store’s beautiful, 200 year-old mansion had been the home of a famous female industrialist from the mid 19th century. For almost a century, however, the building had been a funeral home. I was curious to see if the building was a genteel aristocratic mansion, or whether it had what I usually perceive as the oppressive feel of a mortuary. That question was answered in an unforgettable way.
Immediately on entering, the oppressive feeling was unmistakable. I felt the air was thick and I had a mild sense that something was wrong. Nevertheless, I went about the task of passing beyond the sweeping double staircase to inspect lighting in the display rooms on either side.
On one side, while I was alone, something unforgettable happened. I was entering the rear of the house, and saw ahead of me a smaller back staircase. As I took a couple steps into that area, I had some kind of dream experience, even though I was awake. It was as if time had stopped, and I had stepped out of it, I saw a bizarre looking man, dressed in something that looked like Jacob Marley’s suit -- a 19th century black waistcoat with long tails. He wore an odd black cravat. The fearful part was the face: wrinkled and sunken and leathery. Very old. He looked at me and smiled, displaying over-large, yellowed teeth. He had stringy long white hair that went almost to the shoulders, and the hairline was receded practically to the middle of the top of his head, creating a look similar to a comic book character called "The Crypt Keeper". He smiled at me, I think, though those teeth and that skin made the smile menacing. He turned, and climbed a few steps. As he turned, I saw two large buttons on the back of his coat. He then turned back and looked at me, again smiling, as if beckoning me to follow. I looked away for a second because that beckoning look had jolted me. When I looked back, he was gone, and I was "back in time" again. I cautiously approached the stairs, but saw nothing.
I wasn’t afraid at all while this occurred. In fact, I wasn’t aware of reacting to anything, at all. It was as if I were dreaming. But once I was no longer dreaming, I was very alarmed. My personal threat alarms were going off like crazy, but I was also so riveted on what had just happened that I couldn’t bring myself to leave that area near the stairs. I was on high alert, on-guard.
Once I got outside the front door, however, I experienced a rush of complete fear. I assumed that I had seen some kind of mortuary monster, or had been attacked in some wild way. I knew I wanted never to go into that building again, and that I wanted to get as far away as possible.
Here’s the weirder part. A few days later I began researching that famous house on-line, looking for something to reassure me that I was not the only person to have a bizarre encounter. I found a youthful photo of the female industrialist who had occupied that home. It showed that she had a very angular face, with deep-set eyes, and nearly shoulder-length, light-colored hair. Her hair was badly receded, even in youth, toward the top of her cranium. She had had a strong interest in seances and spirit communication.
The figure that I saw now feels to me as if it was an aged version of the woman in the photo. I have assumed that my "dream" may have revealed that she used to wear men’s clothing -- something I learned was not uncommon for female executives who were breaking out of female stereotypes in the 1850’s and 1860’s.
I don’t think she was "evil" and I don’t think her smile was anything but a smile.
Problem is ... I still don’t know what happened to me for those few seconds (or was it perhaps a waking dream that occurred in a fraction of a second in my own mind?). And why did I experience that fear or hysteria afterwards in such an odd way?
I’m not sure the answer matters. Something "real" happened, but I just seem unable to distinguish the real from the not real -- and that in itself is what I think I find so frightening.