Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Can Imaginary Friends be Real? The ghost of Iriving

This is probably one of my favorite ghost stories. It appears as the last chapter in my book, Ghosts of Long Island; Stories of the Paranormal. Every once in awhile, I like to revisit it because it's so classic. It gives me chills every time I read it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Cheri and her family had moved into a house in Huntington sometime between 1966 and 1967. The house, which was built in 1940, was within walking distance to the Huntington Rural Cemetery, located on a quiet street. The Chapman’s began fixing up their new home when strange things started to occur. They had a lot of problems with the plumbing and with the electricity. Water would run for no reason, lights would go on and off, or flicker. She had plumbers and electricians in, and nobody could figure out what was causing these things to happen.

At the same time, her young son, who was four or five, started talking about his imaginary friend. Cheri and her husband didn’t think anything of it. All children have imaginary friends at some point. They had just moved and maybe it was a big adjustment for him. They were also so busy fixing up the house, that maybe the son was bored and just needed a friend.

Whatever the reason, the young boy said he did all kinds of things with his friend. One day he told his mother about some things he had seen in the attic. One of the items was a birthday present he had asked for. It was a truck, which had been hidden in the attic. Startled, Cheri asked how he could possibly know this. Her son replied, “I go up there with my friend." Cheri stopped for a moment, and started to reconsider this “imaginary friend." “What is his name?” she asked her son.

“His name is Irving,” the boy replied.

As time went on the relationship between the boy and Irving continued. So did the strange activity in the house. Still, the Chapman’s never put two and two together. The boy talked about Irving all the time, and how Irving talked to him, and played with him. Cheri became concerned when her son told her about the trips they took.

“Where do you go?” she asked.

“We float out of the attic, and we go to where he lives…in the ground.”

“What?” Cheri was stunned. What was her son talking about? “What do you see?” she asked.

“I see the bones and the dirt.” he said. “At first I was a little scared, but Irving talks to me and tells me it’s okay.”

She began to worry that her son might be going crazy.

Memorial Day weekend came around and Cheri and her family decided to attend Huntington’s annual parade. Because their house was so close to the cemetery which connects with New York Avenue, the Chapman’s cut through the cemetery on the Oakwood Road side to get to the parade route on New York Avenue. Halfway through the cemetery, Cheri’s son yelled, “Wait, that’s where Irving lives!” The boy pointed to a grave up on the hill.

At that point, her son and his imaginary friend had Cheri's full attention.

“Where?” she asked. “Show me.”

The young boy led his mother up to a tombstone. “Here,” he said. “This is where he takes me.”

Cheri looked at the tombstone, and to her astonishment it read, RIGGS, ROSE and IRVING.

How could this be possible? she thought. She had never taken her son into the cemetery. Nor did he know how to read. It was the first time she and her husband ever considered the fact that Irving could be a ghost.

The boy got older, and things continued to happen in the house. The Chapmans raised five children there. Cheri recalled a time when she was cleaning out the basement, and thought one of her children had come home.

“I heard the front door open, and from the basement I could hear someone walking around upstairs. I ran up to check and nobody was there. I thought it was one of the kids but it wasn’t. ‘My children would say to me, don’t worry, it’s only Irving.’”

Cheri had always confided in a friend she worked with about her son’s imaginary friend Irving. One day her friend was cleaning out the house of an aunt who had recently died. There were several boxes in the aunt’s attic, many of them containing photographs. As the woman was descending the stairs, a photo slipped out of the box. It was a picture of a man. She picked it up and asked her other aunt (the woman’s sister) “Who is this?”

“Oh, that’s Irving Riggs,” she replied, “our grandfather. He loved children.”

The woman was shocked. Could this be the same Irving - Cherie's son’s imaginary friend? When she spoke to Cheri, she found out the imaginary friend was definitely Irving Riggs.

The woman brought the photo over to the Chapman’s house. Cheri was amazed. During all these years, the house had been haunted by Irving, but the man had never even lived there. Was it possible that the close proximity of the cemetery had caused him to come and visit her son, because he loved children? It seemed impossible, yet there were too many coincidences.

Cheri and her friend sat over tea and talked about it for awhile. The friend left the photo with Cheri, who pinned it to the bulletin board next to the phone in the kitchen. A few hours later her son, who was now about seventeen years old, arrived home. He called out, "One minute, Mom, I just have to make a phone call.”

With that, Cheri, who had been sitting in the living room, heard the phone drop to the floor. She went into the kitchen to find her son standing there with the photograph.

“Where did you get this picture?” he asked.

“Why?” Cheri replied.

“Do you remember my imaginary friend, Irving? Well…this is him.”