Age eleven to thirteen was a time of great upheaval for me. My maternal grandfather passed away and my parents separated shortly after. I switched schools first for bullying issues and then because my mother and I moved to the Bronx so that we would be closer to her store. That very same summer, my mother’s sister, Roseanne, was diagnosed with lung cancer. My first week of Junior High school ended with her funeral.
Aunt Roseanne and I were always close. She knew the type of clothes and toys that I liked. She was one of the adults that actually listened to what I said when I talked. She encouraged me in school, listened to my dreams, supported my love for imaginary play, and was always affectionate with me and my mother. We were heartbroken when she died.
A few months after her passing, I was sitting in my room working on a short story when I suddenly caught the scent of her perfume. This was not a flowery fragrance that can be mistaken for a scented candle or an air spray. Aunt Roseanne always wore Chanel #5. It was such a distinct aroma that I actually stopped what I was doing and spoke her name aloud.
Of course there was no answer, but it had broken through my concentration. Now completely spooked and seeing how late it was, I decided to get ready for bed. I didn’t mention the incident to my mom because this had happened to me before.
When my grandfather had first passed away a year earlier, I had smelt his cologne in the downstairs lobby of our apartment building when there was no one around. The aroma had been centered around my person, not wafting through the hallway, as it would have been if someone wearing the cologne had passed by. I had been so depressed over my grandfather’s death that mom had brought me to a grief counselor for a few sessions. When I discussed this event with the counselor, she said that it was common for family members to experience this kind of phenomena after someone’s death.
Smell is one of the most powerful memory triggers. A grieving person might believe that they smell a specific scent that they associate with their loved one because that soul could be trying to alert them to their presence. However, some other schools of thought believe that it is actually the memory itself that is triggering the illusion of the aroma. Growing up in a family that believes in the paranormal, I never discounted the possibility that my grandfather’s spirit could have been visiting me. I was not consciously thinking of either my grandfather or my aunt at the time that I experienced these phenomena. Each time the experience caught me off guard and happened when I was alone.
After I went to bed the night that I smelled Aunt Roseanne’s perfume, I felt anxious. The event had been unsettling. I sat up, ready to go get my mother, but something told me to stay in bed. Lying back down, I tried to go to sleep, but couldn’t. Again, I desired to get up. This time, I thought I heard a soft voice say, “Stay in bed.” Two seconds after closing my eyes, there was a loud crash.
Mom rushed into my room. Pieces of my ceramic ceiling lamp littered the floor. My desk chair was positioned directly under this lamp. A half hour earlier, I had been sitting there when I had smelled my Aunt Roseanne’s perfume. After the mess was cleaned up and I was back in bed, I told mom about the earlier phenomena and then the voice urging me to stay in bed. Mom and I still believe that Aunt Roseanne’s spirit protected me that night.
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