Ghost of Christmas Past?
By Gregory Myers, President - Paranormal Task Force
As visions of sugarplums and snowmen dance in our heads and holiday decorations pop up
around every corner, we are reminded once again that this is the special time of the year
filled with the warmth, joy, and precious moments.  In time, we collect the memories of many
Christmas pasts and of the special people we shared those moments with, some of which may
now be with us only in spirit and memory. Usually ghost stories are not discussed this time of
year with the notable exception of the classic Charles Dickens tale, “A Christmas Carol”,
about the ghosts of Christmas future, present, and past, but I do have an interesting one to

For me, this time of the year brings many fond memories but it especially reminds me of my
departed grandmother, Eleanor, who I love and miss so much.  Christmas season was her
favorite time of the year though, given she was German-Irish and loved a cold beer, she
might quip that St. Patrick’s Day was, if she was still here today.  My grandmother would
spend weeks meticulously cleaning then transforming every square inch of her home into a
winter wonderland.  Little Christmas villages sprouted up throughout her home and came to
life as she precisely placed each miniature building, tree, person, and light within them.  Her
radio stayed tuned to a local A.M. station that played only classic seasonal songs such as
“Jingle Bells”, “Frosty the Snowman”, and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, sung by Frank
Sinatra, Dean Martin, and other vocal greats. Her favorite song, as I recall, was “The Little
Drummer Boy”.

When I was lucky enough to get to assist my grandmother with this seasonal transformation, I
enjoyed singing along with her to the radio and loved listening as she told the stories and
origin of each specially placed decoration.  I found it fascinating that many of them at one
time even belonged to her grandparents or even great-grandparents.  Over the years, I
memorized each decoration so thoroughly that I could flawlessly recite its every historical
detail to my grandmother!  During the years of my life when she was still here, she further
blessed me with stories about her ancestors, which were already long gone at the time. She
told me of her father, my great grandfather, who passed away when I was very young.  I only
had a few childhood memories of spending time with him but I remember he was very nice
and loved playing games with me.  My grandmother told me quite a lot about him and said she
missed him greatly after his passing.

One day, she told me something that sent chills down my spine. She said my great
grandfather loved Christmas so much that he came back from the other side to visit her
every year at that time! She said that although she could not see him, she knew when he was
visiting because, at times, she and others could smell the scent of his cigar, the very same
scent from the brand he smoked when he was alive. As if that were not creepy enough, I too
could actually smell the pungent odor of a cigar in the home right after she told me that!  One
might chalk this off as the power of suggestion, but others that visited her home during the
season would also on occasion remark about the cigar smell. The mention of it always put a
smile on my grandmother's face and warmed her heart with the reassurance of her father’s
love.  Every year after this, I took notice of the mysteriously appearing cigar smell while
visiting my grandmother during the holiday season and, each time it occurred, chills ran up
and down my spine at the thought of its implication.

Many Christmases came and went and then my grandmother passed on to be with my
grandfather and her family in spirit. In all that time since, I never forgot her stories of my
great grandfather and that mysterious cigar smell. It certainly made some of my earliest
holiday recollections seem a bit eerie.  I inherited most of my grandmother's Christmas
decorations, including the ones passed down to her from previous generations.  It can take
time to get over the grief of losing someone so special in your life and so I neatly wrapped
and packed away her things in my basement and left them undisturbed for some years.

I remember the first time I finally went down to retrieve the boxes with intent to decorate for
the holiday season.  As I unwrapped each decoration, a locked away memory from my past
was also unwrapped. One by one, I remembered each story that my Grandmother told me
when I was a child.  Later that night, the mysterious stories surrounding my great grandfather
came flooding back to me when I caught a whiff of cigar smell while walking down my hallway!
As I encountered that smell at various times that Christmas, I once again experienced chills
up and down my spine. However, each time I encountered it, it also brought back
heartwarming loving memories of the special times I had spent with my grandmother through
the years.  

After Christmas was over, I began carefully wrapping and packing away each sacred item
back into boxes for storage. As I picked up an old plastic snowman, I heard a strange noise.  
This little snowman is of the type that always accompanies a plastic Santa Claus in a set and
they light up via a bulb that clips into the hole in their back. This was the set that my
grandmother’s father gave her decades ago.  I shook it and clearly heard an object rattling
around inside which piqued my curiosity. As I removed the clip and bulb from the back to
investigate, I saw something odd. With some difficulty, I carefully got the tip of my finger
inside and guided the object out.  It was the butt of a previously smoked cigar and I would be
willing to bet it was what my great-grandfather smoked! How did it end up inside a Christmas
decoration that he gave to my grandmother decades ago?  I may never know.  When I put it
up to my nose, I experienced the same pungent cigar smell that I encountered both recently
and years ago as a child!  I guess it was inside that plastic snowman for all those years and
when turned on, the bulb heated up and baked the cigar butt causing its odor to expand and
exit.  I now had an explainable cause and final closure, a solution to the mystery of what was
once thought a spiritual visitation from my great-grandfather.  

This revelation made me both happy and sad at the same time.  All of those years my
grandmother and others, including myself, actually thought that little cigar butt hiding in the
snowman was evidence of my great grandfather's ghostly visitation.  Although, I now know
the truth, my grandmother and the others never will.  What is important to me is that in many
ways he was truly there because of that cigar butt. Maybe not physically, but he was still there
in memory to those that heard the spooky story and caught the scent.  That little piece of
cigar in the snowman kept the memories of him alive in my family for all of those years during
the Christmas season.  

So, if someone in your family catches a whiff of something that makes them think someone is
visiting from the other side, don't be afraid to investigate. Look inside that plastic snowman
or Santa just in case something was left behind.  If you do happen to find something though,
just leave it there and don't mention it so the memories of loved ones never fade.  Wishing
every one of you a very spirited holiday season!

© 2011 by Gregory Myers – Paranormal Task Force

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