NOTE: I am prefacing this story with the following disclaimer: I do not believe in ghosts, spirits or apparitions. I never have. And despite this story, I still don't. Zombies, aliens and Bigfoot, however, I (mostly) completely believe in.
Kirsten leaned against the cool stone wall next to me. Cyra snuggled in her arms. The ghost tour had gone on longer than a two year old was capable of walking and between Kirsten, Mom and me we had taken turns holding the increasingly temperamental toddler.
The tour guide was telling a story about a Spanish woman who was buried in the cemetery behind us. Ashleigh leaned against me half listening and my nephew fidgeted in the crowd. Cyra kicked her feet against the wall making her shoes light up. Earlier, the tour guide suggested that ghosts like to follow lights, like those in her shoes, home. She wiggled and Kirsten switched her to her other arm.
“Do you want me to take her?” I asked.
Kirsten shook her head. “She’s fine.”
Suddenly something caught Cyra’s eye and she stared intently into the live oak looming over our heads. Fascinated she watched the upper branches for a few minutes while the tour guide droned on about the funeral parade of the Spanish lady.
“Look Auntie,” Cyra squeed pointing into the tree.
Kirsten and I both looked where she point. Branches and leaves swayed softly in the night breeze, but we didn’t see anything interesting or unusual.
We nodded and played along. But she was not fooled.
“No! Auntie, look.” She insisted, “See the monkey?”
I chuckled. “A monkey?”
She nodded staring into the tree. Kirsten and I exchanged a look. Do you see anything, it said. No, nothing.
Cyra giggled and laughed. “Silly Monkey.”
A few other people on the tour looked over at us and we hushed Cyra.
“I don’t see anything, sweetie,” Kirsten said.
Cyra took Kirsten’s chin in her hands and turned her head to look into the branches. “Look Auntie, the monkey!”
Again, my sister and I studied the dark branches above our heads to no avail. Whatever it was that Cyra was seeing we couldn’t spot. Cyra continued to giggle softly at the monkey’s antics while we stood there. I didn’t mention, nor did my sister, who also knew, the story of Little James.
James died in 1877 at the age of 5 years and 10 days old. According to legend, he often climbed in the large live oak that sits just inside the Tolomato Cemetery. He would scoot out onto the branch that drooped over Cordova Street. One day, he slipped and fell to the street below. His family buried him in the shade of the tree he loved so much.
Over the years, most stories about James come from children who would see a little boy dressed in “funny clothes” playing in the tree and cemetery. Some ghost hunters claim to have heard a child giggling in the cemetery. Most often though he is seen scampering in the tree.
Kind of like a monkey…
The tour guide finished up her story and we moved down along the street. Cyra waved goodbye to the monkey in the tree. The rest of the tour was uneventful and when we got home Cyra giggled as I put her to bed.
“What are you laughing at sweet heart?” I asked.
“Silly monkey, Mommy,” she giggled and twisted on her changing tabled looking around the room.
“Well,” I said with a big pretend yawn. “Tell the silly monkey it is your bedtime and he needs to be quiet.”
She did so and I read her a quick story and tucked her into bed monkey almost, but not quite forgotten.
A few days later, just after Ashleigh had left for school, Cyra sat on the couch watching Arthur while I got ready for the day. I stepped into the bathroom and started doing my hair when I heard a loud shrill giggle.
“Mommy!” Cyra yelled.
I stuck my head around the corner. Cyra, still on the couch, pointed at the T.V. now off.
“Did you turn it off?” I asked coming back into the living room.
Cyra shook her head.
“Let me have the remote, Cyra.” I said holding out my hand.
Cyra pointed at the top of the entertainment center. The remote sat in the exact spot I had placed it a few minutes before. I gave Cyra a look. I didn’t think she could reach up there yet. I better push things back farther, I thought.
I turned the T.V. back on and returned to the bathroom. The second I stepped in, I heard the T.V. click off again, followed by another giggle. I went back into the living room. Cyra sat in the same spot kicking her feet. I looked at the entertainment center. The remote was still in its spot.
“Cyra stop playing with the buttons on the T.V.” I scolded slowly. She knew how to turn the T.V. on and off with the buttons on the base of the set. But I knew I didn’t hear her get up. And certainly, I thought, she didn’t have enough time to get to the T.V. and back without me seeing her.
I picked up the remote, turned the T.V. back on and walked back to the bathroom, remote still in hand. I hadn’t taken more then three steps when the T.V. turned off again. I stopped and turned around. Cyra smiled.
“I bet someone has a universal remote outside,” I said but I I didn’t really believe that. I walked to the apartment window anyway and looked downstairs. How creepy it would be if there was someone outside. The yard was empty.
The T.V. turned back on. Then off. Then on again. Cyra laughed and jumped off the couch.
“Monkey! Monkey! Silly Monkey!” she giggled.
The set went off again. I stood in the middle of the room, remote in hand. I turned around the whole room slowly.
“Alright.” I said to the room, “I get it. Now, please stop.”
I turned the T.V. back on and waited. After a few minutes passed, I went back to getting ready. The T.V. stayed on. Over the next few months the T.V. would occasionally turn itself off and on. When it happened, we made sure to acknowledge the little monkey Cyra claimed was doing it. And after a while it stopped happening altogether.
|James' headstone. I will feature other photos from the Tolomato Cemetery on Friday.|