The Haunting of New York City – A Short Story

John Hunter was stunned as he stood in Times Square. This was not the New York City he remembered from his youth. Of course, that was over 150 years ago. John was a ‘young-old ghost’ as the spirit community liked to call ghosts that died young a long time ago. Most ghosts are “ancient-old ghosts”, having died at an old age a long time ago. John decided to make the best of his situation and to start haunting. Haunting a city was certainly more interesting that haunting a Civil War battlefield and with a hole in his head, John figured he could still provide a good scare. 

He waited until a group of people approached him on the sidewalk. They were walking with their heads down as if praying. No matter, John decided to scare the hell out of them. He waited until they were just a few feet in front of him and then he manifested himself and yell “boo.”

No one even noticed. The closest person walked right through him without stopping or even looking up. John decided he needed to up his game. When the next group of people approached him, he removed his head and threw it at the closest person. Nothing happened. His head sailed right through the person, bounced down the street and rolled down the steps of a subway entrance.

John, or at least his head, lay on the subway platform wondering how in the world he was going to find the rest of his body when he heard laughter. He glanced over and saw a young man, a young ghost really, laughing at him. Finally, the young ghost walked over and picked up John’s head and held up so they were eye to eye.

“What are you laughing at?” John asked, irritated.

“Why, you of course. Let’s go find your body.” The young ghost carried John’s head under his arm and up the stairs to the street level. John’s body wasn’t hard to find; pedestrians were oblivious to it. They walked through it, not even bothering to lift their feet. The young ghost lifted John’s body and placed his head squaring on his neck. John looked down at his body. His head was backwards. He reached up and turned his head around. Then he looked around, found his kepis cap and placed it on his head.

“Oh,” exclaimed the young ghost. “You’re a soldier.”

John snapped to attention and saluted. “Private John Hunter, 22nd New York Volunteer Infantry at your service.”

The young ghost stuck out his hand. “Please to meet you, John. My name is Eston Morschauser.”

John shook Eston’s hand. “You’re young like me.”

“Well, I died young just last year. I guess I’m a ‘recent-young’ ghost as they say.”

“Maybe you can tell me what’s going on,” John said. “I tried to scare these people but they just ignored me. They keep looking at their hands. What’s going on?”

Eston laughed. “You’re way behind the times. Where have you been?”

“I was killed during the Battle of Antietam in Maryland when a Confederate sniper shot me.”

“In the head, I presume.”

John raised his eyebrows. “Yes, how’d you know?”

Eston poked a finger through the hole in John’s head.

John laughed. “Yeah, lucky shot.”

“So, what have you been up to the last 150 plus years?” Eston asked.

“I stayed on the battlefield marching in solemn formations every night for visitors at the Antietam National Battlefield.”

Eston shook his head. “That must have been boring.”

“Not for the first one hundred years. To tell the truth, each time I thought maybe this time we’ll win. But it was the same results every time.”

Eston laughed. “So, you finally asked for a transfer?”

“Yeah. Now can you tell me what’s going on. I can’t seem to scare anyone.”

“That’s because everyone is looking at their iPhones; playing games, reading emails or sending pictures,” Eston answered.

“Wait, wait. An eye phone? What’s an eye phone?”

Eston smiled. “Not that kind of ‘eye’. It’s a communication device, like a telephone.”

John shook his head which would have fallen again if he hadn’t held on to it. “What’s a telephone?”

“Wow,” Eston answered. “What war were you in?”

“The Civil War. I was killed in Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862. A sniper shot me at the Sunken Road during the Battle of Antietam.”

“Wow,” Eston said. “So that’s what, over 150 years ago? There’s been a lot of progress since then. We haunt things differently now days. I’ll show you how.” Eston looked around. As the next guy passed, he entered through his back and snatched the iPhone out of his hands. He brought it over to John.  “This is an iPhone.” The man stopped and started looking for his iPhone. When he saw Eston talking to John, he screamed and ran away.

John took the iPhone and looked it over. “You said it was a communication device. Where are the wires? How does it work without wires?”

“It’s wireless. I don’t have time to bring you up to date on all the progress made in 150 years. You just have to accept what I tell you. Okay?”

John nodded. “Okay. What do I do now?”

“Good,” Eston said. “We haunt these things now I’ll show you how to enter the operating system and tell you the type of things you can do there.” Eston spent the next thirty minutes explaining how an iPhone works. Finally, he said. “Most of the apps on the iPhone are paid for by advertisements. These ads pop up here and there; some from the top down, some from the bottom up and some from the sides. They can be very annoying. To drive a person mad, just make ads pop up one after the other.”

John didn’t know what an ‘app’ was but decided to hold his question. “It’s that easy?” he asked.

“Oh, yes. You can also mess with their e-mails.”

This time he had to ask. “What’s an e-mail?

Eston smiled. “It means electronic mail. People use it to send messages to each other. All you do is mess with the addresses. Just change the address to someone else. If the message says something intimate, send it to everyone in their address book. I once sent a bunch of emails from Hillary Clinton to the WikiLeaks.”

“I don’t know who those people are.”

Eston smiled, “That bring me to sexting.”

“What’s that?”

Eston smiled even wider. “Sexting means taking a naked picture or picture of one’s privates and sending it to a boy or girlfriend.”

“Good. I’m a private. Take my picture.”

Eston laughed. Not that kind of private. It’s a picture of your… you know… your thing.”

John blushed. “I would never do that.”

“Not your thing. People…live people do that.” Eston saw that this news puzzled John. “Don’t ask me why, they just do and we can haunt that.”

“How do I do that?” John asked.

“Simple. Whenever you see someone sexting, you change the address to someone else. I like to use a parent, if I know it, but just about anyone will do.”

“And that works?”

“Oh, yeah,” answered Eston. “You should see what I did to Anthony Weiner. But the best haunting is with selfies.”

“What are selfies?” John asked.

“People now days, especially, young ones, like to take pictures of themselves alone or with someone and send to other people. When you see that they’re about to take a selfie, you jump into the background and manifest yourself in true ghostly fashion. We call it photobombing, and it will freak them out.”

John had seen only one camera in his entire life, but at least he knew what a photograph was. “Anything else?” he asked.

“Are you kidding? There are a million ways to possess a cellphone. One of my favorites uses the GPS.”

John sighed. “And what, pray tell is a ‘GPS’?”

“It stands for Global Positioning System. It uses satellites to triangulate the position of a cellphone.”

John had no idea what ‘satellites’ were or what it meant to’ triangulate’, but he was overwhelmed and let it pass. “So, what do you do to the GPS?”

“Whenever someone asks for directions, you change them. You know, send them the wrong way on a one-way street or take them miles out of the way. It drives people crazy.”

“Anything else? I can’t handle much more.”

“Okay, one more and you’ll love it. Some cellphones use artificial intelligence and an artificial voice. People can talk to them and they talk back. Two popular ones are Siri and Cortana. All you do is take over the voice and talk in a creepy, voice and maybe with a hideous laugh. It will freak people out.”

John laughed. “Now I like that. I’ll try it.”

“Well, that’s enough for now. That’s the basics. “Oh, before I forget, today is Friday the 13th. All the ghosts in the city get together and ride the subways all night. I’ll come to get you after sundown. Happy haunting and welcome to New York City”

John said, “Thanks.”


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