Sample Article from the November 2000 Star Beacon

The White House ghost story

by Judy Galloway

This fool on TV once said, “All children tell the truth. The younger they are, the more inclined they are to insist on the truth.” What tree did he fall out of? Is he a total fool? All children can and will lie, if their parents, or those in authority over them, seem to want the truth modified, or ignored completely. How do I know? I was one of those children. I had agreed to “lie.”

I remember sitting, angrily silent, as the thin old man, who I did not know, droned on and on about venial sins. He sat fingering something on his big cluttered wooden desk, dressed in his liturgical collar, indifferent to a scared small child. He was wearing all black, like I pictured the angel of death. He was a frightening figure to a very little girl. The room smelled heavy of dust and disuse. It was muggy and I was hungry. My stomach growled. I wanted to go home ,where everything was known to me, and I might be fed. In this dusty room, I could not even breathe. My stomach hurt. It was grinding on itself. I would have agreed to anything if I could just go home. I was angry, not at the old man, but at my mother who had dragged me there. She was insisting I had not seen the lady in the long dress.

I had. Perhaps my rebellion was why, after all these years, I remember it all so clearly. I was silently mutinous, glaring around, storing everything away.

It started on a pleasant day. Judging by all the young men in military uniforms, World War II was still going on. We lived right across from the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on Pennsylvania Avenue, so the walk to the visitors’ gate was not far. Our old apartment building is long gone, in favor of more officious government buildings. The back gate was where the visitors entered to see the rooms allowed in the White House. At first, I was interested, for there were squirrels and birds, and even an occasional horse pulling a wagon, usually filled with junk. But then there was the long, slow, creeping line of indifferent people going inside.

I was very little. I remember standing, holding onto a lower button, in crib shoes, with very unsteady feet. We were standing in a long moving line. (It was a time of lines. There were lines for everything. They were commonplace.) My mother was dividing her interest in two men. I suppose she was flirting. I thought of them as Army and Navy, though I don't know if they really were. We were in a long hall, just standing, and I was apathetic and exhausted. There was nothing to interest a tired little child. Everything was so magnificent. It was the type of place you would be afraid to touch anything, even if you were allowed.

I began to look around. I lost my precarious balance, falling to my diapered bottom. I sat looking down another hall to an intersecting hall, when a lady, dressed in a long, dark bell-shaped dress came into view. She was traveling away from our direction carrying something. I had the impression of browns or dark mauve and black. Her hair was tied at the back of her neck. I wanted my mother to see her, though others seemed to ignore her. She was dressed so differently from everyone else of the time. I, in my childish way, thought she was in costume. I tried to get my mother's attention, and could not.

After futilely trying, a man dressed in brown squatted down and began speaking to me. “Was she carrying a lamp?” he asked.

“Lamp?” We had one in the living room, but I could not imagine anyone carrying that big heavy thing around. (It was a cast iron floor lamp.) There were two small frilly ones on either side of the bed, but they did not fit what she was carrying either.

“No, it was like a book.” I held up my fingers. “Like this.” My fingers were up to show the vertical position of the object she was holding.

It was then that my mother noticed the stranger and me. I was jerked away abruptly. She was red in the face. She was very angry. She ran with me. First, we went back the way we had come. Finding that way blocked, she changed directions. My feet were not as fast as hers, so she dragged me, away from the White House.

Outside, she whispered how disobedient I was, how bad I was. (My mother was a whisperer, not a screamer. When she dropped her voice, I learned to tremble in fear.) She said that I lied. I was a naughty child.

“I was not! I saw her.”

So, I found myself in that muggy, dusty room with the old man droning on. Everyone insisted that I had lied to get attention. I had not, but I would have agreed to anything, and think that I did, just to get away. Never again, I vowed, would I tell her about anything, especially the “shadow people.”

What I learned to do was lie, and I was not even big enough for hard-soled shoes. But I could lie. How many are like me? Learning to lie early. Later, I know a lot did lie as I had. But that is another story.

As a postscript:

When I was about 14, I was in a private museum in Dodge city, Kan. I was going from case to case with nothing on my mind but enjoying my holiday in Kansas. I went around a counter, and there was what the object “that woman” was carrying! It was a lamp, a kerosene lamp. She is reputed to be the most famous ghost in America. I was just too little to know. But I had seen her.

Judy Galloway resides in Longview, Texas. She is the daughter of former Star Beacon columnist Julian Joyce, who left the earth plane last January.

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