A brush with the unexplained

Published 7:01 am Sunday, October 30, 2016

Deb Nicklay is the Austin Daily Herald’s newest  reporter, starting earlier this month.

I’ve always had a healthy skepticism of ghosts and the like.

Fact is, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one; but I like to hear the stories about things that go bump in the night. Stories, after all, are my business.

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But I have to admit I ran smack dab into the unexplained many years ago, when I worked in Stewartville and lived in Racine, just a few miles south.

I was just pulling into Stewartville one morning when I noticed flashing lights on Main Street.  My heart sank a little when I realized the town’s First Response crew was on the porch of a couple I knew pretty well.

As I drove by, I saw the wife — I’ll call her Jane — standing off to one side, looking down on a stretcher that must have held her husband, Henry. First Responders were gathered round, ready to load him into the ambulance that was pulling up.

“Oh no,” I thought to myself. I knew Henry had heart issues and prayed he would be all right.

I hurried into the Stewartville newspaper office where I worked, anxious to tell a co-worker what I had seen. Sharon was also a close friend of the couple. Soon, she was on the phone calling friends, trying to find out how Henry was.

I was astounded when Sharon suddenly entered my office with a look of concern on her face.

“Deb, it wasn’t Henry they took in … it was Jane.”

I stared at her. How could it be Jane — who, Sharon said, was shocked by a defibrillator over 20 times — that I saw? I would have sworn on a bible that I had seen her, hands in the pockets of her American Legion Auxiliary jacket, looking down at her husband.

When I thought back on the scene, I realized that Jane, usually an animated joke-teller, had no expression on her face at all. She did not look happy or sad or anything in between. Very odd.

Fortunately, Jane was able to survive that massive heart attack and was able to return home a few weeks later.

I kept the story to myself for many months.  Then, one night, my husband and I joined a neighbor across the street for a chat around his fire ring. As is the case when it’s late, and it’s dark, you begin to talk about those odd things in your experience. Our neighbor was a fellow Legionnaire of Henry’s and also knew the couple very well.

I am not sure why I felt it important to tell him and I cautioned him that he would think I was crazy. I watched his face as I got to the part where I saw Jane standing on the porch.

I saw his eyebrows shoot up.

Oh boy, I thought. That’s it. He probably thinks I was hallucinating or some such thing.

But imagine my surprise when he quieted for a moment, then looked me in the eye.

“That morning?” he said. “I was driving into town, too, about that time.

“And I saw Jane standing on the porch too.”