Ghostly Messages from the Library

by Elaine Greensmith Jordan

It’s time to let the world know that our Prescott library is haunted.

The thing is, I’ve been getting personal messages hidden within the pages of the used library books for sale. I’m astonished at how these missives seem to apply to my life. No doubt they come from spirits in another reality and are

meant just for me.

They require interpretation, of course, but I’m good at interpretation; I’m an old English teacher and not afraid of ghosts.

Here’s what I mean.

The first message to come from a library ghost was a small school photo tucked into the pages of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, which I’d bought for a dollar, maybe two. The photo is of a little girl with a pink hair ribbon. She’s not smiling, trying to hide her overbite. She has long, dark hair and brown eyes. I immediately fell in love. She looks like my daughter when she was a young schoolchild, 40 years ago. So I’ve listened to what the ghost is telling me: remember that inside your strong, boisterous, adult daughter lives a shy, self-conscious child.

Not many weeks later, the second insert — a tiny cutting from the classified section of a newspaper — appeared in a used copy of A Thousand Hills to Heaven. The cutting looks old, yellowed, in obsolete newsprint. It reads, “Zarathustra Book Shop, 8614 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood.” That shop no longer exists, I checked. My interpretation of the cutting is that it’s from my deceased friend who came to Arizona from West Hollywood. She sent this note to me from the netherworld as a reminder that I need more philosophical books on my shelf. My friend was a philosopher, and liked to give orders. I’ll not obey her. I didn’t obey her orders when she was alive either; I doubt if I’ll read any philosophical books again, even though this note from my ghost-friend is a nudge to upgrade.

The next mystery insert fell out of the pages of Daughter of Fortune, a bookmark printed with the caption, “Flowers from the Holy Land.” On one side of the bookmark is drawn a sprig of flowers, on the other are photos of four landmark sanctuaries. The fun part is that I have a connection there, too: I’m a retired Protestant minister, and though I now have only a slim interest in organized religion, I am drawn to beautiful old churches and sacred music. You can imagine my response when this bookmark arrived. I’m sobered by its message, and keep it as a call to acknowledge a part of me that I so often deny.

The fourth message is a stiff airline boarding pass that fell into my lap from a Sue Grafton mystery. The pass is for a 2001 connecting flight from Phoenix to Dallas/Fort Worth. The passenger never made the flight, because the tab was not removed. Could the passenger have suddenly decided to stay over in Phoenix? Maybe she never left because she met a mysterious stranger? Is the pass a suggestion that I too can change my mind and not go according to plan? Here’s a hint that I could take a new path — but I’d have to get out of my reading chair and venture into unknown territory.

I hope the traveler of 17 years ago chose a new route and it turned into a fine experience, much like discoveries in used library books.

Longtime Prescott resident Elaine Greensmith Jordan teaches and lectures on writing.

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