Author Archives: Annika Jarvis

Spirit Coins

The dead supposedly communicate with us with loose pennies and nickels. Not just random coins in the middle of the street, but by placing them in weird places for you to find. It’s a symbol to let us know that they are okay. A few months after my dad died, I had this dream about him. I was walking through a park with a group of other people and I turned around and he was just there. Just standing there. And it was so vivid. Like… it wasn’t a dream. I said, ‘Dad, what are you doing here?’ and he told me he was okay and that I shouldn’t be sad or worried. He told me he was working out and lifted up his shirt to show me how flat it was. He looked so good! He said he got to pick the age he wanted to stay forever and picked his fifties. I gasped and was like, “Oh my god, Dad, you look so good.” He was so happy. And he reached out his arms all wide and I leaned in to give him a hug and then I was awake. It was so real… I can’t even tell you how real it felt. And so when I woke up I was all shaken and upset and I was crying that morning. And I had a party to go to later that afternoon and I was running late and your dad was hollering at me from downstairs that it was time to go. So I was running around looking for shoes and couldn’t find the pair I wanted so I just grabbed a pair of white sneakers. And as I was leaving my closet one of the shoes slipped out of my hand and dropped onto the floor. And there was this loud clanking noise, like “CLANK, CLANK.” And I was all confused, like, “What was that?” So I reached down and saw this penny. And I’ve never seen a penny like it before. And it was perfect, like so clean and shiny. Like brand new. Like, how does a penny end up in a shoe? And I can’t remember the last time I had a penny—I never have pennies. And so now I carry it around everywhere. I think it was from my dad… telling me everything is okay, things will be okay. It’s too weird for me to think anything else.

G read a story about loose pennies and how they relate to the dead a while before her father passed away. She remembered it a few weeks after his passing, but didn’t think much of it until she had the dream and found the penny. Now she believes steadfastly in the communication of the deceased with coins, and has her own story as proof.

This story was told by G first asking if I’d “ever seen a penny like this before,” and presenting a penny from her pocket. Its story followed suit.

This story gave me chills because of the penny presented as proof. I think it is a beautiful and comforting belief to have, and I’m not sure I will be able to shake it. I think every time I find a coin in a strange spot I might question how it got there—or who exactly put it there.

The Kraken

My Aunt Elaine lives on the coast of Denmark in this tiny little town… I can’t remember the name. I probably wouldn’t be able to pronounce it if I did. But when I was little we would go and visit her… that was just about the only trip my family and I would take back then, to Denmark to visit the family. We’d stay at her house right on the beach, there was this grass out front that would blow all day long in the wind and tickle your face if you laid in it. And she had this airy room as her attic that was stocked full of toys, mostly Legos. And we’d play with them all day long. And help her cook. But the most fun was to go play in the water outside. There was this long dock that stretched into the water and kids would jump off of it, swim to shore, then jump off it again. All day long. But no one ever swam much past the dock. I’m sure you’ve heard of The Kraken. Well, the adults would tell us all stories of this giant squid that lurked in the deep ocean, but was too big to swim in past the dock. So as long as we stayed close to the shore—and never went past the end of the dock, we were safe from The Kraken. If we swam out too far, we were in danger of getting dragged down to the bottom of the ocean by it. My aunt used to tell me it liked little girls with long, blonde hair. I was a little girl with long, blonde hair. Ha, ha. They definitely told us this so they could drink too much wine and not have to worry about jumping into the ocean and saving us. But I still am kind of freaked out to go too deep into the ocean, and I think its because of this. My survival instincts are still telling me to stay away from The Kraken!

G learned the story of The Kraken from her aunt, and the story is special to her because it became a part of her adult life, as well. When she swims in the ocean, she still thinks about The Kraken lurking underneath the waves.

I’ve heard about The Kraken before—mostly through the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I’ve never been afraid of a giant squid, but I have heard stories about the megladon shark lurking in the ocean, so I suppose mostly everyone is afraid of some unknown, possibly mythical creature in the depths of the ocean.

The Shore Shark

Every summer I lifeguard down on the Jersey shore in this town called Beach Haven and there’s this legend on the beach I lifeguard on called Pearl Street about the shark in a series of shark attacks that occurred I believe in the summer of 1916.  So, it is said that an off-duty volunteer lifeguard at the time was enjoying the beach at dusk and wanted to watch the sunset. He had his dog with him maybe it was a poodle or a labrador…I don’t know what it was specifically. But he saw something flashing in the water and with his lifeguard instincts he of course assumed it was a victim in need of rescue. So he bolted into the water, swam out to the victim, and his dog ran into the water and chased after him until he got to the spot where he saw someone drowning… except there was nothing there. There was just crashing waves and some white water. He started to make his way in until he was stopped by a shark bite to his lower abdomen. His dog started barking ferociously and the lifeguard was screaming, still trying to make his way onto the beach. A couple of beach patrons ran into the water to assist the man who was bleeding profusely at this point, and they brought him onto the beach and dragged him to the closest motel… where he died on the front desk. His blood spilt down the desk, staining the hardwood floors. His soul supposedly haunts room 714, which was the date of this attack. And rumor has it the shark continued to some towns north from here, taking a few victims along way. And a popular book was written about this specific shark… called ‘Jaws.

N has spent his summers in Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, New Jersey since he was born. The tiny town was established in the late 19th century and holds incredibly rich and often, dark history in the original structures that still stand. Many Victorian buildings still exist, which gives the beach town a unique flair. A popular pastime of teenagers on the island is to bike ride at night to the various, rumored-to-be-haunted locations and scare each other. Thus, the telling of ghost stories is prevalent in the childhoods of the children who grew up on the island. N learned this specific story from the lifeguard who passed down the torch to him on the Pearl Street lifeguard stand. This story is special because N himself is a lifeguard, and often while on duty he stares out into the ocean and considers what is lurking underneath the water.

Everyone knows the movie “Jaws,” so first it is interesting to me to hear the origin story of the shark, and it makes it even more interesting that I have a personal connection to it, knowing someone who swims in those exact waters. I definitely think the story has been stretched out and exaggerated a lot— especially the part about the lifeguard dramatically bleeding out onto a motel’s hardwood floor—by teenagers attempting to see who can scare each other the most. But I think it is interesting to try to pinpoint the exaggerated parts of an already-scary story that was attempted to make scarier because someone didn’t consider scary enough to begin with.

Lake Como Ghost

I didn’t believe in ghosts until I was staying at this old hotel in Lake Como, Italy. It was a five-hundred year-old building. An old hospital, no less, that they turned into a hotel. You walked in and there were angel statues everywhere. It was cold and dark inside, but full of history. We were staying in the penthouse and it had this wraparound balcony overlooking the lake… it was so beautiful. But I was absolutely terrified. Like, a hospital? Really, mom? You have us sleep in an old hospital? That’s like, almost as haunted as a graveyard. And of course the first night we were there there was this massive thunder and lightening storm. I was sleeping in this little room off of the master bedroom. And I was terrified of all the noises outside, so I was sleeping on my stomach, buried underneath the covers, my head under the pillows. And then…all of a sudden something started pressing down on my back. Hard. Pushing me into the bed. And I couldn’t breathe. It felt like two hands pushing me down. I started flailing… I literally felt like I was going to die. And then it stopped. I was crying, I went to go sleep in my parents’ bed. They thought I was being such a freak, imagining things, because I was already scared just staying there. My dad went to sleep in my little bed. And I was laying on my back, burrowed under the covers. I couldn’t sleep. Someone had literally just tried to suffocate me. And as I’m laying there… all of a sudden… the balcony double doors fly open and a burst of lightning zigzagged through the doors. There was a clap of thunder. The curtains billowed out with the wind. I’m not kidding. It was so scary. I expected like a vampire or something to appear in that doorway. I didn’t sleep a wink the rest of the time we were there. My parents never believed me.

M experienced this story for herself, and she deems it the scariest moment of her life. But few people believe her. Most think she was having a nightmare. But she recounts how real it felt, the feeling of not being able to breathe. She likes to tell this piece because it’s an experience few have had, and she’s not sure why it happened to her.

I believe M’s story. I definitely believe in ghosts, but I’ve heard very few firsthand accounts of people claiming a ghost was able to touch them. That thought scares me. This must have been a very angry spirit, maybe someone who didn’t have a pleasant life or died violently. I would be traumatized if this happened to me.


Modern Leeches

My grandma still believes in the use of leeches… yeah, I know. Gross, right? Like bloodletting leeches. I don’t even know where she gets them from. I’m picturing her, like, hunting for leeches. I think she gets blood clots and uses them for those. I don’t ask a lot of questions. But, yes. My grandmother still uses leeches.

M likes this folk medicine because it is antiquated and you don’t often hear about the use of leeches. She likes to tell people about her grandmother’s modern use of them because it is gross and gets a horrified response from them. She also enjoys talking about her grandmother.

I cannot imagine sticking a leech onto myself to help with my ailments, but if there are helpful results, I suppose no harm is being done. I would rather go to the doctor, however, and receive modern medicine rather than leeches.