Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.
Sven wasn’t always a ghost whisperer.
He was like any other kid on the block growing up. Nothing special. No superpowers. Nothing that separated him from his peers. But that changed when he got out of the Army at 22-years-old.
As a combat veteran in Afghanistan, Sven saw more than his share of people die. Friends and enemies. Death didn’t scare him. He always understood he could die at any time.
There was a moment, when a sniper’s bullet passed through his cheek and shattered his teeth, when Death eagerly hovered nearby, waiting to see if his time had come.
The first thing Sven did when he mustered out of the military was to buy a used Harley motorcycle from a high school friend. Then he pointed the Harley north, towards Northern California.
He was trying to stick to the old Pacific Highway Route 1, but discovered it no longer went straight through to Oregon. There were areas where the road disappeared off the steep cliffs into the ocean. He followed the bypasses when it came to those points.
One afternoon he was cruising along enjoying the scenery when a pickup truck came barreling up behind him at a high-speed! He veered hard to his right to avoid getting run over, masterfully bringing the Harley to a stop in the dirt running alongside the highway.
It took him a few minutes to compose himself before he got back on the road. He didn’t go far when he saw something suspicious. He pulled his Harley off the road and hopped off.
What he noticed were dark black skid marks on the road leading to the drop-off on the left. He walked across the road and looked down the 100-foot embankment. A pickup truck was turned upside down, partly in the Eel River, and on the rough shoreline.
He didn’t hesitate.
When he got to the bottom he spotted a body that was thrown from the truck. He checked it out. There was nothing he could do, so he went to the pickup truck to see if the someone was still inside, and alive.
He wasn’t. Sven shook his head sadly. “Was it worth it?” he wondered.
“Oh, Hell no! I didn’t mean to lose control,” a voice next to him replied.
Sven jumped up and spun around in alarm. Then he saw something strange. The dead guy was standing up and talking to him! But…the dead guy was still trapped in the pickup when he looked over at it.
“Listen…you gotta tell my mom I love her, okay?” the dead man pleaded.
“Yeah sure…what’s her name?” he automatically replied.
“Joan. Tell her I love her, and I wished I wasn’t speeding.”
Then he was gone.
Sven stood there for minutes in shock. He didn’t believe in ghosts. How could this happen to him? Was it a flashback of some kind? As he climbed back up the steep embankment he regretted not having a cell phone yet. He’d have to flag someone down when he got back up top.
For once in his short interesting life, he was glad to see a cop when a California Highway Patrol car came down the road. He stayed for nearly an hour answering questions. He told the investigator everything…except, of course, about the ghost part.
He didn’t want to end up in a VA psych ward trying to convince someone he didn’t have PTSD.
Two days later. Southern Humboldt County.
Sven sat on his Harley and watched the latter-day hippies and wannabes mingle in the supermarket parking lot. He was parked next to a small park area – a rude sign proclaimed it “The People’s Park” – with two wooden tables packed with homeless people and travelers.
It was nearly dark when he decided to go to the motel room he rented during the day. As he locked up the Harley in front of his room, a stranger laughed, and said, “These kids don’t know nothing about mother nature.”
“You know. Those punks over by the supermarket and park. They don’t even know what they’re pretending to be.”
“Excuse me dude. Do I know you?”
“Oh, I doubt it man.”
Then he disappeared, as Sven blinked in stunned disbelief.
What was going on? He told himself one more time that he didn’t believe in ghosts. Why was he having these hallucinations? He wasn’t using any drugs. It was several days since he had any liquor.
Sven had a hard time going to sleep. Just as he started to slip off into dreamland someone said, “I was murdered in this bed.”
He sprung up and threw the blanket aside! Standing at the end of the bed was a young woman. Her sad eyes drew him to her. He tensely waited to see if she’d speak again.
“The guy that runs these crummy hotel is a murderer!” she hotly claimed.
“What can I do about it?” he asked, while wondering if he lost his mind.
“Tell the cops where my body is.”
“Underneath your bed, below the floorboards.”
He jumped out of the bed at the same time she disappeared. He pinched himself to see if it was just a nightmare. It wasn’t. He’d just conversed with a ghost. He went outside hoping the cool night air would clear the cobwebs in his head.
“There he is!” a woman standing by the motel office shouted, pointing at Sven.
Suddenly he was surrounded by ghosts! He could see through their bodies, but they maintained enough of an image for him to tell they were once human. Questions flew at him from all angles.
“I’m buried underneath the parking lot, will you tell someone?”
“The manager is a murderer. Will you stop him?”
“Will you tell my family I’m buried beneath the floorboards in the main office?”
“Will you help me?” a chorus of undead voices pleaded.
While trying to hold on to his sanity Sven spoke out, “I don’t know why you picked me to haunt. I never believed in ghosts.”
“Joel told us you were a ghost whisperer, ” one of the young women said.
“He was killed when his pickup truck went off a cliff recently. He passed the word on that you could see and hear him,” the woman explained.
Sven was stumped. He didn’t know what to do. This supernatural drama playing out had him as a central character.
Then he heard someone scream in terror! The ghosts were gone when he headed for the room where he thought the scream came from. Without even thinking, he kicked the door in.
Bent over a young woman in bed, with his hands around her neck, was the motel manager!
Sven ran over and punched the manager in his jaw just as he was letting go of the woman who was gasping for air. The punch shattered his jaw, and when Sven put a chokehold on him, he passed out.
“Do you have a cell phone?” he asked the young woman who was still gagging. She pointed at the end table. He dialed 911 and sat on the end of the bed, watching to see if the manager woke up.
Afterward, the police hailed him as a hero. Everyone in Garberville was stunned to hear about the murderer in their midst. That he was a serial killer made it a national news story.
After talking with police investigators he refused to grant any interviews. He didn’t want to be a public figure. When he got back on the road, going north towards Eureka, he started thinking that what happened was probably a once in a lifetime thing.
He certainly hoped so.
As the days went by he lost himself riding his Harley along the beautiful northern coast. He stayed in motels and continued to head north with no real destination in mind.
One night, while he stayed at a little offbeat motel just below Seattle, Washington, someone woke him up. He opened his eyes warily expecting the worst. He wasn’t disappointed.
A man dressed in animal furs and holding an ancient rifle stood in the corner of his room staring at him. It took all he had not to get up and run out of the room screaming!
“Hold on sonny…” the man said, “I don’t want anything from you. I just heard that you can talk with ghosts and I wanted to see if it were true. I know you can see me now, but can you really hear me?”
Inspiration struck Sven like a lightning bolt. He didn’t answer the ghost. Instead he just stared dumbly in his direction.
After a long pause the man shook his head, “I didn’t think so. You can’t believe everything you hear,” he said.
“It’s too bad…I could have told him where to find that hoard of gold I stashed just before the Indians got hold of my hide.”
“Wait a minute! Did you say gold hoard?” Sven suddenly piped up.
“It’s too bad,” the ghost said mischievously, before disappearing.
As It Stands, maybe Sven won’t be so quick to deny his talent next time.