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The Ghost and Captain Jack

April 2, 2012

Captain Jack Although Captain Jack (right, on the dock next to his sailboat, April 2012) experienced these events nearly 65 years ago, he recalls the sights and sounds as though it all happened yesterday:

Shore Leave

"I was in Manila during WWII, on liberty from the Admiral C. F. Hughes and I wandered in to town. You know the first thing a sailor does, is go to a place where they sell milkshakes.

They have a weird way of making a milkshake. It's the same equipment, the same tin container, shaker and all. But they put half of your shake in one glass for you, and they put the other half in another glass and sell it to someone else. So they sell the same milkshake twice.

"Well, I had half a vanilla milkshake.

Manila, circa 1943 "After that big disappointment I wandered down the lane to a Chinese souvenir store. There was interesting stuff in the Chinese store.

"I looked it over, didn't buy anything. I went out, but I went out the back door. I wound up in an alley. At the end of the alley, two big Phillipinos pushed another into the alley and stabbed him. They looked over at me, and I went back in the shop and then out the front door. There was no point in interfering as it was too late, and I didn't want to be a part of it.

"I wandered down to the ship and met two guys off my ship. We decided to go have a beer and we went in a little tavern.

"They have a different method of waiting on tables. The waitress sits down at the table, talks and sort of provides entertainment, you know. And when you drink a beer, you put the empty in the center of the table. That way you know how many you had. Because as soon as it's empty, there's another."

Things got even stranger...

Royal Poinciana tree "We're sitting there, and some guy in a very bad shape came in. He looked bad, he may have been dead for a week. He had a basket on his arm full of the most beautiful flowers, as pretty as a Royal Poinciana [right] or better, the perfume they put out was delicious.

"I tried to give it to the girl waiting on tables, and she freaked out. She wouldn't talk to us anymore, until I put the flower on the far end of the table.

"The explanation we finally got is this flower grows everywhere but only blooms on a fresh grave. How about that?

"Another man walked in with a basket with a cloth over it, and he went to the girl and whispered in her ear. She said 'Si, si' and gave him a peso. He reached under the cloth and handed her something, she wrapped it quickly and hid it under her belt.

"I, being curious, said 'You mean to tell me eggs are a peso apiece?'

Chicken embryo: a delicacy "She said, 'No, Joe, this one has a chicken in it.'

" 'What do you do with it?'

" 'I'm going to eat it.' She ate it. And I could see the inside of the shell was black, coal black. It was a chicken, big enough to hatch, but black.

"She threw it in her mouth, chewed, spit out the bill and swallowed it. Everything but the bill.

"You see how these washing machines are agitating? Well, that's what the beer in my stomach was doing then.

"I said 'Let's get out of here,' and my buddies agreed. We went back to the ship.

Bunks "I go into my quarters, there's a row of lockers along the wall, and eight-high stack of bunks on the other. I had the flower, and I pulled the springs out of the bunk over mine and stuck the flower in so I could look at it. I forgot it was there.

"Eventually it dried out so every time he turned over the powder would fall off and land in my face. I got tired of that in a hurry and threw the thing away.

"And so I forgot all about it, and everything's great."

Time passes... and then...

"Now it's our second trip across the ocean. I went down to the boiler room and I stepped up between the boilers and someone waved that flower under my nose. I could smell it as clear as I did that night. I smelled it as clear as if it was right under my nose.

Boiler room "I asked one of the firemen 'Sniff around here, see if you smell anything.' He said, 'No, nothing.'

"I said 'Send the other fireman over.' He made the sniff test and found nothing either. I could still smell it, just in one spot between the boilers. Any place else was clear.

"It begins to worry me a little, so I went out of the fire room with the intention of talking it over with one of the officers. When I stepped out of the fire room into the main hallway, there was one of the guys that was with me at the bar that night. I purposely didn't tell him anything, but asked him if he'd come down.

"I said, 'Don't worry, you won't get dirty.'

Potent blossom "I walked him between the boilers, he stopped, froze, said 'Oh my god, that flower!'

"I said "'That's all I wanted to know. Let's get the Lt. Commander down here!'

"So here came the Lt. Commander, he had vials in a basket, tests with the litmus paper, wandered back out. Then zoom, he comes down full speed with another litmus, and zoom he goes out at high speed.

"I said, 'What the hell's going on now?'

"A guy from the engine room came to the fire room, said 'You're wanted on the phone.'"

"Who the hell would be calling me and why?

"Well it was the Lt. Commander, and he said 'Don't go near that spot, if you stand in it for two minutes you'll be dead.' He said there's a gas there, colorless, odorless, tasteless, the only way to detect it is with litmus paper.

"My reaction: What the hells' wrong with having a ghost?"

Stateside

"But that's not the end of the story.

Dark staircase "After being discharged I go home. My parents were living in a two-story house. My bedroom was upstairs in the back, and my sister had the front bedroom upstairs.

"And it was a narrow, dark stairway to get up the stairs.

"I figured this ghost must have been a male, because he seemed to be attracted to my sister. She'd turn the light on and go halfway upstairs, the the lights would go out, she'd scream, and run back down. Sometimes she'd get all the way into her room and then the light would come back on. It liked to play with her. Sometimes she'd go to bed and then the lights would come on.

"We checked the electricity, the wiring, everything was fine. That ghost just liked her best."

The Admiral C. F. Hughes

The Admiral C. F. Hughes The Admiral C. F. Hughes was a transport ship launched in August 1944. During WWII she transported troops and POWs between the mainland US, Hawaii, Manila, Guam, and the European Theater, finally delivering returning servicemen to San Francisco on August 17 1945.

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