Lenny didn’t know how old he was. I mean, he knew how old he was when he died—eighteen—but he wasn’t sure just how long he had been dead. That’s one of the first things you should know about ghosts. They have no concept of time. I mean, they see the sunrise and sunset, and if it’s necessary, they can still read clocks. But to a ghost, each day is pretty much like the one that came before it and identical to the one yet to come. It’s why they love dogs so much, there’s more about that to come.
But back to Lenny, as I was saying, he didn’t know for sure how long he had been dead. There were clues to be sure. For example, he had been killed by a horse-drawn carriage, but the house in which he currently lived had a 72-inch flat-screen television, so he had to be pretty damn old.
In many ways, Lenny was just your average ghost, but when you think about it that doesn’t really tell you much about Lenny or ghosts. It turns out most people don’t know anything about ghosts. They think they do, but all they know is what they see in horror movies and hardly any of that stuff is true. What is true is ghosts don’t travel often, they really are homebodies or home-spirits or whatever. Bottom line, they like to stay close to where they died, and for the most part, they really don’t want any trouble. There are a few bad apples who get into the whole haunting thing, but Lenny, like most ghosts, just wanted to live in secret. He never wanted to bother the humans in his house, and he spent his days watching his co-inhabitants like characters in a soap opera.
He also enjoyed the special connection he had with the family dogs. (I told you we’d work our way back to the dogs.) You see, dogs can see ghosts as plain as day. No one is really sure why but you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. If you think about it, this little anomaly is actually a good thing for both the ghosts and the dogs. The interactions tend to fill the void a ghost feels after death, and the dogs seem to like it, too. Whenever you see a dog barking at nothing in particular, he’s probably just carrying on a conversation with the specter of the house.
Ok, where was I? Oh, that’s right, I was telling you about Lenny.
Lenny had been living in the house on Elm Street since the day he died. Well, technically he had lived there eighteen years longer because that’s where he lived before he died. It’s a little complicated, but I think you get the idea. The important thing is everything was going along swimmingly until the Johnsons moved in.
The Johnson family, Roger and Mary and their daughter, Anna, were as nice as alive people can be. They kept quiet for the most part and were great fun to watch. They also had a mutt named Baxter who loved nothing more than to dig in the dirt and bark at Lenny.
Lenny, of course, couldn’t care less about the digging. Ghosts really have no opinion one way or another when it comes to holes, and he loved the boisterous Baxter because he was always up for a talk.
For the first few years after the Johnsons moved in, Lenny was as happy as he had ever been since he had died. The Johnsons were a nice family, and Anna, who had been fifteen when they first moved in, had grown into a beautiful young lady of seventeen.
In all his years dead, Lenny had never done anything to announce his presence. He saw no upside. He loved his people, so he didn’t want to scare them, and it was a pretty well-established fact that humans don’t like ghosts. I mean, they liked Casper, but Casper wasn’t a real ghost. He was just a cartoon. Cartoons are another source of false myths about ghosts, but that’s really off topic right now. The important thing was Lenny’s desire to remain secret changed because of Anna.
Lenny had been killed when he was on his way to his very first date. He had asked one of the young ladies in the village to accompany him to a Friday night dance, but he never made it to his destination. As a result, he had never found love, not the kind of love a young man feels for a young woman, and his ghost heart was falling hard for Anna.
Now, Lenny was a realistic ghost. He knew he and Anna could never be together, but he was finding it increasingly hard not to at least talk to the beautiful young woman. In reality, that’s not as hard as you might expect. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort for a ghost to make themselves known. This is a common misconception perpetuated by the movie Ghost. Lenny didn’t have to take over Whoopi Goldberg's body to communicate with Anna; he just had to talk to her. There was one problem with this plan, though: she could hear Lenny, but she couldn’t see him. It’s hard enough to get a girl to like you if you were a handsome devil. It’s nearly impossible when you are an invisible ghost. Lenny didn’t care though; he was going to take his chance.
In the two years the Johnsons had lived in Lenny’s home, he had never entered Anna’s room while she was alone. He wasn’t an officer and a gentleman, but he was a ghost and a gentleman. He had been in her room plenty of times when Roger or Mary or both had been there, but he always left when they did.
But not tonight.
Lenny's plan was, well, he didn’t actually have a plan. I mean he was a ghost about to talk to a human for the first time. What could go wrong?
When it came time for Anna to go to bed, Lenny and Baxter headed to Anna’s room and sat together in Anna’s wingback chair. (In case you didn’t know, ghosts can sit. They are basically like us except they can walk through walls and fly. Now that I think about it, maybe they are not as much like us as you would think. But as I was saying, they can sit in chairs and that’s exactly what Lenny did.)
From the chair and with Baxter by his side, Lenny spoke for the first time in what had to be over one hundred years.
“Hello. My name is Lenny, and I’m a ghost who lives in this house with you.”
You have to admit, Lenny wasn’t one to mince words. He just came right out and announced himself.
To his shock and amazement, Anna responded calmly.
“Hi, I’m Anna. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
You see unbeknownst to Lenny, the Johnsons were a family of psychics and had known there was a presence in the house from the first day they moved in. It turned out that the Johnsons were glad to share their home with Lenny. They knew ghosts were mostly harmless, and they also knew about dogs and ghosts and figured Baxter could use the friend.
From that day forward, Lenny became a secret part of the family. He would join them for movie nights and would even play Monopoly. He was always the top hat. Lenny never told Anna how he felt, but she kind of knew, and in her own way she liked him, too.
The happy family dynamic continued for almost a year, but alas, all good things must come to an end. Near the end of Anna’s junior year in high school, a priest moved into the home next door. Ironically, this wasn’t just any priest. This priest specialized in exorcisms. I would say it goes without saying that the worst neighbor a ghost could have is an exorcist, but wouldn’t that be some sort of paradox? Anyway, with this new neighbor, the Johnsons' secret went from minor to major. Something had to be done.
To keep Lenny safe, it was decided that Anna and Lenny would go to a boarding school a few hours away where both could live safely. As the priest was only in town for a year, Lenny and Anna could return when the priest had moved away. Anna was excited to have a chance to spread her wings and try adulting. Lenny was equally excited because the boarding school was located in an old Gothic manor, and what ghost doesn’t dream of vacationing at a Gothic manor?
The year at boarding school was everything Anna and Lenny could have hoped for, and with the extended time alone, the two became closer by the day. Anna would spend her days in class while Lenny would explore the manor. As I said before, this is one of the myths about ghosts that is actually quite true. They love to live in old dark Gothic manors. It’s kind of like the beach for surfers or the mountains for, well, for people who like mountains. Bottom line: they both loved their new digs. Each night Anna would use her mother’s old coffee pot and the hot plate provided by the school to make a cup of coffee, and with Lenny for company, she would diligently complete her homework.
Since writers have been writing, there have been stories of lovers who could not be together for one reason or another. Romeo and Juliet, Scarlett and Ashley, Wesley and Buttercup. It’s a tale as old as time, and there are very few things more difficult to overcome than love between one who is alive and another who is not. As the final semester worked its way towards a close, Anna and Lenny added their names to the list of great unrequited love stories.
And then came the fire.
One of the truisms we should all know about Gothic manors is they are tinderboxes. Everything in them is flammable, and a single spark can destroy a manor in the blink of an eye. It is also true that an old hotplate with fraying wires can easily provide the necessary spark. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.
Anna was pulling an all-nighter getting ready for her last final (last final? Is that some sort of weird redundancy?) and, as is the case with most teenagers these days, she used coffee to get her through the night. She turned on the burner, put a pot on to boil and sat back down at her desk to study.
She didn’t see the spark. She didn’t notice it falling on the paper towel next to the pot. She didn’t see the flame until it was too late. By the time she looked up from her book, it had engulfed the counter and was making its way toward the only door out of her third-story room. There was no way out. She was trapped.
This brings us to our least fun fact about ghosts: they can die. Ghosts have the ability to reanimate for a few short minutes, but the stress of doing so snuffs their spirits out forever. It’s not a very well-known fact because, in the history of the world, only two ghosts have ever actually used this power. Tonight would prove the third.
Lenny loved being a ghost. He had loved being part of family after family and getting to know hundreds of dogs, but he had never been in love until now and he couldn’t let Anna die. In a moment of true, enduring, and endless love, Lenny came back to life, scooped up Anna in his arms, and raced through the flames, bringing his love to the safety of the front courtyard.
For the first time, Anna was able to see Lenny. She grabbed him and held him tight. She then kissed him like he’d never been kissed before and professed her love for him. She had no idea how he had become real, but she was thrilled to finally be able to touch him. Her joy, however, was short-lived as Lenny explained to her the terrible consequences of his decision. Anna broke down in tears and asked, “How long do we have?”
“Five minutes at most,” came his heartbreaking response.
The words stabbed her in the heart like a knife. She had known she could never really be with Lenny, but she expected he would always be there to look over her. Now that lifetime of time was reduced to a devastatingly short five minutes.
Wanting to savor every second of the time they had left, the two star-crossed lovers sat down, held hands, and stared into each other’s eyes. Anna wanted to memorize everything about Lenny’s face, and Lenny wanted to feel Anna’s touch for as long as possible.
When a ghost dies, they fade away like a fog. It happens slowly, until they are just no more. This is exactly what happened to Lenny. Little by little, his face and his touch began to evanesce. As the last bits of himself disappeared, Anna heard Lenny’s voice one last time.
“I love you, more than death itself.”
And with that, he was gone.
Throughout the rest of her mortal life, Anna never saw or heard another ghost. She did eventually find love again. Her husband was a good man and the pair had one child, a son Anna named Lenny. Her son was a secret reminder of her first love and her first kiss, and if she looked really hard, she was sure she saw her other Lenny in his eyes.