Bamboozled

Although a literary time honored cliche , It was a dark and stormy night. Many years ago, there was a storm of epic proportion. The storm had implications for this coastal town in a way that many locals remember with a certain mixture of terror, a spoonful of the delight and some with a knowing chuckle. It was a full moon, and it had rained heavily for the last few weeks. The tides had been exuberant and when the waters receded it left unusual relics on the beaches. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them.

Opal Byers moved here many years ago and found the town much to her liking. She opened a little art store in the south end of Longport. She sold little knick knacks, her art and that of the locals and made a decent living. It was a simple life much to her liking

The sun made an appearance, on that day, so she convinced a few locals to check out the beach to see what the storm washed up.

When they reached the beach they were surprised as to what was left behind. The storm scattered various relics all over the beach and the grasses beyond the beach contained assorted treasures and haunts from the past. Her friend Alyosha, called her while inspecting a tangled mess he found in a shallow pond leading to the beach.

“Opal come over here and look at this.” her friend once again signaled from across the bog. Opal, alerted by the tenor in his voice walked over with guarded trepidation.

“Holy ………………..” and she passed out smack into the sandy reed filled water.

Apparently the storm had unearthed and redistributed some maritime accidents long forgotten on the ocean bottom. Of course, in a small town news travels fast. People were on the beach in a hurry and they circled about much like those of the press. Bodies on the beach from distant ship wrecks were a large story in this neck of the woods. Everybody in this small town seemed to be connected to somebody lost at sea, yet nobody could pinpoint exactly who. These were stories passed down and refracted, then retold much like was done in the writing of holy scripture.

This was big news for a week or two. Eventually this story faded into the past everywhere except in the little coastal town. That is until many months later things started to stir amongst the locals. People reported seeing ghosts in town. Miss Betsy Barnes occupied the same barstool in the same bar almost every single day. She told all that would listen, that there were enigmatic beings lurking in her garden and they on occasion would venture their way into the shed behind her house. She told her stories daily . One day the chickens were spooked by something she never saw, and a week later the gnomes on her porch had been toppled.

Hettie, who ran the Coffee kiosk out by 101, also experienced much the same. She saw ghosts in her backyard, usually on nights where she and her husband sat by their backyard fireplace. And in time, word spread around town. This created a divide amongst the locals. There were those who who have seen the ghosts and those who have not. It was not a bitter divide, rather one of respect, understanding and admiration.

While it used to be a fishing town, this town mostly relied on tourism as its primary source of income. Opal was from the Sagan school of though that “For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” And then occasionally tourists started reporting ghost sightings. Nearly all who had this unearthly experience attributed it to the bodies washed up on the beach, others chalked it up to living in a small town.

A few months later, during the yearly Art Festival, a charlatan of sorts made his presence known. He had a booth selling various oils, home remedies and body sprays. One product he called “Spirited” and soon became the talk of the Arts Festival. He claimed the product could rid a house of rodents, its original selling point, and more importantly the quacksalver had measured his audiences. He waxed poetically, “Spirited” was effective in the removal of spirits. And of course most of the locals devoured what he was saying. A bottle of Spirited was expensive and the treatment plan consisted of 13 weekly mistings. Each bottle cost fifty dollars so the extinction of ghosts in one’s own home was a bit of an investment.

Not surprisingly, “Spirited” was a a big seller amongst the townspeople. The charlatan even devised a payment plan for those not able to shell out the entire amount. Predictably, he charged exorbitant rates and those not well versed in math took him up on the offer. He even gave a “free” one hour seminar on the most effective way to rid the houses of spirits. It was suggested to spray the house in a time where they could be away for a few hours so this was generally done on a Saturday morning. On these mornings the town smelled of patchouli and the essense of habanero.

Eventually the charlatan disappeared from Longport and for the most part was forgotten. “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If weve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. I am not saying that was what happened here. Many who bought the elixir claimed that it rid their house of the offending spirits. Hettie, having sprayed the inside of her house reported the phantoms no longer visited them by the fire. She even tried to persuade Opal to sell it in her store and Opal politely refused.

The charlatans name was Ed, and before leaving town he tried to convince Opal to do the same. She had an unopened bottle on a shelf below the cash register. She looked at it occasionally with a sense of amusement. Upon closer inspection it was not even called “Spirited”. It was actually called Spirit Ed. Nobody seemed to notice.