The Ghost of FortunatoFor much of my life, I didn't believed in ghosts. I do now.
In 1984, I lived in base housing on Yokota Air Base in Japan. It was around 11 p.m. I was lying in bed, wide-awake, next to my wife, and trying to doze off. For some reason, I felt compelled to look towards the end of the bed. That’s when I saw him.
My vision back then, before my corrective lens surgery, was 20/400. In other words, I was almost blind. Because of my blurred sight, I wasn’t completely sure that what I was seeing was actually there. Without turning my head, I reached over with my left hand and grabbed my glasses from the nightstand. I pushed them onto my face, and with vision as clear as day; the coldest chill I have EVER experienced invaded my spine. I actually felt every hair on my body stand on end.
There was a man standing at the foot of my bed! There was and IS not a doubt in my mind—HE WAS THERE! At the same time that I realized this, I also KNEW he was NOT real. I felt it more than knew it, that he was some kind of apparition—whether a ghost, illusion, or hallucination. Whatever he was, I knew he wasn’t a flesh-and-blood man, because he did not move. He didn’t reposition his feet or shift his weight; he didn’t move his arms, not even a fraction, from his sides; nor did he turn his head, even subtly. No living person could possibly be that still in that situation—standing in someone else’s bedroom. Unexplainably, I figured all this out in a fraction of a second.
My eyes grew involuntarily huge with fear, but there was no terror. I was keenly curious about this nighttime phenomenon. I wanted to absorb the experience, even as my heart beat like a drum in my chest. I intently studied this uninvited guest, and what I saw is seared into my memory more than 21 years later.
He was Asian, and fairly tall for one, maybe two or three inches shy of six feet. He was slender, perhaps on the gaunt side. With the bedroom window behind him, he was in silhouette, but not completely. From that window, a bit of moonlight and streetlight took some of the edge off his blackness. He was wearing tightly fitting, straight-legged blue jeans and a long-sleeved flannel shirt. His sleeves were rolled up just below his elbows. His “mug” was lost in shadow, but I could discern shoulder length straight hair that covered his ears and framed his face, a style common in the 70’s.
Because I couldn’t see his face, I couldn’t tell exactly what he was looking at, but it appeared that he was gazing at my wife. It’s a strange thing to say, but it didn’t seem like he had any interest in me at all. After a few seconds of staring at the unmoving phantom, I wanted some affirmation and verification. Without taking my eyes off the creepy guy, I reached out with my right hand, and after one miss, I found my wife’s hip. I shook her as hard as I could. She didn’t stir. I kept shaking her and said sharply and repeatedly, “Hey! Hey! WAKE UP!”
At last she came around. Groggily she asked, “What?”
I pointed at the man and said, “Look!”
She turned her head, and before she could settle her eyes on him, the man seemed to implode into nothingness, exactly like the old-time TV sets used to do when turned off.
“What?” she asked again quizzically.
Dejected and disappointed, I answered her, “Nothing. I’ll tell you tomorrow.” I didn’t want to freak her out, and I didn’t feel like trying to explain what I had seen. I thought for sure I was too upset to fall asleep, but once my heart and breathing returned to normal, I must have nodded off almost immediately. Go figure.
The next morning I told my wife about her “secret admirer,” and she knew immediately who it was from the description I provided. It was Fortunato, her son’s father. They had had an affair before she knew he was already married with children. Even when she was still with him, Fortunato suffered from TB, and she learned a few months after his “visit” that it had finally killed him. It seems that he “appeared” at about the same time that he died.
This story would be strange enough without relating another word, but there’s more. About ten years later, and half a world away in Jacksonville, Arkansas, Fortunato made another nocturnal “appearance.” This time instead of me, it was my daughter looking up towards the end of the bed and seeing the exact same guy! Again, like me, she was lying next to her sleeping mother, when something caught her eye. Humorously enough, her reaction was exactly the opposite of what mine had been.
Not wanting to believe what she was seeing, my teenage daughter pulled the covers over her face. Convinced she must be “seeing things,” after a few moments, she snuck a peek. He was still there! The poor thing went back “under cover” and stayed that way, scared to death, till morning, hardly catching a wink of sleep.
Not wanting to frighten them, I had never told my kids about seeing Fortunato’s specter those many years before. Yet my girl described the exact same apparition that I had seen, right down to his clothes, hairstyle, and bearing. Other than seeing Fortunato’s ghost, the other commonality of our two experiences is that we were both lying next to the same woman at night. Could she be “projecting” his image so forcefully, that other people can see it? Other than the existence of ghosts, this is the only explanation I’ve been able to come up with.
I’ve had other strange experiences that fall into the realm of the strange and otherworldly, but nothing comes close to seeing the ghost of Fortunato!