Campers will gather at 9:30 PM around the fire ring.

“Bloody Mary Todd”

One night, while my parents were out at a book burning, my sister dared me to go into the bathroom, turn off the lights, and say “Bloody Mary” three times. Sometimes, she said, the specter of a woman appeared behind you.

I was just a kid then and didn’t want her to think I was chicken, so I went into the bathroom and did what she said: “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.” When I opened my eyes, the ghost of Mary Todd Lincoln was standing behind me.

My whole body shook; I burst into a cold sweat; I couldn’t move. “It was the opinion of my late husband,” Mary Todd croaked, “that the Constitution is a permanently binding contract between the individual states and a strong federal government.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. “What if the federal government oversteps its power?” I asked. “Shouldn’t a well-armed citizenry have the right to force the government into submission?”

Mary Todd’s ghost thinned as she returned to the Other Side. “Where,” she asked, “does armed resistance end and domestic terrorism begin?”

“Arson in the Night”

Recently, my son and I noticed an invasive plant species moving onto our property. The only reason these weeds reached our land was because the Bureau of Land Management wasn’t tending their own territory. One day, we set a controlled fire to protect our pastures. We didn’t think much of it—goddamn it, our land is ours to burn, even if it borders a wildlife refuge—and by dusk the fire died down having done its job.

A few nights later, our dog Jeff Davis dashed to the front door and scrambled onto the porch. He barked like mad into the night, but there was nothing there. I was about to go back inside when I heard the crunch of boots on gravel. In the driveway, two men dressed in black from head to toe stepped out of the shadows. I don’t know whether it was the Bureau of Land Management patches on their shoulders or the bureaucratic darkness in their eyes, but something about them sent chills down my spine.

“Who are you?” I stammered. “Where did you come from?”

Their only words? “Controlled or not, fires on government land are costly to the taxpayer and jeopardize the lives of firefighters. You’re under arrest on the charge of arson.”

“The Ouija Board”

A few years ago, my buddies and I were hanging out in our friend’s basement after a Ruth Bader Ginsburg effigy-burning party. We ordered pizza and bummed a few beers from his roommate’s stash while we watched a zombie flick. We got bored, so we pulled out a Ouija board and asked it a few questions.

“Is there a ghost in the room?”


“Has anyone ever died in this house?”


“Will the current Supreme Court loosely interpret the implied powers of the federal government?”


No one spoke. Terrified, we shoved the Ouija board back into its box as fast as we could and ran upstairs.

“Liberals from the Great Beyond”

I grew up in an old farmhouse that dated back to the 1820s. My family wasn’t sure why, but something in that place didn’t feel right. Faucets dripped black ooze. Shadows played across the walls without any person to cast them. No matter how many times we moved it back to the bookcase, my dad’s copy of Decision Points, the heroic saga of the George W. Bush presidency, always ended up in the trash.

One night, my mother placed a call to a nearby historical society. We thought the ghosts of past residents might be holding grudges against us, and so we dug deeper. The phone rang with our answer and my mother left the living room to pick it up, eager to hear who the previous tenants had been. But by the time she got off the phone, we already knew.

Scrawled on the ceiling in dripping blood, a message told all: “We voted McGovern.” The spirits were liberal, and not the “practical” kind.

“The Guest Bedroom Ghost”

There’s a guest room at my uncle’s house that no one ever uses. No one mentions why, so I decided to sleep in it one night on my way here to join the militia. “What’s the worst that could happen?” I thought to myself.

Around midnight, I sensed something out of the corner of my eye. I was sure the big oak tree outside was just casting shadows, so I didn’t think anything of it, but then I felt a tug on the bedspread. Turning over, I looked into a pair of transparent, silvery eyes.

“We already fought this war,” said the specter of a bloodied Union soldier. “Why do you insist on revisiting it?”

“I think it’s more complicated than that,” I answered groggily. “The Obama Administration doesn’t understand that—”