MacLaine, Shirley - Hearing the ghost of Thomas Jefferson
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
I'm Over All That and Other Confessions - Shirley MacLaine
When I visited Monticello I made friends with the curator and he let me sleep overnight in Jefferson’s bedroom.
There was thunder and lightning that night. I sat very still in the center of the banquette trying to feel Jefferson. I couldn't remember the relationship I'd had with him, when (and if) I was his contemporary, Robert Morris.
There were copies of his Jeffersonian Bible on a table. I sat reading his denunciation of religion, ducking each time the thunder and lightning roared outside the window. A pair of his glasses rested beside a candle. Just above his desk there was a loft where he and Sally Hemings sometimes slept. No one would have known they were sleeping in the cavelike loft. I didn't go in the loft. Too invasive, I thought.
In between lightning strikes I felt a presence. It was quiet, but commanding.
Then I heard a whistle.
I whirled around. Nothing there.
Soon after, I fell asleep on the banquette. In the morning, the guards came in and gently woke me. One of them looked out the window, then back at me. "Jefferson walked last night," he said. "He walked and whistled."
"How often does that happen?" I asked.
The guard smiled. "Every night. But last night he knew you were here."
I'll never forget my visit to Jefferson's home. The guard said he had loved it so much he never wanted to leave it.
As I was preparing to go on my way, the curator handed me a small package. Enclosed was a glass case and inside was a single lock of Jefferson's hair. I still have it. The "authorities" knew I had it and wanted to check the DNA bloodline from it. But I wouldn't give it to them. As I waved goodbye, one of the guards waved goodbye and said, "We'll say hello to the great gentleman for you because he walks and whistles every night."
I'm sure I was there at the birth of our nation, and when I look at what has become of our original dream I simply can't fathom it. It’s time we looked at how "self-evident" we've become. I hope I don't end up penniless and in prison again for speaking out about how far off our transcendentalist track we've wandered.