Halloween is my favorite time of the year; growing up, my sister and I would dress as princesses or superheroes–we even had a brief vampire phase in elementary school–and brave the cool weather to go trick-or-treating with our dad. We’d make the long trek around the neighborhood, argue over who had the most candy and end the night with a warm cup of hot chocolate back home. The four of us would then gather in the living room with our mugs and our buckets full of candy, and we’d tell each other spooky stories until we fell asleep; this is one of my favorites.
Casimir Marczynski, the patriarch of the Marczynski families of Dunkirk and Detroit, died on the evening of Monday, July 9, 1951 at the age of 80. The funeral was planned for the following Saturday morning in St. Hedwig’s Church, and his body was laid out in the living room of the house until the ceremony. Over the next four days and five nights, family members took turns holding vigil in the house, and everyone would gather each evening to pray and to remember Casimir. According to my grandmother, it was common in those days for the deceased to lie in the casket in the living room of their home for three or four days before the funeral and burial.
My grandmother, Janice (Zielinski) Kuznicki, always describes Casimir as an intelligent and hardworking businessman, and she doesn’t remember him wearing anything other than a three-piece suit. Casimir provided for his family, payed passage for his wife’s brothers and sisters to live in the United States and opened a successful penny-candy store in town, but he’s also remembered for being somewhat cold and distant. My grandmother and her cousins were a little scared of him growing up, and of the pair of them, his wife was always the one to say “I love you” and to show affection toward their children and grandchildren.
The night before Casimir was buried in St. Hedwig’s Cemetery, the family gathered in the kitchen to drink coffee and to share favorite memories. My grandmother and her cousin, Joyce (Bielecki) Przytula, were playing in the backyard when, according to my grandmother, they watched Casimir sit up in his casket and stare at them through the back window. Joyce and my grandmother ran inside yelling, “Grandpa’s a Ghost!” over and over again, but when their parents checked the casket in the next room, there was no sign that it had been opened. To this day, my grandmother swears that she saw Casimir’s ghost that night in 1951; what spooky stories does your family share on Halloween?