uman beings may be the most highly evolved of all animals, and yet to peek into the other world they sometimes require the help of a species not quite so high in the chain of being. That, at least, is the supernatural power my one-of-a-kind acquaintance Ronnie, a fast-talking Italian with piercing blue eyes, attributed to his miniature pot-bellied pet pig, Abraham.
When newspaper classifieds were still a thing in the Midwestern U.S. several years ago, I answered an anonymous ad: “Seeking an open-minded writer and photographer to hunt ghosts.”
When I first met him at the local community center, Ronnie wore a black AC/DC T-shirt and effused about his “piggy” and the many orbs he believed resided (or were imprisoned?) in his late Victorian house, all told at a breakneck speed. He had big plans, he expansively gestured to me, to make “all of us” rich in a paranormal venture. A veritable geyser of entrepreneurship, Ronnie riffed on the Ellen DeGeneres TV show, reaching out to celebrities from “The Voice,” social media, and just generally marketing the bejesus out of his porcine companion.
Ronnie insisted that his little black-and-white pet pig could sniff out ghosts (in lieu of truffles, one supposes). Failing that, he seemed to feel that the urgency of his conviction would float us all to fame and fortune. From what I could tell, the Piggy Gang at that time consisted of him, me, and a friend named Denise who was sewing a pig costume that very minute, plus designing a drape for a small shopping cart in which to place Abe for his surely forthcoming public appearances.
Abraham could hawk everything from energy drinks to children’s stories. Of this Ronnie was confident.
Abe the (adult) pig, for his part, had been taught to use a cat-sized litter box. He lived in a single-level home and basement with his (living) human and an actual cat, whose dry vittles Abe often stole. Having lived (and worked) with my share of cats and dogs, it seemed to me that indoor pigs were, on the whole, pretty tidy. No hairballs threaded through with tinsel.
This marketable piggy, who paradoxically stayed at home, seemed to be genuinely fond of Ronnie, hopping into his lap and rolling around like a happy puppy, even exposing his pink belly for a good rub. Abe tipped the scales on the smaller side, only about 30 or 40 wiggly pounds including a tough, hair-pocked hide, but he was not affectionate with strangers like me. Yet he did swish his curlicued tail persistently. I liked to think it meant he was happiest being who he was alongside his human pal.
One night that summer, Ronnie asked me to take some photos and videos of them just lounging around in the house, to see if we could capture any ghost activity, evidenced by orb-shaped manifestations only seen on film. He was convinced of several ghost hot spots in the eclectically decorated house with soaring ceilings, including the spirits’ evident fondness for a pair of theater masks representing comedy and tragedy. The house coincidentally, or conveniently one might say, also lay near the village’s cemetery, so Ronnie considered this a point in its overall spooky favor.
Sure enough, a few dusty spots the size of about a rice grain appeared in some, if not most, shots. Considering the operator (me, a novice point-and-shoot shutterbug at best) and the camera equipment, the photos compositionally amounted to not much more than present-day Polaroids, bending the rule of thirds to splintering point. But Ronnie was enthusiasm embodied as much as the ghosts were, sadly, not.
Ronnie rallied with calls and e-mails that fall, peppering me with nuclear-level positivity. “I have determination…and the drive…that this project will work. See…nobody has ever done anything like this before. Hope…to be the first…and you and my friend…reap the awards too. Everybody is making money.”
Local hard-rock DJs invited to his house never materialized as August bled into October and Ronnie grew restless. It was prime ghost-appearing season, if spectral beings keep such an itinerary.
Perhaps I wasn’t the P.T. Barnum type Ronnie sought to talk up his radiant pig? Conjuring ghosts certainly didn’t square with my humble résumé, apart from my speculative fiction writing.
Would that I could provide you a smoking-gun ghost story here, à la Banquo shaking his “gory locks” at me (or the pig), but the strangest thing that happened in the half-year I ghost-hunted with Ronnie and Abe was a basement lightbulb that suddenly flipped off then on while we were getting something down there one evening.
Being the eternal skeptic with occasional bouts of optimism, I suppose I could chalk up this brief foray into ghost-hunting as “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” which in this case netted me a robin’s egg but nonetheless let me live the purported Chinese insult “may you live in interesting times” and rub elbows with fascinating people, I’d like to add.
But with his kinetic ebullience and Abraham’s life span—mini potbellies can live upwards of 20 years—I wouldn’t be much surprised to see them make it big someday soon as Some Pig and his best bud, a high-voltage humanoid named Ronnie. At least for their spooky slice of 15 minutes.