Readers from some time back may remember Elizabeth Bullock, the sociable ghost of Greenwich Village. She lived in the Bank Street brownstone of Anne and Harvey Slatin, was fond of parties, and could often be detected, in a room, by the smell of cheap perfume. Her earthly remains -- in a black crematorium tin -- had been discovered by the Slatins 27 years ago during Renovation (the one true religion in the neighborhood) and since that time had rested in a place of honor on the Slatins' piano. This may or may not have been to the ghost's liking -- in a seance held at the Slatins' shortly after the remains were discovered, she suggested in fact, it was not.
"I want a Christian burial in the shade of the cross, anywhere where the cross is . . .," the ghost had said through a medium, speaking in an Irish brogue. The medium had also produced a biography, claiming that Bullock, who had died at the age of 51, had been an Irish Catholic disowned by her family when she married a Protestant.
Her wish for a proper burial was not granted: the Catholic church the Slatins contacted did not wish to bury a woman who had married out of the church. So the Slatins and their tenants came to accept Elizabeth, introducing her to visitors, or to the curious at Halloween. And when she acted up -- closet doors flying open unexpectedly -- Harvey, a physicist, was nonchalant. "Oh, Elizabeth," he'd say, "Go fix yourself a drink."
Then a few months ago, the letter came. It was signed by one Father Devereaux, a pastor in northern California, and its message was brief. "If at some time in the future you should desire to have Mrs. Bullock's remains buried properly, I would be willing to give a Catholic funeral with a Catholic burial," the priest wrote.
A second letter outlines his plans.
"Our St. Patrick Cemetery at Table Bluff is one of the oldest cemeteries in this part of California. The cemetery was once the site of Old St. Patrick's Mission Church which was the second oldest Catholic chapel in these parts. It was founded by Irish and English Roman Catholics who came to this fog-bound and hilly coastal region from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Ontario and Ireland. . . . Elizabeth will be resting with many of her own countrymen, in a very beautiful little cemetery."
Anne Slatin was tempted but others in the building was less certain. Two of the tenants, particularly, hated to see her leave town. She was a New York City ghost, they felt. Bury her in the backyard if she had to be buried.
But at last the description of the cemetery and the concern of the priest won them over. They threw one last raucous Village party -- this time for Elizabeth -- drank to her journey, and the next day packed her in styrofoam and sent her off to the coast Parcel Post.
When she arrived in Father Devereaux's church, in the town of Loleta, she was expected. Father Devereaux placed the remains in the nave of the church with a rosary and several parishioners prayed for her. They hadn't known her, but, as it turned out, this is not an uncommon occurrence at Father Deveraux's church.
"They knew she was a lady who died in 1931, and had been cremated, and her ashes were thrown into somebody's attic," said Father Devereaux. "And that it would be an act of mercy and charity if they would come to her funeral, just like you'd come to a funeral of a stranger. We've had many strangers buried here . . . some lonely old people; an ex-addict who died of an overdose . . . what did we know about him? . . . we knew he was troubled, we knew he was heavily into addicition, we knew he didn't have any friends, and was a very lonely man. . . ."
The Friday that Elizabeth arrived -- Friday the 13th -- the priest read a funeral mass for her. It was well-attended, he says, with over 50 people present. There was organ music and incense. Most of those present, says the priest, "were just people who wanted to pray for Elizabeth, buried 50 years after she died." It was, he added, "all very serious and at the same time happy. There was nothing of the curious and odd about it all. I do not permit circus-type things at such rites."
The burial itself he described in a letter he wrote to the Slatins.
"It was pouring down rain in the coastal Pacific fashion when he had the final rites in the cemetery. Her casket is buried beneath the shade of a cedar cross in our church plot. A stone will be set up in cement with the following information: 'Elizabeth Bullock, Died 1931 . . . . Interred 1981.' Before we put in the dirt we placed a crucifix on top of her small casket. After the dirt was shoveled in place, some boys and girls, aged 12 to 17, placed flowers on her grave. Mr. John Davy, our volunteer sexton and gravedigger, has assured me that he will 'look after her grave from now on.'"
He mailed the letter the day of the funeral. The following Sunday, at mass, an odd thing happened: at the mention of Elizabeth Bullock's name, all the lights in the church went dim. Peculiar, says the priest, really very peculiar.
Also, since the time of her funeral, several weeks ago, the parishioners still speak of her. Not so much because of anything having to do with the supernatural, says the priest, rather because of what he believes is the universal concern that no one should die unknown.