If there were, in fact, any truth to the mythology of specters, of shadowy guys and gals that whoop it up in the night, then surely there would have to be a few representatives lingering around in Shelby County.

You know, astral projections. Energy taking shape in matter to create a mirage, a vision of some sordid past.

These are the infamous things that go bump in the night, that open and close doors or flick the lights on and off just for fun.

A fair number of people around here seem to be convinced that such non-corporeal residents are afoot around the city.

For example, each year a throng of curious onlookers descends upon Snowden Circle, where multiple residents who claim that they have been “visited” host tours of their haunted homes.

They tell stories of iridescent children rearranging furniture in the night, of chandeliers that begin to glow a sickish green every once and again. One couple even had photos on display from their wedding, in which a smoky figure (not a misplaced finger in front of the lens, of course) made himself visible in several pictures from the couple’s reception in the backyard.

Of course, beloved local eccentric Prince Mongo was also captured in the pictures, so who really knows?

At Blues City on Beale Street, some claim they have seen a spirit of some kind hiding out in the basement. Beneath the Band Box, there is a downstairs area with a secret room, perhaps a remnant of the Speakeasy days, and several people swear they have spotted a billowy figure crouched amongst the shadows.

You hear such stories all of the time. But once, and once only, did I hear a tale that truly caught my attention. That made me wonder, shudder, could it be true?

Is Memphis a haunted city?

The particular occurrence that I am about to describe took place at The Young Avenue Deli, Midtown’s watering hole/ pool hall/ music venue. It involved (insert creepy organ lick) the ghost of the Camel girl.

A certain friend of mine, who shall remain nameless lest she fall prey to the supernatural paparazzi, would from time to time to stop by The Deli when she got off work. A common habit for a Midtowner in search of a nicely priced happy hour, a decent jukebox, and a basket of fried pickles.

(By the way, I thank the South wholeheartedly for introducing to me the wonder of the fried pickle. You can’t get those up in Jersey!)

Now, for the smokers of Memphis, there is always the hope that a Camel girl will appear at whatever venue you happen to be patronizing. Camel’s cigarette girls are a fixture on the local bar scene. And for many bar patrons, these cigarette-toting maidens are a very welcome fixture, at that. This is especially so for the smoker low on cash, and left with the terribly perplexing choice between a few drinks or a few cigarettes.

Life can be so terribly hard.

Needless to say, my friend was in luck on this enchanted evening. The Camel girl was working The Deli! Or was she?

Many of you are probably familiar with the routine a smoker should follow when a Camel girl has been spotted in the building. It goes like this. Put down drink. Grab driver’s license. Make beeline to said Camel girl before anyone else has spotted her. Sign short, sweet release form. Return to drink with a handful of free cigarettes.

On this night, my friend did just that, and then went on with her evening.

When I saw her the next morning, however, she was in a panic. Apparently she had completely forgotten to get her ID back during the above process, and had little idea how to go about tracking it down.

First, she called the bar to see if perhaps it had been turned in to the bartender at some point. Negative.

The guy that she spoke with suggested that she place a call to the marketing company responsible for Camel’s Memphis promotions. Over the course of several days she attempted just that.

After about three solid afternoons spent trying to get in touch with them, she finally connected with a human being, and set an appointment to go through what is apparently an extremely large forgotten ID pile.

Over the course of the several days it took between this conversation with Camel and her actual appointment, I personally helped my stricken friend tear apart her apartment in case the license had somehow been lost after she had returned home. It was nowhere to be found. Not on the nightstand, nor in her wallet, nor shoved beneath the seat of her car. It had simply vanished.

Now, I wasn’t there to witness this next part, so it will be up to you to decide whether you believe it.

The first thing asked of my friend when she arrived in Camelville, was that she provide a description of the cigarette girl in question. My friend stammered a bit, trying to remember her face. She was short, she said, short with spiky blonde hair.

At this point the marketing maven stopped and looked at her quizzically. There was no Camel girl who fit that description, and apparently no one had even been scheduled for The Deli on the night that my friend had been there.

That being said, the woman waved disinterestedly toward to the thick, lonely pile of ID’s and left my confused friend to rifle through them in peace. It wasn’t there.

But here is where the story gets strange. On her way home, my friend decided to stop at Mapco, or maybe it was Tiger Mart. Whatever the case, as she opened her wallet to pay the cashier for her bottled water or what have you, she stared in shock. The ID was right there, plain as day, in front of her ATM card.

But how did it get there?

I know for a fact that it hadn’t been in there before, as I had personally rummaged through the various cards and receipts the wallet contained about fifteen times.

Could that possibly mean, though, that she never really saw a Camel girl at all, but rather (insert another creepy organ lick) the ghost of a Camel girl?

While you may not believe me, I was there, and see no sufficient explanation to the contrary. I mean, I suppose insanity would be a cause, but there were entirely too many of us helping out in her search for that theory to hold, and I refuse to concede that we could all be insane...

Whatever the case, here is an amended series of steps for you to take next time you are out and about and spot a cigarette goddess. Put down drink. Grab driver’s license. Make beeline to said Camel girl before anyone else has spotted her. Sign short, sweet release form. Grab your ID, and then you can return to your drink with a handful of free cigarettes.

You never know what may happen otherwise.

You might just find (insert final creepy organ line followed by crack of thunder) the ghost of the Camel girl!


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