Like You've Seen a Ghost
Writer Oscar Wilde (no, not that one), a Chicago native, drives into Podunk, OK to rent a haunted house he found off craigslist from the witch Barbara Yaga. He quickly meets and befriends his home's ghost, Sylvia Synder and avoids talking to his concerned sister River.
Before the chapter title page, the comic protagonist, Oscar Wilde, is shown driving into the state of Oklahoma with (past tense) narration overlayed. The chapter title page features Oscar with a moving box. In story, Oscar exits the highway for the fictional town of Podunk, OK, stopping at a gas station with a convenience store. Oscar introduces himself to the store clerk and another customer, giving his name (Oscar Wilde), hometown (Chicago, IL), and inquiring about Podunk. Deuteragonist Clifford Norman and Cliff's brother Kevin appear briefly in the background as Oscar returns to his car. Oscar overhears a wholesome small town conversation before heading to the home of Barbara Yaga, to receive the keys to a rental house.
At Barbara's, Oscar meets her two dogs, learns Barbara has trouble keeping tenets in the rental home, despite the low rent. Barbara recommends Oscar (who she repeatedly calls Rodger) purchase a bat before shooing him off. Out of Oscar's sight, she lights a cigarette with magic, blows a fantastical smoke pattern, and wishes him good luck, as her two dogs turn into teen boys.
Oscar pulls up to his rental, a two-story white home with a small footprint, a red door, and a covered front porch.. He inspects the home and wonders why the previous tenets left "everything." He briefly glimpses the feet the the house-ghost Sylvia during his inspection, but assumes he's imagining things.
Oscar reads a series of increasingly concerned texts from his sister River. He texts back that he's in Oklahoma and ignores her subsequent call, thinking she'll be overbearing and dismissive. Oscar naps on his couch and his glasses mysteriously move from his face to entryway table, concerning him.
Oscar returns to his "creepy" home that night, having picked up groceries and goes to bed. he's woken up by a bright light from another bedroom in the house and follows it, finding Sylvia peering out a window. They notice one another, surprising Sylvia and frighting Oscar, who runs out of his house and to his car. Gathering his wits, Oscar assumes he imagining things and returns to the house to confirm there is no ghost. Instead, Sylvia introduces herself (shocking Oscar again) and apologies for scaring him.
Sylvia and Oscar get acquainted and quickly become convivial. Sylvia reveals some backstory and talks about previous residents of the home: Sylvia died in 1948 and returned as a ghost to reside with her mother in her mother's home. Later a small family, who Sylvia enjoyed, moved into the house. After their departure a string of renters tried living in the house, but Sylvia frightened all of them away. She tells Oscar the limits of her powers: she can interact with inanimate objects in a limited capacity, but passes through living things entirely. Oscar introduces himself and his profession (a writer) before asking Sylvia's permission to stay in her home.
The next morning, Sylvia and Oscar make conversation while Oscar cooks breakfast and Sylvia remissness about the little family that previously lived in the home. Sylvia reveals she was a computer girl in the army before coming back to Oklahoma to care for her sick mother. "Funnily" Sylvia predeceased her. Sylvia tells Oscar about her interests in cards, reading, and the poloroid photography. She becomes upset about the world going on without her being able to interact with it. Sympathetic, Oscar goes out to purchase a CD player for playing audio-books (as Sylvia cannot reliably interact with physical books) and the radio, a pack of cards, and an old poloroid camera (with film). Sylvia is thankful.
The chapter closes -- possibly a few days later -- showing Oscar and Sylvia comfortably living together. Past-tense narration overlays the scene as Sylvia listens to an audio-book of Slaughterhouse-Five, hearing line from the novel: "How nice -- to feel nothing and still get full credit for being alive."
- Fourth graders
- Mrs Mayberry
- Barbara Yaga
- Cletus and Remus
Hiding in the background
- Oscar wears a red jacket, Chicago Cubs shirt, and red converse ensemble on the first and last day of the chapter. In the middle of the chapter he's wearing a white v-neck instead.
- Oscar favors his left hand for catching objects  and waving.
- Eliza's roses
- Oscar's love for dogs
- Oscar's halo
- Oscar's reasons for leaving Chicago
- Sylvia's backstory
- Sylvia's abilities as a ghost
- SS Ghostwriter
- Previous tenants
- The porch light
- Computer girl
- Route 20
- Frank's Gas & Liquor
- Barbara Yaga's home
- Oscar & Sylvia's home
"Don't Stop Believing" -- Journey
Blue Boy and Pinkie
A pencil sketch of Barbara Yaga's dogs (in human form) follows the chapter. as well as a full color title page for the comic featuring the White Faced Bear and witch Eliza in the background; Cliff in wolf-form in the mid ground; and Oscar in focus, looking off to the side. Thunder Children and Eliza's blue roses are also included.
- "Podunk" is a slang term for a small town considered dull.
- The store clerk tells Oscar Podunk is "a real ghost town" shortly before Oscar meets a ghost.
- Nearly everything Barbara Yaga says or does:
- Barbara cannot tell the difference between her dogs, Cletus and Remus "when they're like this" which Oscar takes to mean excited and overactive. In fact, Barbara may be stating she finds them easier to distinguish in their human form, rather than their dog form.
- Barbara is renting Oscar the house dirt cheap as she "just wants someone in it to keep [the house] from going to hell." In common usage, she wants a renter to keep watch over the house an deter vandals and squatters. More literally, this is a veiled comment on the home's resident ghost.
- Barbara calls herself "a real witch," a play on the practice of using witch in place of a common pejorative slang term for an assertive woman. However, the term witch should be taken literally in Barabara's case.
- Barbara Yaga is herself a reference to Baba Yaga of Slavic folklore, by her name itself and the presence of chickens on her property and a chicken carving on her mailbox.
Some chapters, including Chapter One, begin with reflections narrated in the past tense. This chapter begins -
- There's this funny thing I've noticed about people -- You never really get the story you expect. Ask them about what they have and they'll tell you about what they want. Ask them to tell you about love and they'll tell you about heartbreak. Ask them about death, though, and they'll tell you about life. It's like this wherever you go.
Chapter One is the only chapter where narration appears at chapter end. This text clarifies that the narrator is Oscar Wilde, reminiscing on the comic's events. The chapter closes -
- When I was twenty-five I ran from my demons and moved in with a ghost. And maybe the strangest thing about it... was that it didn't seem strange at all.
"There's this funny thing I've noticed about people -- You never really get the story you expect. Ask them about what they have and they'll tell you about what they want. Ask them to tell you about love and they'll tell you about heartbreak. Ask them about death, though, and they'll tell you about life. It's like this wherever you go."
—Opening narration (p1)
"Well, howdy stranger."
"Stranger? How can you tell?"
"Town like Podunk, everybody knows everybody, and I ain't know you yet."
"I guess so, huh? Just drove down from Chicago."
"Ah, so you're a Yank!"
—Oscar's welcome to Podunk (p5)
"You a Yank?"
"Hm... aw, yer all right."
—Screening procedures (p6)
"What's your name, Yank?"
"Oscar. Oscar Wilde, actually."
—He's got you bang to rights, Oscar (p6)
"So, what can you tell a stranger about Podunk? Anything interesting I should know?"
"Ol' Podunk. No. Quiet place. A real ghost town."
"Hi! Are you Barbara?"
"Usually. Unless she owes ya, then I ain't seen her."
"Listen, I'm real glad you didn't stand me up, kid. Been trying to keep people in this damn old house for years. Everybody just up and leaves. Tired of getting stiffed! Last couple left most of their stuff. I hope you don't mind."
"I own the damn place outright. Bought it at auction years ago. I just want someone in it to keep it from going to hell."
"Hey, good catch. You play ball?"
"Not since high school."
"You should get a bat. Real handy. Lot of things you can do with a bat."
"Like... hit things?"
"Lot of things you can hit with a bat."
"Rent's due on the fifth. Don't be late. I'm a real witch."
"Got a good feeling about you, Roger."
"Well, get. I'm a busy woman."
"Oh. Okay. Thanks, then. Nice to meet you, Barbara."
"Nice meeting you too, Roger!"
"So, congratulations on the biggest mistake of your life, Oscar."
"Wait... they left their T.V.? Why?"
"Wow. I'm losing it."
"Hey, where r u? Haven't seen u since yesterday. What's her name? :) ANSWER UR PHONE IDIOT. WHERE R U??"
"Sorry, sis. Not up for a lecture right now. 'Oscar, you're being an idiot.' Wow, thanks River. That makes me feel so much better..."
"Haha. Boo. Good night creepy house."
—Oscar cosplaying a ghost (p21)
"Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope."
"I rented a haunted house off Craigslist."
"Illinois man loses mind in creepy Oklahoma house. Story at ten."
"Uh?! Oh God--woah!"
"I am so sorry! I didn't mean to scare you."
—The meet spooked (p27)
"So... how long have you been haunting?"
"Well, I died in 1948."
"You're being so nice about this and I'm just mortified. Oh, poor choice of words."
"No, no. Please feel free to make ghost puns."
"Are you sure? I wouldn't want to boo-re you."
"Ha ha! Wow, that's awful!"
"I'm sorry! Ha ha ha!"
"So, is this your house?"
"It was my mother's. I came back here after I died and stayed with her until her death."
—Sylvia's origins (p28)
"It's just been a string of renters since."
"You scared them all off, didn't you? That's why they left all their things."
"Oh, well, I didn't like them."
—Sylvia has standards, and Barbara has stories (p29)
"Did you move my keys? And take my glasses, earlier?"
"I didn't mean to take your glasses like that. I was just looking at them, and you woke up, and I panicked."
—Tell us more, Sylvia... (p29)
"So, that means you can touch things? Could you touch me?"
"Maybe... I think living things are different. I've tried with mice and it never works. I go right through."
"Some days I feel more solid than others."
"On your solid days can you touch living things?"
"I doubt it. Wouldn't that be something..."
"Okay, let me know when you're having a really solid day. We'll figure it out."
"Oh, I'm Oscar, by the way. Oscar Wilde. We should have done this at the beginning, I guess."
"Haha, really? With an E? Like the writer?"
"Like the writer. I'm a writer, too, actually."
"That's as far as the comparison goes. I'm not a flamboyant Irishman."
"I can see that! Sylvia Snyder."
"Nice to meet you, Sylvia. I'd offer to shake your hand but we already established..."
"So, would it be okay with you if I stayed here for awhile?"
"I would like that very much."
"Oh, I miss cooking. Tell me what it smells like."
"It smells like eggs."
"The little family that lived here a long time ago... when the children were small the mother put them on the counter right here to help stir."
"You never showed yourself to them?"
"No, I was too afraid... but, I used to help them however I could. I would make sure the front porch light was always on for them, and that they always got up in time for work. And if they lost anything I would find it and put it out where they could see it."
"So, what did you do when you were alive?"
"Oh, I was a computer girl, for the army."
"What?! Sylvia, I've read about that! That's amazing!"
"I don't know. I just always liked numbers and the timing worked out, really. I came back to Oklahoma to take care of my mother. She got sick... and then I died. It's funny, in a way."
"Well, what did you do for fun?"
"Oh... well, cards, of course. I guess that's gone out of fashion? I don't think there's even a pack in the house."
"Oh! I always wanted to try taking pictures. The little family, they had this camera that was so fascinating. You would press a button... then the photo would slide out of the camera, only it was blank! And then you would have to shake it to make the picture appear."
"I used to read a lot, too, but it's too hard to read books now. Trying to turn the pages wears me out. Sometimes I think about all the new books that have been written since I died... everything... everyone just goes on without me. But I'm still here, and I still feel everything that I could before, all the same emotions. There's just nothing to do with what I feel. My life ended, but I didn't, and I don't know what to do about it."
"You do? And it still works? Ah, that's great! Okay, I'll be right there to get it. Thank you!"
"I thought since you can't turn pages, you can try audiobooks. They're entire books read out loud. No turning pages. I found the library and got you one. This one came out after you died, but it's kind of about World War Two... I think you might relate to some of it. We can talk about it as you go, if you like."
"The guy who had it threw in a bunch of film, just to get rid of it. So you've got an after-lifetime supply. Here. First one. You know, you don't even have to shake it? Development is caused by a chemical reaction. Everyone always does it, anyway."
"When I was twenty-five I ran from my demons and moved in with a ghost. And maybe the strangest thing about it... was that it didn't seem strange at all."
—Closing narration (p42)
"Now nice -- to feel nothing... and still get full credit for being alive."
—Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut (p42)