My great-grandfather’s murder

My children asked me the other night about all my grama’s siblings. They were trying to name all nine kids in order by age.

I was surprised that they were surprised when, after six of them, I said, “Those were all from the first dad; then you have the last three from after the murder.”

They did a cartoon-style double take.

How could they not know the murder story? This is a big family tale, not because of the murder, so much as because of the supernatural lore that comes with it.

I will tell it from the beginning.

My great-grandmother was orphaned in Mexico at age 5, and came to live with an aunt in the Southern Californian town I live in now.

When she was a teen her aunt arranged a marriage with a Korean boy. They mistakenly thought his family owned a laundromat, and that he was consequently rich.

Neither of them spoke English, or each other’s language.

“Mom,” as everyone refers to her, told her children later this arrangement broke her heart, because she was desperately in love with someone else.

“Papa” and his best friend (or cousin, depending on whose version you get) had come to the States during the Japanese occupation of Korea. 

At some point in the marriage, he began to work covertly for the Korean Underground — a secret war against the Japanese. He told his wife he had to keep his activities secret from her, for her own safety.

All she knew was that he was giving speeches, and inciting politcal unrest.

When my grama, the sixth child, was six months old, he told Mom that if anything happened to him, he wanted her to marry his friend from Korea. He gave her his watch and told her to keep it safe.

The next day my grama’s two oldest sisters were walking home from school. Mom was on the porch with a neighbor and my infant grama when the girls approached the house.

From another direction they saw Papa riding his bicycle — his only form of transportation. They all saw a car come from out of nowhere and run him down. It appeared deliberate.

Marguerite and MaryAnn, 12 and 10, dropped their books and ran to him. Mom handed the baby over to the neighbor and joined the rush.

When they got to him, everything vanished. The car, the bike and the body dissipated like an apparition, right there on the edge of the orange grove.

That night Papa didn’t come home from work. The police came.

They found his body in the grove. He had been beaten to death with brass knuckles.

The family line is that MaryAnn is psychic, and everyone was riding her psychic energy as she picked up on his death. She had the time right, but not the method.

Mom did as she was told. She married the friend/cousin and saw to the watch. One of my uncles has the watch now. I’d love to take it apart, and see if there’s something hidden it.

Eighty-five years later, MaryAnn still talks to Papa all the time.

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6 Responses to “My great-grandfather’s murder”

  1. Gunky Says:


  2. rasca Says:

    what watch and who has it? I’ve never heard this one before.

  3. roberto Says:

    Actually, everybody called your great grandmother “Nana”. You had to go and call your grandmother “Nana” and confuse everything.

    I wonder how many husbands have told their wives that they are spies or undercover political agents and the less they know about their mysterious activities and whereabouts, the better?

    I now realize “Papa” was a genius!

    The way I heard tell, a big black car ran Papa off the road and off his bike. He then fled into the orange grove and men from the car chased after him. (It was never explained to me if the car then drove away or just vanished into thin air.) His body was found, beaten to death, in an orange grove days later and miles away.

    MaryAnn’s line is that MaryAnn is psychic.

    So yeah, what’s with the watch? I hadn’t heard of it.

    Are there police records of his death?

    Oh, by the way, Nana (the original) told of how they returned from the funeral to find the house had been ransacked. (looking for a watch maybe?)

  4. T. Says:

    OK. I’m getting a different version of this story from every family member.
    Some are saying he was found the next day in a tree, shot in the head.
    Everybody mentions that the house was ransacked when they returned from the funeral.
    This is like playing Telephone.

    Michael Lee, Joe’s son, has the watch.

  5. Another ghost story « Stories O’ Mine Says:

    […] Then he told me things I’d never heard. He told me about Mama’s second husband. The cousin/friend who stepped in after “Papa’s” murder. […]

  6. Another ghost story « Stories O' Mine Says:

    […] Then he told me things I’d never heard. He told me about Mom’s second husband. The cousin/friend who stepped in after “Papa’s” murder. […]

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