The Los Angeles Zoo!

As previously agreed upon I was sitting at the brown wooden bench near the lion exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo. It was almost 3 pm and I was supposed to meet a woman by the name of Mary Adams, a tall slender woman in her twenty's wearing a blue chiffon dress. My eyes searched the people as they passed by. There was laughter in the air on this sunny day. People of all ages were touring the zoo to catch a glimpse their favorite animals.

Some people were full of energy and impatient to reach the exhibit they wanted to see most, while others looked just plain worn out. It seemed peculiar that a zoo as large as this one was wouldn't have provided more benches for folks to stop and rest their weary feet. Before I knew it, it was 3:17 pm and I was trying to decide if I should wait a little longer or head back home. It wouldn't be the first time I was stood up.

It was the perfect warm fall day though with blue sky and since I had paid to get in, I chose to wait a little longer. As I was looking down at my notebook, I felt someone tap me on my shoulder. I looked up and could see a woman's blue dress and I smiled as I looked up into Emily Brown's deep brown eyes and apologetic look. "Are you Raymond Cook? Iím Emily Brown?" the woman asked. I nodded and told her I was and she had a look of relief on her face.

"Sorry Iím late, I just knew you were gonna be gone, and Iím so glad you waited." she said. I laughed and told her not to give it another thought. I watched as her expression of guilt turned to relief and as her smile grew. Yet I also saw sadness in her eyes. "I'm so glad you didn't think I was a nut or someone crazy, because I know what I saw!Ē she said with hesitation. I took out my pen and opened my notebook and began to make notes.

"The little girl couldn't have been more them six years old, wearing a white T-shirt and had the deepest blue eyes Iíve ever seen. Her head was bald and I am sure she must have had Cancer, why else would she have no hair?" she said. I nodded and continued to write down her story. "That's not all either. I did some checking or rather tried to find out more. But the zoo employees and security simply clamed up when I asked about the little girl who died here just over 3 months ago." she said.

I told her it was probably due to litigation on the part of the mother and her lawyer over the zoo being sued. But Emily shook her head no adamantly and said that the mother wasn't suing, so there had to be another reason. "Hereís the address of the child's mother." Emily said. Then she handed me a piece of folded paper. "I asked her to meet us here but she refused and closed her door." she said. ďI can understand her loss, Ms. Brown.

Can you tell me what you saw here on September 14th?" I asked. Emily took a seat beside me and took a deep breath. She was trying to compose herself because I saw tears in her eyes building. ďI was here that afternoon touring the zoo. It was a busy day and every child from school must have come that day. It was so noisy. I was here to take pictures. I'm an artist who paints.

All the kids were hanging on the railing trying to get a glimpse of a lion, a really large one with a huge brown mane. But he was partially concealed by a log and hard to see. Samantha and her mother had just arrived and were watching too when by accident, her ball cap fell off her head and thru the railing. It was just out of reach of her tiny hand and she was trying desperately to get it back.

She was a thin child and was practically half way through the two rails when the other kids got impatient and began pushing each other to look for the lion. One chubby boy that reminded me of Charlie Brown fell against her and that push was all that was needed. Samantha fell the rest of the way through the railing and tumbled down into the pit below. She hit the water moat with a splash and the lions heard it.

All the kids were yelling and the women screaming, especially Samantha's mother. There werenít any zoo security or worker's anywhere or phones for someone to call for 9-1-1. I can't even recall if anyone had or used their cell phone that moment. The big lion everyone was so excited about killed the little girl and the zoo put that animal down. But Raymond, the story doesn't end there." she said anxiously.

I was glad she took a break because I was trying to take notes as fast as I could to keep up. ďHer spirit still lingers here and watches over the children who visit this exhibit. I know it. I can feel it. Iíve come here many times not to paint but to try to comfort her. I wanted to let her know that she is loved. That I was sorry she died. Iíve seen things too that make me believe she stayed behind, you now, instead of walking toward the light.

I think she lingers here to protect other children from falling through the railing like she did." Emily said. I stood up and looked over at the railing in front of the African lion's Exhibit. Behind the railing was now a chain link fence, but only as high as the railing itself. How sad that the powers-to-be couldn't have installed the fence barrier from the beginning I thought.

"Tell me Emily. What makes you think Samantha's spirit is still here? Have you seen her?Ē I asked. The softness and sincerity in Emily's voice reassured me that she was serious about her belief. "No Raymond, I haven't seen the spirit of the little girl, but Iíve seen other things that make me positive sheís still here. Iíve watched as the children hang onto the railing to get a better glimpse of the lion's even though signs are posted not to hang on the fence.

Iíve seen children bumped into by something unseen, and conversations kids have had when I canít see anyone theyíre talking too. I'm sure Samantha is here; right here to protect other children from falling to their death." Emily said. At that moment Emily's tears flowed and she stopped talking to me. She looked at me and without speaking, I knew she needed a hug and I gave her a long one as her tears fell upon my shoulder.

When I let her go, she apologized for the tears on my shirt. I laughed softly and told her not to worry that they would dry. I saw a small smile come across her face. "That's all I know Raymond. I'm so glad you met me here. If you come here enough times and just watch, I know you'll see or sense her presence, I know it. Your ghost stories and poetry are so moving. If anyone can help her, itís you." Emily told me.

It was an awkward moment for me because I had no special powers; no special gift to see what others couldnít see as I nodded. As Emily stood to leave, I stood up too. "I want to thank you Emily for meeting me here and I'm glad I waited for you. I can't promise you anything. I can only look and listen and see what happens. Maybe nothing will happen. But I promise if I learn anything new that I will get a hold of you I promise." I told Emily.

Emily thanked me, turned and walked away. As she walked away I could tell she was wiping her eyes. I decided to make 10 visits to the zoo and see what I could find out. After that, I would just file that event away and move on to other people who had written to me asking me to help them with something they had seen. Day after day the sun rose and set. People came and went and lion's yawned which mimicked a roar but nothing unusual happened.

But then Iím not impatient, nor gullible. I take everything someone tells me with a grain of salt. Iíve at times seen nothing and at other times, Iíve been scared to death. On the fourth day however, what I did see was truly a miracle. On that day, a tall thin man with a camera appeared and was taking photographs at the lion's exhibit. I was a photographer once and I know how badly one wants to take the perfect picture.

So it was no surprise to see him ignore the Ďdon't climb on railí sign to get a better angle. He had taken several pictures when he lost his balance and fell down into the water just like the child had before him. Everyone gasped, and voices were frantic as people called 9-1-1 on their cell phones and others just looked on helplessly. He wasn't hurt, just wet and dazed as he looked around and saw the lioness approaching him.

She was crouched low and stalking him through the grass just as if he were prey on the African plains. He desperately looked around, but there was nowhere to escape and nothing to use to defend himself. Just as the lioness was 10 feet away, to my astonishment the ghost of the little child appeared and stood at the edge of the moat between the man and the lion.

She placed her hands over her ears and electricity danced across her face and arms as she stared into the eyes of the lion. The lioness stopped dead in its tracks as everyone looked down, feeling helpless. Folks looked bewildered at why the big cat had stopped and not attacked the man. Instead the lioness and two other male lions backed away and returned to their den as the frightened man begged others to help get him out.

To this day I don't believe anyone else saw the little girl except me. Just as zoo handler's with ropes and a security guard with a rifle appeared, the spirit of Samantha looked directly into my eyes, waved shyly and gave me a tiny hesitating smile and vanished. I stayed and gave a statement like other visitors did, but no one spoke of the small child that I had seen in the lion's pit, nor did I.

But it was comforting to me to know that the spirit of Samantha was indeed lingering at this zoo, watching out for others to protect them from danger.

©2005 Raymond Cook (All rights reserved)