The Bienvenant is one of the more modern species of ghosts, and possibly the first I ever personally encountered. They are largely benevolent, existing mostly to put at ease newcomers to their haunt.
When I was twenty three, I moved to the city of Edinburgh and was welcomed by a downpour the likes of which would make Noah blush. No taxi cabs would give me time of day (though plenty would have a go at describing my relationship with my mother) and so I ended up walking forty minutes in the sopping wet, only to arrive and find that my new landlady hadn’t left the key under the mat, as we arranged.
I stood outside the door, hair and clothes plastered to my skin by water, shoes turned to mini pales by the strategic holes I had worn in the heels. All had turned to rack and ruin. Edinburgh, I decided, was not for me. I would get back on the first train back to Stoke and work in the local Estate Agents, as mother had suggested.
I was just about to leave the stoop when a voice asked, “Do you want to wait inside?”
Quite unseen, someone had slipped in beside me on the doorstep and now stood poised, key in the lock. The young man- for a young man it was- seemed unaffected by the rain, although I noted no umbrella. “Do you want to wait inside?” He repeated, and his accent revealed him a fellow foreigner.
I nodded and bowed low, he opened the door and we stepped inside, I oozing gratitude and rainwater.
“New to the building?” He intuited.
“Yes. I’m on the top floor.” Having been raised in a bungalow, this seemed terribly exciting.
“Oh well, you’ve a walk. But no point in making it until you’ve got the key, I’d say. How about a cup of tea?”
I said that would be lovely and he walked through a wall. At the time I thought nothing of this, but now I think it might have been a clue to his true nature. He returned shortly afterwards with two mugs of tea and I told him I was new to the city and he laughed and said he guessed, I asked him where he was from and he said Doncaster, and I said I didn’t really know Doncaster and he said there wasn’t much to know and I tried to remember to steal that line the next time someone said the same thing about Stoke.
And then the Landlady came in and he vanished. Now, of course, I know that his purpose had been fulfilled but in the moment I thought it awfully rude.
Like the common garden ghost-hobo, I think more people have encountered Bienvenants than realise it- that first person to speak to them at a party; an older student who smiled at you from across the room during orientation; your mother. All of these and more could have been Bienvenants and would you have known?
Naturally, it’s hard to find records of Bienvenants because most people feel they are entitled to such kindnesses and don’t bother to note them. I would surmise that they are a relatively recent class of apparition, if only because people used to move house less.
Of course, the process that transforms a human soul into a Bienvenant still remains a mystery, though I did find a dead body under my floorboards which looked suspiciously like my spectral greeter, so maybe they need to have died in the abode to which they later welcome the living? So many questions, so little data and even littler proof that anything I’m talking about exists.
Ah, the life of a spectro-anthro-zoologist.