My introduction to ghost stories, and horror fiction in general, came from two collections. One was called Davey Jone’s Locker, a collection of stories centered on ships at sea and the perils and monsters that they encountered. By the time the volume fell from my trembling fingers, I was so terrified that I swore off reading ‘anything scary’ for the rest of my life. I think I was eight.
A few birthday’s later, some well-meaning relative gave me a collection of Irish Ghost Stories. I have always been a voracious reader, known for reading anything in front of me (books, signs, nutritional information, anything). At last I couldn’t resist, and I tore through the pages, by flashlight at night of course, reading about betrayed wives, highway murderers, and other grisly acts of revenge and death. I don’t remember the exact title of the collection, but it haunted my imagination for months afterwards. Again I swore off “scary stuff”.
In highschool I discovered Edgar Allen Poe, and became acquainted with a new form of horror, drawn in despite my earlier experiences. Poe wrote a more cerebral form of horror, only allowing grisly shock when it would have the most impact. While not as immediately horrifying, Poe’s stories haunted me for longer. I reverted to reading standard fantasy and science fiction.
Still, there is that draw. I’ve since dabbled in Stephen King, various films, and a wide variety of short stories. And I started writing my own ‘dark fantasies’. The last story that I wrote got in my head so badly, I spent the last month looking over my shoulder and waking up throughout the night. Why would someone (i.e. me, maybe you) want to disturb themselves that way? Why read (or write) ghost stories?
Why the popularity of the multiple tv shows that hunt ghosts?
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, I think that everyone can agree that death is an undeniable part of life. The mystery of what happens after is one that is open to speculation, endless entertainment, and some form of explanation, however wild, for strange things we experience. And isn’t that what ghost stories are really about? Sometimes it’s easy see only the terrifying surface of the story, but the underlying themes are usually survival and justice. Most people can identify with those themes.
And after all, who hasn’t had a brush with something weird?
In bootcamp, we performed night patrols through Sexton Hall, an old baracks where the brand new recruits stayed. An older building, it was very spooky at night. Our patrols happened after light’s out, so we had a couple flashlights between the five or six of us, but weren’t allowed to turn the lights on. We were walking through an empty berthing bay ( a large room intended to sleep 60 people) and heard a scream from the bathroom. Not a yell, but a full blown scream, just like a horror film. A couple guys went to check it out, and the rest of us waited in the middle of the bay, trying to look everywhere at once and pretending not to be scared.
Now, understand that the bays are huge rooms with two rows of double bunks stretching down the length of it. In the dark, it is the perfect place to lay an ambush for someone, as the bunks cast countless shadows. Also, bear in mind a recruit had recently perished trying to escape (he dove off a pier, unaware of the rocks just below the water surface). The guys came back from the bathroom, unharmed but nervous, and said they had opened every stall and couldn’t find anyone. There were no other exits, and we hadn’t seen anyone leave.
You’ve never seen a group of boys move so fast through the rest of that building. And none of us volunteered to go on that patrol again.
I never did find out if someone had just hidden in there and tried to scare us, and I’m not saying someone didn’t. Maybe the guys that went in and checked were in on a gag. But it sure didn’t seem like it then, and I’m still pretty certain that we brushed on the edge of something we don’t entirely understand. Consequentially, I don’t chase ghosts with night vision and electromagnetic instruments. As long as they leave me alone, I see no reason to go bugging them.
What about you? Have you ever had any unexplainable experiences? Do you believe in ghosts?
- Do You Believe in Ghosts paranormal activity, ghosts in the house, kids afraid of ghosts (everydayfamily.com)
- The Haunting of Home (jlroeder.wordpress.com)
- A ghost? (aussieg.wordpress.com)