Saturday, 1 March 2014

True ghost stories

This blog is designed to act as a companion to our main website and will involve a weekly series of themed discussions to supplement our latest short-story call out for tales of mystery, suspense and terror inspired by, and in the style of, 19th century ghost stories. This is the fourth blog in the series.

The aim of these blogs is to facilitate a flow of ideas between readers and writers. So whether you’re a ghost story aficionado, a prospective author or merely curious, please have a read and share your comments! There will be a new blog posted each week throughout the submission window (1st February – 31st May 2014; further details regarding the terms and conditions for the callout can be located here). You can also follow the discussion or join in via twitter using #talesomst_CBB.

This week: True ghost stories

Are you a ghost-hunter, a cynical skeptic or a hopeful believer in ghosts? If the truth is out there, I want to hear about it!

This week I'm on a ghost hunt. What better inspiration for a spooky work of fiction than a real-life-I-swear-it's-true tale?

Do you have a true ghost story to offer, descriptions of encounters with the supernatural, or any occurrences which suggest contact from beyond? Perhaps a missing heirloom which mysteriously reappears in an obvious location after you know you've searched everywhere to locate it. Orbs which appear in your photographs. Instinct compelling you to change your plans at the last minute--which in hindsight saved you from disaster--instances of spiritual protection from guardian angels, the strong sensation that suddenly you're not alone and localized cold spots in allegedly haunted buildings...If so, I'd love to hear about it. Please share your story using the comments section located at the bottom of the blog.

As a youth, while my friends were reading about their favourite superhero, I was fascinated with the 'Ripley's believe it or not' comic books. I found the idea of ghostly encounters intriguing and hoped that one day I might see a spirit. I became fascinated with media portrayals of ghosts and the supernatural. I wrote a book report on 'The Amityville Horror' and 'Poltergeist', 'Ghostbusters' and 'The Exorcist' were some of my favourite movies. In my spare time, I played with Tarot cards and Ouija boards. I convinced myself that the dreamy state separating sleep from consciousness offered opportunity to transcend limitations of human sensation; offered a chance for spiritual exchange. But, alas, life isn't Hollywood and despite great hopes I have yet to personally observe a spiritual manifestation.

As an adult, I note that ghost stories and tales of the supernatural never seem to go out of fashion or lose their appeal. Every culture and society has their own legends and beliefs. This raises the question: Why does humanity seem to have such a fascination with ghosts and the supernatural? We examine this question further in the 'Ghostly Beliefs' post.

From experience, most people seem to have some spiritual story to tell or know someone who has had an experience which extends beyond simple explanation. The following is typical of such an account.

A friend of mine had been introduced to an alleged psychic. When she inquired as to why they did not charge to answer psychic enquiries, the response was that those who are truly gifted share what they experience when it is appropriate, not for remuneration, nor can they necessarily perform on demand. Next she passed her watch to the psychic to establish whether the psychic could establish any personal information about her. The psychic indicated that they sensed a problem with hearing, specifically in one ear. Afterward, it came to light that the watch had been a gift from a grandparent who was deaf in the ear identified as problematic by the psychic. Hardly a smoking gun for spiritual connection. Nonetheless, the fact this story was retained and recounted highlights the belief, or at least a kernel of hope, that perhaps there is more to life than meets the eye. Over the years, I've heard many similar accounts where some facet of the story seems to defy the probability of chance alone which proves a far more tantalizing explanation than merely discounting the occurrence as a fluke event. As a teenager, I recall occasions when answering the phone, both myself and some of my friends would be convinced that we had sensed who was calling and addressed the caller directly upon answering. (Obviously I'm dating myself a bit with this one as my story pre-dates call-display). Although none of us truly believed we'd developed psychic talent, it always provided fantastic conversation fodder for days after a successful 'guess', which curiously proved accurate on most occasions. Again, the common thread was always hope for an alternative explanation, implying there may be more to human experience than that which can be explained by our standard five senses alone.

As I grew older, my curiousity with the supernatural remained. I've visited the famous 'Chislehurst caves', disappointed that the Chislehurst challenge was discontinued long before my time. Subsequently, I worked in a haunted pub, excited by the prospect that seemingly all other members of staff had a story suggesting a ghostly encounter; still I observed no ghosts. Thus, despite best efforts to experience a real life haunting, I have yet to observe a compelling incident which would convince me that I have truly seen a ghost.

I, of course, remain a hopeful believer.

If you've ever had a spiritual encounter, experienced inexplicable phenomena, or seen a spirit, get in touch!

(Coming up: seances and Ouija boards.)