Ghosts around us

April 14, 2017

Some people think that our brash modern world with its mechanism, its cynicism and its materialism has ousted the ghosts which used to dwell among us. On the contrary, they mingle with us more than ever before.

Gone are the days when they could wander in peace in some ancient castle or stately home. Now they are driven out of these places by coachloads of gawping tourists who stare at them without seeing them, and make mock of them with imitation shivers when the touring guide describes a haunting.

So now, virtually evicted and with an almost insoluble housing problem, the ghost have moved in among us.

They mooch about in hospital outpatients’ departments: they meander up and down the gaudy gangways of the supermarket; they sit on couches in the airport departure lounge; they join the crowd coming out of the factory gates; they tack themselves on to bus queues; they travel on commuters’ trains; they haunt Underground platforms and passages, bringing with them strange gusts of strange-smelling air.

And in all these activities they do us a great service. For even if visibility suddenly comes upon them (an accident which may happen to any ghost at any time) they may be seen, even heard – but they take up no material space. They are part of the crowd, yet do not make it thicker.

So how can you tell which member of a crowd is a ghost which has come-over-visible? You can’t, unless you bump into him and feel absolutely nothing. Then you know. And you are afraid, because it’s a weird feeling. But that is not the poor ghost’s fault. He can’t help being unsolid any more than you can help being solid.

Rosemary Timperley
Introduction to the Sixth Ghost Book (book one)

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