Anxiety: A Ghost Story

October 31, 2019

We have got to talk about the kids
in all those Goosebumps books.
For example,
if your family vacation
is to an amusement park
called HORRORLAND,
and your station wagon explodes
in the parking lot upon arrival,
maybe
shrugging it off,
buying an extra large popcorn,
and heading straight for
The Deadly Doom Slide
is not your best possible
course of action.

Or,
if you steal a weird camera
from your creepy neighbour’s basement
and every picture you take
shows bad things happening,
like decapitation
and Tofurkey,
and then all the bad things
from the pictures
start happening,
Stop Taking Pictures.

Or,
if you move into your new house
and there are a bunch of small children already living in your bedroom
that your parents cannot see,
maybe,
don’t just grab a juice box
and go play in the cemetery
that
is
in
your
backyard.

Or,
when I tell you of the ghosts
that live inside my body;
When I tell you
I have a cemetery in my backyard
and in my front yard
and in my bedroom;
When I tell you
trauma is a steep slide
you cannot see the bottom of,
that my anxiety is a camera
that shows everyone I love as bones,
when I tell you
panic is a stubborn phantom,
she will grab hold of me
and not let go for months–
this is the part of the story
when everyone is telling you to run.

To love me
is to love a haunted house–
it’s fun to visit once a year,
but no one wants to live there,
and when you say,
“Tell me about the bad days,”
it sounds like all the neighbourhood kids daring each other to ring the doorbell,
you love me
like the family walking through Horrorland holding hands–
You are not stupid,
or careless,
or even brave,
you’ve just never seen
the close-up of a haunting.

Darling,
this love will not cure me.
And this love will not scrape
the blood from the baseboards,
but it will turn all the lights on,
it will bring basil
back from the farmer’s market
and it will plant it in every windowsill,
it is the kind of love
that gives me goosebumps,
when you say to the ghosts,
“If you’re staying,
then you better make room,”
and we kiss against the walls
that tonight are not shaking,
so we turn the music up
and we dance to Miles Davis,
and you say,
“My god,
this house.
The way that it stands
even on the months
that no one goes into
or comes out of it.”

How reckless, the way that I love
like the first chapter of a ghost story.
Like the gentlest hand
reaching out of a grave.

Brenna Twohy

My need is for poetry

October 31, 2019

My need is for poetry,
the burning magic of words
that awaken unguessed at emotion –
and understanding,
sometimes only partial.
I need poetry,
its vivid colours firing imagination
and opening the souls of us all.

P

The Demon Lover

October 31, 2019

What unites ghost stories and folksong? A Venn diagram of the two would surely put love and death in the centre. Robert Aickman wrote in the introduction to The 3rd Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories that the eerie tale fulfils our “need to escape, at least occasionally, from a mechanistic world, ever more definable, ever more predictable, and, therefore, ever more unsatisfying and frustrating.”

The traditional song, often set in a vague and archaic time, can be equally attractive to those who wish to escape the prosaic world. However, the folk song and the ghost story do not ignore the stuff of life. Instead, they transform it into art that captivates our attention while making us engage with the problems of our humanity.

A case in point is that of “The Demon Lover”. This ballad, which dates back to 1685 and has since become part of the corpus of traditional song in Britain, Ireland and North America, tells of a woman whose lover returns from sea only to find her married to another man. The old flame re-pledges his love, telling her that he turned down a king’s daughter for her sake. He promises her wealth and persuades her to leave her husband and young children, and they sail off in one of his seven ships. When at sea, however, he either reveals his true identity (supernatural) or their intended destination (Hell) and, with that, the ship sinks.

This ballad speaks of the dangers posed to lovers by the strength of romantic bonds, the way that love can be a gateway to danger and dissolution if not handled with care, and the return of spirits (emotional or literal) to make their claims upon, or take advantage of, our humanity. These themes have been constants in the horror and ghost story traditions for at least two centuries.

Love, especially its more physical expression, has tended to be the preserve of the vampire in popular culture and literature. However, while the vampire desires our life force, the ghost desires us in our entirety. The vampire lover, like Le Fanu’s Carmilla or Stoker’s Dracula, comes either out of nowhere or from somewhere “out there”. Ghosts, on the other hand, come out of our past, from intimate spaces, or even out of our thoughts. They come to take us back with them, or at least to ensure that no one else can have us.

Lewis Hurst
‘Well met, well met, my own true love’: Five Demon Lovers

supernatural impressions

October 31, 2019

We had been put in the mood for ghosts, that evening, after an excellent dinner at our old friend Culwin’s, by a tale of Fred Murchard’s — the narrative of a strange personal visitation.

Seen through the haze of our cigars, and by the drowsy gleam of a coal fire, Culwin’s library, with its oak walls and dark old bindings, made a good setting for such evocations; and ghostly experiences at first hand being, after Murchard’s brilliant opening, the only kind acceptable to us, we proceeded to take stock of our group and tax each member for a contribution. There were eight of us, and seven contrived, in a manner more or less adequate, to fulfil the condition imposed.  It surprised us all to find that we could muster such a show of supernatural impressions,  for none of us, excepting Murchard himself and young Phil Frenham — whose story was the slightest of the lot — had the habit of sending our souls into the invisible. So that, on the whole, we had every reason to be proud of our seven “exhibits,” and none of us would have dreamed of expecting an eighth from our host.

Edith Wharton
The Eyes

invisible worlds

October 31, 2019

The visible and invisible worlds are inextricably intertwined…once you’ve opened your eyes to this, you can dance between them.

Alberto Villoldo
One Spirit Medicine: Ancient ways to ultimate wellness

Spoiled Children =

October 31, 2019

I am twenty-four years old when a good friend of mine approaches me with a question similar to the one my mother asked me when I was eleven, all those years ago. But this time she says, “My mother is afraid because of the stories I write. She doesn’t want me to have to go to a dark, sad place in order to write sad, dark stories. What do I tell her?”

Our mothers are always afraid. They want what is best for us, and they know the reality of how horrifying the world can really be. They don’t want us to have to traverse imaginary horrors when the world is already full of real ones.

“Tell her,” I say, staring at the wall above my computer, “that the truth is, we don’t have to go to sad, dark places to write our stories. We write our stories to cope with what we’ve already seen.”

Alyssa Wong
The Darkest, Truest Mirrors

Did you know –

October 31, 2019