And so you haunt me. Always with me, you are the invisible diner at our table, the constant presence that trails me as I go about my daily routine…. In the darkness of a closed-lidded world, you are alive and vital, unchanging, mine. You are the ghost of everything that once was lovely… a shadow casts its majesty over everything that remains…

Samantha Bruce-Benjamin
The Art of Devotion

deeply mysterious

January 10, 2019

Poetry survives because it haunts and it haunts because it is simultaneously utterly clear and deeply mysterious; because it cannot be entirely accounted for, it cannot be exhausted.

Louise Glück
American Originality: Essays on Poetry

Halloween Playlist

October 28, 2018

An almost perfect Halloween Playlist compiled by that wonderful witch Orion Burke, just for you, boys & girls. Great music for a walk in the woods at twilight, or a casual stroll through your local cemetery after dark. Enjoy and have a blessed, eerie, and joyful All Hallows’ Eve –

1. “All Saints’ Eve” – Vincent Price
2. “Full Moonlight Dance” – Libana
3. “King of the Faeries (Remix)” – Áine Minogue
4. “Tam Lin” Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer
5. “Samhain” – Lisa Thiel
6. “Song for Samhain” – Victoria Parks
7. “All Hallow’s Eve” – Story, The
8. “Alison Cross” – Malinky
9. “She Is Crone” – Kellianna
10. “Samhain Night” – Jenna Greene
11. “Full Moon Light Dance” – Tina Malia
12. “The Uttoxeter Souling Song/Turner’s” – Blowzabella
13. “All Hallows” – Sharron Krauss, Jon Boden, Hay Field, Ian Woods, & Claire Lloyd
14. “We Are the Flow” – Lila
15. “Night of the Black Mirror” – Peggy Monaghan
16. “Samain Night” Loreena McKennitt
17. “Spirits of the World” – Áine Minogue
18. “Autumn’s Twilight” – Kiva
19. “Samhain Eve” – Damh the Bard
20. “Come to the Labyrinth” – S.J. Tucker
21. “Samhain (Into the Winter Nights)” – Elisa Welch M.
22. “Witchery Fate Song” – Jean Luc Lenoir
23. “Hecate” – Ruth Barrett
24. “Ancestor’s Song” – Kellianna
25. “The Banshee Set” – Bröceliande
26. “The Old Churchyard” – Offa Rex
27. “An Fainne Or” – Áine Minogue
28. “Samhain” – Heather Alexander
29. “Hallow’s Eve” – Lisa Theriot
30. “Unquiet Grave” – Kate Rusby
31. “The Lover’s Ghost” – The Owl Service
32. “Robin Is Dead” – Sharron Kraus
33. “So spricht das Leben (So Sayeth Life)” – The Mediaeval Baebes
34. “Cerdiwen and Taliesen” – Damh the Bard
35. “Dance in the Graveyards” – Delta Rae
36. “Wolf an Dro” – Omnia
37. “Tam Lin” – Trent Wagler and The Steel Wheels
38. “Souling Song – Samhain Version” – Kristen Lawrence
39. “November Drinking Song” – Magpie Lane
40. “Auld Lang Syne” – Mairi Campbell

a possessed witch

October 4, 2018

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

Anne Sexton
Her Kind

black and gray in the shadows

December 30, 2017

sensuous threat

The first ghost was Iris Lesley, looking as if she had been peeled from a movie screen. She was all silver when the moonlight hit her, black and gray in the shadows. She moved like she hadn’t been in the ground for thirty years, like she was walking a red carpet in diamond slingbacks and McQueen gown. Welch hadn’t been able to look away, thinking the actress was a hallucination. After the knife across a throat . . . After all that blood . . . What might a mind do to erase it?

So Welch didn’t move when Iris Lesley did, allowing her ghostly fingers to stairstep their way up a cheek, into a tangle of hair, across and into a mouth. Iris Lesley was hot and tasted like ash, which didn’t surprise Welch one bit, given she had died in a studio fire that had consumed four blocks before it too died.

E Catherine Tobler
Ghostling

23rd July

Living here with so many ghosts I feel like a caretaker of the restless dead – a protector of spirits who haunt my life – so that I’ve become my own haunted house, attempting communication with partially glimpsed movements at the edge of perception, or the sound of a creaking stair, or a noise in the attic which might only be the patter of falling rain…My ghosts can be cranky on occasion: they can whisper words, the meaning of which I’m unable to determine.

It’s been a long time since anyone treated them well –

#

So the Saturday evening play-party. With our friends from the local munch, people possessing the emotional bandwidth to comply with our safety standards, while sharing similar aesthetic tastes to ourselves.

Like a small film club, are we, eagerly awaiting the main attraction: crisps, freshly roasted nuts and popcorn are liberally distributed to ‘the audience’ in small china bowls. Missy A has been naughty and is to be disciplined while we watch. Furniture has been moved to accommodate this tableaux.

Seeing Missy A bent over a chair with her skirt hitched up is breathtaking. Hearing a hand slap against her buttocks, is so very arousing – how could it be otherwise? Savouring the slight trembling of flesh with each fresh impact. Her yelps of discomfort –

Then E rising to join T who is tiring. E has a riding crop. She takes T’s place. Her skin-head hair cut is intimidating. She uses the crop with consummate skill –

Yelps become cries. Missy’s poor glowing bum is criss-crossed with red stripes –

Missy’s now estranged husband used to take her to play-parties in the boot of their car. Almost nude, gagged and handcuffed, even in winter, she would endure this humiliation without complaint. His treatment of her became harsher and harsher, until she finally left him eighteen months ago.

It should serve as a lesson to us all, how quickly such consensual abuse can become pure abuse –

I’m reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre and his theory of emotions as ‘magic’. Because Missy has simply exchanged one sadist for another. The new man in her life allows his fantasies free rein. She is, it seems, one of life’s natural victims –

E’s skill with that crop is superlative. Her strokes are hard enough to mark Missy’s naked bum but not to break the skin. I can’t take my eyes from Missy, her tear-filled eyes, parted lips, writhing as if in the grip of some invisible power. Sex is inherently ritualistic, a symbolic act whose meanings extend beyond itself. And there can be no doubt that Missy’s submission is sexual, that she takes pleasure from E’s practiced flogging of her backside. And every face in ‘the audience’ is slightly flushed with sexual excitement as they look on. And my own arousal is equally obvious –

Finally, aftercare. Caresses, kisses, gentle stroking. A smile on Missy’s tear-stained face. She experienced some sort of climax near the end of her ‘punishment’, and all the tension is now drained from her.

I finish my popcorn (which incidentally is homemade) as E takes Missy upstairs to the bathroom to fix her make-up.

‘I hope they don’t wake the ghosts,’ I say to no one in particular.

And no one, as expected, bothers to reply.

#

Hamlet experienced an encounter with a ghost and it ended in massacre. Macbeth was confronted by Banquo’s ghost during a great banquet, and lost his peace of mind forever. It’s more than likely that Shakespeare’s ghosts are simply psychological manifestations of guilt – imagined apparitions, in other words.

But what of my ghosts?

Trish, for example?

She used to love me reading out loud to her. At bedtime I always had to read to her or she couldn’t sleep. On occasion she would perform an act of fellation upon me as I read –

She once described herself to me as ‘Terribly thin’. And her body, I must admit, was like a sabre slash in silk. As flat chested as a boy, was she. ‘You’re fine,’ I’d tell her. ‘I love you as you are.’ And then laid her back and performed cunnilingus on her for almost an hour –

I read her ‘The Story of O’ and we both got turned on by it. It was Christmas Eve I remember, and Trish guided me between her buttocks. I gently sodomized her for the first time while she masturbated herself.

We talked a lot about art, writing, music and cinema. One time I told her about André Gide, his enormous influence on the young, which sprang from his teaching that one’s only duty is to oneself, that one should never be ‘encumbered’, either by material possessions, memories or other people –

‘Often the best in us springs from the worst in us.’

And so I read ‘Isabelle’ to Trish, and we both visited le chateau de la Quartfourche with Gerard Lacase, and accompanied him on his quest for Isabelle in the grip of ‘amorous curiosity’.

Books, reading, more reading and fucking. ‘Why don’t you read me something you’ve written?’ she asked. It was a bridge too far for me. ‘No,’ I said. ‘Never that. It’s all too awful.’ But she insisted, so finally I recited some of the poems in ‘Summer Births’ from memory. And while the words spilled gently from my mouth like little lost souls, Trish fondled me erect and masturbated me –

Trish had always had a thing about India. For her it seemed a magical, mysterious, exotic place. One day she announced she was finally going to go there. She’d saved the money. She was going for six months – longer if she could!

And so she drifted from my life almost as casually as she’d drifted into it. And now she keeps company with the crowd of ghosts occupying this place; a spectre who loves to hear me read out loud late at night –

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)

Village sign twinning Warleggan with Narnia

Village sign twinning Warleggan with Narnia

Ghost Vicar at rest in his church

Ghost Vicar at rest in his church

church of St Bartholomew, Warleggan

church of St Bartholomew, Warleggan

Frederick William Densham in life

Frederick William Densham in life

Few who have been out walking on the moor at night, could have failed to feel the atmosphere of “otherness” in the landscape around them. It is truly a haunted place. Here have been glimpsed shadowy, lantern carrying figures – perhaps the ghosts of ancient smugglers or wreckers, doomed to wander abroad at night.

Thomas Hardy in 1870 called this ‘the region of dream and mystery.’ Anyone whose walked the bleak moors or the rugged coastline would have to agree with him. Here you find bronze age stone circles, abandoned ruins of farmhouses, roofless cottages, and the ragged winding houses of long closed tin mines. There are enchanted pools and ancient churches and timeworn Celtic crosses…And, of course, ghosts.

The village of Warleggan welcomes all with its own village sign – a sign that explains it is twined with Narnia!

Here you’ll find the church of St Bartholomew, haunted by the sad ghost of Frederick William Densham, the incumbent who took up his residency in the village in 1931. The Reverend Densham soon managed to alienate his entire congregation. His eccentricities, his arrogant nature and autocratic style* were to much for the locals who petitioned the Bishop of Truro for Densham’s removal.

The Bishop would have none of it. Densham was a church appointment and his incumbency would stand!

Consequently the village gave Reverend Denham the ‘cold shoulder’. They boycotted his church services. But Densham, not to be deterred by a lack of congregation, preached his sermons to pews filled with figures he’d cutout from cardboard – each named after a previous vicar of the church **. At the end of each service, the reverend would dully note in the register:

‘No fog, no wind, no rain, no congregation.’

Reverend Densham died alone in his church in 1953. Subsequently, his ghost has been observed by many local people, shambling up the overgrown footpath to the vicarage. Usually around teatime. The spectral Densham probably drawn back to this reality for a hot cuppa and some home-baked scones, no doubt.

* Nonsense, in reality, the good Rev fell out with a local man Nicholas Bunt, the head of the parish council, who had great local influence and told people to stay away from the church. Fearing Bunt, they complied.

** However, in the interests of accuracy, while a fitting touch to the Reverend’s story, I suspect this part is fiction created by Daphne du Maurier for her ‘Vanishing Cornwall’ book. He was certainly eccentric and lonely and had travelled widely, a great supporter of Indian independence and a lifelong vegetarian to boot! But he preached to an empty church, not cardboard cutouts, I suspect!

Maggoty Johnson

June 16, 2016

maggoty wood 2

In Maggoty Woods it’s dark and grim.
The worms crawl out and the worms crawl in.
Maggoty’s buried six feet deep.
He rests his eyes but he’s not asleep.
Maggoty Johnson loved to dance.
with his cap and bells, he used to prance
and caper up and down on stage.
Now he’s at the skeleton age.
In Maggoty Woods there’s no church near.
The ground’s unholy, it’s dark and drear.
Maggoty chose it specially
as the sort of place he’d like to be.
Maggoty Johnson was called Lord Flame.
Now he goes by a different name.
He haunts these woods and he haunts them well.
Sooner or later you’ll be under his spell.
In Maggoty Woods it’s dark and grim.
The worms crawl out and the worms crawl in.
Maggoty’s buried six feet deep.
He rests his eyes but he’s not asleep.

Angela Topping

(Please Note: Samuel Johnson (1691-1773) not the Doctor, was Britain’s last professional jester. He is buried in woodland near Gawsworth Hall, Cheshire, on Maggoty Lane. A legend says that if you call his name 13 times on Hallowe’en, he will rise up and perform for you. Everything in this poem is true.)

So true…

February 14, 2016

ghost