Do you think ghosts find Hallowe’en patronising? Do they roll their eyes and complain that actually there’s a lot more to their culture than that, it’s just patronising.
They must also get very fed up with how their community is portrayed in the media. They’re either predatory, aggressive ghouls moving into a home and dragging down the property value or bland, sexless Uncle Toms, Casper the sell out ghost, happy to be the living person’s token dead best friend. Whatever their personality or ability, always steroptypically defined by their lack of mortality. How they must yearn for the day that a TV series or mainstream movie is brave enough to cast a ghost in lead role or indeed any part where being dead isn’t their entire storyline and personality point; where they just happen to be not living but also have other stuff going on in their lives as well.
Ghosts don’t do themselves any favours though. Whenever you bump into them they prattle on and on about the same things, repeating the same actions, retracing the same steps. “I was a Victorian ladies maid, oohhh!” Yes, but you’ve been dead for over one hundred and fifty years, what have you been doing in the mean time? Why are you defining yourself by the ten or so years that you happened to be alive when by now that must be a diminishing fraction of your time on this planet? They are the ultimate child stars who have never moved on from their first burst of fame, touring the highways and byways of Britain with their one and only hit. They should say, yes, I was married to Henry the VIII for a few years but to be honest, that was a long time ago, now I’d much rather be known for my oil painting.
In their defence, it must be disappointing to discover that once dead, the only human beings interested in contacting you are drunk students, clingy relatives and Living TV. Imagine; you’re the ghost of a Norman soldier, think of all action, the excitement, the sex you could have had in your day and now the only one showing any interest in you is Yvette Fielding, and you’re supposed to be grateful for the attention? That has got to hurt.
I feel I can comment on this because I once nearly accidentally had sex with a ghost. I was furious. I have always made it very clear that the only dead person I would consider doing the deed with is a WWI soldier and only if I bore a striking resemblance to his long dead sweetheart, whose tragically unconsummated relationship helped him through his final weeks in the trenches and only if having sex with me helped him finally pass over to that great no man’s land in the sky and only if he looked like Jonny Lee Miller in “Regeneration”. Yet there I was, having a nap and minding my own business and there was the universe was setting me up on some sort of cosmic blind date with a spectral chancer. Luckily I woke up before things got out of control otherwise I could have literally had a phantom pregnancy on my hands. How could I have explained that to my parents? I could just see my mother rolling her eyes and sighing “Oh Gráinne, you have to be different don’t you?” I mean having a ghost baby would make me stand out from all the other young mums but what about schools?
My friends weren’t sympathetic either, when I groggily told them on the phone about nearly getting bumped in the night, there was just a nervous laugh, followed by a long pause and a swift change in the conversation. Later three of them independently emailed me links to Guardian Soul Mates; no pun, I hope intended.
I’m non-plussed my the supernatural, even as a child ghosts, banshees, the devil himself were as familiar to me as second cousins my parents got Christmas cards from every year. Satan and his constant attempts to steal my soul were just another problem to be faced and I developed the habit of saying out loud , whenever I saw something I really liked “I wouldn’t give my soul for it” just in case I accidently, subconsciously, made a barter I would later regret. It was like a form on insurance policy should I unwittingly promise my entire afterlife in hell in exchange for a chemistry set. I could just see myself, in my sweaty subterranean cell, stuck for all eternity with Hitler, the shark from Jaws and all the English soldiers my granny told me about, explaining that I was doing time for getting carried away before Christmas in Toys R Us.
At Secondary school, out of sheer boredom, my friends and I did the Ouija board at lunchtime for an entire week and I became convinced that I was communicating with the ghosts of three dead former students who had all died mysteriously in a locked storage room at the back of the lunch hall. The story unravelled itself in my mind’s eye, three girls killed one after the other after dabbling in the occult, a haunted room covered in crucifixes by the nuns in a vain attempt to exorcise the evil history that dripped from its walls, trapped souls only I could release.
It took our religion teacher arranging a special class to formerly deny that any students had ever died from falling downstairs, been run over by a driverless car or been found dead staring into a mirror, for my visions to end. The doomed cupboard of death was later found to contain old geography books.
Ghosts are everywhere after all, even if it’s just our hopes and expectations that though long dead, still stumble about with us, tapping us on our shoulder when we least expect it and rattling our graves. The ancient mistakes that send shivers down our spine, the bad choices that chatter our teeth and the lingering habits that lead up down the same dead ends like will o the wisps.
The missed opportunites that return in the dark of the night with a spectral grin and the new person or fresh opportunity that grotesquely decays to reveal the same old stupidities we thought we’d staked years ago.
With that in mind, I’d like to create my own scary ghost tour. It would involve drama students popping out from behind cobbled archways dressed as your teenage dreams, your weird depressed aunt popping up and whispering “You always reminded me of myself at your age” and at the end you meet your eight your old self who, blinking in horror, touches your face and whispers “Who are you sad old lady?” Then when you turn to your boyfriend for reassurance, he pulls off his face and he’s revealed to be every man you’ve ever gone out with ever. And it’s all done in Victorian outfits; terrifying.
I know how I’m going to die anyway. I’m going to either accidentally strangle myself with a curtain cord, electrocute myself with a toaster or mistake a French window for a sliding door and fall out a sixtieth floor window. My last thought will most definitly be – I cannot believe I just did that. I will meet my maker in one of those accidents electrical goods instructions warn you sarcastically about and people with too much time post on Darwin Award websites. My death will be so ridiculous and bizarre that my family will be too embarrassed to go into specific details at the funeral; my friends will have to avoid eye contact in case they laugh and strangers will assume I must have died in an erotic self asphyxiation act that went wrong. I shall die as I lived; absolutely bloody ridiculous.