The scariest ghosts I’ve ever encountered are the ones who, for a brief moment in time, lived on my bedside cabinet. These spectres live on ear-marked pages, their every action dictated by printed words. Ghosts in literature span time – from early greats such as Banquo’s ghostly appearance in Macbeth (that I first encountered while sitting in my English Literature classroom), to the ghost of Jacob Marley – with Marley it was the chains that scared me the most.Those chains and everything they represented scared me just as much as my primary school teachers telling me that their god could see my soul and all the sins that had marked it. Until I became Atheist at least…
Last night was the first time for ages that I’ve gone to bed with that slightly uneasy feeling in the back of my mind; the result of overdosing on fictional ghosts and their frightful ways. I blame Susan Hill and ‘The Woman in Black’, as last night I watched the trailer for the upcoming remake starring Daniel Radcliffe. The trailer has the verse:
During afternoon tea, there’s a shift in the air.
A bone-trembling chill that tells you she’s there.
There are those who believe the whole town is cursed.
But the house in the marsh is by far the worst.
What she wants is unknown, but she always comes back.
The spectre of darkness, the Woman in Black.
The first two lines of that verse are really quite eerie – well, the whole thing coupled with the trailer (and the young girl reciting the verse) is eerie, but those first two lines are something that anyone who has ever thought their house is haunted can appreciate.
I’ve stood in buildings reputed to be haunted, and I’ve felt ‘the shift in the air’ when you think suddenly something has changed and you’re no longer alone. It could just be a feeling, a change in temperature, a nudge on your back* or perhaps a noise you can’t place… it is the worse feeling and it inspires an instinctual reaction of fear (and usually panic). Sure, the shift is probably due to the heightened mind of the ghost hunter or atmospheric reasons, but there’s still no denying that fear.
I truly cannot wait to see ‘The Woman in Black’ when it comes out, I’ve just bought a copy of the book (I originally read it in the school library a decade ago). Last weekend we watched BBC 2’s Ghostwatch, another fictional ghost story that gets it very right. This weekend my mother and I are going to watch the old BBC version of ‘The Woman in Black’, just because…
Ghosts are very real, they just happen to live in the pages that sit on your bookcase awaiting the time you open the cover and release them. That’s when they lurk just out of sight, in the corner of your bedroom, waiting for you to turn out the light…
*(Yes I’ve had my back nudged when nobody was there while standing in a “haunted chapel”… you can learn more at my ‘skeptics in the pub’ talks)