People around me who know how much I enjoy pop-science are surprised that I see ghosts. I see them routinely and without shock, and I have done since childhood. I see them with ease, sometimes as familiars, and sometimes as cheeky interlopers who just need to be reminded that they don’t (even if they did at some stage) pay the rent, mortgage or bills.
I grew up in a family where we talked easily about the ghosts, not always seriously, but aloud nonetheless. Dad thought it all mad but could scare me witless with old bush-tales of ghosts that roamed the desert around Burke where he walked and worked as a young man with his Dad.
They were joked about, occasionally complained about, often referred to, and always with a sense of tongue in cheek. Yet they prevailed in so many women-chats that they have always capered down the hallways of my childhood in a way that is as real and ‘feelable’ as the woof and weave of the beige-pile-carpet or patterned olive-green bathroom tiles.
Aunty Shirl had the ghost of ‘crazy Eileen’ show up at a jokey drunken séance she hosted. Eileen was a family member who’d died young and with Alzheimer’s. Aunty Mavis had the woman who’d gassed herself to death in the flat years before. On the night he died our Uncle Ian came to see my brother Dean, then fourteen, to tell him not to worry but to look after Dad. Dean is as pretty straight up kind of bloke but still gets shivery thinking about it.
One night when I was ten I dreamed that Nana came and tucked me in. the next morning I was having the usual cuppa in bed with Mum and she said she’d dreamed that she and Nana were sharing a Dixie cup ice-cream. The phone rang and we got the news that she’d died.
In a rental property in Vermont I lived in at five there were the doors to the lounge that opened, the gas oven that went on overnight causing panicked evacuations, the awful passing odours in the hallway and my bedroom blinds would be flung up often overnight. I saw one in a flat in Windsor at twenty, a sad woman dressed for work at the end of my bed, and recently one in my lounge; an old woman clutching a brown cardigan to her chest and looking startled by me. Interestingly neither Mum nor I have tuned in to male ones!
I do ‘see’ them, but not as fady-apparitions all see through, or as real people. I see them as I feel them as a high-speed flat image like a photo transposed over what is ‘really’ there, and I’ve just learned to assume/trust that the image I see so quickly is probably an intuitive representation, not a photo…maybe its even how they saw themselves. But the mind is a tricksy and old sea and who knows what shells it has shored up in its depths.
The other ways in which I ‘see’ them are as odours or darkness’s. Sometimes in a Spring-lit room that is positively twitching with light reflections there is simply a dark shape at the edge. Pay attention to it. At other times I reckon I’ve walked through a ghost fart, and phew are they dank and malodorous!
I used to think they were always about place, but now I wonder…my son has definitely attracted shadows, sound, lights and fizz. He’s made ‘things’ happen around the home that are new. Just new. Not scary, though sometimes in the night the expanse of black hallway from loo to bed can seem cooler than it should, my bare ankles feel strangely vulnerable and I feel the icy gaze of the other pressing the skin tighter on my shoulder blades, envious and seething as it watches me flee on warm and alive patty-feet back to the bed…