Posts Tagged ‘ghosts’

Monsters are real. And ghosts are too. They live inside us. And sometimes they win. ~Uncle Stevie

That’s why horror movies, crime procedurals, and news channels thrive. Uncle Stevie also once said that our fascination with death, with mortality, is why we slow down to look at the accident.

But the scarier aspects in life are the monsters and ghosts that live inside us. Perhaps we see ourselves in the shows and movies…in the bad guys, in the evil ones, in the ones that broke because the monsters and ghosts won.

What keeps the majority of us from losing? What enables us to not break? Faith, family, friends. I suppose the ones who lose to the monsters and ghosts don’t have that.

Where do the monsters and ghosts come from? Skeletons in family closets that linger through the generations. Relatives that hide secrets because they don’t want to deal with it or they don’t know how to handle it.

With our sons, we tell them the family history. It’s not always pretty, but we aren’t scared of monsters and ghosts. This has surprised some over the years, but we don’t want to burden them. If we’ve sorted through the closets, cleared away the cobwebs, there’s no need to make them deal with that same shit. Once it’s dealt with, it’s history so it is time to move on.

It took me a long time to beat some of my monsters and ghosts. There are new ones I’m wrestling with now. But with faith, family, and friends I am doing it.

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The winds picked up this evening.  The nor’easter winds with their eerie, haunting howls.  The shrieks have been wrapping around the house all night.  The tempests have brought the ghosts in with them.  I’ve heard Mom’s door opening and closing.  Brigs snored at the bottom of the stairs.  A big one that even rattled his collar.  Creepiness is filling my home and I love every minute of it.

October is a magical month.  The leaves die and float to the ground revealing the skeletal arms of the trees.  Soon a walk around the block will echo with the crunch and crackle of the leaves under foot.  The night creeps in earlier and the moon always seems brighter.  Scarecrows adorn the lawns and the straw arms billow from the gales, stretching out to catch a person as he walks by their perch.

Colorful mums sprout from the ground and grow fuller each day.  The color of the leaves on the grass blend with the mums.  Pumpkins and Jack ‘o lanterns burst with color in a graying world.  Ghosts stories float to children’s ears, scaring them a little bit more until they cry out for the storyteller to stop.

In a few weeks. children dressed as cowboys, princesses, and monsters get to willingly approach strangers and ask them for candy.  Witches will cackle flying on their brooms overhead.  Scary moans and laughter, rattling chains, and haunting  music will swirl around and fill the night with spooky noises.

I can remember walking Brigs during October and always being thankful that he was a large dog.  Even though I knew I was perfectly safe, the hairs would stand up on the back of my neck.  Sounds would echo down the street and seem to be surrounding us at the same time.  I could feel eyes watching us.  I was sure of it and so I stuck close to Brigs.  I knew he would protect me.  This is the first autumn without him here to bring me comfort as the nor’easter ghosts settle in for the winter again.

Oh, I love the autumn.  I love ghost stories.  I love the look of the fog and the sounds of the wind and the leaves.  I love the smell of the wood burning in fireplaces to warm the homes with glowing windows as we all settle in for the cold.  A lot of Uncle Stevie to read in the coming months.  Old tales that are good friends that help to keep one warm during the winter months.  And to help keep the ghosts at bay.  Even as the gales blow around the house.

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Spirits have come up a lot on conversation lately.  Perhaps it’s that time of year, as we gear up for Pentecost.  I apologize if I’m repeating myself as I may have written some of this before, but the memory doesn’t trap every detail like it used to.  My mother-in-law comes into the office quite regularly.  You can hear the front door open and yet no one is down there.  But the visits that make me pause the most are the ones she has with younger son.

Younger son shared with us that he visits with Grandmom in the kitchen.  She asks how school is going and he tells her.  Then she leaves.  I think she just likes catching up with him since he was only 2 and a half years old when she died.

I love watching movies or reading books about spirits and ghosts.  Hamlet’s father, Simba’s father, The Others, lots of great movies that explore the spirits in the world.  Lots of plays explore this idea, and have since the first plays.  I was speaking with someone this evening and we talked about the fact that every play, film, television show has been a re-run since the original Greek plays.  So if you think about it-there is story after story about ghosts.  It is clearly a shared experience of humans over time.  Has everyone experienced it?  Nope.  But this is something that crosses over cultures and genders and ages.

I like the idea of being able to check in on loved ones every now and then.  I was as the farm recently and felt my mother-in-law there.  It was a very strong presence.  At one point, I walked upstairs and felt her, smelled her.  It was for a brief period of time, moments really, and then she moved on to some other spot.  But I felt her spirit.  I could smell her.  So I went into her closet to see if it stilled smelled like her and it doesn’t.  It just smells stale.  So the smell didn’t come from there.  The only thing that makes sense in explaining it is it was her spirit.

Could it be our own need to feel and believe our loved ones are in a better place with no pain, wants, or needs?  I suppose, but just because it’s not there and just because you can’t touch it or see it doesn’t mean it isn’t real.  We carry a piece of them in our hearts and perhaps it calls to their spirits so when we need a boost, they come and visit.

A few spirits floating around just adds a little flair and excitement.

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My mother-in-law was dead, to begin with.  There is to be no doubt about that or what follows will not be as phenomenal or paranormal.  I’ve written about my late great mother-in-law and her visits and little ways of helping.  I may have written about the times youngest son has visited with her in our kitchen.  He is unfazed by this and not scared by it.  He just tells me about Grandmom being in the kitchen and asking him how he is doing.

Well, time to add a new visit.  My father-in-law just got both his knees replaced and was in the hospital and then rehab for the past several weeks.  He came home today, which is a joyous event.  I’m very proud of him and the work he did in rehab to get home.  When we stopped by to see how he was doing, he told us that the kitchen television wasn’t working.  Now the only person who has been in the house for the past few weeks is my hubby and he knows not to touch a television set-up.  He even watched a bit of telly one night and it was working fine.  I offered to take a look at it because usually I can figure out the problem.

This problem was simple.  Every cable except for the power and exterior coaxial cable had been unplugged from the cable box.  But the cables were still plugged into the telly.  There was one cable plugged into the telly but not into anything else.  The audio and video cables had all been unplugged from the cable box and were buried and tangled as if they had been that way for years.  Then, the HDMI cable that was plugged into the cable box was not the same HDMI cable plugged into the telly.  Now, I don’t think my mother-in-law was the type to set up a telly and cable box and deal with the input and output cables, but I truly do think she had some fun randomly messing with the television set up in the kitchen.  Once the set up was fixed and the telly was getting the signal, I wondered if Mom had done it.

I went up stairs to just make sure no one else was in the house.  I knew no one else could be in the house-the alarm hadn’t been tripped, but still I had to check.  As I got to the top of the stairs, I walked into my mother-in-law’s spirit.  I smelled her.  I felt her energy.  I went into every room upstairs figuring they might still smell of her, but no.  Not even her walk-in closet.  That actually smelled stale.  But at the top of the stairs, when I stepped onto the landing, I walked through her.  Her scent was so clear.  I felt a force of energy outside of me.  It surrounded me and then passed through me.  It was wonderful and creepy.  A good creepy, but still creepy.  Hairs on the back of my neck and on my arms stood up.  The air was colder.  Then as I went down the little stairs off the landing, the air was warm and stuffy and stale again.

I’m curious now to see if she visits us here tonight.  If the office door opens and closes at midnight, I’ll know who it is.

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During the fifth course, I would be quite full but I would persevere, for Kenneth’s sake.  The conversation would weave its way to Hamlet.  Not that I could ever cover this subject in a lunch or even a life time.  I humbly study this work of theater and will never even scratch the surface.  But we would focus on a specific scene.  Act III scene iv.  This scene from Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet makes me weep even when I simply think about it.

Hamlet Act III scene iv

(I am hopeful that I have successfully embedded the scene courtesy of tediousoldfools’ upload.  I adore tediousoldfools and all the wonderful uploads that I enjoy during the rare lunch breaks that I take.  I pop on a little Shakespeare & Kenny and my day becomes brighter.  So thank you to tediousoldfools.)

But the scene is the point of tonight’s blog.  Last night I treated myself to watching the movie again.    Once the ghost appears, Hamlet completely reverts to a small boy trying to please his father.  The fact that he just killed someone completely disappears as he looks at this ghost.  I love the voice of the ghost…his whispers are horrifying and filled with love at the same time.  He says to Hamlet,

“But, look, amazement on thy mother sits:
O, step between her and her fighting soul:
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works:
Speak to her, Hamlet.”

And he immediately obeys.  This is a moment of tenderness and concern between Hamlet and Gertrude, one that for me seems to be sincere concern from her.  As he says “On him…on him” he simply becomes filled with sadness, respect, and longing for his father.  Kenneth’s face changes and the tears well up as he struggles to please his father all the while trying to grasp that his mother doesn’t see the ghost.  The levels of emotion that course through his being in these two minutes of film are outstanding.

The scene makes me feel the wonder of what it would be like to see someone that you loved one more time.  It makes me think about unresolved matters and the desire to set things right within a family.  I think that Hamlet stands the test of time because every family has betrayal within it.  Hopefully not as horrific of a betrayal as in Hamlet, but on some level everyone deals with betrayal and a destruction of trust.  And as in this story, not everyone gets a chance to resolve things before being separated by death.  In some cases, a person may choose to separate from a particular person because of a betrayal of trust and this perhaps helps to avoid it ending the same way Hamlet does.  Bloodshed seems to be never ending in this group.

But in this scene, you just see a boy missing his dad.  Wishing for more time.  Hoping to please him one more time.  To defend his honor.  To gaze on him, on him one more time.

In case you’d enjoy reading it, here is the text of the scene:

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act III scene iv


A king of shreds and patches—(Enter Ghost.)

Save me, and hover o’er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?


Alas, he’s mad!


Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by
The important acting of your dread command? O, say!


Do not forget: this visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But, look, amazement on thy mother sits:
O, step between her and her fighting soul:
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works:
Speak to her, Hamlet.


How is it with you, lady?


Alas, how is’t with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy
And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,
Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,
Starts up, and stands on end. O gentle son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?


On him, on him! Look you, how pale he glares!
His form and cause conjoined, preaching to stones,
Would make them capable. Do not look upon me;
Lest with this piteous action you convert
My stern effects: then what I have to do
Will want true colour; tears perchance for blood.


To whom do you speak this?


Do you see nothing there?


Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.


Nor did you nothing hear?


No, nothing but ourselves.


Why, look you there! look, how it steals away!
My father, in his habit as he lived!
Look, where he goes, even now, out at the portal! (Exit Ghost.)

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I want to have lunch with the younger generation.  I want them to turn off their cell phones and not text while we’re having this lunch.  That will be the biggest challenge-to convince them that they don’t have to be connected for the hour we would spend eating together.  I worry about them.  What do they talk about?  What do they text?

The classic films are lost…the movies today are okay, don’t get me wrong.  Still, do they know that the movies of today wouldn’t be possible without the classics that came before them?  The filming of yesteryear set the tone for so many of the accomplishments made in film-making today.  I think back to Song of the South and Mary Poppins…putting people into animation.  This made Who Framed Roger Rabbit possible-putting animation into live-action.  The classic musicals created so many cultural moments.  Singin’ in the Rain, Hello Dolly, Brigadoon, On the Town.

Even classic children’s literature is falling to the wayside.  My sons have read only one American Tall Tale in school.  I make sure at home that they read a variety of Tall Tales.  We also read Aesop’s Fables, Hans Christian Andersen.  Of course, we’re still in our Grimm phase.  We read “Little Snow White” last night.  The text is full of such rich words and vibrant images.  These pieces of literature help children develop their imaginations and learn about the basics of crafting a story.

Music is different too.  I know, I know, I sound like that stereotypical old person (no, I’m not old…) “back in my day” but I’m serious.  Someone said to me recently that in a class about the history of rock he had just learned about a band called The Queen or something like that.  I said do you mean Queen?  He said, yeah, yeah, that’s the name.  Now obviously I’m biased about that particular band, but how does one get to their 20s and not know Queen?  Or the major shifts in music and how each change brought about new genres.  Why do youngins need to take a class to learn this stuff?  I suppose the radio is no longer in existence in their worlds…did “Radio Gaga” and “Video Killed the Radio Star” really come to pass?

I know there are cycles to culture.  I know the pendulum will swing back again.  I know it’s ironic that I’m posting this on the internet, one of the causes in this shift.  Why and how do they feel the need to be connected all the time?  I have survived for so long without being connected 24/7.  Yet so often I sit with people of the younger generation who cannot turn off their phone or tablet or the soon-to-be archaic laptop.  Radios don’t matter, they have 8,000 songs programmed on the teeny-tiny player.

If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend of someone younger than 25, take them somewhere and make them disconnect.  Help them experience life with a person and not an electronic device.  I’m battling right now with my sons.  They are obsessed with the telly and on-demand.  They can’t get enough of the computer and online video games (based on the shows from the telly).  It’s ridiculous.  They get so angry when I say no.  So I say no more frequently.  When they don’t get angry anymore, I won’t have to say no as much.

Tomorrow night is the Earth Hour at 8:30pm.  Turn off your lights, phones, tablets, computers, any and all electronic devices and devices charged by electricity.  Talk to each other.  Laugh with each other.  Tell ghost stories.  Inspire each other.  Sing “Hello Dolly” or “Dream On” or “Radio Gaga”.  Go ahead, sing it with the clapping.  Or go for “We Will Rock You” with the clap/clap/stomp.  Go for it.  Turn off everything and be connected the old-fashioned way.

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What a wonderful time of year to introduce your sons to Poe.  Tonight my sons and I enjoyed reading “The Masque of the Red Death”, “The Haunted Palace”, and “The Raven”.  As my sons are only six and eight, we obviously discussed the Red Death paragraph by paragraph, even sentence by sentence, to assist with comprehension.  Still, I knew they’d be interested.  Gothic literature, plague, grand settings, a wonderfully macabre story of elite party guests being trapped and killed by a wicked disease that kills in thirty minutes.  What boy wouldn’t love this story?

I love that my sons are comfortable enough to ask about what they don’t know.  Very William Shatner of them.  They were quite opinionated about the Red Death.  My oldest commented how stupid they were to think that by simply locking themselves away wouldn’t protect them from germs since germs aren’t stopped by a locked door.  With “The Raven”, to be truthful, they got tired of the bird saying “Nevermore”, which reminded me of Bart Simpson’s “eat my shorts”.

“The Haunted Palace” is very sad.  The images of the ghosts floating around, the tattered memories.  The most fun part for me was to get my sons engaged in one of my favorite authors.  The detail in the descriptions and narratives are stunning and create such images for the reader to embrace.  The descriptions of the seven rooms of the apartment in Red Death are exquisite.  To help my sons relate to it, we counted the rooms on our second floor (seven) but imagined each room was as big as our entire second floor.  It helped them to visualize how massive the structure was.  As we read about each room and the colors, we looked around at similar colors in our home.  To capture the picture of the stained glass window, we looked at the small stained glass panel hanging in our living room window and imagined how it would appear with flames shining behind it.

Many people would think that eight and six-year-old boys aren’t ready for Poe, or Hamlet, which they’ve already been introduced to.  The same goes for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  We use different ways to help them connect to it and that includes film.  Particularly for Hamlet, as play are to be seen.  Each story is creepy and connects to our sons.  And, why not?  Life is too short to wait to learn about these awesome stories.

Anyhoo (to quote our eldest’s favorite colloquialism) I must away.  Till tomorrow.  Pleasant dreams of the Red Masque…

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I heard the office front door again tonight. This is happening more frequently and truly gives me the creeps. I’m not sure who the ghost is but it seems s/he/they don’t mean any harm.

I know there is a craze right now with the paranormal. I’ve been hooked since I was about eight or nine after relatives took a picture of my uncle’s grave and there was an unexplainable orb next to the headstone. Plus, my grandmother’s house always had a creepy vibe.

I’ve felt uncomfortable in certain places. My dorm in college is a good example. The dorms are in the building that was the Pennsylvania Institute for the Deaf and Dumb (1826-93), now called Hamilton Hall at the University of the Arts. If one knows anything about institutions during that time period, you know that they were usually over-crowded, understaffed and full of unfortunate cruel experiences. Sections of that building gave me chills whenever I went through them.

I’ve visited a few historical places in my time and felt uncomfortable in certain spots, later finding out those rooms or hallways were the location of murders or crimes. Now I am not professing to be anything but perhaps more easily creeped out by places with energies or maybe I just like the macabre. But I do know I would prefer it not to be in my home.

I wonder if it is my late mother-in-law. Just dropping by to say hello or to tell us to organize the office. We’re working on it, Mom. What (or who) ever it is, I hope it doesn’t happen again tonight.

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