Awkward way to kick off the new website.
This is the Afterword I added to Book One of the Spookshow…two months after publishing it. Talk about ass backwards. Ah well…
Do you believe in ghosts?
A simple question. A timeless question. Around how many campfires has it been asked, the questioner and questioned staring at one another across the flames?
My answer? Maybe. Sometimes.
I never used to. Despite a lifelong passion for horror and the supernatural, I never for a moment believed that any of it was real. Or even possible. It was all just good spooky fun. Sort of like church.
Growing up, I had aunts on my dad’s side who believed in all kinds of things. They relished anything spooky and supernatural but most of all, they loved ‘true tales’ of the unexplained. Ghost stories and hauntings and tales of poetic comeuppance. This, I should add, was also the deeply Catholic side of the family so there may be some correlation there. I dismissed them as eccentric. Possibly mad too.
These days, I’m not so certain about the whole paranormal thing. My scepticism has worn away incrementally over the years. Now, as a husband, father and pulp writer, I find that I want to believe more and more. Is it just age, creeping up like arthritis in the bones? Or is it the same impulse that drives the elderly back to the church; the fear of death. Or the judgement that might come after that.
Ah see, there’s that old time Catholicism creeping back in when I’m not looking. Like a mouse facing the coming winter, it will sneak its way into the house through any crevice it can find.
There wasn’t any single event that changed my mind. It was a sliding scale of small events that stacked up over time. To be fair, these things may all have been coincidence that my feeble mind decided to string together as cause and effect.
Five years ago we renovated the basement of our house and I think I may have disturbed something in the process. Tearing out a section of the broken concrete floor, I unearthed a small bone from the musty dirt. Measuring about seven inches long, it appeared to be a leg bone to my untrained and non-expert eye. The bone could have belonged to a medium sized animal, like a goat or a dog. Maybe even a pig. It could also, I believed, be human.
What was it doing under the slab cellar floor of a Victorian rowhouse built in 1896? I had no idea but apparently this wasn’t the first incident of skeletal remains found here. Other small bones had been uncovered years before when the old boiler had been removed to make way for a modern forced-air furnace. According to local lore, it wasn’t uncommon for early 20th century homeowners to bury animal bones under the dirt of their bare-earth cellars. I have no idea why they would do such a thing, nor have I been able to confirm this tidbit of local lore.
It’s possible that this lonely bone is all that remains of some poor lamb butchered for some holiday feast by the original home-owners of the late 1800’s. I simply don’t know. After digging it up, I washed the thing and showed it to my daughters, joking that I had unearthed the ghost of old Mrs. O’ Malley. (Don’t ask me who old Mrs. O’ Malley is, it just sounded right at the time. I do remember reading that children’s classic “The Teeny-Tiny Woman” around that time). Neither daughter thought it was very funny at the time. The missus even less so.
The incidents after that were small but odd. Our youngest would sometimes talk to an imaginary friend. Other times, she refused to go to another floor by herself, scared of something she couldn’t articulate.
The cat, who rules the house, balked at a certain section of the basement, refusing to go anywhere near the spot where the bone was uncovered.
Neither of these two incidents are significant. Cats are just strange and childhood fears are common. The clincher for me was the voice in my ear. A sunny summer afternoon and a quiet house. My wife was out with the kids and I was alone. Sitting on the front stoop after mowing the lawn, something hissed into my ear and I damn near jumped out of my skin. There was no one there (not even the obnoxious cat). But the voice was unmistakeable and as loud as bombs, as if someone had hissed right into my ear. To this day I’m not even sure what the voice said. Something simple and non-threatening. My name or ‘hey’ or ‘you’. But it scared the hell out of me and that awful voice put a chill down my spine like nothing else before.
Unable to shake the creepy feeling, I began drawing connections to the events. The bone and my daughter’s fears. Her imaginary friend and the odd behaviour of the cat in the renovated basement. The awful voice in my ear and old Mrs. O’ Malley.
With a new slab floor poured and a fake hardwood floor installed over that, I had no way of returning the little bone to its original place of internment. Flustered, I buried it in the front garden, down amongst the roots of the aging rose bushes.
After that, the weird incidents stopped. Or my feeble mind stopped drawing conclusions around unrelated events. Yet the erosion of scepticism continued and the possibility of the paranormal became more real and it all led here, to The Spookshow.
Where do stories come from? In my experience, it’s often a mish-mash of stuff stewing in the back of the brain until the pot boils over. One of those elements was a fondness for paranormal reality TV shows. Psychic Kids was a favourite, where adult mediums would mentor kids with psychic abilities learn to understand their own unique talents. Most of the kids featured on that program could see or sense the dead around them and what was fascinating (and heartbreaking at the same time) was how terrifying that would be to a child. Unable to understand what they were experiencing, these children often withdrew into themselves. Their schooling would suffer and they would lose friends and become isolated as the world around them became frightening. The parents of these poor kids were at their wit’s end, unable to understand or help their child. Most episodes ended on a happy note as the adult psychic would give the child tools to cope with the spirit world. I knew from the first episode that I saw that a child with sensitivities would make for a great story but the idea never went anywhere. It stayed in the brain and stewed.
An even bigger influence is The Dead Files. If you’re familiar with that show, you might recognize the influence in the pairing of a psychic and a cop in the Spookshow. I find Amy Allen (the psychic on the Dead Files) really compelling in how she physically reacts to the paranormal entities she encounters. She may not be the most articulate person, and she curses a fair deal, but it’s all part of the charm for me. The cop on the show, a retired homicide detective, uncovers very strange and startling history behind the places the pair investigate. Ghosts, crimes and mysteries…what’s not to love?
So, back to the timeless question. Do you believe in ghosts?
Do you think it’s hokum or is there some truth to it? Have you ever had a paranormal or unexplainable experience? I want to know. Leave a comment or drop me an email.
I love a good ghost story.