Recently a lot of people having been asking me if I have ever seen a ghost or if I believe in ghosts, because of the publication my new paranormal thriller for teen NEARLY DEPARTED. Its about a group of fifteen year olds in the urban inner city who are forced to come face to face with the supernatural that surrounds and threatens them.
When people ask me either of those questions I always answer yes, yes I believe I have seen a ghost and yes, as a consequence, I believe that ghosts are real. By that I don’t just mean the remnants of a living soul somehow left imprinted in time, but also the ghosts of memories, or events and history that have had such a deep and vibrant effect on their surroundings that they leave indelible traces all around them.
I like to collect old things and objects and in my office I have a small collection of items that when I picked them up resonated with the lives that they have past through. A music box from the 1930s, a water colour of Venice from the 1900s, a flamboyant Art Deco vase, a small evening bag from the late 1890s, some jet Victorian mourning jewellery, and a tiny 1920s diamond ring amongst other things. None of them have very much intrinsic value but when I found them in some flea market or antique shop I felt them vibrate with life, with memories. Once eighty years ago someone sat in the shade of a Venetian alley and laboured over recreating that sunny morning, white washing hung across a canal, against a hot blue sky. When I look at that painting I see not only the painting, but also the painter, I feel the sun on the back his neck, the sweat trickling down his back. I imagine he is a young man, seeing a little of Europe before life proper begins. I’m not psychic, I don’t know that – no long dead painter has dropped by to fill me in. But old things fire my imagination, spinning stories all around them. I imagine the heart fluttering delight that someone must have felt when her beloved presented her with that little diamond thing, fitted for a finger much slimmer than mine. Perhaps it was an engagement ring or maybe a token of secret love, but in any event how its owner must have treasured it, perhaps not sleeping at all that night, dreaming of the promise of a new life the gift of that little ring brought with it.
Best of all I love my Art Deco vase. It doesn’t have any value, but it used to belong to my grandmother. She must have had it from new, perhaps it was a wedding present. I can see it sitting on a polished table filled with flowers. My grandparents didn’t have much, they were a working class couple – but she cared for her vase and filled it with flowers all of her adult life and now when I look at it I see my grandmother, not as the lovely wonderful old lady that I knew in my childhood but as a young woman, starting out married life, her first ever vase on her first ever table in her very own dining room. I think, I feel, when I look at her vase, that she must have been very proud.
For the same reason I love looking at old photographs. Nothing is sadder than coming across a album full of photographs languishing in an auction house or a antique shop. I look at those faces staring back at me, often in their sunday best, features composed, hair brushed and faces washed and I feel sorry that there is no-one left to remember their names, to remember who married who or who grew up to do what and how many children they had. A proud young man in a uniform with no-one left to remember if he ever made it home again, if old age ever touched that youthful face. Turn the page of an abandoned album and you are confronted with moment after frozen moment of lost lives and sometimes if you look hard enough you can see the room behind the lense, discern that almost smile that some long gone child has been instructed to suppress.
And sometimes, in an ancient building or an old house when you walk where hundreds of others have walked over decades, sometimes centuries or put you hands on a stair rail or a stone wall that has steadied many hands you can sense the memories of those that have walked there before you, their minds preoccupied with the same worries and hopes that preoccupy us as we go about our daily lives and which one day will also only be memories, ghosts and smudged fingerprints that maybe, some day, someone passing by might wonder and guess at.
I do believe in ghosts, I have seen one. But you don’t need a paranormal experience to find ghosts all around you, just look and listen hard enough and you will find them.