Well – it’s almost Halloween, I’m hoovering, and I’m thinking about ghosts. (Hoovering’s a good time to think about most things).
I wonder if there’s ever been a ghostly survey? A spreadsheet somewhere, in Exorcel, with columns for the age of ghost at death, indoor or outdoor, private property or public space, self harm, illness, murder, natural causes. And then probably a whole subset of columns under the murder heading: thrown down well, bricked up in wall, shot, stabbed, hanged, clubbed, poisoned (God knows how many subsections that would need), set upon by dogs and so on. You could be scrolling right for eternity. But if they’d set up a handy function on another sheet, you could skip all the detail and go straight for the totals, particularly: Unjustly taken before time, or maybe Unfinished business.
Because they’re the ones I worry about the most.
It’s always struck me as doubly unfair. Not only did they have to suffer an untimely death, but they’ve also been condemned to hang around for all eternity – often in unwholesome environments – scaring the living bejesus out of innocent folk who’ve really got nothing at all to do with it, and who’d be pretty sympathetic, no doubt, once they’d had a cup of tea and a hug and five minutes to think about it.
I suppose you could argue that it’s not about judgement or vengeance at all. That’s a religious spin on the situation. Perhaps it’s much more prosaic than that. Perhaps the spirit is just confused, having died in such a traumatic way that the normal processes of transition have been corrupted, and left the poor soul in a state of blurry limbo, forever skipping back to that time, without understanding why, or that everyone else has moved on, even if they haven’t.
If that is the case, we shouldn’t have anything to fear from these spirits. They can’t do us harm because they’re too confused to do much about it other than weep and wail and wander up and down, blowing whatever shreds of evanescent sense they have blundering through doors that were long-ago bricked up, or rattling a few pots. I suppose you could argue that in their confusion they might think you actually did have something to do with that whole tossing down the well incident, even though the Count had never been known to hoover the stairs in his onesie. So all you’d need to do if it appeared and threatened you would be to stand your ground and say: Spirit – Depart! I am not the Count you think I am, or something, maybe in Latin, and have your Driving Licence ready to prove it. (It’s easy to be brave about these things in the abstract, when you’re hoovering).
The trouble is, of course, ghosts aren’t known for their reasoning skills. They’re primal essences, energy fields in human form, dragging their pain through the deep hollows of the night (I’m imagining Bela Lugosi saying this shit), lost amongst the shimmering lattices of this world and the next, searching, searching, for something lost, so cruelly, so very long ago…
I’m so spooked I’m holding the nozzle of the hoover straight out in front of me. (But hey! It’s a good hoover. It’s got so many settings, one of them’s bound to work.)