As you’ve no doubt gathered by this point in my Halloween series, there are some of us who engage with alivelies as sport.
But, honestly, it’s not nearly as horrifying as you might think.
Because the first rule of Haunting Club is: You do talk about Haunting Club. You talk about it until it’s borderline tedious and you’re not really sure why you signed up in the first place, and only once you can state the involved risks and rules in your sleep are you allowed to begin the process of registering as a haunt.
To begin the process, I said.
So, paring away the tedium…because what fun is that…I thought I would tell you just a bit about how a ghost becomes a haunt, and what we do once we arrive, using my own experience as indicative.
My first Halloween in ghost world, I did not pay much attention to haunting. This was largely due to the fact that I spent the evening at a gay strip club in an amateur drag contest, wearing a number of bird-related costumes and unexpectedly catching the eye of a modeling agency. But that’s a different story…
It was only after Marc and I met up with our mates Ed and Jacques to swap Halloween stories that I realised haunting was an actual free-time pursuit and not just the invention of horror writers. I was immediately taken with it, and I asked when their next haunting expedition would be and if I could attend.
“Well, sure, I love an audience,” said Ed. And he does. “But first, you have to read the handbook and pass a bystander exam.”
So, Ed went to fetch the Haunting Handbook.
I have to admit, I was expecting something straight out of a Hollywood film, covered in mysterious runes and full of pressed herbs. But it is nothing so much as a corporate-looking binder, about three inches thick and hole-punched. It can be purchased in leather-bound hardback, mind you, but the rules, restrictions, and taboos of our game are updated quarterly, with new jurisdiction and indicative case studies, so it’s easier to just keep a binder.
Marc took one look at it and determined he was 100% right the hell out. His English wasn’t yet at three-inch-binder-full-of-legalise levels, and there was no existing Latin translation at that point.
(There is now…because he wrote it.)
I was determined, though. I was going to read this damn handbook and take my bystander exam if it killed me, as it couldn’t very well do that.
It took me a month. It was arduous and boring and I found myself reading the worst of it out loud to Marc just to watch his eyes glaze over, as it made my ennui seem more valid. And when I finished it, and Ed allowed that my practise quizzes were on the mark, I paid and sat for my bystander exam—a four hour, plodding, horrible test that requires you go on a practise haunt and not involve yourself, despite the pull of participation.
I got a stamped certificate at the end of it, and Ed and Jacques were allowed to take me on haunts, where I would sit and watch the former tamper with faucets and turn on showers, and the latter disrupt curtains and billow sheets, and delight in the ensuing alively panic.
To note: Ed and Jacques are incredibly advanced ghosts to be able to manipulate elemental, physical spaces. Most ghosts are able to induce a feeling of unease at best.
After a few ventures, I said to them, I’m sold. When do I get to start haunting?
As it turns out, Ed had to sponsor me for membership in the Toronto Haunting Club. Then I had to attend classes, building up curriculum points and cultivating a deeper understanding of the handbook, generally. Once I could prove that I had put in the time and effort, I was able to apply for a Haunting Registration, which, again, required a test.
That whole process took a damn year. And then, when my registration came through, I was allowed to pick a specialty upon which to focus:
I chose Aural Production, which is, in essence, a form of haunting in which you produce the sounds that would accompany manipulations of physical space without actually moving things about. So, I am the haunt that knocks at your door, creaks the floorboards, or pretends to slam the cupboards.
And–let me just dust off this trophy–I am very good at AP.
Once I proved to be a quick study, the moment I had been waiting for arrived…
…I picked a target.
As soon as I did, all the rules of Haunt Club rained down upon me. I had to submit the name and location of my selected target for an intense vetting process. And once all the information was gathered, the board had to make the final call—was this person strong enough to handle some interference?
They were determined to be so.
So, I got a letter in the mail saying that my target and been approved for haunting, but first, please see enclosed addendum to handbook.
Enclosed addendum was another inch of hole-punched material, detailing the identified cultural and spiritual beliefs of my target, as suspected due to ethnicity and about a month of observation. The board required that I read the addendum and then take yet another test, demonstrating that I knew how to get a rise out of this person without altering their fundamental way of life or treading upon them in a manner disrespectful to their beliefs.
In other words:
Good goal—knock on target’s front door once a week for a month and giggle when they jump
Bad goal—simulate the sounds associated with culturally specific demons and drive target into therapy
With this particular target, I simulated the sounds of hard-soled shoes on hardwood floors because their house was entirely carpeted.
In the end, they pulled up the corner of their living room carpet, revealing the original wood beneath, and then scratched their head and went to the public record office to see about the history of their home.
Truly, an excellent target. I was sad to see them go after the six month haunting allotment was up.
And that’s about the long and short of it—learning to haunt takes a very long time, requires that you jump through about a hundred hoops, and if you’re really, really good, culminates in a glorious moment where your target looks up, and asks…is someone there?
Of course, there are exceptions to rules, special cases as regards friends and family, and any number of unregistered, maverick ghosts and energies. But for this post, there’s really only one last thing you should know about haunting:
All bets are off on Halloween.
I’ll see you at sundown…