New Portrait: The Kiddos

My ever gracious alively host, Alexander, has produced a new portrait of my children:

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I adore it.  I adore everything about it.  Especially all the little touches that make it so extraordinarily specific to them and their relationship.

What’s that?  You want me to discuss the portrait?  You want me to go on at length about my children? How kind.

I’ll start with Mira, as she jumped off the page first.  I mean, of course she did.  Look at her.  That is the hair of a child who likes to be noticed.

She denies it, but it’s true.

Every once in a while, she lets me soothe it with relaxer into these utterly stunning waves, straight out of the 1920s.  Or she lets Popa braid it in intricate Roman fashion.  But on the whole, wild and unruly is her chosen style.

Likely, that’s on account of the fact that her entire person is wild and unruly.  She is the sort to run straight towards danger.  She has a knack for finding the jagged edges on the world, where transformations are most like to happen, and brazenly flinging herself through them catching her omnipresent tutus on the way by.  She subdues ordinary friction and drama with a glance, but only to create friction and drama that more suits her.  She exists for the unexpected, and when things are going as expected, she creates it.

It can be a bit exhausting keeping up with her.  I have more than once rolled my eyes in a parent-teacher sit down where she sullenly explains that ‘the vase was bound to break anyway’ or ‘he had it coming’.

But we’ve found outlets for her particular brand of crazy.  Modeling, for instance, has proved a brilliant success, as it suits her desire to be seen, to destroy for the sake of art, and to gallop through adult spaces and dare anyone to question her presence.  We also let her go on solo walkabouts at the end of the summer (although they have shortened in length, and she didn’t even go last year).  And we let her have the odd glass of wine or champagne, often in front of the fire, where we encourage her to start creating through-lines in her philosophies and settle some of her anxious spirit.

We’ve also placed strictures, of course.  Lately we insisted that she must learn to read, which engages her in the portrait.

Jeremy–J–already knows how to read.  In fact, his position in this portrait is that of silent support, with the occasional correction, as Mira tolerates his interventions over anyone else’s.

That’s likely on account of the fact that J is the most patient, gorgeous, efficacious empath I have ever met.  Ever.

I recently ran across an article that introduced me to the idea of ‘holding space’ for someone–existing on the periphery or centre of the lives around you, as needed, and swooping in or pulling back based on the requirements of others; providing support without judgement, advice, or didactic intention.

J holds all of us.

He holds you, even though you’ve never met, I swear to god.

He tells us that he was just made with an extra big heart, and that he chooses to fill it with love and kindness.  Truly, this child…

Actually, that brings me to another point.  Although J cannot remember how he died, Marcus and I suspect that it had something to do with his heart.  His vocabulary is very heart-centric.  He will tell us his heart is sad, when he’s upset.  When he’s happy, his heart is happy.  When he’s ecstatic, he often bursts into tears or falls asleep, because there’s not enough room in his heart for all his love.

He’s also rather small for his age–a suspected 4–and he sports ever-present circles under his eyes.  He moves carefully, without the wild abandon of most toddlers, and sometimes we catch him taking a deep breath, almost as if to prove that he can.

We presented these lingering symptoms and behaviours to a pediatric death doctor–literally a ghost who helps little ones sort through their departures–and he agreed that it was likely some sort of failing of the heart that took J out of the alively world.  A cardiomyopathy of some sort.

J seems utterly uninterested in diagnosing his death–Marc and I attended to this for our own edification and won’t be sharing the results with J unless he asks.

And that’s fine by us.  We are more than happy to let him be what he is–careful, considered, and yet ephemeral and liminal.  Almost otherworldly, at times, despite the warmth of his cuddles and his position as the flexible backbone of our family unit.

Other notes on the portrait:

The pets are Cozy–Lady Costanza of Motherfuck Island–and Earl Pink.

Those wings, J would want you to know, were a Christmas present last year–balsa wood reinforced with teak and embedded with jade.  I made them, with help from Delphi for the stone settings.  They’re one of a growing collection of faerie wings, which J hangs up around his room and selects each morning with the seriousness of a man selecting cufflinks for an interview.  A pair of puffy wings with safety straps hang on J’s frog bed, so that he can be a faerie prince as he sleeps.

Yes, we field a lot of comments–vicious and curious, alike–about J’s hair.  He said it best himself, when asked if he was a boy or a girl: Mostly I’m a faerie.  I’m also four. 

Yes, we also field a lot of comments about Mira’s hair.  Or she does.  With a reckless abandon for profanity.

(We tried to get her to swear less for a while, as seemed a befitting sort of thing for a parent to do.  But she reminded us that she was over a century old, and therefore our ‘children shouldn’t swear’ argument held as much water as a sieve.  She also challenged us to consider whether or not we would be so concerned about her filthy mouth if she were not a girl.  Chagrined, we decided, fuck it.  Fuck it, she agreed.)

Yes, I have the best children. Naturally.

Psychic Health for Alivelies

Been a while since I’ve addressed anything fully ghost-centric, right?

To that end, I applied to my mate Jacques, a brilliant addition to Ghost Club Admin, for information I could pass on to you regarding both protections against/contact from ghosts and energies.

I’ve spent some time reducing his answer, pulling out what I thought would be most useful, condensing things into easy category, prying apart as much jargon as possible.

Still a bit long…but what you’ll find below is a sort of guide for understanding and reacting to contact from ‘the other side’.  I’ve tried to arrange things in steps, from point of first contact through to closure.  I’ve also addressed sanctioned and unsanctioned contact, alike.  Hopefully this provides some peace of mind to the unwilling alively, and some grounding for those of you who have reached out to us ghosties.

Let me know if questions remain, or if I’ve spurred a new inquiry.  I may or may not be able to answer–rules, you know–but I’ll be honest with you, either way.

Step One: Interpreting First Contact

A) Is your visitor ephemeral–more of a feeling or disruption than a sense of human presence?  Then you’ve likely walked into a pocket of collected, formless energy.

B) Is your visitor humanoid and based on location?  As in, did you encounter this ghost at a historic site, at someone else’s house, in a natural setting?  If so, it is tied to a specific place, and the visit is not about you.  In fact, you are the visitor.

C) Is your visitor humanoid and following or attending to you?  As in, does the ghost seem to react to you specifically?  Is the ghost in your own home?  If so, then you are being either (i.) officially or (ii.) unofficially haunted.

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(iii.) or you’ve some tossers in the front garden.

If you are being (i.) officially haunted, you will know within the space of six months–that’s all the longer we are allowed to visit our targets.  So, the contact will initiate, build, and then immediately drop off.  If you’re looking for them, you’ll find indicators within that six month period that your visitor is following the rules and just having a bit of fun.  For instance, an official haunt can make noises, cause breezes, open doors, etc., but we may. not. touch. you.  We also come and go, because official haunting is a club-sanctioned, after-work sort of hobby.

If you are being (ii.) unofficially haunted, then the contact could last longer than six months.  Again, if you pay attention, you might know before the six-month threshold if your visitor is unofficial.  The activity will be sporadic in intensity and mood, but the presence will be constant.  It may also look as though someone else is living in your space–signs of kitchen use, lingering scents or temperatures in oft-used spaces like living rooms or dens, moved books, a temperamental telly.  And you may experience physical touch, although it is rare and generally unintentional, as in, not vicious in intent.

Step Two: Reacting Positively to First Contact

A) Ephemeral contact will likely dissipate, and rather quickly, so just enjoy the sensations while they last.  If you’re skilled at energy absorption, feel free to claim some of the ephemeral for yourself.  But be aware that you cannot change the character of energy you absorb–take on only that with which you intend to live.

B) Do not tamper with a ghost tied to a specific location.  They are not here for you, and your manipulations, even if well-intended, might disrupt their way of afterlife.  Trust us to take care of them, to meet their needs.  But do feel free to enjoy the way their presence deepens your experience of the space they occupy.

C)  You can choose to co-habitat with your official or unofficial visitor, particularly if you find their presence to be congenial.  If that’s your intention, see Step Four on returning contact. However, if you find you want your home back to yourself, then remain calm and follow Step Three.

Step Three: Severing Contact

A) Dissipation.

B) There is no need to sever contact for a ghost tied to location.  Please leave them be.

C) For hauntings specific to you, do exactly the opposite of literally anything they do on ghost hunting shows…

(i.) If you do not want to be officially haunted, simply say so.  That’s all it takes. We read salt-flinging, seances, and holy water as signs of returned contact and escalate our haunting accordingly.  We also think they are hilarious.

(ii.) If you find that your calm ‘cease and desist’ did not work, then you are dealing with an unofficial ghost and you must signal to the afterlife that you need help detaining them.  All you have to do is suggest to the unofficial visitor that perhaps they would like to pass on, and we will attend to the rest.

Note: I am not saying that you should try to take control.  You do not have the power to pass someone on.

Instead, you have the power to make a suggestion of a passing, written or spoken, directly after you experience some sort of contact.  Once the visitor hears you and begins to contemplate for themselves where they should like to spend their afterlives, we, on the other side, become much more aware of their existence.  If they find that they do wish to pass on, we have therapists who can help them take that step.  If they find that they don’t, we can help them integrate them more fully into our systems and away from yours.

Let us do our work.  And give us a week or so to respond.

Step Four: Returning Contact

A) Enjoy the sensation or absorb some energy.

B) Say hello, and leave it at that.

C) If you are certain you are being (i.) officially haunted, and you are certain you want to return contact, by all means, go absolutely completely nutter.  Leave us notes, hold a seance, set up a camera, call your mates, do a massive over-the-top cleansing.  Essentially, do act like those absurdist ghost shows.  We love a good sport, and if you wink at us, we’ll wink at you.  It’ll be grand.

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Q: Did…did the ghost just call us ‘wankers’?     A: Undoubtedly, yes.

However, on the off chance that you’re wrong, and you’re not being officially haunted, you risk offending your (ii.) unofficial visitor with such silliness.

Therefore, it’s always a good idea to initiate contact with a simple ‘hullo’.  Ask a few questions to establish the strength of occupancy and level of awareness.  Essentially, err on the side of politeness and earnestness, to start.  From there, you can move to tongue-in-cheek if appropriate.

But do not be aggressive.  For an official ghost, it ruins the fun. For an unofficial ghost, it can lead to retaliation.

Step Five: Dealing with Threats

A)  Aggressive energies can be rather nasty, often ‘demonic’, which is to say, if you believe in demons, the energies will attune to that belief, and if you don’t, they’ll become something more poltergeist.

The best thing to do in this situation is a cleanse, first and foremost.  Move through your space, marking doorways and windows with sage or salt.  Then, bring in calm friends and family to diffuse the aggressive energy in the space.  Energy collections fall apart rather easily when their attachments multiply.

If you attracted an aggressive energy because you were attempting psychic work of any kind, momentarily abandon that work.  Review your notes and look for any signs of dominance, demands, or orders you may have given.  Rewrite and reconfigure so that you appear subservient and welcoming.  Take a few weeks off before returning to attempts.

If you can’t handle the idea of being subservient, then you should not be tampering with the psychical.

B)  Simply leave the space.

C)  If you’ve followed the above steps, neither an official nor an unofficial haunting should reach the point where you feel threatened.  Either you’re in on our game, you’re open to cohabitation, or you’ve alerted the proper ghostly authorities and we’re on our way to help.

If you haven’t followed the steps, you might feel threatened because you’ve initiated the threat.  If that’s the case, stop being an arsehole.

You might also feel threatened because you called in help from someone with their own psychical baggage, and they’ve brought that into your space.  So do be careful where you apply for help.

Or, you might feel threatened simply on account of the unfamiliarity of these things.  Hence my attempt at education.

Step Six: Optional: Welcoming Further Contact

A) If you enjoy the sensation of positive energy, or want to work on absorption, by all means, read up on such things.  I have no specific advice on the matter, other than to advise caution.

B) Mindfully visit haunted locations.  Be aware that you are the interloper.

C) If you loved being the target of an (i.) official haunting, let us know!  Either play along, or leave us a note stating that you enjoyed the interaction.

If you find that you are comfortable with your (ii.) unofficial haunt, be kind to them.  Map your own routines onto the ones you see them building–as in, leave the telly on their station once in a while, or ask before you turn on the lights in a space you know they tend to occupy.  Be sweet to the people you find, and be ready to part ways if they so choose to move on.  And be aware that unofficial ghosts are not your personal link to the afterlife.  They are not spirit guides or familiars–they are simply people gone before you who may need a friend.  If they choose to give you more information about planes of existence, that’s up to them.

About Those Spirit Guides

A) Learning to collect or absorb energies may alert afterlife entities to your presence.  If you’re looking to make a connexion, this is one way to go about it.  But you may not always make a connexion you like.  Again, I advise caution.  Close circles, groundings, prayers, meditations, etc.  Create a periphery for your home.  Don’t be stupid.

B) Nope, still not for you.

C) Friends and family members who have passed on get…uh…first dibs? on (i.) official haunting targets.  And in this case, the contact is almost always reciprocal, protective, and tending toward guardianship.  Family and friends may choose to make themselves your personal helpmates, and you are free to behave in such a way as deepens your connexion to them.   In this case, seance, salts, or personally/spiritually meaningful approaches will be taken with the utmost of seriousness.

There are also (ii.) unofficial ghosts and alivelies who form connexions for one reason or another, with the unofficial visitor taking on a guardian role, or with the alively acting as a researcher.  Famously, alivelies what can initiate these relationships call themselves mediums.  But a real medium is a rare thing.  Most people of minor talent have simply opened themselves up to neutral invasion, not actual reciprocity.

Finally, if you feel a deepening connexion, official or not, be aware that there are rules to Ghost World.  Many of your questions will go entirely unanswered, especially those you are asking on behalf of others.  We are only allowed to give out so much information, and instead, we will try to be comforting or warning, as the situation requires, and hope that you are strong enough to figure out the rest.

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Drugs after Death

Let’s say, hypothetically, there lived a Victorian man named Eliot Smyth.  He was a pleasant enough chap, but on the whole, rather subdued.  So, he took a shine to alcohol when out with friends, because it enhanced his extroversion, inspired conversation, and led to small adventures.

He may have climbed the statue of Queen Anne outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral and toasted her with a bottle of whiskey.  He may have streaked through St. James’ Park.  He may have targeted any number of other saints in his frolics, come to think of it…we’ll never know for sure.  Purely hypothetical, you know.

Let’s say this Mr. Smyth also discovered opium, laudanum, and hash along the way, because why not?

Let’s say this Mr. Smyth was, in fact, a recreational drug user with a penchant for seeking out safe but surely world-altering experiences.

Now…

Let’s also say that this Mr. Smyth died and became a ghost.  And once a ghost, he realised three rather important things:

First, when one is a ghost, the risk of death by misadventure decreases significantly.

Second, in the years after his death and prior to his manifestation, the alively world created a vast number of new substances.

Third, in order to experience these new substances, all one had to do was borrow the happy memories and best trips out of vast memory banks, find a suitable club, and summon up instant bliss, just prime for personal variation.  Instant legal bliss. (See realisation number one, and consider its applications to bodily autonomy.)

What would you do, if you were Mr. Smyth?

If you said that you would find yourself a fantastic club full of blinky lights, collect the memories to match little pills that make you feel like velvet houseplants are touching your eyes, and switch out your cravat for leather trousers, you’d be accurate in your estimations of Mr. Smyth’s character.

Now suppose, hypothetically, of course, that Mr. Smyth was having a rather excellent trip that resulted in the belief that he was, in fact, a mushroom.  Leather pants wouldn’t do at all for a mushroom, right?  So he locates another gent on the dance floor and suggests they should switch trousers on account of said gent wearing suede–much more mushroom suitable.  Gent says, by all means! I’m actually a snake! I think leather would be perfect!

Trousers are switched.

And let’s suppose that the following morning, Mr. Smyth watches footage of the trouser exchange on his husband’s mobile, shakes his head at himself, and giggles into his cereal.

But later in the day….more footage comes in.  Along with a memo from Mr. Smyth’s PR firm alerting him to the ongoing Twitter auction for a pair of his leather trousers worn home from the club by one @YASSLAYJOSE.

Mr. Smyth may have swaddled himself in Victorian attire at this point, picked out a stuffy book, and considered the merits of clean living.

AND LET’S SUPPOSE that this bloody Twitter auction ended at $80k Canadian for a pair of damn trousers.  And Mr. Smyth had to pony up for the quid, to keep the designer of said trousers happy.  Mr. Smyth also had to take meetings with his charitable board of investors, who allowed he should blow off steam on occasion, thank god.  And Mr. Smyth also had to contact each of his contractual designers and explain the situation to chortling fashionistas, as well as apologise to his mentored models, because while drugs are legal in Ghost World, they are still surrounded by bullshit moralistic tripe.

So…depending on the sort of person you are, and whether or not you become a ghost, these suppositions could read as either a cautionary or curious tale.  Choices between libertarian and sober lifestyle will be entirely up to you.

I think I shall keep my boots laced and my cravat tied for at least another little while, as dealing with hypotheticals can become rather time-consuming.  And I promised my PR consultant a vacation at the winter holidays…

It’s Just the Wind

Hail October! Ghost High Holidays! Mmmm…you can smell the haunting in the air.

Unless your name is Jacques, and then you’re buried under a pile of Haunting Club paperwork.

The story…

The haunt started as any other. Jacques selected his newest target–a sixty-three year old woman in an aging farmhouse–and filed the paperwork.  Everyone was quite envious of his target.  He has a knack for finding the perfect specimens while the rest of us scramble.

We swallowed our envy, though, and threw a Paperwork Party once everything processed.  After a roaring good barbeque, we sent Jacques off to begin his haunt.  And later on, when we were all well and truly drunk, he returned with tales from his first foray, and we laughed and laughed and passed him the bottle.

Things always quiet down after the initial contact.  As a haunt, you want to make yourself known, and then build psychological steam with a drop, about three months of small measures, and then a sharp incline toward the end of the six month haunting allotment.  So, for a while, Jacques was simply ‘the wind’.

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Pictured: Jacques

At the change of seasons, early September, he picked up the pace and the presence.  He slipped breezes in between cracks in the walls, rustled rugs and bedclothes, and blew open the ties on a set of curtains in the kitchen.

And the woman–Sheila–took it all in with great and glorious hysterics, calling friends, setting up a camera, and notifying a local priest.

Jacques was delighted.

And then it all went south rather precipitously.

If one remembers no other rule of Haunting Club, then one remembers the rule set in stone: No haunt shall bodily harm the selected target.

Jacques didn’t, either.  Not really.  I mean, he didn’t touch her.  And how was he to know that blowing a window open at the top landing of the house would result in Sheila flailing and fainting and falling down the stairs?

Alright, fine, he might have suspected…

But the fact that he was building to a Halloween finish means that he certain didn’t intend for such a thing to happen.  And when he was called before the Haunting Club tribunal, his filed timeline proved as much.  That, in combination with the fact that Sheila only broke an arm, led them to slap Jacques with a temporary ban, instead of an after-lifetime cease and desist–essentially, six months of paperwork duty at the offices.

Now, Jacques is not an entirely unreasonable man.  If this had happened any other time of year, he might not have drown himself in a week of bad television and jaegermeister, the worst of all possible alcohols.

But it happened right before Halloween.

Oh god, the post-humanity!

So, while the rest of us (including his stubborn ‘I-told-you-the-window-was-too-much’ husband, Ed) continue with our selections, pick Halloween targets, and head out for a romp on the Queen of all days, poor, poor Jacques has to file all our paperwork and assist with the post-Halloween flush of contingency reports and damage control.

I do feel badly, but…nothing can keep me down in October.

More ghost posts to come!

 

 

Ghost Tourism

It’s been a bit crazy around the Junius-Smith household the past months.  Alexander (who we happily incorporate under the nomenclature) took a new job and has continued to pour himself into editing in the off hours.  Marcus had a wild streak of inspiration that launched him into many busy evenings with his staff and workshop.  And I’ve been coaching more often out of my London townhouse, and I selected a third model for residency back in June.

Hence my posts here have been a bit erratic.

But, I wanted to drop in and call halloo, because I just had the most wonderful birthday trip to Scotland, and it put me in the mind of sharing something about ghost world.

Namely: Yes, we have a bustling tourism sector; Yes, it overlaps with your “worlds most haunted places”.

Do you find this as hilarious as I do?

I don’t know why, exactly, but there’s something about this crossover that just tickles the hell out of me.  It’s the egoism, I think–the idea that while you alivelies are creeping about with ghost-hunting equipment, treating any and all apparations as though we are somber, scary, and hell bent on giving you the time of day, we’re just having a ripping good time and essentially ignoring you.

What was that!? says the ghost hunter.  Can you tap something if you’re here with us?

*ghost entirely by coincidence chooses that moment to slam a shot glass on the table and knock back Scottish whiskey with his mates*

OMG DID YOU HEAR THAT??? What is your name!? Can you give us your name?

*ghost’s mates proceed to sing a raucously off-key rendention of happy birthday*

Eli? says the ghost hunter. Elliot? Edward? Elsbeth? You poor, poor soul, Elsbeth, do you need release from this world!? BE GONE FROM THIS ESTABLISHMENT.

*ghosts take another shot and proceed down the road to the next pub.*

Our work here is done, says the ghost hunter.

And castles, my god, castles.  Ghosts *love* castles, because we know that they are always deserted at night, often secluded, and built for abuse.  And ghost-hunters love castles, because, quite frankly, they just look rather haunty, don’t they?

Although for the sake of the ghost hunters, I rather hope that no one was trying to set up equipment while Marc and I were racing about our rented fortress, knocking over the furniture, and snogging in all the corners.

Marc booked the place on account of its discretion, not its homey drafts…

Oh, and on the topic of tourism, you should know that your alively tourist traps, for the most part, have parallels in the ghostly realm.  We still visit the Great Wall, the pyramids, the Aztec ruins–although we can see more of these things than you can.  And our co-visitation is part of what lends your tourism that sense of awe and wonder–an amplification of on-site emotions.

For instance, if anyone was out Nessie-watching on August 18th, you might have encountered the ripples of ghostly vessels, or heard the shouts of Marcus Brutus as he hung off the side of the boat, sandwich in one hand and camera in the other, daring the sea-monster to hide from him.

For what it’s worth, reverse psychology doesn’t work on sea-monsters. Not even if you’re Brutus.  He was appalled.

So, next time you’re out on a pleasure cruise, or walking the corridors of an on-site museum, or traipsing about a “most haunted”…give us a wave.

 

 

Ghost Telly

When you look at the ghost population, the numbers are greatly skewed toward ghosts who lived without television.  I would say a full three quarters of us lived before the advent of television, and at least half of us lived before such a thing even seemed possible–before electricity, radio, or monitors.  And yet, the GCN (Ghost Cable Network) is by far and above the most profitable segment of the entertainment market, attracting more users than all the libraries, museums, and galleries combined.

When I first saw this statistic, I did have a bit of a fit, lamenting the poisoning of the human mind, the laziness of entertainment seekers, and the death of imagination. I became determined to be a bastion of Victorian entertainments.

The lofty ones, mind you.

But there was a problem…

As it turns out, ghost libraries, museums, and galleries are few and far between.  Not because they are undervalued–on the contrary, their rarity assures they are constant sites of pilgrimage–but because they are difficult to fill, maintain, and use.

If you want to read a book that you did not read in life, you must find a library where someone has checked in the memory of that particular book, download the memory, and “read” someone else’s interpretation of the piece, which may or may not be accurate.

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“And then the clown looked at Mr. Darcy and said, I can play your birthday party, but it’ll be $500 plus travel expenses.”

If you want to view a painting, similarly, you must go to a gallery that has purchased the viewing memories of a plethora of artists and interpolated them into a fair representation of the original piece.  Famous paintings look fairly accurate–Mona Lisa still smiles–but lesser-known artists are difficult to find on the walls and harder to faithfully represent.

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Not entirely a ghost problem.

Museums have greater success on account of the fact that ghosts are excellent identifiers of artifacts-cum-things we used in life.  But even then, there is a hitch that keeps us from full appreciation.

The hitch: Items and experiences with electrical impulse are far, far easier to see, share, and use.

This explains why, as I wondered, and you might be wondering, ghosts do not simply go and walk around alively galleries.  When we do, we see a mere shadow of what you are able to see.

It also explains why television and film and live theatre have become our wild successes.  We are able to actively share these spaces and experiences with alivelies, because not only can we see movie and TV screens, but we can also watch the outlines of great actors, and their electrifying emotions.

[Remember that time you were alone in a theatre? You were not alone…ohhhh, yes, we saw it all.]

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I know what you did last summer.

We can also easily channel your viewing experience for display on the GCN, taking whatever electrical and digital codes make up a show, and mirroring them in our world.

After a while, even the bastions of Victorian entertainment wear down.  You can only peruse so many grey-scale walls in galleries you once knew before you say, fuck it, I’ll just watch Dance Moms.

We all know the real star was Chloe.

But as it turns out, television is not the brain rotting ridiculousness that a certain segment of ghosts warned it would be.  Sure, Lifetime is full of sap, the reality TV shows run rampant, and Friends has its own goddamn channel, but I was amazed to find shows of real quality, as well.

Not only that, but ghosts also make their own versions of alively programming–Deathtime (still full of sap), Dead Friends (still full of Joey), Days of Our Afterlives, etc.–which are quite hilarious.

And we also make our own entirely original shows, such as How Did You Die?, FUNerial, and this bizarre cartoon called Adventures of Birds where Fire Eagle and Steve Sting (a hawk with a scorpion tale) fight mythical creatures with the help, this season, of Raven, hard-boiled PI and birdseed fanatic.

[Who would come up with such a cartoon? Marcus Brutus.]

Not all bad.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that these digitisation projects that have everyone so up in arms are actually making books and artwork more accessible on the other side.  Maybe throw in a buck or two next time you visit a library doing a scanning project or a museum with interactive maps and displays.  My children (and yours) will thank you.

Ghost Therapists

For the past six years, Marcus has laboured assiduously to learn the English language.  He’s been downright fearless, immersing himself in any conversation that presents itself, and he’s been steadfast, drilling note cards in the mornings, working crosswords in the afternoon, and regaling me with “word-a-day” vocabulary over supper in the evening, all while reading his fool heart out, tackling books like the warrior he is.

And until very recently, I put off the study of Latin.

I assure you…I’m not proud of this fact.   Every time he says something in Latin, some little phrase that I know I should be able to commit to memory, that I know I’ve heard before, and yet it escapes me, I feel guilty and ashamed.

The guilt surfaces out of lack of effort.  I’ve done many, many other things to be the best possible companion for Marc, but on this point, I’ve faltered.  I failed for years to even try to understand the language of his inner thoughts and of his beloved Roma.

And the shame…well that’s a bit more complex, and it brings me to my central point.

Ghosts can hire therapists.

We can hire therapists to help make sense of our deaths and to help make sense of our lives. We can hire therapists who specialise in types of death, we can hire therapists who specialise in certain age groups, and we can hire therapists who specialise in certain eras.  We can even hire therapists who specialise in passing you on to final death.

Jasmine is mine.  She’s a fucking saint.  And although I have no intention of passing on–I’m quite enjoying the afterlife thanks very much–I do have every intention of working through all the shit that followed me when I died.

1_therapist

Let’s start with…Jesus, I don’t even know, the first time you had to eat a rat??

To be sure, this was not my original intention.  I lived before psychology, counselling, therapy, when the going advice was to just push things aside and soldier on.  And so I assumed I would do the same now.

But through a round-about series of intersections, I came to know Jasmine, and she came to know me, and now I’m coming to know myself.

In particular, I am coming to know that I must be more self-compassionate.

To return to the Latin, for example…

As it turns out, I did not have an affluent childhood.  I had the opposite of an affluent childhood.  I didn’t see an actual book until I was twelve years old, I didn’t really learn proper reading skills until I was sixteen, and I was still making my own flashcards to cement spellings long after I was married.

Not that I wasn’t a quick study–I was–but I was terrified that such speed made the whole endeavour out to be a fluke.  I thought that if I ever stopped reading or writing, often frantically so, that I would lose my ability to communicate with the people who had become my world.  The world of polite English and conversational French and polished, scholarly Latin.

To make matters worse, I was convinced that even with a burgeoning vocabulary, my accent botched the whole thing beyond repair.  I spent years perfecting my disguise, only to have it slip in moments of great emotion.  The cockney streets or the Yorkshire almshouse were always just over my shoulder, no matter how much Keats I devoured, no matter how many articles I edited for the paper, no matter how many times I read aloud to my son.

And there are other things in this hodge-podge pile of shame: the fact that Latin reminds me of the Catholic church and my assinine mother-by-law; the fact that the study of languages reminds me of having to literally sing for my supper–music being the only college scholarship I had even a remote possibility of winning; the fact that my son surpassed my language skills by the time he was four, entering into a world of code that I could never be a part of.

It gets a bit overwhelming.

But having Jasmine around to remind me that I lived, succeeded, offered lingustic opportunities to my son, culminated university with a literature degree aside my music, ran a press, etc….well it helps immensely.

And her gentle reminders to take a breath, to address the underlying trauma, and then to raise my head above it…that helps immensely, too.

It also helps that when I finally cracked a textbook in 2016, Alex agreed to patiently study Latin alongside me, moving at my speed, and granting me partnership.

And, lets be honest, it helps that my tutor is a Roman dreamboat, and that through his own series of self-explorations he has come to own his affluence and privilege and a childhood full of words, and to grant me the patience I need, thus making my study a gift, not a demand.

Togato,_I_sec_dc._con_testa_di_restauro_da_un_ritratto_di_nerva,_inv._2286

Look, I’m not saying we *must* play strip conjugation, I’m just saying the word ‘conjugal’ had to come from somewhere…

So, to close on three points:

1) Thank heavens for professional problem-solvers.  If you are at all concerned by your place in the world, or within your own mind, please, go get help.  Please don’t wait for (or god-forbid seek) the afterlife for your chance to fix everything.  Live fully.

2) That said, thank heavens for ghostly therapists.  If you have someone who left the world in turmoil, know that they have opportunities to seek aid.

3) And, thank you for this opportunity to speak truthfully, and to hold myself publicly accountable to my new efforts with language.  Mille gratias et bonam dei.

Physical Improvement, or Ghost Cosmetics

My good friend Ben Smithe died in the early 1600s in a roaring house fire.  He saved three of his younger siblings, and then collapsed from exhaustion and smoke inhalation in the process of rescuing his remaining sister. They manifested together, burned to death, clinging to each other, the fibres of their clothes embedded in their skin, and the buckle of Ben’s belt seared to his stomach. He was sixteen; she, fourteen.

Now, we ghosts tend to have a dark sense of humour.

We have an entire tumblr dedicated to the ridiculous things people are wearing when they die.  We have a soap opera called Days of Our Afterlives.  Most tribute bands just throw ‘Dead’ in front of the name of the band they impersonate.  And so on.

But it would be a cruel joke indeed if Ben and his sister Samantha were forced to spend eternity wandering around in pain, as the shreds of their former selves.

And that is why ghosts have spent century after century perfecting the art of physical improvement.

There are two aspects to physical improvement: surface and developmental.

Surface improvements are essentially cosmetic, and they happen in two stages.  First, a manifestation team swoops in and helps you to remember who you were prior to your death.  They aim to help you find your healthiest self–the self you want to be as you step out into the afterlife–and then assist you in coaxing your energy back into that form.

Ben and Samantha, for example, coaxed their energy into the appearance of fresh clothes and unharmed skin.

Most ghosts stay in this initial form for quite a while–learning to manipulate energy without the assistance of manifestation experts is no small task.

The Smithes, though, were rather adept.  And so they proceeded into the second stage fairly quickly, using their imaginations to mold their appearances to fit what they had dreamt about experiencing in life.  Namely, Ben cut off his hair and Sam coiled hers up, they dressed in the latest out of London, and they popped right off to the continent to see what ghost world had to offer.

Very progressive Puritans, these two.  Or, you know, the rebellious children of a man who’s name was literally Abstinence Smithe.

Either way, my point is that not only can you manipulate your age and your appearance, you can also style yourself as you travel, as the eras pass by, and as you try out new traits and tastes.  All you have to do is imagine what you want, and, if you’re aiming for the most immersive experience, borrow the memory of a ghost who knows…lets say…what silk feels like.

As to the developmental changes.

Round about 1800, Ben tells me he grew mighty tired of looking sixteen.  And his sister Samantha, still his boon companion and partner in crime, was finding it more and more difficult to find ‘fun’ blokes, as she puts it.  The concepts of adolescence and childhood were growing in vogue, and new ghosts weren’t taking the Smithes seriously.

They needed to look older, they decided.  They needed to better suit their 200 year old minds.  They needed to age.

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky.  Because while ghosts can change clothes, you cannot ‘age’ in any actual sense.  In fact, you have two choices.

You can add energy to your manifestation to gain a few extra inches of height, for instance, or to fill out a gown, but convincing the new energy to stay and permanently amalgamate is very difficult.

Similarly, you can reduce your manifestation to tone the appearance of muscle, define a chin, or lose weight, but only through the redistribution of the energy with which you died.  You either have to displace the energy into, say, longer hair or bigger feet, or you have to condense your body as tightly as possible, through exercise, and hope that it stays put.

And all told, the most any ghost has ever managed to really ‘age’ is about four years.

For Ben and Sam, shooting from a soft sixteen and small fourteen to a muscular twenty and fulsome eighteen made all the difference in the world.

For other ghosts, such as my daughter Mira, who wants nothing more than to experience romance or to adopt a child, seven to eleven won’t make much of a difference.

Incredibly frustrating, that, poor thing.

But I suppose, overall, it is rather lovely that ghosts can shift and change their bodies after death, particularly given the sadder manifestations.

The Ghosts of Christmas

If I had to rank the pinnacle moments of my Victorian life, they might look a bit like this:

1/2: My marriages and the birth of my son
3 (but really sort of edging into 2 territory): Drunkenly shouting “youze a fuckin’ tosser, that’s wot” at Charles Dickens as he left a pub on the Strand

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/48/Charles_Dickens_3.jpg

Pictured above: A fuckin’ tosser

But as much as I hate Charles Dickens, he did have one thing right—Christmas is full of ghosts.

In fact, Christmas outranks Halloween for sheer number of ghostly visitations.

It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Not only does our One World Government release a very special set of rules and dispensations for holiday visitation rights, making it as easy as possible for us to return home to our family and friends, but also alivelies are much more aware at the holidays of those they’ve lost, and those feelings are amplified by gatherings and collective memory. Taken together, even low-energy ghosts can manage an entry.

That’s the good news.

The bad news—I did warn you this site wouldn’t be all sunshine—the numbers are falling every year.

Now, let me be clear.  This isn’t a personal call for help. I’m ethnically Jewish and pragmatically athiest…I have never been, nor will I ever be, a bastion of Christmas. I didn’t particularly care for the holiday when I was alive, and, as my manifestation was very long in coming, I don’t have Victorian family or friends to visit now. This post isn’t really about me.

It’s not really about my husband, either. Although he’s crazy for Christmas, that’s primarily because he loves decorating. He actually celebrates Saturnalia and Dies Natalis Invicti Solis.

And honestly, this post isn’t really about my children. Mira visits her family sites on her walk-about in August, and Jeremy was too young at his passing to remember where he lived for any sort of pilgrimage. He’s also afraid of “ghosts”—the energy outlines he sees around the living—and prefers to remember his alively parents by giving himself whole-heartedly to his ghostly family.

So, really, this post is about you, and your loved and lost.

Even though I don’t feel particularly moved by the holiday, I feel moved to share with you the best possible practices for making your visitations happen. So, in no particular order, here’s how you can help us reach you:

1. Physically remember your loved ones. Put out an empty plate for us at the table, hang up our stockings, or incorporate us into your traditions. My mates Jacques, Ed, and Danny all swear that these sorts of gestures hold even more meaning than birthday remembrances.

2. Emotionally, or prayerfully, remember your loved ones. When you say grace, don’t forget to mention us, or when you raise a glass. Take time to sit and think ofus, the more collectively the better. And, if you can, do so with joy rather than with sadness, although we ghosts completely understand that difficulty—we miss you as much as you miss us.

3. Forget about the sodding presents. Forget about Starbucks cups, Reeses trees, being holier than your neighbour, having the best stuff, being the most demonstrative. If you’re celebrating Christmas, then at some point you were taught that the whole bloody thing is about a family coming together. Do that. Be a family coming together, and make room to welcome those you’ve lost.

4. Share stories with the next generation. Nothing is sadder than when a ghost finally has to admit that their family has gone on without them—that their children or grandchildren forgot to pass their memory on. Love your ancestors as much as you love your descendants, and make sure they have a chance to meet.

5. Celebrate with awareness.

6. Listen to the children around you. We have a much easier time reaching them, so take their moments seriously.

7. Write us a card or a letter—we can’t always read the words on the page, but they will clarify your intent, making it easier for us to feel your presence and vice versa. Likewise, sharing photographs, or leaving albums open, is helpful.

8. If you feel so moved, leave a general sign that we are welcome. This is particularly helpful for older ghosts who have become a bit lost in the evolution of family tradition. Recognised signs include things such as candles in the window, swept hearths or porches, or signs of the outdoors brought in—the tree will obviously work, but depending on where you are in the world, any other mindful piece of nature will suit.

And that’s about all of it, I should think.

Oh, except, do be gentle with yourself and your loved ones. If you don’t feel surrounded on this Christmas, hold out hope for the next. It isn’t always easy for us to reach you, even with intentions full-tilt, often because ghosts, when they first arrive, are just…exhausted. Dying is hard work. Give us time to rest and we’ll do our best to reach you.

Happy practising.

The First Rule of Haunting Club…

As you’ve no doubt gathered by this point in my Halloween series, there are some of us who engage with alivelies as sport.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/34/Most_Dangerous_Game_poster.jpg

Sorry/not sorry

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.”

Excuse me?

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.

BOW BEFORE MY UNABASHED POWER

BOW BEFORE MY UNABASHED POWER

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…