Ludi Romani

Today’s post is a birthday present for Mr. Marcus, so a very many happy returns to him.  Felicem diem natalem, my love.  Ubi te gaius, ego gaius.

And, today’s post is a story, starring the aforementioned–his favourite kind of story.  In particular, this is the story of Marc’s appearance at the 2017 Ludi Romani.

For context: The Ludi Romani or “Roman Games” were/are about a week long set of festivals intended to praise Jupiter.  They are Marc’s favourite set of games, for the pure and dear reason that he loves Rome and its celebrations and its people to the point of tears.  He loves the dramas, and the memory of attending them with Porcia and then discussing them long into the night over vino.  He loves the sheer number of athletic contests and the feeling of surrounding himself with people who honour their bodies and so honour their city.  He loves the opening and closing ceremonies, over which he presides as a priest of the state.  And most of all, he loves the chariot races.

In his day, Marcus didn’t race in official games.  In fact, he was known as ‘that bloke what adores his horse too much to enter into contest,’ on account of the winning horses often being sacrificed to the gods.

But he’d race Nox in unofficial games.  And he’d win.  Of course he would.

So now, without the looming threat of sacrifice, Marc and Nox race at the Ludi Romani, filling out their triga–chariot of three–with Stella and Luna, two mares.

It’s quite the striking chariot team, must say.  Nox is inky black, hence the name, and he’s impressively large for a race horse.  In fact he’s technically not meant for the chariot–he’s for war.  But he loves running, and Marc loves running him.  Stella and Luna are starlight white, and they are races horses, sleek and lightning fast and team-oriented to offset Nox’s arrogance.

You might say to me that horses can’t be arrogant, and yet you haven’t met Nox.

And then, of course, there’s Marc.

It’s a birthday post…allow me to dote…

There are handsome men in the world.  And then there is Marcus, who just scoffs at handsome on his way into utterly riveting.  There’s not a person out there who doesn’t stop what they’re doing to regard him.  Might be on account of his stature–not especially tall, but bold as can be, with shoulders for days.  (Takes forty-odd kisses to cross them entirely.)  Or it might be his features–hooded eyes, overtly broken nose, challenging lips, top thin and bottom full, and pox scars in a traceable topography.

But I happen to think it’s his personhood what does it.  The way he exudes pride, confidence, humor, genius, and joy.  I’ve seen people literally reverse direction to follow him in a daze, like he might drop a scrap of personality for the pouncing, or they might gain something from seconds more proximity.

I’m not sure they don’t…

Oh, and he’s got a smile like a sideways tornado, crimped at one corner and all teeth after that, a little bit controulled and a little bit recklessly abandoned.

Being around him is being on the constant verge of a shiver.

Christ…anyway…

So, we’ve got this team of three, we’ve got this charioteer, and they, of course have a nemesis:  Bill.

That’s right, Marc’s nemesis is a ghost named Bill, who lives in South Carolina on a picturesque farm with his adorable wife, raggedy garden, shimmery little fish pond, and an unassuming, dappled race horse named Apples.  When we went to stay with them–it’s a hilariously love/hate relationship on Marc’s side, and nothing but love from Bill–I ate no fewer than five different kinds of pie, petted something like twenty rabbits, and fed Apples his namesake without him looking at me like I was swine.

But Bill’s sharp.  He’s one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to controulling his energy in tandem with that of his horses, and he’s inventive as hell with his ‘walling’–sort of engineering energy to stay in place and behave inanimately, which is excessively important if you’re going to do things like build chariots out of it.  Plus he’s redesigned things to be aerodynamic, rather than traditionally Roman, and he’s the right size for racing–about the size of Bilbo Baggins, with slightly less paunch (but not by much, recall the pies.)

So, Marc, my strapping, traditional, exuberant Roman, did truly and very well meet his match in this man.

In fact, Bill beat him in 2016.

We speak of this often in the Junius-Smith household, but only in very specific ways, usually laced with Latin that I chose not to translate.

Therefore, Marc was out for blood in 2017.  He arrived at the Ludi Romani in full Roman splendour, all toga and swagger and opening ceremonies pomp.  He spent the first days of the game allowing a posse to collect around him–you know the type–doing very little talking himself, but watching his reputation make its way through the grounds.

I, for my part, let him have this.  Rather, I want him to have this.  There’s no harm in it, not really.  Marc’s arrogance is always tempered by his quick memory for the accomplishments of others, and he spends as much time lecturing his groupies on what it means to be a Roman as he does letting them jockey for space at his side.  He shouts out praise to challengers as he goes, compliments artisans on their contributions to the state, and never, never loses track of me or the children.

Additionally, I think he’s glorious in his Roman element, and I enjoy having a few occasions in the year where I allow myself to be mesmerised.

He won the time trials.  Not by much, if you ask the referees, but you know, by leagues, all the same.

And then came the final race.

Marc competes in his other events–sword, mace, javelin–in soldier’s leathers.  You’re welcome for that image.  But for the chariot, he races in state, toga whipping behind him, crimson and white in alternation.

Bill races in something akin to an aviator’s jumpsuit, with goggles and light boots, and they nod to each other.

I see Marc survey the field of competitors–‘competitors’–and spare a bit of pause for this arsehole who insists on calling himself The Black Night and dressing like something out of Medieval Times, TM, but manages a good race, nonetheless.

And then he moves into his chariot stance, which somehow combines grace and fluidity with every scrap of power he holds, all the way down to his bones.  Nox does the same–it’s like they’re the same entity sometimes.  They take off with the trumpet.

The field is long, but the race itself is rather short.  Chariot horses aren’t built to run themselves into the ground at length, which is part of the edge Marc has with Nox.  He can let all the other triga run themselves down, and then bolt through the pack and hold steady at the front.

Bill’s advantage is that his chariot is sleek enough to cut through the wind, so he rests in second until Marc comes galloping past, and then takes second to him until he sees his opening to attempt a coup.

This year, The Black Night–yes, The–is up there at the front, too, but he’s racing on his own, off to the side of Marc and Bill.

Marc is just scarcely to win.

And then, on the other side of the track, so far to the back of the competitors that he’s nearly parallel to Marc across the way, a charioteer loses controul of his triga as his lead throws a shoe.  The whole thing was awful.  The horse sort of screamed as it went down on its own leg, and then the other horses tried to halt, only to have the chariot slam into them.  It went up on its nose, throwing the charioteer across the whole mess, rolling him down the track under the splinters of his chariot.

I’m completely transfixed on the sight, in all its flailing, scrambled energy.  Bloody memories unfold onto the track like a grotesque film.

Except…there’s Marc.

He’s let go his hold on his reins and taken off like a bolt across the green, shedding his toga along the way so he’s all tunica and muscle.  Nox, Stella, and Luna have slowed down and veered off to the side, kicking the chariot back off their heels as they come to a halt.  Bill’s right there with him.  He’s not nearly as fast as Marc, but he’s pumping across the green just as quick as he can, heading for the mess of horses while Marc goes for the man.  The Black Knight, behind them, hollers in dismay and crosses the finish line without quarry.  No one even begins to care.  The entire stadium is on their feet for Marc and Bill.

I know from video playback that the following things happened:

First of all, I went full on aggressively proud.  I’m right at the edge of the box seats shouting to anyone who will listen, ‘That’s my husband! That’s my love! That’s Rome, right there, that’s Rome’!!

And he says I’m a terrible hype-man…

Then, I’m over the edge of the box, rushing down the stairs and vaulting over the edge of the field.  Marc sees me coming, and calmly puts his hand to the fallen charioteer’s chest to finish the energy redistribution, takes a second to stop and put his forehead to Bill’s–the crowd goes wild for that, knowing Bill just won Roman equality–and then Marc’s striding toward me, just letting me fly at him from down the track.

I slam into him without even slowing down–he can certainly handle that, he’s built like a tree–and then I’ve got my hands on his face, just kissing the hell out of him, right there in front of all the whole stadium and all its horses.  I had no idea anyone was even there, at that point.  I was so blindingly proud of him.

I mean, you would expect, if a student of history, that Marcus Junius Brutus might very well espouse integrity, justice, and actions that benefit the greater good instead of self-elevation.  You would expect him to be grand on occasion–full of explosive chivalry on behalf of his beloved city and its citizens.  You would expect that.

But then you see it–you watch Marc discard all his trappings and bravado for intense concentration and sincere fellowship, and it just cuts you down.  You wonder if you would do the same, if you really do understand honour, and if you’re really quite sure you’ve a firm grasp on your beliefs.  That’s the humbling bit.

I’m just completely undone, in awe, and if the children hadn’t slammed into Marc next I might have done any number of other things I’d later see on camera.

He hugs them up, and buries his face in Mira’s wild hair, and I’m hit with yet another wave of emotion, watching them restore him after his gesture and telling him they love him for it.  I’m amazed, in that moment, that I’m his husband, and that he’s the father to our children.

I know this is going to sound terribly self-satisfied, but I imagine any blissfully married couple has felt similarly, so we’re all in good company here…

Sometimes I look at Marc, and I try to imagine what it would be like to not be married to him, or to even be friends with him.  To not have Marc in your life in any way.  And it’s bleak.  God, it’s the worst thing.  The idea of being exterior to his light, instead of filled with it?  It’s the loneliest thing I’ve ever thought of.

I digress…

You can see, on camera, the exact moment where I pull myself together and realize that I’ve vaulted the edge of a box seat, run out into the middle of a stadium, and landed in a Hollywood-level snog-fest before a sea of strangers.  My British takes over, and I’m all, giving the crowd a little wave, straightening my hair, tugging my toga back into place, blushing like mad.  I’m also glaring sternly at Marc over the tops of our children’s head, because he’s looking at me like he’s onto me–he’s so onto me–and he’s going to give me a very particular sort of hell for ever pretending I was above Roman spectacle and ancient acts of valour.

I am going to like this hell he gives me, but I don’t need the entire stadium to know it…

And everything after that is just pure, and dear, and Roman–like I said, exactly why Marc loves the Ludi Romani.  He refused to redo the race so The Black Knight could have a ‘fair’ win, on account of it would be cruel to the horses.  He seated Bill across from him at the closing ceremonies and created him as a honourary citizen of Rome, whilst Bill clutched his wife’s hand and tried not to cry.  He fulfilled all the donation requests that attendees scratched into lead sheets and tossed in the fountain.  He handed out medals for the events, checked in on the fallen charioteer and offered lessons, and accepted gifts from the artisans and food from the farmers.

Since the event…well, he’s back to his more modern self.  T-shirts with absurd proclamations, hoodies with dino-stego-croco-shark spikes on them, behaviour casual, suppers cooked, children snuggled.

But I find I am more aware than I was prior of the actual, tangible strength of his convictions.  More aware that his niceties and joys and absurdities are gifts he gives to me, to foil the intense sincerity with which he rules his inner life.

More in love with him than ever.

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A Brief Halloween Q&A

Q: Is Halloween actually popular in Ghost World, or is that just a stereotype?

In Ghost World, Halloween is high holidays.  More ghosts celebrate Halloween than Christmas–some 75-80% of ghosts.  And we have the accompanying to-dos that precede any major holiday: consumerism, dinners, costume parties, the like.

We also have a massive spike in Haunting Club recruitment September-November.

Not that you need to be a registered member to go haunting on Halloween—it’s the one night of the year that anyone can go out to haunt passersby without a licence.  But if you want to enter someone’s home to watch an advanced member of Haunting Club enact their grand finale on a groomed target, then you have to have passed a bystander exam, which takes at least a month of study.  And when you are inevitably smitten by the performance, you end up plodding through another month of paperwork to win a sponsor and start your haunting coursework.  Hence, the three month upsurge.

Q: How do ghosts celebrate?

It’s culturally specific in the same way that alively Halloween is.  And it also varies by generation and received family tradition.  But there are a few tendencies that seem to cross the board.

For instance, there is plenty of ‘candy’ a.k.a. colourful nodules of bright, pulsing, riveting energy that are specially formed to remind ghost children of the sugary tastes of alively candy and activate positive, exuberant emotions.

And almost all of us go haunting in some form.

Q: Are the veils truly thin on Halloween?

So, as you may have gathered by now, yes.  Yes, they are.

On the one hand, you have all these little ghostlings flailing about full of ‘candy’, their outlines and energies heightened by the experience, sparking through the veils.

And on the other hand, you have adult ghosts who have either trained to haunt targets, or who plan to take advantage of the open season.  The combination of intention turns the veil to nothing more than mesh for about three hours on either side of midnight as October passes into November.

Q: Will we haunt you, specifically?

That depends.  But in short…

If you are out and about for Halloween and in a public space, then you’re fair game, but unlikely to be much bothered–haunting is difficult work and the unlicenced are also the unpracticed.

If you’re out in a cemetery or battleground or whathaveyou, then you might witness a haunting, generally with some visuals or a sense of heightened energy brought on by the collective locale.

If you live in or visit a home with a co-habitant ghost–a ghost that shares space but does not intentionally haunt, and therefore does not require a licence–you might see an uptick in their activity because of the circulating energies.  It’ll pass.

If you’ve been targeted, oh you better believe we will haunt the shit out of you.  What is Halloween even for if not that?

Q: Is Halloween evil or demonic?

No.  Absolutely not.  I cannot say this enough.

Halloween, for ghosts, is one part joy and one part nostalgia–a time to play and a time to remember how we played on the other side.  It’s about connecting, to each other and to willing alivlies.  It’s about silly costumes and happy (or tearfully candy-crashed) children.  It’s lovely.

 

Ghost Baseball

Earlier in the summer, the Toronto branch of Haunting Club made with a few new members from the states.  Among them was this freckled, tan, blonde, too-cute-to-be-straight, dripping-in-a-southern-drawl, tall cowboy version of my first husband.  The new bloke’s name?  Kanga.

Well, he’s not really named Kanga, but we call him that on account of his name is Joey, and he bounds about with excessive energy as Americans often do.  (Whoever happens to be his girlfriend takes on the moniker Roo….)

Anyway, I immediately developed a crush, because of course I did.  And while I was head over heels, I allowed Kanga to cajole me into playing the most absurdly boring game in the entire world.

Baseball.

Fuck me.

Just to be clear, ghost baseball is not at all like vampyre baseball.  There are no excessively powerful swings, no waiting for thunder claps to hide our strikes, no climbing of trees to catch balls.

There was however a pinched-faced, grumpy British bloke pretending to be an American for a while, and it wasn’t R-Patz, this time.

baseball

That is the face of a man who regrets the majority of his most recent decisions.

Now, imagine my dismay when I figured out the mechanics and hit a home run at our first…bout?  Game?  Go-round?

It’s really not even that hard.  I mean, you just swing a bat until you hit a ball.  If you have properly aligned your ghostly form so that it mirrors accurate alively musculature, (as opposed to presenting a good facade with an amorphous internal composition), then everything works as it would in life.  Your shoulders torque, you connect with the little balled-up energy projectile, and it obeys the laws of physics, in accordance with the by-laws of ghost league baseball.  No shenanigans.

To my horror, Kanga presented me with a “Toronto Taps” t-shirt—bearing a maple leaf so unfortunately dripping in syrup—thereby inducting me onto the team.

Hideous all around.

Excepting I do look cute in a baseball uniform with the ¾ sleeves and cap with my curls poking around it.  Marc thinks I’m adorable, and loves watching me swing the bat.

So, I went with it.  I joined the damn team.

I had to meet them all, of course.  Marc and I were a little suspicious of the event—drinks at a sports bar on a Friday, and not a single other gay bloke on the team.   What do you even wear to that?

But it went well.  I fell back on my days as a boxer and had a few pints and a few laughs.  Marc, who hates beer, bought top-shelf wine and bonded with two of the player’s wives—Himiko and Didi—because they all cried at Wonder Woman.  Everyone was completely dear, and rather fun, to be honest.

By the end of the night, Marc and I realised this was actually about the best thing that’s ever happened to us, as far as team sports go.

All of our attempts to play sports together have ended in disaster.  Either, one of us fails to comprehend the parameters of the sport—Marc can’t ice skate worth a damn, which is, it turns out, rather necessary for hockey; I refuse to get on a horse to play polo.  Or Marc…um…over-participates.  Like that time he tackled a bloke a bit too hard and accidentally scrambled his energy to the point that we were ejected from the rugby league.

This baseball thing, though…

Well, it’s still the worst game ever invented, but I’m good at it.  Marc likes watching me be good at it, without any impulse on his part to join in.  Rather like when I watch him race chariots.  And that works for us.

He gets to be the rich husband who shows up with a jug of margaritas and does the player’s wives nails while he shouts encouragements and makes thumbs up and down motions.  I get to strut around looking hot for him and then smash pints with cute bros.

Wins all around.

Mostly.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle when Marc tried to leave the house in two extra gold chains, a t-shirt so tight it could be a tourniquet, and a pair of trophy-husband, bright-white jeans, which I burned in the kitchen fireplace.

[He thought it was hilarious.  He happily proclaimed he would wear a toga instead, like he was attending a gladiatorial battle, adorned with all the things he’d stolen from Egypt and Gaul.  ‘I am wear thing I am steal from Eeeeegypt. I am wear thing I am steal from Gaaaaul, I am wear all of thing I am steal.’ ]

[Consequent that conversation, I asked if the ring he gave me for our engagement was stolen.  ‘I am non know where Uncle Cato is get ring. Is ruby, babe, just enjoy have ruby.’]

[Consequent both conversations, Marc has promised me he doesn’t plunder things anymore, and that he was actually more respectful of conquered souls than his devil-may-care attitude would imply.]

[I digress.]

I’m also still growing used to the appalling method of Canadian-American celebration.  I hit a tri-run-thing and everyone shouted at me.  It was alarming.  Very ‘FUCK YEAH YOU HIT THAT BALL’ and less ‘good show chap’.

Oh, and I called a practise a ‘rehearsal’ once, so now that’s a thing…

But yes, overall, a good time.

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.

ghosts

(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.

ghost hunt

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’.

jacques-window

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.

reader

“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.

Ecce_Mono_-_restoration_of_Ecce_Homo_by_Elias_Garcia_Martinez

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.]

theater-105573_960_720

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.

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.