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.

 

 

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

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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.

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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…

Why Ghosts Love Seances

Ghosts love shows about ghost-hunting. We have an entire channel dedicated to them, and it loops through all the best/worst shows out there on alively telly, twenty four hours of the day, seven days a week.

Why?

Well, viewership seems to fall into one of three categories:

First, there are the haunting aficionados. These are the folks who take notes on all the latest and greatest in ghost-hunting equipment, compile lists of the most haunted locations, review the most common modes of alively attempts at contact, and then talk shop about how to use all this information to scare the shit out of you.

Second, there are the self-congratulatory folks who love to relive their ten-seconds of fame, pointing out their appearances on camera with all the eagerness of an extra in a A-list film.

And third, there are those of us, myself included, who think that ghost-hunting shows are just bloody hilarious.

We watch for the juxtaposition of the alively drama with ghostly trolling, laughing like mad when one of our celebrity haunters mugs for the camera and then wings a piece of brick across an abandoned building, causing all the alivelies to lose their minds about demons.

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‘That was definitely a demon. Trust me. This is my serious business hat’.

We watch for the ghosts who didn’t realize they were being filmed, which happens relatively often as we do tend to occupy abandoned buildings and such. These unsuspecting ghosts have the most fantastic candid camera moments, which, when overlapped with the completely unaware alively activities in the background, are sheer comedy gold.

We watch for Chip Coffey.

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‘That was also definitely a demon. Trust me. This is my serious business scarf’.

And we watch for the séances.

Oh god.

The séances.

Now here’s the thing. There are two kinds of séances. There are séances that are conducted in a manner respectful of the dead and hopeful for the living where family members, friends, and lovers attempt to make contact. These are usually carried out privately and sincerely, and although they rarely work for any number of reasons, I do not intend to belittle these attempts. Who hasn’t tried to talk to someone they’ve lost?

No, the kind of séance that leaves me gasping for breath between cackles are the dramatized, publicly-conducted circuses where ghost-hunters plead for contact, begging for a name or ‘just some sign that you can hear us’ whilst gripping the table and moaning and mumbling and jumping at the slightest noise.

Because while the ghost-hunters are doing that—demanding signs and personal information and gory details about murders and madness—we are having a field day behind your backs.

There are any number of ghosts who’ve made a living hamming it up at your on-screen séances, but let me tell you about my favourite, everyone’s favourite, Sylvester.

Sylvester, who is better known to ghosts as ‘Lucky’ on account of his dying on Friday the Thirteenth, is a genius. He started haunting back in the eighteenth century, but he really arrived, as it were, when he famously disrupted Houdini’s attempt to make contact with the other side at a highly publicised Halloween séance in 1927.

By all accounts, he simply explained to Houdini why his communications weren’t working—there were too many people at the séance, they were too centered on the drama and not enough on the pure intention of contact, no one had a mind clear enough to foster proper connection. But Houdini, who was rather torqued about the whole thing, threw up his hands and passed right on out of the world, leaving a spot open for the next great mentalist and magician.

Sylvester slipped right into the opportunity, proceeding to make a great number of hats out of available energy deposits and plop them on the heads of the alivelies attempting to speak with Houdini.

And he did this for the next ten years, honing his energy art and creating ridiculous tableaux after tableaux, until the séance-goers finally stopped trying to make contact with a man who was no longer there.

But Sylvester didn’t stop just because the yearly Houdini séance did. Not hardly. He continued to disrupt every spiritualist he could find, selling tickets and turning alively events into great ghost entertainment. He would pop up behind fortune tellers with supposed ghostly familiars and re-interpret their tarot cards to tell complex and hilarious futures.  He would attend magical shows in Vegas and walk about on stage dodging jugglers and knives whilst revealing all the tricks with stone-faced seriousness. He would perch himself on levitating tables and pretend slapstick surprise when they popped up on strings.

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‘Lucky’ is definitely sitting on that table. Trust me. I’m sipping my serious business tea.

I’ve seen the films—the man is a giant among men.

Now Sylvester is in semi-retirement, but he’s trained a whole host of other ghosts to carry on his silliness and keep his name alive.  But of course, he can’t resist the occasional disruption and so we all watch the ghost-hunting channel on the off chance that ‘Lucky’ will pop up, wearing his Buster-Keaton-esque attire, and drop an energy-balloon hat on the head of one of those raging assholes on Ghost Adventure.

So, by all means, keep trying to contact us.  We love it when you do.