In my newest book, Haunted, there is a scene in which one of the characters remarks that reading or talking about ghosts will attract them to you. I hadn't been thinking about that consciously when May Parrish, my character, opened up her mouth and made that particular proclamation, but since it wound up on paper the thought must have been in me somewhere. I didn't give that specific bit of dialogue much attention until quite a bit later. And now I wonder what I was trying to tell myself.
Nonbelievers will assure me that the reason I hear more things happening in other parts of my house when I'm the only one home is that I am focusing more than usual on hearing creaks, thuds, thumps, and other disturbances. So of course, they explain, I will hear every single one of those noises, though I might not have noticed them otherwise. I suppose that is as good an explanation as any. Maybe it explains why, when I am tucked away in my office writing a ghost story, I always hear random rustlings, squeaks, and assorted sounds that pop off spontaneously and sporadically as I work. Some of these can be quite obnoxious: a heavy thud like someone dropping a cinder block in the other room, or maybe a series of creaks that suggest someone is approaching me from the other end of the house. Most of the time, if I'm working on a story, I try to ignore it. Most of the time, though, because I am working on a story, I wind up looking away from my monitor and glancing out the office door. There is never anyone there, but frequently the noises continue. And then I'll yell something like "Knock it off!" and things will quite down.
When I did newspaper writing some years ago, I had the happy annual assignment of collecting and writing up true ghost stories for the Halloween issue of the paper. I only worked on those stories during the day (while the kids were in school), and I have never forgotten the afternoon I was typing away merrily only to hear a loud bang against the inner wall of the garage, which was connected to our house. It was loud and violent enough to shake the shelf in the adjacent powder room and make the little items on it vibrate against the glass. Naturally when I got up to check, nothing had fallen over or tumbled down anywhere in the garage or in the house. I stopped writing immediately and finished the article when the whole family was home again, and the heck with the kids being in school while I worked.
This whole topic got me thinking: are there certain things that do invite restless spirits? I have a daughter who has always been uneasy around wind chimes because when she was a child she believed -and shared with me- that they attract ghosts. I have always loved wind chimes myself, but I must admit that since she told me that, I always hear an undercurrent of loss or sadness or something even more unsettling coasting along on the pleasant tinkling of the small metal chimes that I have hanging just outside my front door. If my daughter is correct, I must be a bit insane to hang these things so close to the entrance of my house.
And what about music? I know music inspires a whole range of emotions in me and I wonder sometimes if music can't attract a ghost or two. It's so tightly wound into the fabric of an era, surely a Benny Goodman album or some Scott Joplin ragtime could conjure up a nostalgic spirit.
I am writing this in broad daylight with a Depeche Mode song playing on the radio and the sunlight shining on the trees outside my window, but I know later I'm going to go home and transcribe this onto my blog. I wonder how I'll feel about the topic tonight when my grandson has gone to sleep and I'm alone because Jim is out of town again? For the sake of a sleeping child, a sharp Knock it off! is probably preferable than a scream, don't you think?