Monday, February 22, 2016

And Why Would I Have That In My House?


Most of us collect something. Collecting starts in childhood, right? Baseball cards (for those of us old enough to remember that), Pez dispensers, comic books, cookbooks, decorative plates, you name it, someone collects it. 

I had collections when I was younger, too: I liked boxes, the weirder-shaped the better. I collected clippings on rock & roll bands and in high school, on a particular sports celebrity. I hoarded yarn, knitting patterns, and wildly colorful socks. As I grew into adulthood I turned to gargoyles, books about ghosts, and books that hide secret compartments, that is, containers designed to hang out on bookshelves even though they are not actually books. I've always had a thing about secret compartments, whether an actual hidden room or the smaller kind of cache like I own-just large enough to hold jewelry or special letters and cards or even other small collectibles.  And I still like boxes, although the ones I collect these days are made of wood and part of a sparse collection because they tend to be a bit pricey. 

Other people I know collect antiques. And yes, I have visited this particular topic before, but after watching one of my Haunted Collector repeats (they're all repeats; for some inexplicable reason, SyFy cancelled the show. Boo! Hiss!), I saw an antique that to me was so outside the pale that I can't
imagine wanting to buy it and bring it home. But more on that later.

People who collect antique knick-knacks, photo frames (without those scary pictures in them), silverware, or china cups are understandable to me. The woman I saw on TV, however,  who bought and displayed coffin plates in her home, astonished me. Back in the olden days, coffin plates were nailed to the tops of occupied coffins that were kept in storage to await burial when the spring thaw arrived. So this very brave (or crazy) woman had the genuine coffin plates off of some peoples' winter coffins hung upon the wall outside one of her bedrooms. YIKES! 

Then there's the whole porcelain doll thing. Except for clowns, nothing gives me the willies like a porcelain doll. I take that back: a wax museum would do the trick. But I can avoid those. There's no avoiding the dolls when you're visiting someone's home for the first time and realize that they collect these things and have have a score of them on display on their shelves. All those glazed eyes staring at you when you enter the room. And you can't tell me that they don't move on their own when no one's looking. I KNOW they do.

So that brings me to the particular Haunted Collector item that freaked me out so much that I thought about it for days, unable to reason out why someone would want this in their own home. The particular antique store that John Zaffis and crew were investigating had an effigy doll. Ever hear of one? I hadn't until I saw the show. An effigy doll was something that parents had made when they lost a child. A cast would be made of the dead child's face, and then that would be used to make a doll that could be dressed up just like the child would have been while alive. I understand grieving parents wanting to have something like that, I really do. No parent should have to bury a child. On the other hand, some one-hundred years later when the entire family is gone or scattered, why would someone go to an antique store and decide they needed to buy that particular doll? Just looking at the one I saw gave me the willies. There was something about the way the eyes needed to be set in the doll's head, probably because the manufacturer was working with a completed face already. Needless to say, in the show, this particular item was known to relocate itself to different parts of the store, sometimes even to an entirely different room. 

I don't mock any parent's grief. I am sure an effigy doll might have brought comfort to those trying to live with the deep wounds left by the loss of a child. On the other hand, I am grateful to be in this time and this age of technology, where memories can be enhanced with photographs and videos.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Dead Noises, Dead Voices

Most of the time when I write my weekly post, I am focused on apparitions. Specters in the bedroom, or down the hall or on the staircase or in a picture or even looking back at you from your own mirror. Here's the thing, though: most of the ghosts I write about are things that are seen. I once took a preferred-learning-mode test and found out that I learn things 98% visually. Maybe that's why most of my descriptions are about what can be seen.
So this time, maybe I'll connect with the auditory learners I know and go for spectral sounds. And now that I think of it, sound is probably as scary if not scarier than vision when it comes to the supernatural. Who hasn't heard that unexplained thump in the deserted basement, or the voice in the other empty room? Who hasn't heard the sound of a door closing or creaking open, or those footsteps approaching you when you know that all the doors are locked and you're home alone?

There is also an ability called "clairaudient" as opposed to "clairvoyant" and it has to do with hearing voices. Now, before everyone starts going down the roads of psychotic episodes or schizophrenia, let's talk about this. Just as some people seem to have the ability to see dead people, some others (or in some cases, the same people) also have the ability to hear dead people. I looked into this a little, and every site I checked out specifically mentioned hearing the voices of the dead. I guess those of us hearing the other kinds of noises -the thumps, the bangs, the footsteps- are hearing what those spirits can do, not what they say.

I had a friend who was clairaudient. This made sleeping in new or different places extremely difficult for her, because she would hear people talking, even if there were no possible way there were actual people speaking anywhere in earshot. She had an apartment in San Francisco that got on her nerves for the year or so that she leased it because she could hear conversations in her rooms, and was able to verify that it wasn't due to people on the street or coming from neighbors in adjacent apartments. Whatever or whoever was talking would frequently whisper into her ear, literally. Especially when she was in bed. YIKES. I'm no longer in touch with her but I wonder sometimes if she lives with earbuds in her ears twenty-four, seven. I think I might. I also would have left that apartment a lot sooner than she did.

I have given two of my characters a bit of this ability: Cassie Valentine from the BPC series, and Philip Corts from Saving Jake and Missing Persons. (Well, I guess Michael Penfield had a little bit of that in Dead Voices, but for the most part he's all about seeing the dead.) Neither Cassie nor Corts always hears the dead speaking, but there are times that they do. I don't envy them that.

I guess the closest I ever got to it were the few totally creepy occasions when I heard a child call my name, back in the old house where I grew up. That is very unsettling because it is not a voice you recognize, but it fricking know who you are. Luckily, I don't think this ever happened to me more than twice. I think. I was more likely to hear that same child's voice singing something not discernible, but definitely singing. That wasn't the most comfortable thing either.

So since I don't have experience in this area, it has not turned up much in my work so far, but it's something to consider. I'd need to do more research. And maybe find someone with that ability who was willing to talk to me. (If you're reading this and you are clairaudient, hey, email me through my website or something!)

In the meantime, I guess I am fine with both my characters' and my own tendencies to hear the noises ghosts make as opposed to the words they might whisper. In fact, let's keep it that way.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Conversations With My Grandson

My oldest grandchild, as I have mentioned frequently before, sees dead people. But he doesn't announce it all the time and he can be reluctant to talk about it. One time when he was at our house, he asked his grandfather to come to the bathroom with him while he used the facility. Jim went with him and asked, "Why do you always have to have someone in the bathroom with you?" And he answered accordingly, "Because I'm scared." Jim: "Of what?" Grandson: "The ghosts." He didn't explain it any further than that, and my husband, not having the same obsessions I do, didn't ask.

I have related the disturbing conversations about our little guy running up and jumping onto the couch with us, announcing that he was scared because "The boy is coming. The big boy." 

I have related the even more disturbing conversation when he told us he was scared. I asked if he was scared of the big boy, and he said, "No. The big boy is scared, too." That was enough to freak me out, although of course I couldn't say that in front of him.

I have written about the more recent conversation when he told me the people who owned this house before us are now dead. I asked him how he knew and he said that he just knew. I think he ran into them when they came to see what we were doing to their beloved house. (We've renovated two rooms, and while that might not have been to the former owners' taste, I think they may have been pleased to know that we still love our little place.)

So now we come to this past weekend. Just a few evenings ago, as a matter of fact. Our daughter had asked us to take him overnight and we agreed. So per our usual routine, Jim got him bathed and I put him to bed, reading a bunch of books before giving him a kiss and saying goodnight. As always, he told me he was afraid to be alone and afraid for me to turn out the light. We always turn out the light but leave his door open and then turn on the overhead lights in the adjacent rooms so that he's not completely in the dark. I asked him why he was so afraid and he said that when he's alone in the dark, "the ghosts come." So I gave him the same advice my buddy Sylvia Shults gave my character Michael Penfield in Drawing Vengeance: I told him to tell the ghosts to go away, and that they should listen to him and leave him alone.

Next morning:
Me:  Did the ghosts come last night?
Him:  Yes.
Me:  Did you tell them to go away?
Him:  Yes.
Me:  And did they go away?
Him:  Yes.

This all may sound crazy to nonbelievers, but I think anything that helps this sweet, sensitive kid empower himself is a good idea. Maybe if he can learn to take on the ghosts bothering him in his own room, he'll also learn to take on the living, breathing people who might want to bother him on the bus or at school. Ghosts, bullies, anyone in his space who is unwelcome and unwanted: if he can learn to stand up to all them, then I'm for it, full-tilt boogie.