Monday, May 23, 2016

Perceiving Ghosts - And How They Look

In my third Bridgeton Park Cemetery book Drawing Vengeance (no spoiler ahead), there is a scene where Michael Penfield is looking out the bookstore window and sees a handful of dead people out on the street. I based this scene on the experience of someone I know who sees dead people, as M. Night Shyamalan so famously put it. I will not include the names of any of the folks I will write about here out of respect for their privacy, but what I put down in this blog will be details of sightings as they were told to me. That aside, the first gentleman I write about who can see the dead told me about various places he has run into them: a party, a storefront window, a home a block or so away from his home, even in his own house (this one followed him there: YIKES!) We did a book signing together and I believe he mentioned being able to see "a dead someone" across the parking lot adjacent to the book store where we were situated. 

Since the book signing took place in the neighborhood where Steve's bookstore is, and where Cassie and Michael and Nick and Eloise frequent the Ice Cream Shack for burgers and sundaes, I guess it only seemed natural to let Michael start seeing dead people on these same streets. Like the gentleman who did the book signing with me. 

I know another person, also a man, who told me that he sometimes sees dead people around the hospital close to his house. He's seen them sitting on the bus stop bench, or wandering through the parking lot, or just walking around the front of the building. He did give me an interesting tidbit about his sightings: he told me that when he sees them it's a very quick glimpse. Even just a flash of a glimpse. But it's enough for him to see the entire person and register gender, clothing, even facial expressions. I thought that was interesting because between these two guys that see spirits, the actual perception is different: one sees them for a length of time, the other only gets a quick shot of the ghost. But both are able to give me explicit details about what they've seen.

I know a woman who not only sees them but can hear what they are saying, if they actually speak. She has described being passed by a dead woman who was mumbling to herself the whole time. You might say, but that could have been any crazy person out on the street. Yes, it could. Unfortunately, the woman I know was standing in her own house when this mumbling ghost went past her. Where she was coming from, where she was going, and why she was in the house is anybody's guess. Glad I missed out on that!

When I first started writing the Bridgeton Park Cemetery series, I was worried about depicting how my psychic characters perceived ghosts, but as I've gotten farther into the field, I'm beginning to realize that those who can see spirits don't necessarily all see them in the same way. The dead might appear with or without sound; they might show themselves for an extended period of time or just for a split second. I've been told that they can also project the way they choose to be seen: the gentleman in the first paragraph told me about a house that is haunted by a little girl, but he knows that the little girl is the spirit of a woman who was in her '90's when she died. In the Mary O'Reilly series, my friend Terri Reid has her ghosts appear the way they did at the time of their passing, which makes sense. In the show The Dead Files, psychic Amy Allen will sometimes mention that the spirit "is showing itself" to her in a particular way even though she knows that is not how they may have appeared when their lives ended.

What this all tells me is that I have quite a bit of freedom when it comes to writing the ghostly characters presented in my books. They can appear older or younger. They can be scary with dripping wounds and faces filled with terror, or show up as any average man or woman who just happens to be dead. And I'm so glad for that sense of freedom - because I think that Cassie and Michael are going to run into all sorts of things as the series progresses.

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