An autumn free of ghosts

Aug 16th, 2011 | By | Category: Personal Columns

The darkness is returning, there are two hours less daylight than two months ago.  The shortening days bring memories of childhood fears.  Growing up amid tales of superstitions was disturbing when those tales seemed literally true.

Stories that white owls were the call of the dead induced a terror of catching sight of a barn owl on autumn evenings; claims that there were ghosts, even in our council house built in 1926, prompted me to sleep with the blanket pulled up over my head, lest a ghost come into the room and find me; worst of all, wild rumours of UFOs prompted an avoidance of looking up into the night sky. Only with the passing years did I realize that the dead call on no-one, that ghosts appear only to those who believe in them, and that aliens with the technology to reach our planet would long ago have made themselves known to us.

However, lines from Chaim Potok’s ‘My Name is Asher Lev’ capture in a paragraph the intensity of those childhood thoughts days when being haunted seemed a real possibility:

“He came to me that night out of the woods, my mythic ancestor, huge, mountainous, dressed in his dark caftan and fur-trimmed cap, pounding his way through the trees on his Russian master’s estate, the earth shaking, the mountains quiver­ing, thunder in his voice. I could not hear what he said. I woke in dread and lay very still, listening to the darkness. I needed to go to the bathroom but I was afraid to leave the bed. I moved down beneath the blanket and slept and then, as if my moment awake had been an intermission between acts of an authored. play, saw him again plowing toward me through giant cedars. I woke and went to the bathroom. I stood in the bathroom, shiver­ing. I did not want to go back to my bed. I stood listening to the night, then went through the hallway to the living room. It was dark and hushed and I could hear the sounds of night traffic through the window. I opened the slats of the Venetian blind and peered between them at the street below. It was a clear night. I could not see the moon, but a clear cold blue-white light lay like a ghostly sheen over the parkway and cast the shadows of buildings and trees across the sidewalks. I saw a man walking beneath the trees. He was a man of medium height with a dark beard, a dark coat, and an ordinary dark hat. I saw him walking in the shadows of the trees. Then I did not see him. Then I saw him again, walking slowly beneath the trees. Then he was gone again and I did not know if I was seeing him or not, if I had been asleep before and was awake now, or if I had been awake before and was dreaming now.   Then I saw him again, walking slowly, alone; then he entered, a shadow and was gone. I do not remember going back to bed. I only remember waking in the morning and staring up at the white ceiling of my room and feeling light and disembodied, as if I were floating on the shadows cast by dark trees beneath a moon’.

It is a spooky piece, capturing that childhood sense of unreality becoming real.

I am grateful to fellow blogger K8 the GR8 for introducing me to a piece of art called ‘Sweet Halloween Dreams’ by DeviantArtist Begemott.  Had I had such a poster on my bedroom wall, I would have slept secure in the knowledge that no ghoul or Martian could ever come near me.

The darkness no longer holds any fears, but it is just as miserable all the same.

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