Saturday, 12 May 2012

I can remember the ghost

stories we were told as children. We were told some by an old aboriginal man who lived in a humpy not far from the tiny place we lived in when I was in primary school.
My mother tried to prevent us from going anywhere near him. He was, like far too many others, an alcoholic. Of course we, along with all the other local children, found him fascinating. He could tell stories.
I doubt we were ever in any danger from him. He would sit under one tree and have us all (we only ever went in a group) sit under another tree about three metres from him.
Where he got the stories from I do not know. Some of them probably were traditional stories of the Dreamtime for his tribe. They were simple. They were short. They sometimes included ghosts - although he did not call them ghosts.  Oddly, the stories were not frightening. I think that, even his befuddled state, he was aware that it was not wise to terrify us. Scared? Oh yes, we could be scared but somehow the "spirit" he spoke about would become something familiar.
They were his stories. We promised never to repeat them. I do not think any of us ever have.
Then there were the stories told to us by other people. There were farmers who claimed to have had strange experiences. There was the doctor who claimed to have had a ghost ask for help and the pilot of the light plane who claimed to have had an extra passenger.
Later we were told ghost stories by writers like Alan Marshall, Ian Mudie and Colin Thiele. Geoffrey Dutton once told us a story about ghostly seals at Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island. The next trip to that beach had all of us looking over our shoulders. Were we being followed by those two seals?
Another family friend went to New Guinea. He was supposed to be there for two years. He came back after five months - the house he was supposed to live in was, according to him, "haunted". He was not a fanciful man but the stories he told my father were disturbing.
Every early Writers' Week I attended there would always be at least one "ghost story" session. They were never planned. They just happened - usually late at night after a few drinks had been consumed. I would hear about them later. It was probably just as well. Several years later I went to a children's literature conference and, at a late night session there, Russell Hoban and Ted Hughes told ghost stories.  The rest of us definitely went back to the dormitory in a group!
I do not suppose we were anything more than a little nervous of any of these stories. I do not think I had severe nightmares over any of them. 
There was however one sort of story I did not like. I still do not like them. They were stories about "doppelgangers". I was reminded of these by the fact that Lucy Coats has someone talking about these doppelgangers over on Scribble City Central this week. I find the idea of a doppelganger particularly disturbing.
When I was at university there was another mature age student doing the same course as myself. She had a "double".  This other person was so like her that she would be accused of ignoring people she knew. I was with another mature age student one day when we saw her "double". She walked straight past us. The likeness was so close that it was disturbing for us. What it would have been like for the other student I do not know but it would have frightened me.  There are stories it is better not to tell.

1 comment:

liz fenwick said...

excellent and very timely post as I ghost in the story I'm working on at the moment!
lx