Crowsmoor’s dead were light sleepers.
— Jan McDonald (in The Crowsmoor Curse)
This would have to be one of my favourite opening lines ever!
The book was great, but that opening … BANG!
Lots of authors talk about searching for that elusive corker of a first sentence for their novel; I’ve heard they write and rewrite to get it … right. At school and in writing courses, we call these sentences the ‘hook’ because a brilliant opening sentence hooks the reader in, making her want to read more.
I am yet to write one myself, but when I do, and I will, I want it to be like this one — short, sharp and full of intrigue.
I love supernatural stuff. The TV drama, Supernatural, is my favourite show at the moment (and has been ever since it began in 2005). This is despite, or perhaps because of, the fact I often watch it from behind slightly parted fingers. It features all sorts of supernatural creatures: demons, angels, vampires, werewolves, leviathan, djinn, shapeshifters and ghosts, to name but a few.
But, The Crowsmoor Curse, despite its opening line, is not actually about ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. It is about superstition … centuries old superstition.
I am not an overly superstitious person. I don’t worry about black cats and only avoid walking under ladders owing to respect for my safety should a paint pot fall on my head. Neither, though, do I pooh-pooh age-old myths and rituals, or discount the possibility of ghosts and spirits inhabiting our space. Not that I’ve ever seen a ghost; I’m quite sure I’d soil myself rather badly if I did.
‘Ghost Tours’ abound in many tourist locations in Australia. I’ve been to a few: Port Arthur (the morgue was extra creepy), Hobart (where they toured the old courthouse and holding cells) and the Old Melbourne Gaol, where Ned Kelly was hung. The gaol tour was by far the scariest … and it was conducted during the day!
I am aware of the strategies used by said tours to provide scare value — spooky voices, low lit lamps, mannequins and so on — but I am never quite sure whether these can completely account for the spine-tingling, hair-prickling sensations I have felt. Telling myself I am there ‘for the history’ is all well and good, but let’s be honest, being scared can be exhilarating and that’s why ghost tours are popular.
The market for scary stuff seems massive — and is spread right across all media forms and age groups (except maybe 0-2). In the last decade or two, the line between true, spine-chilling horror and the blood-and-gore variety of ‘horror’ has become muddied, and increasingly in favour of the latter, sadly.
True horror, in my opinion, does not make you feel sick … just heart-stoppingly scared. All the better if the topic is plausible. And, that’s where ghosts and spirits come in … they are plausible.
There are many reports, in newspapers, magazines and other trashy media avenues, of people being visited by relatives who have passed, or of getting ‘signs’ their loved ones are still nearby.
It is so easy to disregard this as sensational reporting, but my own grandmother, who is extremely sound of mind, tells me my grandfather (who passed away nearly two years ago) comes to her at night and sits on her bed.
I do not doubt this for a second.
My grandparents were together for around 70 years. They were by each other’s side for the majority of this time. He is waiting for her.
Nanna says it isn’t scary. Quite the opposite, she finds his visits calming and knowing he is there with her helps her sleep.
Whether he is actually there or not, I cannot say, but there is obviously enough of his spirit there with her to help her through the separation and the incredible loss she must feel. It’s a nice thought.
Myself — since I was a child I have suffered extremely vivid dreams and nightmares. I don’t often dream about people I know. More often my dreams contain little, evil Mexicans in sombreros who chase me down my street; or huge stick insect-like creatures eating my hair. But, two dreams have given me cause to wonder if spirits of loved relatives have the ability to hover and appear to us when they are needed.
The first such dream occurred years and years ago; I remember little of it. My grandmother (on Dad’s side) was standing at the end of my bed. I swear I was wide awake at the time but maybe not. I could smell her distinct smell (sort of minty and a bit flowery) when I did wake up.
The other was only a couple of months ago and happened at a time I was particularly missing my father. I remember standing in my parent’s front yard; Dad was leaning up against my car. I was talking to someone and turned to see him. As I did he came forward, wrapped his arms around me and planted one of his big, sloppy kisses on my cheek. I pushed him away (as I had always been inclined to do when he kissed me like that, because the kisses always turned into a drooly dribble). When I pushed him back, he disappeared and I woke up. My cheek was tingling from the stubble on his chin.
Dream … or actual kiss from my Dad’s spirit? I don’t know. And I don’t care either because I cherish that contact, whatever it was.
So, I refuse to commit to an opinion regarding whether or not I ‘believe in’ the supernatural. There is, to my knowledge, no hard evidence either way.
What I do believe, however, is that if belief works for the individual in some way … so be it.
If a person chooses to believe in superstition, or that our dead are light sleepers … so be it.
Who are we to challenge that? Particularly if it helps the believer in some way.
And, if we don’t believe, stories of superstition and of supernatural happenings make for very entertaining reading and viewing at the very least.