I know Halloween has been and gone this year, but I popped over to visit my mum yesterday and somehow the conversation turned to horror movies and books. We laughed at one of my many peculiarities, this one in relation to the horror and supernatural genres.
We discussed how my mother prefers the supernatural theme and dislikes ‘real’, human, murderous, evil killers, yet I find the more gruesome, gory, torturous deaths encountered in the book or film, the better. Whatever your opinion of the plot in the Saw film franchise, I can’t get enough of the ingenious methods that ‘Jigsaw’ comes up with to extinguish those he deems undeserving of life.
Fictional, sadistic, serial killers who are crueller than the human mind can contemplate; can’t put the book down!
Average, ordinary people killed and then raised from the dead to become brainless, flesh-eating creatures (zombies or otherwise); love it!
Demons, monsters, vampires, aliens; bring ‘em on.
But, sneak in a ghostly presence—even the kind, innocent, Casper-like type—and my heart races. I’m constantly spinning around to catch a glimpse of what might be behind me. I have to tuck my feet and legs up onto the lounge, too afraid to let them hang down within easy reach of the evil presence lurking below. As a child I didn’t have monsters in my cupboards, I had ghosts in my room – and it didn’t matter whether the lights were on or off. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I’m so troubled by just this one particular aspect of the supernatural realm.
I’ve been addicted to reading for as long as I can remember. My mum tells me that she didn’t have to teach me to read – I demanded tuition from her at an early age. Later, in my ‘tween’ and teenage years, scary stories were my favourite. Admittedly, children’s horror is pretty mild, but I always enjoyed scaring myself silly.
After our conversation yesterday, I scolded myself. I’m an adult now, ‘ghost stories’ shouldn’t have this effect on me. But then this morning I was making a sandwich for myself and, completely out of nowhere, my glass cake stand (coincidentally a gift from my mother) toppled over and spun around on the benchtop after sitting securely in place for days without incident. Fortunately, I managed to leap across the room and prevent it from wobbling onto the floor and smashing into pieces. Was this a ghost trying to tell me something, or just an eerie coincidence?
I find this happens a lot when I’m reading. It doesn’t seem to depend on what the subject matter is—often something innocuous that I usually wouldn’t pay any attention to—but all of sudden my world is saturated with it. The first time I consciously realised this was when I was around 9 or 10 years old and addicted to The Baby-sitters Club books. One of the characters took up synchronised swimming which I had not previously heard of, but began to consider it to be quite elegant. Then, I started noticing the sport everywhere I looked. I think that the Commonwealth Games may have been happening around that time which could partially explain it, but I’ve found this phenomenon happens to me on a fairly regular basis and can originate from a main character’s interest or hobby, the location of a murder, a quirky personality trait of one of the characters… just about anything really.
These days, my book of choice is a good old whodunnit. My shelves are crammed with murder mysteries, but I will read just about any piece of writing I can get my hands on. I treasure the way reading can highlight things all around us that we may otherwise remain oblivious to because of the constant bombardment of stimuli from all directions. So much can be hidden in plain sight. Reading encourages you to recognise and appreciate much more than you could ever hope to otherwise experience.
Now that I’ve had this spooky conversation with my mother, and spent today concentrating on the horror genre, I’m sure to notice (even if it’s only in my imagination) all sorts of creepy, ghostly happenings in the coming days. Thanks Mum!
Emma is a freelance editor and writer who got her start at Newbie Writers two years ago. In her previous career she was an accountant, but escaped the numbers game to envelop herself in the literary world.