Today’s guest blog post is by Mark Leslie, author of Haunted Hamilton.
While I can’t say I have ever actually seen a ghost, I have always believed in them. When asked why, I often quote a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth than our dreamt of in your philosophies.”
And it’s true. As much as we know and learn about the world around us, there always seems to be something beyond our understanding, something outside the normal spectrum, something that teases our sense of wonder, sets our hair on end and lights imagination on fire.
In the introduction to his collection of ghost stories, High Spirits, Robertson Davies says that Canada needs ghosts. He described them as “a dietary supplement, a vitamin taken to stave off the most dreadful of modern ailments, the Rational Rickets.” In the song “Mystic Rhythms,” from the album Power Windows by Rush, lyricist Neil Peart paraphrases the line from Hamlet when he states: ”More things than are dreamed about, unseen and unexplained. We suspended our disbelief, we are entertained.”
There is, then, an inherent joy in pausing to speculate about things we don’t understand, to marvel at the uncanny. Sharing ghost stories allows us the freedom to let go of our inhibitions and learn a little bit more about ourselves. One of the reasons I normally write horror fiction, which delves into the dark depths of “what if” is that it allows me to test a fictional character and see what they are really made of when they face situations or phenomena beyond the normal. Pushing the boundaries of reality, then, helps us better appreciate those things which ground us and make us who we are.
But beyond all that, it’s fun to share scary tales, to get that shiver. As Halloween approaches — an adapted celebration of recently departed souls — people are more likely to shuck off the normal restrictive bounds by which their live their lives, take a moment to soak in stories of the unexplained, and let their imaginations soar in speculative wonder.
It’s good for you.
Mark Leslie is the author of One Hand Screaming and the editor of North of Infinity II, Campus Chills, and Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario.