Generally, I have never really believed in the possibility of ghosts. Over the last couple of weeks, though, I have come to second guess my previous resolve. Though I have never actually accepted the plausibility of ghosts, I have never actually fully discounted it. I have never seen a ghost, but I realise that some people out there have, or believe that they have. Honestly, I don’t want to see one. The whole experience would scar me for an eternity.
In saying that, I would actually like to know if ghosts do exist; if not, then what is it that makes us think we have? Though the thought of ever present souls and beings being all around us, but invisible for most of the time, quite frankly scares the crap out of me, I always get sucked into a good ghost story. I blame my thirst for fiction.
When I was about fourteen years old, I went on a camp with my school that had incorporated into it a visit to Tasmania’s Port Arthur. For those that don’t know, Port Arthur is former convict settlement (in the 1800s) and housed the hardest criminals that were shipped from Britain to Australia. As you can imagine, various deaths ensued during this time period. Port Arthur is also the place of a brutal mass-murder event (claiming 35 lives and wounding an additional 23).
Our visit to Port Arthur began with a general visit during the day. This part I loved, I got to explore the historic buildings and I wasn’t plagued by endless blackness before my eyes. Then that night, after our evening meal, we returned where we were taken on a ghost tour of the site. Again, I didn’t see a ghost; but some of my friends swore that they did. The tour guides, of course, played it up; turning claimed ghost sightings and rumoured events into a theatrical show for their audiences. I didn’t mind; they were fun to listen to…until I got so scared I couldn’t breathe.
Our guide, as we were leaving for the night, told us that they hoped that we checked the back of our bus for any ghosts that may be hitching a ride. Now, some of you may be thinking, ‘are you kidding me? You seriously believed that?’…may I remind you that I was about fourteen. I was young, impressionable and the fact that I was sharing a room with about six other girls that were the same age as me or younger, did not help my situation one bit.
All of the girls in the cabin, though there were enough beds for us all, ended up sleeping with the light on and all piled onto one double bed. I didn’t exactly get the best night’s sleep that night, but I definitely felt safer in numbers. I’m not exactly sure what we thought sleeping in a sloppy pile would do; I don’t know whether we thought that if we were all together in the one spot, whether the ghost would deliberate over who would be the best person to haunt, rather than choosing the girl that was simply the closest. But somehow we all stayed on that bed for the entirety of the night and a vengeful ghost (or poltergeist) didn’t hang us upside down by our ankles.
There has been only one other time that I have been convinced of the presence of a ghost, and that was in my own family home. One evening, my mother told me that she was disappointed that I hadn’t yet made my bed and that I should go and remedy the situation immediately. So, off I went to the other end of the house where it was freezing cold, dark and I was all alone. If I remember correctly, the light globe in my room had blown about a week earlier and we hadn’t got around to replacing it, so I was working from the light in the hallway.
As I rearranged blankets, and plumped pillows, I turned around and the handheld battery operated twenty questions game I had sitting on my bedside table had lit up and was asking me whether I wanted to play another game. I hadn’t touched it, and was on the opposite side of my bed.
Looking back on it now, there is a distinct possibility that whilst I flipped the duvet to the head of my bed, that it made contact with the handheld game, or that it was simply running out of battery. Despite this realisation now, at the time I was convinced that there was a ghost in my room and that it was trying to send me some sort of message by activating a game of questions—perhaps it was trying to tell me that I had to start questioning the things in my life more than I had previously. Of course, when I voiced my fears to both of my parents, they told me that I was being silly, but to this day I still wonder whether there was a logical explanation behind the event or whether there was some other kind of force at work.
It’s easy to discount the possibility of ghosts existing; it’s what I have done for the entirety of my life thus far. But who is to say that they don’t; the concept of ghosts must have been formulated somehow—whether that be an active imagination, a trick of the light or actual fact. And now that I am older, though I still don’t want to see a ghost, I am beginning to hope that ghosts do actually exist—because wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that our loved ones could stay with us even after we lose them in body? Just a thought.
The town resembles a desolate wastleland in the murky black of the deepest night; the streetlights, though, give relief to the overworked eyes of the lonely wanderer. A woman in a long skirt atop a one-piece swimming costume strolls listlessly through the main street. She is somehow an accurate likeness to a woman the town once knew long ago. Her gaze is glassy, as though she looks for something, or someone, that can never be found.
Each night, she walks the length of the street until she reaches the eastern-most end—she always travels west to east—where she stands staring through a shop front that is boarded up and underappreciated. The windows of the shop front are fragmented in places, and missing in others. A rebellious youth threw a series of large rocks at it a few months ago; he claimed that there was a burning steam inside of him that needed to be let out before his usual routine could continue, but this doesn’t seem to bother our lone woman, who shimmers in the dim streetlamp glow.
The woman of long ago was said to have gone missing one fateful day; she was rumoured to have wanted to swim in the lake not three miles out of town. Her three-year-old son was left behind with his father—the couple were estranged not long after the laborious birth.
Upon hearing of his mother’s disappearance, the three-year-old left a drawing of his plan to save her and took off whilst the father played his poker game.
The boy and his mother were never found—dead or alive—and father spent the remainder of his days awash in whisky and guilt.
So is this woman, the one that looks so familiar, the one who swam too far? Is she looking for her son?
I heard tell of a visitor, a tourist if you will, who saw our heartbroken lass one night on his way home from a bar. He asked her if he could be of any assistance, and she simply bore holes through his chest with her eyes and stayed silent, before turning away from him. Deciding that she was “shifty” and “unstable” rather than “rude”, he made a call to the local PD, to report her slanderous and alarming behaviour, to which they replied:
‘That’s old Martha. She’s our resident ghost. She wouldn’t hurt a fly, but she could creep out a sabre-toothed tiger. Give her space; she’s just trying to find her way home.’