I remember it was the first night of our holiday. We were children, gathered in one bedroom and laid our sleeping bags on the floor. My friend said we should tell ghost stories.
She began by recounting an urban superstition that was in vogue at the time. You can find mention of it on the Internet to this day, including a written retelling of it by Jackie Gonzalez (then 10) in the Los Angeles Times on December 31, 1996.
The protagonist of the story is a boy named Johnny, who is instructed by the family to buy a liver for dinner. But he spends the money he has on sweets, and instead of going home without meat, he takes what he needs from a corpse buried in the local graveyard. That night, the corpse he defiled crawls out of his grave to take revenge on him.
The version you heard of the story has a kind of hymn, to tell it properly you have to imitate the dead man calling out to Johnny:
Johnny, I’m coming to get you. Johnny, I’m three blocks away, then two blocks, then one, and then it’s over for Johnny.
When I listened to it for the first time, I trembled and trembled. I wanted to hear more.
Even then I knew little about ghost hunting, we talked about a ghost hanging around the toilets at my school, but this was the first time I remember a story that was told properly, from start to finish, before a crowd.
There is a sense of companionship when you hear ghost stories this way. You feel safe with people around you while listening. It feels as relaxing as sitting indoors and listening to a storm.
However, there is a glimpse of danger in this pleasure, as you know that silence and darkness await nearby. Sooner or later the group will break up, or the room will be silent while everyone else tries to sleep. Then you will be alone with your imagination, which is controlled by horrible things.
You know the whole story is made up, but you simply can’t help but raise questions. What if there was something real in the end? In the dark, the story seems to have conjured something.
Fear blurs the lines between the real and the unreal. If you panic people, they will believe even a simple lie and you can deceive them. But in fiction, this confusion can be quite comforting. Fear has always been my friend in waiting rooms and hospital wards.
Horror offers an escape if you look for it. Even if you can’t laugh, or don’t care if the hero and heroine can work things out or not, horror can still be felt. It can take you away from your reality for a while. You may fear something that is presented as some kind of change, and temporarily experience new problems.
And if terror can control you, it will affect your body as well as your mind. It can affect you without making any noise or even letting anyone around you know what’s going on. Pages that look peaceful can make your heart beat faster, while your chest tightens cautiously. You may jump out of your seat when you hear sudden noises. I remember gasping out loud at one point in the plot in Susan Hale’s The Mist in the Mirror, sitting safely in my bedroom, but it felt like something suddenly jumped out at me. After I finished reading Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions, I spent most of the evening looking around. There was nothing behind me, and yet I just felt like someone was watching me. It was a palpable feeling, tension and confusion. It was the kind of feeling that let your body know you were being watched. I could not move easily in my house.
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A ghost story can change the world. This makes shadows look darker and more tangible. An atmosphere of hostility grips your home, you begin to wonder what is hiding in the next room, who is watching from the darkened window. You can be affected for life by the disturbing remnants of a story. Personally, I couldn’t get over the effects of Patricia Highsmith’s short “In Search of Blank Claveringe”. I read it as a child, and have since developed a lifelong aversion to snails. After years of reading the story, I still sometimes think about it and hesitate again.
What I want to say is that if this one story had such a lasting effect, what else did my reading do to me?
Ghost stories, or horror stories of any kind, can mean excitement, fellowship, comfort, and escape. But there is one key element that links these intertwined delights: horror is pleasurable in the power of stories. When we live it, we also enjoy it and allow ourselves to be touched and changed.
We cannot hear stories that hope to remain immune and unaffected. We can only hear it because it is everywhere, even inside us.
This is evident when we tell each other ghost stories. People are instinctive storytellers, the atmosphere and emotions are naturally present in us. We share stories and tell the best of them over and over. We may even perform sounds (if we have the gift of imitation). Ask someone how their friendship with their new roommate formed, or how they met their romantic partner, and they’ll probably tell you a story. Maybe it’s a bitter epic about stealing a teaspoon, or a well-rehearsed love story. We often do it without thinking. But ghost stories are a more self-aware exercise. Especially if you’re telling it after dark to a group of friends who can’t wait for you to scare them, just a little. Telling ghost stories reminds us of who we are.
Bram Stoker, author of “Dracula,” also wrote about literary censorship. In his article “The Censorship of Imaginary Literature” he says that the importance of the novel to the nation is perhaps as important as bread. But when controlled by the wrong hands, it becomes a power capable of “corrupting the nation”. That’s exactly what Project Dracula was. Some of his contemporaries treat literature as the unfortunate Lucy Westra, turning it from a healthy and pure state to a sick and polluted state. For such literature, Stoker urges censorship. But his essay also praises the novel’s influence as “the most powerful of all time”. It takes self-control because it is so important.
The overlap between fantasy and metamorphosis in Stoker’s essay is not unusual. Sometimes horror stories explicitly praise the book’s power, and revel in that power, even if it makes it strange. In those cases, consumption of stories becomes dangerous. Claim Dorian Gray (who somewhat denies responsibility) [شخصية في رواية فلسفية لأوسكار وايلد] He is morally “poisoned” by Joris Carl Wesmann’s A Rebours. In Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, it is a mysterious book that offers the most ominous omen gift.
But hearing a story doesn’t make you safer. The wedding guest character in Tyler Coleridge’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner is forced against her will to hear a tale of resurrected corpses, and the experience changes him forever. For example, in another story like Interview with the Vampire, you hear the story of putting your life in danger.
In the process of drawing a monster character, a writer could do worse than to see the powers of imagination. The story carries something like a curse that is passed from person to person like the evil creature in MR James’ short story Casting the Runes. This story makes you vulnerable to outside influences, such as magic or hypnosis. You may be in a certain state of mind when you start reading and end up in a different state when you finish.
Reading turns you into a house haunted by other people’s voices, even if these writers are long dead. Your brain chambers echo what Jane Austen or Charles Dickens said. If you are saturated with the story, it is in return saturated with you, where you are robbed of yourself, hypnotized. The story changes you especially if you give it time and attention. It is like a parasite (vampire) that cannot exist without you. It takes your life, at least a few hours of it.
Horror is an opportunity for the story to become the center of attention and bare its teeth. She may not be the vampiric character that Stoker feared. However, it is not completely tamed. I think most writers (Stoker included) don’t want it to be otherwise.”
It’s all worth remembering the next time you grab a book or listen to a story. Don’t be fooled by elegant typography or a friendly storyteller. The story has power and wants something from you. Watch the events closely.
The novel “Little Angels” by Lauren Owen was published by Hachette Publishing on August 2 (August) and sold for a single copy of £ 18.99. You can read an excerpt from the novel for free here.
Posted in The Independent on July 29, 2022