Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Hidden Heart of Hauntings...

Yikes! I've let a whole week pass by. Well, not intentionally. And not just from gearing up for the trip. I've been doing a lot of research and digging up interesting things. The only problem is they haven't involved Australia or ghosts. Yes, it might be strange to believe but I actually have other less morbid interests. That's one thing I have in mind for my trip as well: balancing spooky places with everything else I want to see. And I think it's necessary. Focusing on dead people and spirits all the time isn't healthy for anyone.

In fact, only a handful of people get into the paranormal for some valiant pursuit to answer the age-old question of what happens after death or to scientifically prove or disprove the existence of what we refer to as ghosts. Many hunt for spirits as a form of adventure and excitement, perhaps even to feel like they're actually in a horror movie, or (as the recent trend goes) as a popularity/status symbol. Though I started out long before it was the "in" thing to do, I figured out what my main motivation was. History.

Ghost stories keep our history alive (both literally and ironically). How many murders would be forgotten by the majority of people were it not for a haunted house? How many sad, fascinating stories would have died out centuries ago without those ghostly legends being passed on from person to person? Yes, there are plenty of tales which are not complete truths, yet even urban legends and iconic ghost stories are based upon a certain amount of fact. Sometimes the paranormal folklore can even lead to unsolved murders or other mysteries. They're a part of nearly every culture on earth. Through the dead, obscure forgotten history lives on.

If there were no true stories, no historical foundation, behind misty human forms and footsteps in abandoned mansions nearly all the appeal would disappear for me. I say "nearly" because well, I do like the bizarre, creepy, and mysterious so obviously it would still pique my curiosity. But I would be like so many other people and treat ghosts as a thrill to have once every Halloween. Ghosts would have all the fascination of a magician's trick. They'd be like thunderstorms; something I love to watch but won't go out of my way to try to find one.

With history, there is always something to be learned. I know plenty of people who treat the past as something to be learned in school from a book then brushed aside, yet it's so much more than that. It can be tangible in the form of artifacts and antiques yet relative to time and place shifting drastically in story as you move from place to place and see it from other people's viewpoints. It's full of amazing achievements and horrible deeds. In many ways, humankind is unchanging through the centuries. People fight wars over beliefs, politicians are corrupt, drama is entertainment, and the rich have power over the commoners. It's astounding that we, as people living in the 21st century, see our lives as so drastically different from past societies, such as ancient Rome. But strip away the gadgets, the clothing, the architecture and look at the people and you'll see a mirror image.

Much of what we know is the past as filtered through propoganda. Just listen to schoolchildren learning about Thanksgiving and you'll see what I mean. Those poor, helpless Pilgrims striving for freedom and good will daring to cross an ocean and harmoniously mingling with Native Americans, it all culminating in a great feast of two different people who lived happily ever after. That's how we'd like to remember it but it isn't the whole truth. And that is often the key with ghost stories. They're renegade historical truths cloaked in the supernatural. They tell us the sides of history we want to keep buried. Pure truth, like a disembodied spirit, terrifies and haunts. We would rather wake up from the nightmare than discover it could be real.

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