A Message from the Other Side?

Do you believe in ghosts? In “A Message from the Other Side?” Shelley Sturgeon tells how her attempt at communication with the dead might just have been heard on the other side!

In the spirit of Halloween and because I’ve decided that on Fridays I will blog about whatever topic I want to, today I thought I’d talk about things that go bump in the night. Well, I mean ghosts and I suppose it would be more accurate to say things that go bump at any time of the day because my experiences, if that’s what they indeed have been, with the other side, if that indeed exists, have happened at various times of the day.

Intrigued yet?

I am very intrigued by the subject and have been for as long as I can remember. Do I conclusively believe in ghosts. No. But I believe in the possibility of their existence. I believe that there’s a possibility that there are more things to be known about what happens when someone dies, about what happens to their soul or their spirit or whatever you want to call it depending on your religious beliefs.

I also believe that it’s easy to dismiss things we don’t understand or can’t see. I mean, come on, they used to think the world was flat, right, and that you could fall off the edge? At that time there was no way to see the world as a whole so that conclusion was based on the information that was available at the time. So, is it so impossible to believe that maybe, just maybe, there is more to understand about what happens to a person after death?

Okay, okay, I suspect some of you are snickering by now and shaking your heads at my ridiculous theory.That’s okay. I’ve been laughed at before! And, in fairness I should also say that I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine tonight as I write this!

So let me tell you about one of my experiences. This happened this past summer and I swear this is absolutely true – no exaggeration or embellishment – cross my heart and hope to… well, you know how the rest of that goes!

Background

But first a bit of background. My husband and I have done a lot of genealogy research over the years. And as anyone who has ever done any genealogy research knows, you often need to go to cemeteries as part of your research. Our poor kids were dragged to cemeteries regularly during their childhoods – even before they could walk! And, when I served as president of our local genealogy society, I was actually interviewed on television–in a cemetery! It was my 15 minutes of fame, edited down to about 90 seconds, broadcast to the nation!

We’ve come across some great stories about people in our families and made some fascinating discoveries. About twenty five years ago, while doing some work in a local cemetery here in town, we discovered the graves of my husband’s great grandmother and her daughter. Elizabeth (the mother) and Susanna (the daughter) had died on the same weekend in October 1918 so that in itself was suspicious and warranted more investigation. Was it an accident, a fire perhaps, or maybe a contagious illness? Continue reading “A Message from the Other Side?”

5 Elements of a Good Ghost Story

5 Elements of a Good Ghost Story by Shelley Sturgeon offers five things to include when writing a ghost story if you want to keep your readers awake at night!

Do you like ghost stories? I do.

This weekend we watched The Secret of Crickley Hall. The mini-series was based on a book written by James Herbert and was adapted for television by the BBC. If you’re looking for a ghost story with a good storyline, you might enjoy this.

I have a big collection of ghost story DVDs that I dust off at this time of the year. It’s my way of celebrating Halloween now that I’m too old to go trick-or-treating (and have been for some time!)

Other favourites in my collection include:

But, I think my absolute favourite ghost story is The Changeling. This is an old movie, made in the late 70’s I think, starring George C. Scott. I just think it checks all the boxes for a good ghost story.

So What Are the Checkboxes for a Good Ghost Story?

A good ghost story has all or at least most of the following elements:

  1. There is a good setting.
    A creepy old house, an out-of-the-way location, isolation… The Sixth Sense might be an exception to this characteristic of a ghost story, but Crickley Hall, The Others, The Awakening, The Changeling, Insidious, and An American Haunting all check this box. And, the idea of spending a long snowy winter in a hotel in the middle of nowhere cut off from civilization as the family in The Shining did? That’s the stuff goose bumps are made of even before anything scary happens!
  2. There’s a good back story of some tragic event or unresolved issue.
    The story needs to be something interesting and at the same time something we can almost all understand to be a justifiable reason to come back and haunt the living–if, of course, that is an option! Some of these back stories would be good stand-alone stories without the ghost story factor.
  3. There is an absence of blood and gore.
    With the exception, perhaps, of The Shining and maybe The Sixth Sense I could say this of my favourites. A good ghost story relies on the story, not the special effects. We don’t need a “slice and dice” / “slash and dash” bloodfest to be creeped out by these stories.
  4. The suspense of the story builds slowly.
    A creepy location, a bump in the night, a tragic story, very subtle at first, parsed out in bite-sized pieces like a mystery.
  5. There’s a twist, a gotcha!
    I’m not sure that you could say that all of my favourites, or all good ghost stories for that matter, have a twist, but I think the best ones do. The Sixth Sense and The Others are classic examples of this. Readers/viewers love to be outsmarted but the gotcha needs to fit in logically with the storyline to work. The readers/viewers need to be able to review the lead up to that moment and realize that the clues were there all along.

So, if you want to write a good ghost story, be sure to include these factors.

What is your favourite ghost story – book or movie? Let me know in the comments. Maybe I can add it to my collection!

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