Writing about ghosts is fun for several reasons. They’re creepy. They allow for lots of imaginative plot ideas. They’re unpredictable. They can do things that people can’t.
But despite all of this, The Spirit in the Crypt is still fiction. Yet does that mean that ghosts don’t exist, in the real world?
The Victorian Girl
I have never seen a ghost in my adult life (more on my toddlerhood in a minute). But I know some people who have.
One of whom is my mother.
When I was very young, we lived in a looming, Victorian terrace. The sort of house with claustrophobic hallways that are constantly masked in shadow, and rooms that trap the cold air on a winter’s night, to the point where it’s like sleeping in an igloo rather than a house made of bricks.
I have never found out the story about my old house, and neither has my mother. But one night: one of those dark, winter’s evenings; she was disturbed by insomnia. Just couldn’t sleep. Something she has struggled with for her whole life.
Tossing and turning in bed, the wall of ice closing in, she realised that it was more exhausting trying to sleep, than to just stay awake.
She would get a glass of water, she decided. Maybe if she stretched her legs then it would make her sleepier. Would finally end the hours of staring into nothingness.
Pattering onto the landing, she didn’t bother with the light. It would just wake my Dad up. And she had been awake for so long that she could see well. Could see the handrail.
The landing below.
The girl, stood at the bottom of the stairs.
Stood in her Victorian night-gown.
She had long blonde hair, which glistened in the glow of the outer reaches of the street light, creeping through the front-door window. Though her face was cast into complete gloom. Just her blonde-hair was visible. The same as my sister’s.
And the frilly night-gown.
The night-gown which should have told Mum that, beyond doubt, this was not my sister. My sister who would be found asleep in bed, snoring, just 5 minutes later.
My Mum couldn’t have known the intentions of this girl, stood, perhaps even staring at her, in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs. My Mum rooted to the top step.
And, trying to look into that face of shadow, my Mum never expected it to be transcended by a shrill laugh.
Abruptly followed by the girl running into the dining room.
Maybe it was doubt. Okay, my sister didn’t have any Victorian night dresses. But my mother had just woken up. Maybe she’d just imagined the frills. Maybe it was just my sister, playing tag at 3 in the morning.
Wanting to be chased.
So my Mum followed, of course. Took each step one at a time, as you would, if half of you was sure that you’d just seen a ghost.
“Katie,” she called as she went, anxiety building inside of her. Her heart tensing. “Stop being silly. Go back to bed.”
She reached the bottom of the landing.
Pushed back the dining room door.
Turned on the light.
And, of course, the girl was gone.
“Give it back.”
Before this, my family had always had hunches that the house was haunted. Things would often go mysteriously missing.
Odd events were common.
Like the time an empty bottle of coke, decompressed of air, crushed, and left to be binned on the kitchen counter, fired its lid across the room, and narrowly missed my sister’s head.
Or the time when the ghost used to take my toys.
“Give it back. That’s my toy. Give it back.”
On the inter-com. During the night. Perhaps it was the girl. The girl who wanted to play tag wanted to play with my toys too.
Or the time when I saw the girl myself.
My Mum and I had been playing Lego when I saw her. Walking across the landing.
One of the few words I knew at that point in my life. But a word that I was certain of. And I was fairly sure what a girl was. And someone wearing a frilly Victorian nightdress, with long blonde hair that cascaded past her shoulders, over her forehead, that almost seemed to darken her eyes…
…well, that person had to be a girl.
My Mum couldn’t stop me from running. My sister hadn’t even been born yet, so she knew that there wasn’t a girl. Couldn’t be. This was before she’d seen her at the bottom of the stairs.
The girl giggled and ran again. I chased her. Of course I did. It was just a big game of hide-and-seek. And I was the seeker.
But she didn’t want me to catch her. That’s the purpose of hide-and-seek. She wanted to be the winner. She wanted me to be the loser.
“Gone!” I announced in disappointment, as I followed her into the next room to realise that she was too good at this game to be found by a two-year-old.
That she could hide wherever she wanted, and watch me wherever I went.
Ghosts do exist
So, if you come to read The Spirit in the Crypt, remember, although it is fiction, ghosts are very much real.
And, somewhere out there, the Victorian girl still sits, watching someone.
Waiting to be found.