As I was listening to my mp3 today a thought occurred to me that was inspired by a confluence of several experiences I’ve had over the past few days:
Part 1) There’s a scene in the first season of True Blood, shortly after we first discover that our heroine has met an actual vampire, that the show attempts to explore the implications of a truly immortal being. They do this by having her tell her grandmother. Her grandmother replies “How old is he?”.
When grandma is told that he’s a Civil War vet she tells her granddaughter to ask him if he’d be willing to speak to her next Historical Society meeting. This is a woman after my own heart, ‘I’ve met a bloodsucking monster but he has authentic period uniforms.’
Part 2) Some people I know recently went on a ghost hunting expedition to a local haunt called “Theorosa’s Bridge” (I won’t go into detail, we all have local ghost hot spots, this is one of ours). One of their number was a very tall Native who generally wears his hair long and a trench coat.
Arriving at the location they discovered others already at the bridge who were there for the same purpose. This other group was populated by several teenagers so full of preconceived notions they decided tall and dark indicated a fearsome devil worshiper who was therefore possessed of magical ability. Meaning people who frequent supposedly haunted locations also frequently believe silly things and be highly suggestible. Who knew?
Part 3) Earlier today I was listening to a BBC radio repeat of the travel program Excess Baggage. The host, Sandy Toksvig, was interviewing a man who wrote a book about walking the London Wall. Originally a Roman fortification, it has survived in pieces to present day. One section is at the bottom of a government building in the center of the city.
He had to get special permission to see it. But when he was shown around the civil servant that was accompanying him refused to go into one excavated section. The intrepid explorer soldiered on, found a 2m x 2m hole, climbed in, took some pictures, and came back out. He then asked the employee why he did all of this alone. The guard responded,
“Have a look at your pictures when you get home.”
“So I did,” the explorer continued, “And it had some funny orbs in the pictures. So I asked about it and I found out they’re ‘ghosts’.”
“Were you frightened by that?” Asked Toksvig.
“Not really.” He answered.
“See, I find the idea of spirits so wonderful,” Toksvig laughingly replied. “Talk about getting in touch with real history.”
Again, I love this, hauntings as anthropological research tools. Ghosts aren’t scary, they’re artifacts.
Conclusion) I have a scene bouncing around in my head:
A cloaked and bejeweled medium, sitting at a table, gazing into a glass ball, seeing colors and shapes swirl and dance. Eventually her eyes roll back in her head and she begins to speak very slowly “I. Am. Here. I am N’Shek-te, I lived among the ancient and noble peoples of the mountains of the American desert. Ask me your questions.”
“Um, did you live in the mountains, up high, or on the ground?” A man asks.
“We lived below, our cities were vast and surrounded our round ceremonial cave.” The spirit answers.
And the man on the other side of the table bounces like a little boy, “Fantastic! I’ve always wanted to know, were second-person possessive nouns prefixed with an aspirant or a simple fricative? Oh, and while you’re here, did you prefer binding be made of sinew or plant fiber, since we’ve found both? Oh, oh! I almost forgot, did you celebrate at the new moon or the full moon, we’ve never been sure about that.”
Wanna break up a spiritualism session? Bring in a historian and an anthropologist. Never mind the, “when will I die,” malarkey. We want to know ritual calendars and basket weaving techniques.