The Unfinished Business of Ghosts
Posted by World Weaver Press Guest Blogger
This Haunted October article is brought to us by writer and teacher Jay Wilburn, whose short story, “Pushed Out,” can be found in Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales.
I have written four, true ghost stories. I’ve written thirty-seven zombie stories. My first novel Loose Ends: A Zombie Novel is obviously a zombie story. Up until this year, everything I had ever published was about zombies. Ghost stories are new to me in a professional sense, but I’ve lived with ghost stories far longer than zombies or any other horror tales for that matter.
My father was a storyteller. He found tales of the unknown and the unexplained in volume after volume of anthologies. He would read these stories on camping trips back when I was in Boy Scouts. I would huddle down in the exposed dark too far from the dying fire in sleeping bag and tent. The world was suddenly untrustworthy and the sane world was outside the woods where normal people slept in their safe houses. The world was full of noise and all of it was threatening after the stories were done.
Eventually, my father got the hang of it and he started telling his own. His stories used new monsters and old, southern gothic. He found himself coming again and again to ghosts. His stories had epic scope and sprawled across generations. The spirits in his stories were unsettled and their business was always unfinished. The journey was always a spiraling trap that kept the living from ever finding hope of escape. He incorporated the best and worst of folklore, conspiracy, and legend into his tales. He looked for the notes that inspired fear and he played them again for full effect in the next telling.
Ghosts frighten us and unnerve us because they should be finished, but they are not. People can have many motivations, but ghosts have business that is strong enough to demand their action even after shedding the mortal coil. These are the notes of revenge or justice. These are stories that call up and punish the sins of the living. Ghosts threaten to expose our secrets and to destroy us with them.
Their power can be terrifying because what we know about how far they can reach and how much they can manipulate our physical world is a mystery. A good ghost story strips away our comfort with invisible hands and unknown power. It can make us question if there is rest or peace. The afterlife may hold punishment once we are gone. There may be debts that still have to be reckoned. The punishment of the rich man in Hell watching Lazarus from beyond is a real terror in a world where ghosts are real.
My ghost stories tend to focus around family. Sometimes they are stirring up old arguments or sometimes they make things worse by trying to solve issues that should have been completed in life. Communication plays a key role in my ghost stories. Problems with communication are greatly magnified when some of the participants are dead. Sending messages from beyond is an important theme in ghost stories. Contacting loved ones is the crux of much activity of the living that believe in ghosts.
The existence of ghosts would reveal things about our world and the nature of our universe. If we can contact them without unleashing their vengeance, they should be able to tell us things about death and the metaphysical plane beyond. We fear them and are curious. We are unsure and possibly envious of what they might possess. We want to know what we are in for even as we want to avoid it at all cost.
Ghost stories are our stories. They tell our secrets and our fears. They connect the past to the present in a way that few other tales can. They are limitless in the potential manifestations of the spirits. They give clues to what might be. The ghost may be the idea that can apply to any culture or time.
Pick up a copy of Specter Spectacular from World Weaver Press and read what could be. There are thirteen tales that will take away the safe places in the dark and make you more aware of the sounds in the world around you. You should find something you enjoy even as it makes you less sure of the reality of the world around you.
Jay Wilburn is a public school teacher in beautiful Conway, South Carolina, where he lives with his wife and two sons. He has published many horror and speculative fiction stories. His first novel, Loose Ends: A Zombie Novel, is available now. He is a columnist for Dark Eclipse and for Perpetual Motion Machine Press. Follow his many dark thoughts at JayWilburn.com and @AmongTheZombies on Twitter.
About World Weaver Press Guest BloggerWorld Weaver Press invites many guest bloggers to join us in our discussion of fantasy and science fiction. Opinions expressed by guest bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of World Weaver Press, its staff, or authors.
Posted on October 13, 2012, in from the authors of WWP, ghosts, guest blogger, World Weaver Press and tagged ghosts, Haunted October, Specter Spectacular, World Weaver Press. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.