Mysteries. Oddities. Things that do not fit neatly into preconceived systems of logic or accepted frameworks of reality. Such things have, to me, always been the object of endless fascination.
Back in my schooldays, when most of my classmates were interested in sport (usually the boys) and bubblegum pop (usually the girls), I was intrigued instead by ghosts. I devoured ghost stories, some of them written specifically for younger readers, some of them for adults, all of them good – or at least satisfyingly creepy, more than capable of sending a shiver down the average spine. I read about true, or at least supposedly true, ghost stories as well: Borley Rectory, the Enfield Poltergeist, the Amityville Horror. Some of these stories seemed more likely than others, but all of them seemed to share something – something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time. Now, I think it was this: that all of these cases seemed to shed some light on the inner, emotional state of the human participants. There might or might not have been something supernatural happening in these series of events; there was certainly something psychologically intriguing about them.
Of course, the realm of the weird encompasses far more than just ghosts. There were so many other things to keep me entertained: UFOs, vampires, ESP, Bigfoot, mysterious disappearances. Again, there’s a common factor between these diverse stories. Perhaps it’s just that they remind us that there is more to the world than is immediately apparent. Even in Age of remarkable scientific advancement and elucidation – perhaps especially so – many of us feel the need for mystery, for that which remains on the edges of our understanding and cannot quite be explained.
I’m currently working on a collection of short stories, all of them grouped loosely around the theme of the strange. There are ghosts, zombies, vampires, werewolves, cryptids of various kinds. Some of these stories are a few years old, some more recent. I was inspired to work on them by a recent trip to the area that I still think of as “home”, the hills, woods and valleys of South Wales. When many people think of South Wales they immediately think of the rotting detritus of dead or dying industries: coalmines, ironworks, slag heaps. You can indeed find such things there. You can also find lonely moorland, forests, meadows, rivers and lakes, apparently untouched by industry of any kind.
In such places, the veil that separates our accepted version of reality from the unknown seems remarkably thin. It doesn’t much matter whether you believe in such things or not; indeed, the very concept of “belief in” ceases to carry much weight. It’s just there, that other side, never clear, never definite, always just out of sight…
I’m still spellbound by that world of mystery. I don’t know whether there’s any truth in the odd stories I seem to have spent much of my life reading about. My rational mind insists that they are probably the product of misidentification, misunderstandings, wishful thinking and exaggeration. In all likelihood, a fair number of them are outright lies. But, whatever their truth or otherwise, they continue to appeal.
Perhaps, in the end, they’re just rattling good stories.