Weird Stuff

Just Out of Sight…

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.

The Skirrid Inn, a supposedly haunted pub, near Abergavenny, South Wales.

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.

A village in South Wales, enjoying some typically South Welsh weather

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.

17 thoughts on “Just Out of Sight…

    1. Hello Simon, and thanks for the comment. Yes, I passed the rope on my way to the ladies’ – and if you ask the staff they sometimes let you go upstairs to see the original hanging beam. Facinating, if somewhat morbid…

  1. I’m looking forward to the ghost stories, Mari. A fascinating post.
    For Scotland, the mystery of Glamis Castle is as splendid a spine chilling tale as can be found, or for London, that connected with 50 Berkeley Square in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (I believe these days it is a prosaic estate agents).

  2. A new short story collection? How exciting, Mari! Good to see that you’re actively writing again. I grew up in Essex, so not that far from Borley and two friends and I took a midnight trip there… but that’s another story. Wales is looking beautiful in those photos.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Paul. Yes, my dry spell seems to be behind me, luckily. If you wouldn’t mind I might throw a copy of the collection in your direction for comments when it’s ready…

      Midnight trips to Borley … that is my idea of fun!

  3. You’re certainly one of the few writers whose ghost stories I’ve enjoyed. I’m so often disappointed by the lack of any attempts to link tales with ‘normal’ life or give them any true credibility. Don’t make us wait too long for the collection, Mari.

    1. Hello again, Bill, and thanks for commenting (and for the compliment). I’m fond of using the supernatural as a way to explore the inner life and psychology of the characters, so maybe that makes a difference … or maybe not. I’ll send a copy of the collection over to you when it’s ready, and you can judge for yourself how successful I’ve been!

  4. A new collection? A new collection rooted in the supernatural realm? Yes, please!

    As for the unseen, I think life vibrates because of what cannot be grasped by the senses. The illogical beauty of experiencing that which does not fit our safe and narrow access to “reality” is a thrill. Terrifying, maybe, but wonderful. A great story can do this for us, but so too can a trip to South Wales, it seems! I am happy the invisible has returned you to a place of creativity.

    1. Hello Aniko, and thanks for the comment! I think you’re right about that – the unseen and the intangible helps make life vibrant, interesting. I’ll send you a copy of the collection when it’s ready!

  5. This is such a well-composed post, Mari. It is caused me to pause and think about some circumstances from my past, those moments where you look around and ask, “did that really just happen?”

    Sometimes, they were supernatural in nature and the logical mind wanted to arrive at some convenient and rational explanation for its presence or existence, maybe as a means of protection to our ego that believes it understands the “truth” of the world around us.

    And, at other times, those circumstances haven’t necessarily been paranormal in nature, but simply a series of uncanny coincidences that have placed us in the “right” place at the exactly “right” time. Either way, there are those who believe and those who don’t. I’m not really sure which side of the fence I reside on.

    But, regardless, more importantly to me is taking the time and effort to notice those uncanny sequence of events that can’t always be explained by traditional science or probability. It’s when we choose to acknowledge them that we really get the opportunity to embrace and stretch the power of the human mind to let go of the need to understand everything and simply absorb it.

    Maybe there is a logical explanation buried somewhere beneath the layers of coincidence. But, many times, or maybe most times, it is far more interesting and compelling to absorb the story being told and allow ourselves to feel it with the raw emotion that our mind continually craves. Well, mine does, at least 😉

    Thanks for sharing and best of luck in progressing with the development of your short stories, Mari 🙂

    1. Thanks for the reply, Dave, and for expressing something that I’ve felt myself on occasion, when something happened that just didn’t quite fit into the neat structure of accepted reality or probability. I’ve reached for a “rational” explanation, found none that were very convincing, and then decided that it was probably better to just accept that not everything can be labelled and put away in our mental filing cabinet. I think that is related to the suspension of disbelief that comes when you read a good story, even if it is a not altogether realistic one. Good point!

  6. Reality can be a lonely universe. I haven’t had much success in finding others who share my fascination with our otherworldly visitors, and have even been given disapproving glares for daring to look up at the sky during daylight hours. I suspect there are some who would prefer that it be illegal for people to look at the sky.

    1. Hello, and thanks for commenting! Reality can indeed be a lonely place, especially since our current societal norms and conventions dictate the limits of reality, and those who step across those boundaries rarely meet with much approval. I think fiction appeals to me, in part, because it frees the mind from what is immediately apparent and obviously “real”. Keep staring up at the sky!

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