Thursday 22 August 2013


When your personal and professional goals line up - how nice is that? For work, I went to a Scream Park, and chatted to my professional equivalent, wrote a blog post, and took some photos for our Facebook page. Write more. Take more photos. Who doesn't have those goals?

(Part of the point of the exercise was to give good google to the place where I took the photos, so I won't name it, then say confusing things about nightmares and ghosts in the same breath. I am aware of, and bitterly mourn, the SEO I'm sacrificing.)

I was nervous about visiting the haunted house. I get scared. I don't seem to have the shell some people do, to withstand being spooked. "I've been to the Scream Park, and didn't find it scary at all," said my Flatmate, "All the actors were crowding around me and I was just like, 'what? Are you meant to be terrifying? Because you're not.'"

There's a theory that we use horror to deal with the trauma in our lives in an allegorical manner. That's why Japan is famous for kaiju, monster movies - they're used to process trauma, current, past and future.

Japanese movie poster for the 1956 film Rodan.

Kaiju represent earthquakes, tsunamis. Vampires are allegory for sex and sexuality. Movies about zombies are really about viruses: swine flu, SARS. I wonder if gothic stories are New Zealand's brand of kaiju. If it's a way of dealing with the deep vein of depression that runs through this country, the loneliness that comes from living on an island, the quiet, persistent feeling that nothing is really as it seems, that maybe everyone is crazy, or else I am. Or if it's a literary convenience, and, like the good keen man, never really existed. 

I have nightmares, sometimes. They're infrequent, but very unpleasant. About once a year I scream in my sleep loud enough to wake myself. (Pause for a moment and imagine what that is like.) 

After I had a screamed myself awake from a dream about a ghost-witch riding a giant spider, it occurred to me that my subconscious has a complete list of everything that terrifies me, and pull up images at random. Ghost-witch on a giant spider isn't an image from kaiju. It's just a dream I had.

My life is extraordanarily blessed in many ways. I don't want to suggest I've survived some awful trauma, because I really haven't. As I write this, I am warm, my rent is paid, and I know myself to be loved. But when I think of when the nightmares started - they started in adulthood - I think, well there was that, and yeah, maybe

My Equivalent told me ghost stories. There's a grey nurse, who walks. (He's never seen her, but others have.) Doors lock themselves. Once, some children visiting the Scream Park saw an inexplicable mist. (They screamed. A staff member told the mist to go away, and it did.) 

They have to get the building blessed periodically, otherwise the disturbances build up, as the ghosts get restless. 

I don't believe in ghosts. They're a comfort for the narrow-minded and the spiritual. If you believe in ghosts, you believe in an afterlife. Is it comforting to think this all goes on, and you can rattle your chains down the centuries, or would you rather leave it all behind with your mortal flesh?

I have one nightmare more than others. It leaks over into my waking life, a little bit, sometimes overtaking me and making familiar corners and doors breifly terrifying. It's nothing I've seen or experienced - nothing I can recall ever seeing anywhere outside my imagination. It was represented at the Scream Park, my nightmare made flesh. Or, I should say it was made puppet, because of course it was only a ratty old mannequin pretending to be scary. I didn't take a photo. 

I don't know how I'll sleep tonight. I wonder if seeing it, made real, will help deal with the nightmare or bring it back to me. 

Not believing in ghosts doesn't stop me from being afraid of them.

At one point during the tour, I lost my Equivalent, and had to hallo out for him. There was a dim room behind me, filled with a looped recording of laughter and a baby's cradle. Ahead there was darkness. It was a thick, velvety dark. More then that: it was a darkness that was nothing, like the darkness between the stars on a clear night. The floor had disappeared beneath me, and if I took one step I would fall. Then my Equivalent called back directions, and suddenly I was on solid ground again.