Who ya gonna call (or, fuck the darkness)

So. This week I went to see the new Ghostbusters. As a lifelong watcher of the Ghostbusters (my brother is the world’s biggest Ghostbusters fan. No, really.) and a fan of funny, smart ladies, I was SO EXCITED to see what they had done with it.

Have you seen it yet? Go. I’ll wait.

I love that there were cameos of all of the original players. I love that Sigourney came back, because QUEEN. And I love (love love love love) Kate McKinnon. Seriously. And that end sequence? I know that the proton packs weren’t designed that way…. but it was spectacular and the music was epic. Loved it!

I always get super excited with film – I used to ask a battery of questions, but was told that it was super annoying, so I stopped. But this one?! I had to ask the gent that I had seen the movie with…. Do you believe in ghosts? It was a short convo – and he never asked me back, but I’m going to answer that question I posed, right now.

Yes, I believe in ghosts. I didn’t believe until I was 24, because I was aware that there were scarier things in the world. I liked fact, and as a history buff, during my trip to New Zealand and Australia, I made sure to make time to visit Port Arthur.

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Port Arthur, for a short introduction, is a small town in Tasmania. It’s a former convict settlement (1833 to 1877), and now is one of Australia’s most impactful heritage sights. It is a naturally secure site (a peninsula with a 30 metre wide isthmus, and apparently surrounded by shark infested water), so it was sold as an inescapable prison. It was for only the hardest criminals being sent to Australia, and had some of the strictest security measures in the British penal system. In addition, Port Arthur practiced the “Separate Prison” method – a movement from corporal punishment, to psychological. With over 200 rules for the prisoners inside the Separate Prison, it became the example for prisons around the world.

The Separate Prison, by the by, is also the reason that they needed to build an insane asylum right next door.

It wasn’t just the Separate Prison, as I learned. There was a tiny settlement (complete with an unconsecrated church, the reverend’s house, one charming home containing a human dissection room in the basement, another different prison (a level down from  the psychological torture – don’t mess up here, or you’ll end up there) and several other small dwellings. The Isle of the Dead is also a draw – the burial ground of the people living there, the site of the cushiest job at the prison, and apparent tourist attraction for the Devil himself. Port Arthur has a bloody, ruthless, and terrifying history – unfortunately, until as recently as 1996. I’d highly recommend looking into it, if that’s your bag.

I was so excited for a ghost tour onsite. Armed with our tiny backpacker flashlights,  my friend and I took the darkened forest path along the ocean from our hostel site to the historic site. We had recently taken a similar tour in Fremantle – while it was startling, it wasn’t scary. We expected more of the same, as we teased one another in the dark. Maybe a freaky walk back, but nothing we couldn’t handle. The darkness fell quickly – by the time we reached the site, the stars were coming out.

To put it mildly. Port Arthur was absolutely NOTHING like Fremantle. At all. We begged a ride from our tour guide after the tour, because neither one of us could imagine walking back on the path. We couldn’t, even together, holding hands after our decade of friendship, face the darkness and long walk home.

While I won’t go into all of the specifics (if you wanna know, you’ll need to ask), I will recount my first experience with a ghost. We went to the roofless church (it wasn’t ever finished, or dedicated to a specific faith), and then we walked into the reverend’s home. Our tour guide refused to open the door because of an experience she had there before (at this point, I was taking her reluctance as melodrama) and one of our group opened the front door. The group filed into a sitting room, on the front right side of the house. The only light came from a light illuminating the path outside, and three lanterns in the room. Our guide stood in the middle of the room, telling us the story of the man who used to live there. I stood in a corner, with my back mere inches from the wall (I jump and scream when grabbed from behind – this way, nothing could sneak up on me), listening intently to the story of the unusually tall man who used to try to bring God to the criminals of Port Arthur.

In addition to being a jumper/screamer, I’m rather short. And, sometimes, I can sense someone standing behind me before I am really aware they are there. It gets electric, especially if they are taller than I am. It’s nothing ominous – just a shorty sense. As she was standing there, I started to get tingles up my back. Like someone was standing there, breathing on my neck. Quick shoulder check – nothing. At the time, I specifically remember thinking that I was being too imaginative. Or maybe… he was behind me? Nah. Definitely imagination, I decided during the story. Ghosts aren’t real.

Within an hour, I knew that I had an experience with ghosts. The first one was the only peaceful one, but I knew it wasn’t my imagination.

However, once we were back at the hostel (thank you again, tour guide whose name I no longer remember!!) safe in our pajamas and sleeping bags and were able to speak, we decided that our imaginations had run away with us. Even though I had unexplained bruises (thank you, Separate Prison) and she had freaked out in the dissection room, we decided that our imaginations had ruled us, not our intelligence.

We had another day on the site (I KNOW. This is how much of a history nerd I am!!!) and we decided to check out the sites that we were able to (human dissection room is closed during the day, folks) to see if we had the same experiences during the day time. Given that we each had difference experiences in different places (I got the tingles, and my ribs squeezed, and she didn’t) – we thought that, if it were truly ghosts, they would affect us the same way in the sunlight.

IMG_1095This is the front room of the reverend’s house. That was my corner from the night before. I carried both a film and digital camera. I knew my cameras. Intimately. They were as necessary to my trip as my big red backpack was. And both cameras showed that orb after the fact.

Neither one of them ought to have. And I got the tingles as someone, long dead, stood behind me in the room – even in the daylight.

So, what’s the point behind my ghost story?

I am still in the darkness. I have flashes of light, moments and hours of bliss, as unexplained as that orb. As I told my brother earlier this week, all I want to do is lie down and give up. I have been strong for years. I keep getting knocked down, and I have to keep getting up. I don’t have another setting – I honestly can’t imagine giving up. Call it Irish stubborn, call it Aries determination, call it martial artist training – I don’t have a “give up” setting. I only know strength – for myself, for my loved ones – I only know how to be strong and to keep standing up.

My desire to just give up, and lay down, and stop trying, is indescribable. I know I can’t, but I really want staying in bed all day to be a viable option. I think the hardest part, especially for the people who know me the best, is the silence. I am not good with vulnerable at the best of the time. And right now… I just need to open my mouth or let someone touch me, and I’m a mess. My tears clog my throat with my honesty, and I am crying way too easily. I know enough to know that I’m scaring the shit out of the people closest to me.

However. I know I have to stand up. Kneeling in submission is not an option. And, just like I felt that ghost all those years ago, I feel the love and support of the people in my life. It’s like a million invisible hands in between my shoulder blades. Urging me forward, into the open, into the light. Reminding me that my imagination is wild, and that the darkness isn’t forever. That, even though right now I’m in the darkness, clinging to the side of the well, things will change soon. It can’t be as bad in the daylight.

So, baby brother. The man I scared the shit out of this week. I’m standing. I’m here for the fight, and the long haul.

Fuck the darkness.

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