From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us
-Traditional Scottish Prayer
Samhain is known by most folks as Halloween, but for Wiccans and Pagans it's considered a Sabbat to honor the ancestors who came before us. Samhain is the festival where the Gates Between the Worlds are wide open and departed friends and family can cross over in either direction.
For me, the most wonderfully frightening movie that deals with this idea is ‘The Sixth Sense’. It’s where I learned the most about telling a ghost story. I would love to have been the writer who came up with that story line.
Nothing’s missing. You have the vulnerable hero Cole, misunderstood by his mother, though we know he’s telling the truth. It's so important to have a MC we can sympathize with. There’s the strong but flawed man, Malcolm Crowe, to keep him safe. We have the unexpected twists and subplots and interesting characters that keeps us on the edge of our seats. (Or turning the pages.)
The imagery is amazing and terrifying. The flashes on tortured faces and hurt children. The child who opens the tent and scares us senseless. Surprises that jump out at us and make our hearts pound are essential and expected in a ghost story.
Then you have the sounds. The ghostly voices and thumping footsteps and slamming doors. Always remember to add sound to your scenes.
And absolutely no ending can beat this one, where Malcolm turns out to be dead himself. Blew me away. It’s a plot twist I never would have thought of but is so important in writing a memorable story.
If the movie didn’t frighten me so much, I’d take notes as I watched it on how to write the perfect scary story.
For this Halloween I’ve come up with a slightly less terrifying ghost story. One where the ghost refuses to believe he’s not really dead.
Trials of a Lonely Specter
There’s been an accident. Quinn believes he’s dead, though Liam insists otherwise. But if that is the case, why does Quinn see the two of them as ghosts? And why does Liam play along? Exposed to Mediums and apparitions, Quinn has a decision to make: either accept his fate or risk everything to trust Liam one more time.
The room darkened as Liam walked through an archway on the left and he hurried to follow him. He would have liked to take some time to examine the furnishing and tapestries of the parlor, but Liam pressed on. Quinn finally caught him at the far end of the room.
“Where’re we going?”
“We’ll find Betterford’s body reposing in the highest room of the tallest tower.”
Quinn gave him a dry look. “Wasn’t that for the ‘Sleeping Beauty’?”
“So I’ve heard,” Liam purred, looking like he was about to eat the canary.
Quinn didn’t like the eager way he swept through the kitchen to the servants’ staircase.
He tramped up the dark stairs in the apparition’s wake. Liam’s werelight was a mere flicker in his hand, casting eerie shadows on the close walls. Quinn was huffing by the time they reached the third flight and Liam stopped to let him catch his breath.
He looked up at the fond tone. Liam stood several steps above, curiously watching him. “You’re a ghost, my dear. You should be gliding up these stairs.”
Quinn’s mouth fell open. “I forgot,” he confessed. His eyes dropped, waiting for Liam’s mocking laughter. It never came. Instead, the man descended the stairs until he stood level with him. Quinn held his breath as the hand that held the werelight touched his cheek.
“You give me hope,” Liam said surprisingly. “Here, let me help you.” He slipped his arm through Quinn’s.
They fairly flew up the steps after that. Quinn laughed with the exhilaration that raced through him. He’d never felt so free. He wanted to burst through the roof and fly straight into the night. Liam grinned, sharing his joy in the sensation of weightlessness and speed.
All too soon they spilled into the hallway far above. Their laughter died at the grimness of the shadowy corridor. Quinn winced when Liam suddenly grabbed his hand. The spirit’s eyes glowed with anticipation.
He leaned close. “Trust me, Quinn.” His voice was shaking and the man cleared his throat. “Whatever you think of me after this, please remember that I want the best for you. For us.”
“I don’t understand.”
Liam shook his head, clearly disappointed by his answer. Tugging on his hand, he led him to a door in the middle of the corridor.