Samhain (pronounced saw-hin) is the Celtic day when the division between this world and the Otherworld is thinnest. In the Celtic calendar, Samhain begins at sunset October 31st. During Samhain, the creatures of the Otherworld, ghosts, faeries, and other supernatural beings, are able to cross into this world more easily. One such creature is the Pooka, a shapeshifter, who can appear in any number of guises: a horse, a donkey, a bull, a goat, or an eagle. And, of course, a giant white rabbit.
The most familiar Pooka is Harvey, the constant companion of the ever tipsy Elwood P. Dowd. Harvey is a benevolent Pooka and solves everyone’s problems. Two love stories are nurtured. An attempt to institutionalize Elwood is defeated. And Dr. Chumley is transported to the mystic paradise of Akron, Ohio. Not incidentally, Harvey was written by Irish-American Mary Agnes McDonough Coyle (“fine Irish name” my grandmother would have said). This comedy of errors is the epitome of deux ex machina but to the Irish, the supernatural is neither remote nor a contrivance.
One of my favorite ghost stories is the Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Wexford writer Josephine Leslie writing under the name R.A. Dick. It’s not a mystery, I admit, but it is relevant to the Mysteristas. It is a story about a woman writer in a man’s world trying to get published. If you haven’t seen it lately, give it a watch. You’ll see humor you hadn’t notice before.
More examples of Irish ghost stories include: Ghosts of Belfast written by Belfast writer Stuart Neville (Soho, 2010), the story of a modern day IRA (retired) hitman haunted by the ghosts of those he killed. Are the real ghosts or is he mad? Does it matter? In Whisperers by Dublin writer John Connolly (Atria, 2010), Iraqi antiquities are stolen and traded by American veterans thus invoking some very dark forces who do not necessarily adhere to our sense of justice.
What is amazing about these contemporary writers is how they incorporate the supernatural without destroying suspension of disbelief and without crossing into horror or fantasy. They simply write contemporary thrillers in which some of the characters aren’t human.
Sure, no problem.
I wrote a ghost story the other day. Just for me and my writing group. Maybe it’ll morph into a book idea someday. Maybe not.
So lovely Mysteristas, do you have a favorite ghost story? Have you written one?