Sat in a hotel room at sunset listening to The Doors' Riders on the Storm. (It has just finished the incredible extended instrumental in the middle of the track). I know I should be finishing short stories but I am tired and to quote Jim Morrison my 'brain is squirming like a toad' so anything I write now will have to be ripped apart and rewritten tomorrow. So instead I will scrawl out a blog posting which can suffer a bit of stream of consciousness.
When you write ghost stories or supernatural tales there is one question that you get asked almost incessantly. As soon as people know your genre, you can see the question perched on their lips or lurking behind their eyes, just waiting for the right moment to pop out.
"So, you write ghost stories. Do you believe in ghosts then?"
I am not sure why this question is so commonly asked of supernatural writers. I am pretty sure Fantasy writers don't get asked if they believe in elves and hobbits. Equally I am pretty sure Science Fiction writers don't get asked if they believe in Martians. Or maybe they do. Maybe in the public's mind one cannot write stories about things unless one believes in them.
We will stay away from fairy tales as I am not sure I want to be accused of mass pixiecide if I say I don't believe....
So the short answer to the question is no. No I do not believe in ghosts. Why? Well because I have never been presented with any believeable evidence for them and I can rationalise many reasons why people might create stories about ghosts to explain natural occurrences for which they can find no rational answer. So as I say my short answer would be no.
My long answer would also be no. Closely followed by a big BUT....
Actually there are two big buts. (Stop sniggering at the back there)
I don't believe that science can currently explain everything. Indeed my first ghost story - The Curious Obsession of Matthew Deacon - is based on one of those unexplained events that is most easily portrayed as a supernatural encounter. To this day I have no rational explanation for what I saw. But that doesn't mean I automatically subscribe to the idea that it was the spiritual remains of some long dead girl. As the great comedian Dara O'Brian likes to say in his act, "Just because science doesn't know everything doesn't mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you".
So no, I don't believe in ghosts as most people tend to imagine them but I do believe we still have a huge amount to learn about our world and our universe.
Even though I don't believe, I really, really want to. I want to live in a world where the mist laden woods are the haunt of goblins and sprites, where marshes and fens hide malevolent shades and the ghosts of their unfortunate victims, where no isolated village is safe from the predations of the Black Dog.
I long for a time when celebrating the turning of the year, the changing of the seasons, singing up the sun at dawn on Beltaine and lighting bonfires at Samhain had real meaning, where banging drums and singing songs to chase the spirits from the orchard on a frost stilled January night really would make for a better apple harvest in the autumn.
In my head I know these things are meaningless. In my heart they give real meaning to my life.
The world needs a bit of mystery and a bit of wildness, not just around its edges but right at its heart. Hence the stories I write. They are not a reflection of the world as it is, but of the world as I wish it was.
Do I believe in ghosts? No. But I wish I did.
And now for some spirits I can believe in. Pass the bottle someone.