Thursday, July 09, 2009

ghosts



This face-in-a-wall is just down the road from where I live and it reminds me of two ghostly things.

Firstly, it reminds me of a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - The Yellow Wallpaper published in 1891.

The narrator has been confined to a yellow room which she hates, in an isolated country house where she has been taken as a "rest cure" for her "mental fragility". Denied contact with family, friends, even her baby - and denied the chance to work at her writing - she begins to see movement under the wallpaper, a figure writhing around the room.
"There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.
Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day.
It is always the same shape, only very numerous.
And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don't like it a bit."

A woman, trapped under the yellow, creeping like the women who creep around in the garden outside. Were they ghosts? or were they figments and symptoms of her growing madness?

Its a great story which you can read here, based on the writer's own experience of being prescribed a "rest cure" for her post-natal depression. It was a critique of the way Victorian women were treated as hysterical and unstable because of their biology. She sent a copy to the leading doctor who had pioneered this treatment and though he never replied to her, he did actually change his practice after reading the story.

Which also reminds me of Gaslight, what a great film, with similar themes of haunting and female madness.


Secondly, thinking of ghosts and creepy women reminds me of a night when as a child I was sleeping in my sister's room and woke to see the figure of a woman, standing motionless in the doorway. Her hair up, in a bun maybe, her arms crossed in front of her. Not my mother. Not anyone I knew. No one who belonged in our house. She didn't respond to my whisper. She simply stood.

My sister, sleeping the sleep of the unhaunted, would not stir.
The woman standing there would not stir or speak.

My terrified whispered calls to my mother must have become quite loud in the end. I recall the agony of needing to cry for help but not wanting to attract the attention of this silent, still but threatening figure.
After an interminable period of fear, my mother appeared and, pushing open the door, revealed the ghostly figure to be a dressing gown hung on the doo

I can still feel and remember my frozen panic.



31 comments:

subtorp77 said...

Hi lettuce! Mom has had many sightings, herself. I'm getting detrails on them all, for future publication (not to mention my own ).

And I see more than one face in the wall, her (or is my mind playing tricks, again? ) And great movie reference in "Gaslight" ;)

lusks said...

I loved that film Gaslight, I too used to see faces on wallpaper when I stayed at my Gran's house as a little girl.

Dumdad said...

Spooky stuff!

PS That Logan looks like a cool cat.

Gledwood said...

When I went "slightly mad" a few years ago, I used to see faces all the time in the rimples of things: curtains, squashed carrier bags, piles of clothes, even in the wooden grain on the back of a fire door...

Lynne said...

I used to wake up as a child and think I saw a person in my room. The longer I stared at "it" I could see it moving little by little. It never made a sound when it moved; not even a rustle. Yet, it was real to me. I never called out for my mom either—too afraid.

I see more than one face in your wall, so not sure what face you see ...

Poetikat said...

I used to have a mural of trees on my bedroom wall at home. I could always see the image of a man in a tie with a Hitler mustache. I always wondered if he was the photographer.

Kat

willow said...

There was a pattern in the wood grain of my bedroom door when I was five that always scared the bejesus out of me. It looked like a monster.

Gaslight is a masterpiece in creepiness!

Susan said...

Well, I'll recover from this, go back to work, & then return. Yikes.

I feel so old when I have said to someone or other 'you know, that guy was gaslighting her...' & they've no idea. Then I prescribe the film.

Can't read story now but thanks for the willies & the link:)

subtorp77 said...

@Kat, that's just too eerie!

Brian Miller said...

kat got me freaked out too. what interesting tricks our eyes play on us...off to read the story! happy tt!

R.L. Bourges said...

The Yellow Wallpaper - sure pays to invest in a steamer, doesn't it?

I see more than one face in that there wall of yours. They're not moving, just thinking things out, I guess.

:-)

best to you, Lettuce

Ronda Laveen said...

I too see more than one face in the wall. Great stories to go along with the theme. It is sometimes hard to sort out what is real and what is imagined.

Akelamalu said...

That ghostly figure must have been so frightening for a young girl Lettie.

The wall reminds me of my bedroom ceiling when I was a child. We lived in a very old rented house where the landlord was very slow in doing roof repairs so consequently the rain had seeped through and made patterns on the ceiling. I could see all sorts of things on that ceiling!

Wings said...

Hah! Great post. Isn't there an actual word for seeing things in objects? Can't recall it now, of course. :(

I love GASLIGHT, too. Great film!

Thanks for sharing!

Steve said...

Gaslight is a great movie! I'm unfamiliar with that story...have to check it out.

I remember having similar scary episodes as a child. It's amazing how active our imaginations are as children. I wonder if that hyper-awareness served an evolutionary purpose, keeping us safer when we're vulnerable children in the wilderness?

Betsy said...

frozen panic....yes, I know that feeling!

J A Harnett-Hargrove said...

Great story.
This reminded me of the old ghost signs on buildings.
-Jayne

Leah said...

I think "The Yellow Wallpaper" is wonderful, incredibly creepy! I have to go re-read it now.

Your story was really quite chilling--poor little one, I'm glad it was in the end only a dressing gown!

Kris said...

Needs a lick of paint, I feel.

Liza said...

I agree with Kris...a can of paint will stop spooking you.

Shammickite said...

When I was little, I was moved to a single bed next to the wall in my parents room if we had summer visitors who needed my bedroom, and there was creepy flowered wallpaper next to the bed, and I could make out faces in the flower shapes, scary faces, I still remember them.

Baino said...

I can't see the face *sob* . . .I just haven't got it . .wish I did!

The Silver Fox said...

I see THREE faces on that wall!

Barbara said...

I'm glad your childhood ghost turned out to be something explainable. However, the terrors of those early years stick with us forever unfortunately.

Megan said...

Ooh, thanks for leading me to the yellow wallpaper - I didn't know it.

I can't see the face. I'll look again!

ArtSparker said...

Wonderful face in the wall. I remember the story, very famous in feminist circles.

California Girl said...

Wonderful reference, the 1891 story. Your story is haunting as well. Nothing so scary as a child in the dark.

I do not see the faces...just a sort of face/upper torso. I often need these things pointed out to me. I am definitely more of a verbal than visual sort.

Catskill Snap said...

I love that story--over the years I return to it every so often ...

Jaime said...

i don't see any faces in the wall... but i can never see the hidden objects in pictures either.

Robert said...

Love the face. Love the photo. Maybe it's a friendly ghost?!?

Reya Mellicker said...

I think ghosts get a little thrill when we living people get creeped out. I think it's kind of a rush for them.
Cool story, Lettuce.