Monday 30 April 2012

This house was completed in February 1933, for me (Miss) Caroline Abbott Derby, aged 59 years… My friend (Miss) Archabel Little also lives here with me. We hope whoever finds this note in after years will have a happy home here, and remember the first occupants. Do not be afraid of us, if we ‘come back’ with our little dog Timmy, we are kindly ‘ghosts’. God bless you all, Caroline A Derby.” Recited in The Press, 3rd October 2011

Sunday 29 April 2012

One night, walking home on Skye... Terrifying nocturnal encounters #1

"The road leading up to the house where I used to live on Skye was a small single track that passed across a burn forming a natural dip in the landscape. We often had problems with the area of this dip - a feeling of unnatural sensation, which was backed up at times by the behaviour of the animals we owned. When riding horses down there, we often found they would refuse to pass this particular point, and the dogs would react with apprehension. At night, the dogs would bark into the darkness in the direction of this area, and one night we were kept awake by a cat screaming in terror from the roof of the barn next door.

On the night of my experience, I was wandering home late from a neighbour's house. It was very dark, you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. As I entered the dip I suddenly started to feel that I was not alone. There was what I can only describe as feeling as though a large predatory being was stalking me. Primordial fear took over - for the first time in my lif I felt as though I was prey.  I took off like a  jackrabbit, running for my life.

Interestingly enough, I was talking to the daughter of the neighbour I had been visiting a few day's later. I didn't tell her my story, but mentioned that we'd been having problems taking our horses down the dip in the road. She recited having had exactly the same experience previously.

Let's just say... I didn't walk down there late at night again."
Is there something sinister in the woods... ?

Of all the forms that humans are reputedly able to shapeshift into, the werewolf is perhaps the most notorious and better recognised (in Western folklore at least). While the dog may be regarded as 'man's best friend', its ancestor the wolf, reminds us of the wilder characteristics and temperaments we have tried to domesticate. Recent suggestions that we attempt to reintroduce a wolf population into certain areas of the United Kingdom have been met with mixed views: after all, they are unlikely to obey the kinds of dominance battles certain dog trainers seem to endorse. We punish the dogs that bite our kind with (usually) death, fearing that once they have tasted blood some baser instinct will conquer and undo their socialised training. We fear their heritage of freedom, perhaps, loyal to their own kind and not obedient to ours.

That humans may be able to utilse those qualities we percieve within the wolf generally appears as an embrace of our potential for malevolent, for being a primal creature that seeks to prey upon those who inhabit its own mundane and regulated human world. In wolf form, their identity is concealed just as they have a new kind of body with which to explore other sensuous experiences. They can strike fear into those who may bully them in the everyday, when their human body may be weak and their status is marginal. In this new form, they are freed from the bondage of social norms and regulations, stripped to the basic state of hunger and hunt. Focused, ursurping, hidden. They can return to the human world post transformation and witness their actions, can relish in the malign echoes they leave in their wake.

This goes for werewolves who are conscious of their state, who embrace their lycanthropic potential. These werewolves are a little different to the 'unlucky victim' who is bitten, inducted without intent (who may need our sympathies if we are to accept them as our protagonist). The tragedy here, perhaps, is not just that being a werewolf involves the pain of transformation, but that it robs our seemingly treasured self control, our ability to be empathic, good... or worse still, find that what we experience is simply a shadow of ourselves. Human desires, like anger, find a strength in teeth and claw... and perhaps a whole different way to resolve problems in our relationship. In 'Werewolf of London', Dr Yogami warns that the werewolf is compelled to destroy what it loves the most, a recurring tenet for werewolf fiction. In this 1935 film, the relationship between the werewolf protagonist and his wife is strained, and the reappearance of her old flame ignites the division that his work obsessiveness has already established. Their friction sizzles beneath the etiquette tetherings of their social world, but under a werewolf moon it threatens to break out. Wife and wolf come face to face, and as she questions if he recognises her a gunshot sounds. "Thanks for the bullet," he murmurs in the film's climax, as though once released these urges cannot be boxed up again, but only suffered. Jung might argue that such is a metaphor for the battle with our shadow: if we cannot accept and understand it, balance it, what will it become? As the werewolf seems generally not to remember its experiences in wolf form, then how can we face the predator that breathes inside of us.

The werewolf may move on all fours, or walk bipedally. There are numerous tales of something 'half man half wolf' that came out of the darkness, sometimes in the middle of nowhere, sometimes in the home. Sometimes, it simply wanders past inspiring fear of its potential malevolence, as in the experiences associated with the Hexham heads (in which the discovery of two stone heads led to some unexpected late night disturbances):

"It was about six feet high, slightly stooping, and it was black, against the white door, and it was half animal and half man. The upper part, I would have said, was a wolf, and the lower part was human and, I would have again said, that it was covered with a kind of black, very dark fur. It went out and I just saw it clearly, and then it disappeared, and something made me run after it, a thing I wouldn't normally have done, but I felt compelled to run after it. I got out of bed and I ran, and I could hear it going down the stairs, then it disappeared towards the back of the house." (Source)

Hexham Heads

Does the werewolf represent our fear of being prey, of being stalked when we're lost in dark miles of wilderness separating us from the comfort and sanctuary of our civilised towns and cities? Does it remind us of times when we lived unguarded by our architectural and technological achievements of the last few millenia? Certainly the topic of our selves as targets for a hunt is frequently explored in fiction, from the supernatural antagonists of unnatural metamorphoses to the more recognisably flesh and blood malice of the psychopathic serial killer. The threat of the loss of empathy, of morality, lingers in the background of such discourse, an examination of what keeps us safe amongst each other. Werewolves then are not necessarily consigned to the geography of outside, to the uncivilised world we've tried to leave behind. They stray far from the natural habitats we associate with wolves who, despite what certain sources may suggest, are highly unlikely to attack people. And so, maybe it is our own capacity for predation that we far. Maybe it is the man in the wolf that is truely sinister.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

H: What is the weirdest thing you've ever seen?
A: My son once told me that he was cycling down the road and happened to see an adult dressed as a banana, standing in the front window of a house, holding a baby.
H: That's pretty weird.

NB: Whilst looking for a picture of a man dressed as a banana we found a picture of a man dressed as a speedcamera (!!). Wonderful.

A: Does he count as a flasher?!
H: Ummmmm...

What's the weirdest thing YOU'VE ever seen?