Sunday, 27 October 2013


by Michelle Helliwell

Hallowe’en is just around the corner – we carved pumpkins this past Saturday, and I just pulled together my youngest son’s costume (Mario of Nintendo fame). While I love fall, I will admit that Hallowe’en is actually not my favourite holiday (and yes, I do consider it one). I gave up trick or treating at 11 or so, because I hated it. I’m not sure exactly why, though I have a theory, and it might have to do with the fact that I don’t thrill in being scared.

I have an active imagination, and need little encouragement to scare the crap out of myself. I hate being startled – my reaction is strong and tends towards violence (fight THEN flight) – and while I don’t mind a vampire movie with non-sparkly, kinda scary vampires, I am not a horror movie person. Zombies honestly and truly creep me out, and I do not enjoy being creeped out all that much. Haunted corn mazes hold absolutely no appeal for me.

That being said, I do have a curious, kind of love-hate relationship with ghosts. I grew up with ghost stories being told on both sides of my family, and I remember listening to them with a curious mix of thrill and trepidation. My favourite scary movie is TheChangling, with George C. Scott. Watch it and I guarantee you the sight of a rubber ball coming down stairs will never ever again seem innocent. Despite the fact that I'm convinced they are faked--like most of so-called "reality tv"--I can't watch those ghost hunter shows on TV without being creeped out. One of my favourite reads is a collection of ghost stories by famous Nova Scotiafolklorist Helen Creighton, titled Bluenose Ghosts.

Whether ghosts are real might be up for debate, but I fall into the camp of believers. It doesn't mean I think all ghosts are real, but that some have the possibility of being so. I also believe there could be a perfectly rational explanation for ghosts that involves string theory, space-time and other bits of physics we don’t fully understand yet. I grew up in a house with cold spots, miscellaneous noises and other oddities, and my mom, I firmly believe, carries the things around with her wherever she goes. New house, old house, it hardly seems to matter—they come in and set up shop.

I am not sure about the house I live in now – it’s older – 160 years or so. When we first went through it with the real estate agent, after I asked about foundations and wiring, I asked about ghosts and was told, to the best of the owner’s knowledge, there wasn’t any. I don’t think I could ever buy a house without asking about this. (Apparently the pizza shop two doors down from me used to be a saloon, and that, apparently does have ghostly visitors.) Every once in a while I smell cigarette smoke in a few places—mostly in one spot in the kitchen, by the back door and outside in the driveway—and no one has smoked in this house for a long time. It could be smell leeching out of old plaster walls—I’ve considered that. And frankly, I’m not sure what I think about it.

I’m not particularly religious and I don’t know what comes after death, if anything does beyond basic recycling. I’ve had an idea for a contemporary story that involves a ghost, so I suppose before I write it I should work that out. :)

In the meantime however, I think I might crack the cover of Bluenose Ghosts once again. I just won’t read it at night. ;)

Michelle Helliwell is an aspiring historical romance author who loves fairy tales and myths, and is eagerly waiting for this whole zombie thing to blow over. She blogs regularly, and pins far too much.


  1. I've never been one to like scary things either .. I used to read scary stories as a kid once in awhile, but as an adult I pretty much steer clear. Unless Ryan Gosling's going to be present ... :)

  2. Michelle, we must be the only two people who don't like Halloween. I don't think because it was scary but because of the PRESSURE. When I was a kid my mother figured we should pull a white sheet over our heads and call it a ghost. Needless to say I could never compete with all the pretty princesses and scary witches. When my kids were little I went the opposite way - I made all of their costumes. And damn it! they went as Disney Princesses whether they wanted to or not. I...I mean THEY were going to win that best costume prize even if I had to stay up all night to get it sewn. Ok, seriously need to let this go. Exhaling.

  3. I am a horror junkie. Beware when I come visit again. I'm also the type to jump out and scare you if I know you hate it. :P