Encounters with the Uncanny: Ghost Stories and the Brain
The new Meanjin is out today, and as well as being an incredibly gorgeous physical object, includes a piece by me about ghost stories and recent research suggesting many of our encounters with the uncanny may have a physiological basis. You can buy the issue in good bookshops, online or you can subscribe (a particularly good deal at present because Meanjin are offering five issues for the price of four during September), but if you’d like a taste, here are the first few paragraphs:
In 2007, while on a residency in Paris, my partner and I took time out to visit friends in London. It was August, and we were fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to mind a friend’s mother’s house in Balham Hill. The first night we stayed we were tired; it had been a long day, travelling on the Eurostar with our fifteen-month-old, and so we ordered a pizza, watched television and went to bed early.
I have never been a good sleeper, especially in unfamiliar places, but that night I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. For a time I slept undisturbed, but then, sometime deep in the night, I woke, falling out of a deep dreamless sleep into the sort of strange wakefulness jetlag induces. At first I was disoriented, the room unfamiliar in the darkness. Next to me I could hear my partner breathing. Gradually I realised where I was, but even as I did
I was gripped by the certainty I had not woken of my own accord, and that something, somewhere, was wrong.
And then, quite suddenly, I heard a child cry …