Tuesday, October 01, 2013

October is here!

{Photo by rocketlass.}

It doesn't feel like autumn. It's too warm. The leaves remain too green, as does the grass. The air is damp, but the rain this week has felt more nourishing than punishing, with nary a hint of end-of-life remonstrance. Nature may be in retreat, but she has yet to strike her banners and acknowledge the rout.

But . . . when I was running in the lakefront park this morning at five, the darkness was near total, broken only by the merest sliver of moon, the lake beneath barely grudging it a shimmering reflection. Had I met myself coming, or spied myself going, the encounter wouldn't have seemed out of place. October, with all its concomitant spirits, is here.

For the seventh year, then, I'll turn this shop over to the ghostly for October. Today, a quick visit with a surely long-laid ghost, found in Andrew Joynes's Medieval Ghost Stories: An Anthology of Miracles, Marvels and Prodigies (2001). Many of the tale Joynes recounts have their roots in religion: tales of saints and saintliness, or of pagan tradition forced into the Procrustean bed of Christian belief. But Joynes tells a number that are more straightforwardly uncanny, tales from which no teaching can be extracted, no moral adduced. The following, adapted from the fourteenth-century tales of the Monk of Byland, in Yorkshire, is one:
This is an account of how another spirit followed William of Bradford crying out "how how how" on three successive occasions. And at about midnight on the fourth night he was returning on the road to the new town of Ampleforth when he heard a terrible voice shrieking a long way behind him, as though it was on a hill. A short time afterwards it shrieked again, but closer to him, and on the third occasion he heard it calling at the crossroads ahead of him. Eventually he made out the shape of a pale horse. His dog growled briefly but then retreated and hid itself behind its master's legs, whereupon, in the name of the lord and by virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ, William forbade the spirit to harm him and obstruct him on his journey. When these words had been spoken, it fell back and took on the appearance of a square piece of canvas with corners which flapped and rolled about. All of which might lead one to believe it was a spirit in dreadful need of recognition and help.
Or might lead one to conclude that one was reading an M. R. James tale, no? Small surprise that the M. R. James Newsletter says that Joynes's books is "strongly recommended."

Speaking of James, he will of course be appearing soon, as will his many confreres. Don't bother checking your locks, folks. Our friends this month need neither burglar's tools nor keys to get to where they can be reading this over your shoulder right now!

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