I met a man who wasn't there

"Yesterday upon the stair I met a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today. I wish that man would go away."
Hughes Mearns (1875-1965)

Not me. I wish he'd stay. Invisible people are the soul of story telling.

Did you ever feel the back of your neck prickle, and turn, expecting to see someone? And there's no one there? Sometimes it's frightening, sometimes not.

Herman Melville, that manly man who wrote about great whale hunts and greater journeys, had a lonely childhood and a cruel stepmother. One night, he wrote, when he was particularly miserable, he lay sobbing on his bed, unable to sleep. Then he felt the cool, peaceful touch of his dead mother's hand again. He held that spectral hand as he drifted off to sleep, peaceful at last, comforted by her transcendental love.

Dogs and cats are always glimpsing what we can't see but imagine might be there. Hannibal the Cannibal and men in Halloween masks with chain saws are terrifying. But still, when you're alone in the house, there's little more unsettling than when your pussycat suddenly starts staring just over your shoulder, eyes tracking something that isn't there. Or when your dog wakes from a sound sleep and bolts up with a wuffle to challenge whatever is floating in the ether behind you - that you can't see.

That doesn't mean nothing's there.

Our ghosts are as real as our lives, and each of us carries different ghosts through those lives. Some are real people we loved, some are people we've never met except in our imaginations. Because what else is a person that a writer creates out of the air but a phantom - one that we come to believe in.

* I used ghosts in a book once. Two of them, an animal and a human. I've used the supernatural too. Because I believe in what I can't see - sometimes more than what I can. But you read fiction, so you certainly understand.

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