Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Superstitions of Youth: Ghosts and Aliens

When I was a kid, I had a fascination with the idea of ghosts. I think what really solidified it for me was a really cool (to kid-me) book with lots of stories and pictures of "haunted" places and even some pictures of ghosts. Some looked so "real" that they freaked me out. I would look at them for hours.

I also had some collections of short ghost stories, and I really enjoyed reading them. I read them many times. Part of what I enjoyed was how they sparked my imagination. They also had little illustrations here and there that just fed into it. They were just enough to give an aura of menace or mystery. I wonder if I still have those books.

Part of this enjoyment of "ghosts" is also probably why I liked stupid shows like 13: Fear is Real (as I mentioned before). Of course, now it is pure entertainment value. For I figured out a long time ago that ghosts are not real. But for a while, they were real to me, or at least, they fed my imagination as a child. It is funny in a way - I cherish those memories in that they were great fun for me. It was fun to be scared of ghosts and ghost stories.

I don't recall exactly when it was I figured out it was all nonsense, but I was still a kid. Then my next level of superstition, which was one at least a bit more grounded, was in aliens. Not the kind that Rush Limbaugh complains about, but the kind that abduct people to do anal probes. At least theoretically, there could be aliens and they could even be visiting the planet. That was a new fun thing to be scared of. I even got to experience once of the common things that people say accompanies an alien abduction - waking up in bed and feeling paralyzed, unable to move. Only I didn't see aliens - I just couldn't move and was freaked out. I later determined that this was simply the normal sleep paralysis that sometimes people experience. Once I figured that out, it wasn't so freaky anymore.

What finally convinced me that aliens (at least in the popular imagination) were no more real than ghosts was the similar lack of evidence. Plus, the anatomical similarities, the obsession with sexual things and other sorts of things that were more akin to old tales of night hags and such, combined with my own experience with sleep paralysis, convinced me rather thoroughly that aliens are more about people's hopes and fears (mostly fears) than anything real.

So ghosts and then aliens were my superstitions for a while. Admittedly not a long while, and mostly while I was a small child, but still, I got to experience them from the inside. It is fun to be scared. I guess the thing that I miss the most from it is that I really can't be scared about such things or anything involving superstitions.[1] It just doesn't register anymore. Kinda kills any chance of being scared by a movie, either. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy scary movies, though. My daughter sure does. She asks for scary movies all the time. Alien is her favorite. She asks to watch that one all the time. Maybe she'll grow up to be a horror movie director.

[1] - Ok, I take that back. Superstitions can scare me - I'm scared of the Republican Party Base. They are loaded with superstitions.

1 comment:

hedera said...

"If you believe in things
That you don't understand,
Then you'll suffer -
Superstition ain't the way."

(With thanks to Stevie Wonder.) I actually heard this song tonight during my water aerobics class...