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Monday, July 28, 2014

The best ghost stories

"Clorinda Dream": outline by dhr, colors by Selkis

One of the finest ghost stories in Western literature is the episode in which Clorinda appears in a dream to Tancred in both of Tasso's Jerusalem-poems (Gerusalemme Liberata, 1581, and Gerusalemme Conquistata, 1593). She was a Muslim knight, he a Christian knight during the First Crusade in Jerusalem; he was in love with her, she was not in love with him; he will finally baptize her on her request, but just after having wounded her to death by mistake in a nocturnal duel. And appearing to him in a dream after her death, she will say . . .  No, these things cannot be summarized, they must be read. Anyway, much better than the words of the dead Beatrice to Dante.

Possibly, however, Japan is one of the countries whose ghost lore is most fascinating. Some very fine -- and true -- stories have been collected by Tom Bauerle in the international anthology Emanations: Foray into Forever. Here is a passage from an autobiographical kanashibari phenomenon being reported by a young woman:
. . .  I was lying on the bed but couldn't move . . .  She was wearing a white western-style dress. She was looking down and standing with her shoulders hunched. She was slowly moving her body back and forth.
I closed my eyes immediately and then I felt the mattress sinking next to my legs, so I knew the ghost girl had sat down. I thought, "Oh my God! Now she's going to attack me!"
Then I could feel the girl kneeling on the bed with her hands on either side of my body. I felt her hands slowly inch up on either side of my body to where the girl had to have been staring straight into my face.
At that moment I screamed at the top of my lungs.