I HAVE always been interested in ghosts and by that I don’t mean huge white sheeted things flapping about in the corridors of spooky stately homes.
More the remnants of themselves that people leave behind as they make their way through lives, the streets, pubs and workplaces of towns and cities.
Having said that, I lived in Hastings for a while and if you are going to try to find a genuine ghost, then the Sussex seaside town is as good a place to look as any, being the former home of leading occultist the late Alesteir Crowley as well as a fair number of white witches, who I witnessed performing strange rituals on a regular basis.
The spirits that may have been conjured up in the town aren’t really the ones I’m after seeing though, the winds coming off the English Channel providing enough of a shiver in Hastings.
I wrote a version of this in March and have since read Jeff Young’s Ghost Town: A Liverpool Shadowplay in which he rightly argues that the real ghosts are of people who leave behind a presence in a place, a feeling, sounds, something you pick up on as you walk the streets. They make sure that history is not wiped out by soulless blocks of glass-fronted apartments that say nothing about how we got to where we are.
The ghosts of these streets will never be businessmen or financiers, estate agents or those who work in the city, for these people do not put the soul into a place. They are here only for money and the shiny things in life. They are here to be seen — not heard or read — like anti-ghosts who thrive on attention and need to be noticed.
In cities, off the beaten tourist tracks, the real ghosts stalk the old streets where long gone bars, cafes, shops, concert halls, cinemas and theatres once entertained the masses, and they must struggle to understand how and why we swapped all this for the singular pursuit of money.
They look across rivers, watch boats leaving and think about escape but wonder why the people on board are even bothering as every city is starting to look the same.
The people who used to live in these places have been upped and outed; whole streets, estates, blocks of flats demolished to make way for high rise apartments, but these are way too posh for those who lived in the ones that were here before and were demolished. These are for the city slickers who are making money and spending it on the hobby of consumerism. But the visibility of that hobby is dying as almost everyone buys online, listens to music online, plays games online, watches films online, so soon everything will be closed and where will the ghosts go then?
What will people fill nostalgia-based social media sites with? “Remember this high-spec luxury riverside living complex? Who used to buy their phones and tablets from here? Remember the days when we actually used them? Now the kids just stare into the middle distance and never speak.”
Some of us are still shouting though, but our words are never heard. Like ghosts.