Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Ghosts Have Helped My Writing Career

The night crept upon me like a shadow. The house was quiet, and I felt the need to listen to ELO, a pop-culture group that dates me but that I’m proud to say I knew well. I slipped away from my family and headed downstairs where my oldest brother’s turntable sat, crying out for me to spin a sheet of vinyl under its melodic needle.
CREEPY is FREE Today (3/14/12)
I placed the album on the record player, gingerly trying to avoid discovery. If I scratched any of my brother’s albums, I would surely die. I knew that. I had learned the hard way. I had the bruises to prove it.
“Mr. Blue Sky” started drumming hip quarter notes, and I hid under big brother’s bed, feet tucked into sticky cobwebs and hands under my chin, basking in the glory of big bro’s collection of soul food: music from the seventies and eighties. The room was dark, of course. I had to keep a low profile, lest I be found out and quickly dragged outside where I’d receive a proper thumping. 
Our home was a typical tri-level from the seventies. I lay at the bottom, the rear, the caboose, the small room in the basementwith a convenient set of double doors, which frequently allowed us boys to escape late in the night.
I was in keyboard heaven, loving the solitude, taking in the soul food.
My eyes adjusted to the darkness that filled the room, and everything took on a navy-blue sheen.
Looking straight ahead, daydreaming as usual, something caught my attention. The adjacent room had been vacant and black. No one had entered or exited in the last twenty minutes or more that I had been down there … until the shadow moved.
I lifted my eyes to see a form step out of the darkness. A full-bodied figure silently walked in front of me, looking forward, and then abruptly turned to the right, staring down at me. There were no eyes, no face, no teeth glimmering in the darkness. The figure was made of midnight and quiet as the morning. It took another step, then its body faded into eternity.
I felt cold. My heart raced. I swallowed a lump of fear so thick I nearly choked.
The music continued. “Mr. Blue Sky” ended and was followed by “Turn to Stone,” which I did. I shivered as if I had been dumped in a vat of ice. I waited to hear the figure call to me, to come back, but it didn’t. It had already left my world.
I tried to make sense of what had happened. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t real. But I couldn’t hide from the truth: I had seen a ghost, a real G-H-O-S-T. It had appeared out of and vanished into thin air, lost, as it were, between where it should’ve been and where I lay.
The realization scared the bejesus out of me, and I bolted out from under the bed, rounded the corner, and raced upstairs to where big brother and Mom and Dad sat in the living room watching a rerun of Three’s Company.
I plopped down on the couch next to my mom. The color returned to my skin, but my heart continued throbbing under my ribs. I never told a soul until recently. And now you are one of the privileged few.
• • •
Looking back on that day, I’ve concluded that experiences like this make writing enjoyable for me. Understanding fear allows me to communicate what my characters feel and, in some way, what I have felt during the creepiest of circumstances. I have a firm belief that what we see with our eyes is not all there is. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who’s had the privilege of tasting the afterlife. There’s dark and there’s light. When I die, I want to see the light. I don’t think eternal darkness and wandering would be all that enjoyable.
All to say, it’s no wonder I’ve chosen to write about the supernatural. Doesn’t everyone see dead people? They’re everywhere.
• • •
What do you see? What has inspired you? What gives you the chills? These are the things that you should write about. 

Incidentally, Creepy, my collection of scary and true ghost stories is free today (Wed. Mar. 14th.) This post is an excerpt from the Indie Author's Guide to the Universe and is also taken from Creepy.

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.


  1. What a wonderful and inspiring post. We must talk sometime. My awakening took place due to a near death experience. Yes, the spirits definitely walk among us. And yes, they inspire my writing. And yes, very briefly I walked there, too.

  2. I always prefer a ghost over any other monster . . . there's an intelligence, a shield in place, a mystery that always forms new questions and the good ones always remain unanswered. Darn, now you've got me thinking about ghosts when very few appear in the story I'm writing. Thanks.

  3. I believe there is something more to life and the afterlife too, and I write about the paranormal and supernatural as well. Of course, the only other-worldy experciences I can claim to experiencing in my life are some very vivid and unusual dreams and that creepy, eerie sense that something unnatural was watching me. (I used to live in a house that made me feel that way every time I was alone in it at night. Many years later, when no one in my family lived in that house anymore I admitted it to my mother who confessed to me that she experienced that same creepy feeling when we lived there too.)

    One of the YA novels I am currently writing involves ghosts and a whole new dimension of the afterlife.

  4. Great story, Jeff. Best wishes with CREEPY ƸӜƷ

  5. That is creepy, I must say, Jeff. I had my own paranormal experience years ago. It creeped me out so much that I slept with the light on for six months afterwards. And I was an adult at the time, too!


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