I wanted to give you a whole set of curious objects today. Haunted objects. They represent a haunted city. Instead, I gave myself nightmares. They're perfectly ordinary objects in perfectly ordinary places. They still give me nightmares.
This is isn’t the first time I’ve done that. Given myself nightmares. A friend is an expert in the ghosts that haunt Canberra and she gave me a tour so that I could use them in my novel, The Time of the Ghosts. There is a plane at the Australian War Memorial I can’t look at for other people have looked at it and seen the dead pilot looking out at them. There is a staircase at a local high school where a hanging woman floats, her feet just a bit too high above the stair. There is an empty ballroom in a major hotel where, if you walk past at the wrong time, you can hear someone’s finger running over the edge of all the glasses at once, making you want to scream. There is no-one there. There is never anyone there.
I have been in the room where one of our Prime Ministers died. He haunts it, I'm told. There is no-one there either. There is never anyone there.
This was to be my Cabinet of Curiosities. Many objects, all haunted: the plane, the staircase, the ballroom and those glasses were just the beginning.
Instead, I find myself thinking of the car. It burns. It’s a 1976 electric blue Toyota Celica. If you travel the wrong road at the wrong time, you will see it burning. 1985 was when it crashed, and rumour has it that the people who answer the emergency phone line gets calls about it regularly. This happened in a place I know, and I’m very grateful I do not drive, for I do not want to see the car. I do not want to go into the ballroom, I will not look in the cockpit of that plane and I refuse to go anywhere near that staircase.
My Halloween present to you is a spooky, haunted Cabinet of Curiosities. My insult to injury is that I’m writing this just after midnight. Five minutes ago the burning car seemed the object I least wanted to haunt my dreams. Right now, I’m thinking of the dead pilot looking out of that ancient airplane.
I’m not ready to go to bed anymore.