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Children And Ghosts
Category: Ghost Stories Written by Nimue Brown
When my grandmother was a child, she went to stay with relatives in Bristol. She woke in the night, to find a classic white lady ghost at the end of her bed.
As far as I can make out she wasn’t really worried about this, but mentioned it at breakfast. She was moved to a different bedroom and nothing was said about it, so as an adult she concluded that they knew there was a ghost and no one wanted to discuss it. I think it says a lot about my grandmother that she had this experience, went back to sleep and was totally chilled about it.
My grandmother’s house was also haunted, and I knew this as a child and knew the names of the ghosts – one family member and their former lodger. I was never afraid of them or alarmed by thinking they were around.
For some children, the idea of dead people is really scary and problematic. However, if you grow up aware of death as part of life, then ghosts aren’t so threatening to begin with. Outside of horror films, there’s no reason to expect them to be horrifying or threatening in any way. When you look at the folklore, most ghost stories don’t involve anything especially alarming.
I don’t know what ghosts are – whether something of some people remains, or whether places remember, or something else entirely is going on. I don’t believe in ghosts, because I’ve seen and heard too much to feel anything other than confident that something is going on. I’m not inclined to assert anything about what ghosts are, but my feeling is that they might be all kinds of different things, present for all kinds of different reasons.
I’ve also experienced beings who were definitely cats and definitely non-corporeal – although not as a child. I have had multiple cats on my bed at times when there was definitely only one cat living in the house, and there was no cat flap. On top of this, I’ve had one sleep paralysis experience where the thing standing on top of me so that I couldn’t move or speak, pudded me with their feet and purred loudly. Rather than being a frightening experience, it was actually entirely charming!
It is important when you are a child to feel safe in your home and comfortable with any non-human presences who happen to be around. As a parent it’s important to be clear that only friendly things are welcome in your home, and that anything unfriendly will be banished. I think this is really important regardless of whether you think there’s anything present. Children who are afraid of the dark, of imagined monsters or the idea of scary things aren’t reliably comforted by adults telling them it isn’t real. It can be much more effective to tell the monster under the bed what the rules are and to make sure the ghosts understand that they’re welcome if they behave nicely. It is also likely to make your child more confident about telling you when they are afraid without worrying whether you will take them seriously.
After all, if you don’t take the monster under the bed seriously, what else might you shrug off as them making stuff up? It’s better to tackle the fear than to try and persuade a child there’s no basis for it, I tend to think.
About Nimue Brown
Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings.
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