Monday, January 22, 2007

Spirits of dead things.

By which I mean, not the usual ghosts, but ghosts of things that were dead to start with.

There are many reports of phantom coaches, ghostly ships, even ghost cars.


Oh, I've heard the argument 'but horses will have spirits' and 'coaches and old ships were made of wood, which comes from trees, and they were alive', but the arguments don't hold.

Horses might well have spirits. So might trees. But a car? Does iron have a soul? Does aluminium have an afterlife? Is there a Windscreen Heaven? I find that hard to believe.

Besides, why would four ghost horses consent to pull a phantom coach? Surely they'll have better things to do?

On the coach itself, yes, it's made of wood - but that wood was cut, shaped and polished from felled trees. It was already dead before it was made into a coach. The ghost, if there is one, will be that of a tree, not a coach.

Yet the reports persist. Ghost coaches, ships, cars and trains are heard and seen. Too many to be written off as imagination or hysteria.

I have theorised previously that spirits might vary in their ability to produce manifestations of themselves. Some can appear with perfect clarity, a few even in daylight and with such detail that they are mistaken for living people until they vanish. Some produce hazy forms, some partial apparitions, some just blurs. There are those that cannot appear but can make raps, or voices on a tape. Many, I suspect, cannot interact with the living at all.

So at the top end of this range of skills, it is possible that there are a few highly-skilled apparition-producers who can form the illusion of a vehicle. It won't be an easy thing to do, but since a spirit has no form, the image they manifest does not have to be limited to a replica of the body they left behind.

Currently, my interpretation of ghostly vehicles is that they are projected by highly-skilled spirits, and are in fact nothing at all to do with the vehicle that might once have existed. They might be recognisable to us because the spirit has modelled the manifestation on a car, boat, coach, whatever, that was important to them, or to which they were particularly attached.

The spirits involved must be very powerful. How much effort would it take to produce a ship, or an entire train? Perhaps a group of spirits work together on the bigger images. There are, after all, a lot of dead trainspotters out there. It's not much of a stretch to think they might get together to relive their previous obsessions.

I am, as always, open to alternative interpretations, unless you want to tell me that metals have souls. I can suspend disbelief only so far.


Southern Writer said...

Guess I've heard of similar ones, like the Headless Horseman, but I thought the coaches were only in the movies. I've never heard of the apparition of a ship. I have no clue how it's possible, so waited for your hypothesis. Sounds as good as anything I would have worked out. Are there any pictures?

Romulus Crowe said...

Well, one of the most famous ghost trains is in the USA. It's Abraham Lincoln's funeral train. One version of the story is here, but there are many others:

This might--or might not--be one of those dead trainspotters:

Ghost coaches--sometimes even with headless horses--are all over the UK. Cars are less common but I recall a few incidents, notably one in North Wales. I'll try to find that.

I don't know why the horses are headless. There are no records of horse-beheadings that I know of. Perhaps the spirit just can't get the head right.

Ghost ships usually appear in fog, so they are less certain. A real ship, in fog, can look ghostly. I think there are incidents where a ship known to have sunk was identified, but I'm not going to rely on memory. I'll hunt out the ghost ship references.

Romulus Crowe said...

How could I forget the Flying Dutchman, the most famous ghost ship of all?

There's a discussion of this, and other, ghost ships here:

Some interesting stories, some of them believable.

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