Tuesday, November 15, 2005

why New England is spookier than Florida

I really think it's the climate. and all the dead Puritans. perhaps the living ones as well.

but then, Florida has its own special brand of sunshiney creepiness. like Stepford.


Chris said...

I come from an old Yankee family from rural Maine, and I've never found our state to be particularly spooky. At the same time, I can understand why others would.

In the part of Maine I come from, people speak of their dead ancestors in the present tense, and know the names and complaints of all the local ghosts. It's not unusual to have a few graves in your backyard. I guess it's like the Addams Family: if you live within the weirdness, it doesn't seem weird at all.

Michelle Souliere said...

I think part of the spookiness (which I love with all my heart) has to do with the bareness of trees and the change of the seasons from fertile to barren. Sort of a reminder of the ephemeral nature of the mortal state.

It also has something to do with the fact that there are large segments of the state that are still largely untraveled (which will continue to be so, I hope I hope I hope!). Something about the bareness, again, coupled with the reminder of the strength of the wilderness.

Humankind has a hard time facing up to the reality that Mother Nature is not always a snuggly nurturing type!

I did a rant/article in my zine Baby Mandelbrot about man vs. nature at one point -- specifically nature's tendency for rampant growth. Maybe I can adapt it and post in a Maine-specific vein here someday...

Another element may be the cold. All that shivering... your hair stands on end for all SORTS of reasons here! ;)

Michelle Souliere said...

I know for me it's a seasonal thing, too. Summer in Maine -- not too spooky (unless you are on particular back roads). Fall in Maine -- wonderfully spooky.

The stark outlines of bare or nearly-bare trees in the setting sun as the wind picks up... the greyness of things as they're uncovered by the falling foliage... old things that remain undisturbed except by the change of seasons.

Silent woods where your every step crackles and echoes away from you as you walk through the dry leaves and stumble on the occasional root or snap the occasional branch.

You think you are alone, but you always wonder. Wrens and squirrels rustle in the undergrowth, looking for food. There is a multi-directional echo that enchants and disorients, a hint of vastness tangled in trees and lumped over rocks.

Oh, I seem to be waxing poetic. But I think I've captured some of what I see in Maine as spooky, so hopefully it will be useful to anyone reading and wondering about all that.

On a level of personal history, I spent a lot of my childhood wandering through Evergreen Cemetery as a child, on foot and on bike, alone and with family and friends, so I feel very familiar and friendly with graveyards. A lack of my own family's graves in the immediate area (coming as we did from Biddeford and Worcester, Massachusetts) seems to have given me license to adopt foster grave families, en masse.

Our house on Stevens Avenue in Portland is one of the city's older houses, though much added-on in the 40s or 50s, and garden digging often released curious artifacts -- clay pipes, porcelain doll torsos, buffalo nickels, ancient shoe buckles, hobnails, the occasional ring and lots of bottles and kitchenware shards.

When we moved in, the back room of the house still had traces of its Colonial ancestry, an old door with a square latched peephole that the womenfolk could peek out of to see who might be outside when their men were abroad.

There was a handmade replica of a rifle hidden in the fieldstone walls of our basement, just a piece of wood, but painstakingly made to look like a real gun in case of attack.

So, I grew up surrounded by other folks' relics, but it just made the mystery more intriguing. ;)

Chris said...

Wow, Michelle. You've beautifully described the state I love.

I always picture the stone walls that run along the roadsides and through the woods as the skeletal remains of abandoned farms. The lingering history of Maine is everywhere to be seen, and yet most people never notice. Whether you consider these remnants spooky or just spookily beautiful, their presence is a great benefit of living here.