Posts Categorized: Fretter’s Creek

Ghosts of trees, not ghosts in trees

We know Clare has helped lots of animals in her life. Even the ones that passed away come back to visit her as ghosts. But has she helped any trees along the way? If so, where are their ghosts? Are they ungrateful? Are tree ghosts even a thing?

According to this guy they are. He has twenty years of experience as a ghost hunter. He knows the hidden world of the vagrants, and the vagrants say that tree ghosts are not only real, they’re malevolent. If they could only, you know, move around, this might be very scary.

This is what the people of leisure might learn, if they visited the haunts I visit; and they might learn more beside. They might learn of another world, a spirit world, such as is never alluded to in the pulpits, with which people in the poorest parts—people who are too poor to pay for beds—are forced to live in contact. Nights in the parks and commons have taught these vagrants more, a thousand times more, than they ever learned in Sunday or County Council Schools. They have seen sights—spirits in the form of man and of beast, of both and of neither—that have revealed to them how closely the other world borders on this, and to what close supervision the inhabitants of the other world subject some of us. They have learned, I say, what no priest or preacher would, or could, teach them, namely, that the hell of spirit-land lies on this earth, and that the worst of all punishments is that of the poor phantasms of the dead, that glides in and out the trees nocturnally, never meeting those it knew and loved, but ever encountering the most terrifying of the spirits that are hostile to man.

Our vagrants know, too, the power of these neutrarians, they know they can adopt any shape, and tempt and goad man on to the committal of any crime, however heinous. They have, moreover, acquired a further knowledge—a knowledge denied and scoffed at by the ministry of all Christian denominations—namely that all forms of animal and vegetable life, all forms of flora and fauna, pass into the superphysical, and live again.

I myself first learned of a tree ghost from an old tramp, who came and sat by my side on a seat on Clapham Common.

“Do I ever see anything strange here at night?” he repeated in answer to my question. “Yes, I do, at times, but what gives me the worst fright is a tree that I sometimes see close to the spot where that man was murdered some ten or twelve years ago. I never saw it before the murder, but a few nights afterwards, as I was passing the spot, I saw a peculiar glimmer of white, and, on getting a bit closer, I found, to my astonishment, that it was a tall, slender white thing with branches just like a tree, only it was not behaving like a tree. Although there was not a breath of wind, it kept lurching with a strange, creaking noise, and I felt it was watching me, watching me furtively, just as if it had eyes, and was bent on doing me all the harm it possibly could. I was so scared, I turned tail, and never ceased running till I had reached home.”

“Home!” I said.

“Yes, a clump of bushes near the ditch, where I always turn in of nights. It ain’t much of a home, to be sure, but it’s the only one I’ve got, and I can generally count on lying there undisturbed till the morning.”

I gave him a few coppers, and he blessed me as if I had given him a fortune.

Hedge maze before maize maze

Plan_du_Labyrinthe_de_VersaillesThe first corn maze didn’t come along until the late twentieth century, but it was inspired by European hedge mazes, which date back centuries. The Labyrinth of Versailles was one of the more famous and elaborate of these hedge mazes, featuring elaborate sculptures and fountains modeled after selections from Aesop’s Fables. Charles Perrault’s Labyrinte de Versailles described the labyrinth in detail. It was first printed in 1675 and was eventually translated into English about a century later. In 1778, Louis XVI replaced the garden with a arboretum.

Of particular interest, in reference to our most recent chapter of Fretter’s Creek, is the description of the entrance. The thread in the maze trick is never straightforward, is it? Poor Henry.

On each side of the entrance into this Labyrinth, which is a very grand and magnificent portal, there stand two brazen Statues, painted in the most elegant manner, after the life, each on a pedestal of rock work: One is the grotesque figure of old Æsop, and the other the soft image of the young Son of Venus [cupid]: The former holds a scroll of paper in his hand; the latter, on the other side, stands in a most agreeable attitude, with his arm extended, and a large ball of of silk between his fingers.

Inscribed at the entrance was a dialog between “old Æsop” and cupid.

Cupid, with the ball of thread in hand: “Yes, I can now close my eyes and laugh: with this thread I’ll find my way.”

Aesop: “Love, that slender thread might get you lost: the slightest shock could break it.”

Perrault summarizes the moral for us:

The lesson of instruction to be drawn from this fiction is this: That tho’ the God of Love is too apt to involve mankind into a thousand petty broils and perplexities, yet he has the secret art of extricating them out of the maze they are thus led into, when he is accompanied by Prudence, to the practice whereof he is here directed by the sage Fables of Æsop.