Sometimes I Feel Like a Ghost in My Own House

A Ghost Story (FilmGrab)

I live in a very old house (by American standards, anyway). It’s from the mid-1800s, in an area of London that was settled around the 1200s. And my house is haunted.

From what I’ve learned about the building, it used to be priest quarters, and before that, a school for boys. It belonged to a psychologist at one point. It was divvied up into apartments in the 1980s, and poorly so; it’s easy to hear the lives of others through the whisper-thin walls and the time-worn floors.

But at night, my husband and I often hear the door to our downstairs bedroom open and close on its own. It happens a good two to three times per week. The floorboard in front of our master bedroom upstairs, that only creaks if you step on it, creaks in quiet of night as we’re lying in bed. Every now and then, we’ll get a cold draft across us when we’re watching TV. When I’m up late writing, I feel someone come into the room and watch me, and then drift away…

As if to say hello. (Maybe even ask, “are you done yet?”)

It’s not a scary feeling. It’s eerie, yes, but whoever’s ghost it is doesn’t mean us harm. My husband is Scandinavian and grew up in much older houses located in much older places at the top of the world. The idea of ghosts doesn’t really register or trouble him. City kid that I am, houses and the idea of ghosts always freaked me out until I moved away for college and started sharing houses with people. From then on, I’ve had many strange experiences in houses, but also learned to love them, and listen to them. The personality that can constitute a house used to be something totally alien to me. If anything, I was taught to distrust them. I blame it on the superstitions I learned from my parents. I blame it on movies I’ve watched too many times alone at night.

A Ghost Story (FilmGrab)

Throughout my thirties, I learned to appreciate houses a lot more. They do “talk”; they say what ails them in their creaks and groans, they can hum or sing when the wind is just right. Clouds, like thoughts, drift across them, and their window eyes can brighten and darken just like humans’ do. They learn words through our conversations. Their wood and paint can carry the scars of our moods, just like our flesh can. Things get lost in them, just like things can get lost in us, too.

I guess houses and ghosts are on my mind lately because sometimes, I feel like a ghost in my own house. I wander it daily. I’ve been unemployed for a long time, way before the virus hit, and it’s the photos of my pre-virus life on the walls that sustains my hope of better times to come. Framed by the past, like most ghosts tend to be.

I talk to digital ghosts all day; Zoom classes and video calls have reduced connection with my friends back in NY and elsewhere to talking heads that react to me when I say something. Eyes that cry, voices that shout or wail, or laugh with me at something stupid.

Footsteps that danced with me are gone. There’s just music, repeating. Reminding: one day, things will be fun again.

I go upstairs, I go downstairs. I clean, and I bathe, and I write, and I draw things. Ever the introvert, my husband enjoys his time downstairs with his gadgets, and upstairs we talk and try to find a show to get hooked on (and often failing), in need of distraction. And all the while, there’s that feeling of drifting around.

Waiting for something.

A Ghost Story (FilmGrab)

So many people are dying to get back to “normal,” whatever that may mean to them, but I am ready for something new. Ready to join the proverbial afterlife and start the next adventure in a different incarnation. I can only hope that doesn’t mean more waiting is in order. I want to keep traveling, and keep writing. The world should never fit inside of a screen.

Yes, sometimes, I feel like a ghost in my own house. Haunting myself with words. Knocking on your screen for attention. Wandering your inner floors in memory, when something I’ve said rings true.

Know that I miss you.

Wherever you are.

Depeche Mode: Spirits in the Forest preview review

Music event

All good things should start with Depeche Mode, so I’ve taken tonight’s special event to launch this new blog, Then, Celeste Said…

Every big Depeche Mode fan (often called a “devotee”) remembers the moment they fell in love with their music and never looked back.

For me, it started when I was little. Our neighbor would sometimes babysit me, and she was a Depeche Mode fan. When I was 15, I ordered some CDs via mail order and one of them was Black Celebration. I’d never heard that record before – or so I thought. I’ll never forget my confused joy as I listened to “Stripped” and discovered that I not only knew the melody, but also had a tiny shard of a memory associated with it: me sitting in front of the speakers in our old apartment, staring at them as that beautiful sound came out. The LP cover was on the coffee table. Turns out I’ve been a devotee since I was five.

By the time I was 16 I owned pretty much all that I could get my hands on that had to do with Depeche Mode. I had devotee penpals who sent me tapes of stuff you could only get in Europe. I would stay up til 3 in the morning trying to take photos of stuff around the house in an “Anton Corbijn way” because I so loved the style of Strange, Too. So many friends, so many parties, so many concerts, so many music, visual and spoken word artists discovered through my love for Depeche Mode. I even met my husband through a mutual devotee friend. Who knew I’d go from growing up in Brooklyn to living in Scandinavia and now England “thanks to” Depeche Mode?

I tell you that story, to tell you this story: Tonight, 300-ish people got to see the preview of renowned director and photographer Anton Corbijn’s new documentary, Spirits in the Forest. It’s a beautiful tribute to the fans, and intersperses six fans’ stories with clips from Depeche Mode’s final two shows on their “Spirit Tour”.

We were among the first people in the world to see the film in terms of it being an audience mainly comprised of fans. There were also some amazing people in the room aside from Anton – Jonathan Kessler, Peter Gordeno, and two of the guys who were featured in the documentary were also there.

We’ve all been loosely sworn to secrecy in terms of not giving away spoilers, though it’s not because anything specifically “happens” in the film. It’s more that the amazing correlations between these fans’ major life changes and the Depeche’s music is a real delight to witness. It’s also a very moving film in that it’s easy to identify one’s own story to a particular song, sound or lyric.

Just as every devotee can remember the song that made them a fan, we can also remember the moment the music was really there for us in some profound way. That’s the power and beauty of art. There are some truly unique, painful, and just plain funny anecdotes shared by the fans featured in the film. You really won’t believe how deeply the music has touched their lives.

Anton Corbijn was his usual candid and funny self during the Q&A, hosted by Edith Bowman. He also talked about how the featured fans were chosen; it was something that began with the stories people shared as part of the Depeche Mode Facebook Takeover contest last year. The stories that were unique and came from a variety of cultures and age groups were considered, and then the special six were selected from there.  

Spirits in the Forest will be screened on one night only! Watch, sing, laugh and cry along at your nearest movie theatre on November 21, 2019.

Thank you very much to Anton, the band’s management, those six special fans and the Curzon Mayfair for such a memorable and inspiring evening.