A Universal Haunting

Tree GraveThe experience of being haunted is not just about waking in the cold, dim light of early morning to find a menacing white apparition watching over you from the end of your bed. Being haunted can merely consist of a sensation, a passing thought, a remembered painful memory, or taking note of some kind of sign that has your mind conjuring up all sorts of fanciful connections.

Being haunted in such a way can be the most terrifying experience of all. It can strike too close to the bone, cut too close to the heart and turn our hidden insides outwards. It can make you feel like you will never again work yourself back through the haze of emotional blindness that a haunting carelessly throws into the air. You can be left unsettled, not knowing where you are in relation to who you think you are as a person. Rusty locks can be broken open, doors can be wrenched askew, leaving us scrabbling about in the dark as we try to find some way of securely closing everything back in again.

While traditional ghostly hauntings can often be shared with other people, the message contained within a personal haunting has only one target in mind. This is something experienced alone. Hauntings are often mysterious, teasing us with only the slightest glimpse of what lies beneath, the significance of which can only be understood after you work at unravelling its deeply seated meaning. These solitary hauntings can shake you to the very core of your soul, slide under your skin to dance with your soul and construct the most bewildering mazes in your mind. Your eyes cannot be closed against such an experience, it will continue to bombard you until you stop ignoring and start trying to understand.

The most disturbing impact of these hauntings is what is left behind after the initial instigator has moved on. While the haunting itself may last for only a micro-second, it produces a complex reaction that can linger for a long time after. Often many questions hang heavy in the air, the subject of which will depend entirely on the message being sent. Why did you leave? Where have you gone? Why did you break your promise? What have you forgotten? When such questions build in your mind, there is no escape, you are forced to try and make sense of it all.

Personal hauntings can come in many forms. Some are all about the visual, other times a certain sound will speak to you in a very particular way, but then there are days where you are transported away by a passing fragrance. This week I was assailed by the scents of a time since past. One moment you’re walking down the street, very much a part of the everyday, but then suddenly you become an unexpected time traveller, witnessing things that you never knew you needed to be shown. Such scents of past memories came wafting across the boundaries of time and space to leave me wondering at what the universe was wanting to tell me.

A fragrance haunting is the most frustrating to experience as there is nothing to react against. A visual clue can be studied and analysed, a sound can be repeated or recorded, but a scent? Well that is a hard thing to capture. A fragrance taps you on the shoulder but when you turn to see who is there, of course there is no one. The fragrance has dissipated before you’ve had a chance to understand its true nature and uncover its secrets. It is an invisible spirit which travels through the air, not concerning itself with who it troubles as it makes its way around the world.

My first fragrant ghost was a combination of scents which conjured up the feel of a place that I lived some six years ago. It brought with it the silence of a cold morning, the peace of a clear blue sky, the sound of frost encrusted grass crunching under hard shoes, the almost imperceptible scent of Eucalyptus on the breeze, and a cheeky grin associated with rabbits feeding on the lawns surrounding Parliament house…those naughty little beggars…so disrespectful of authority! All in all a relatively positive remembrance, but even so this could serve as both a reminder of happier and of sadder times. Perhaps this comes to me now as a harbinger of further change on my horizon?

Broken AngelMy second fragrant ghost was a connective fragrance that had my mind linking one thing to another until I arrived at a certain location. The scent I caught on the air was one of sunscreen soaked into warm skin. From there I was at the beach, all blue water and blinding white sand. That invigorating feeling of having your skin salted by the sea and having it dry as you sit on your gaudily coloured towel. The dry salt leaving your skin slightly itchy, but feeling altogether refreshed. It was feet burning on hot sand as you make your way towards the ocean, then towering waves that pull you under and drag you across the sandy floor, coming up grazed and bruised but never feeling more alive than at that moment. An invigorating memory to be sure, but beyond that I’m not sure of the message. Have I let myself forget the simple pleasures of immersing myself in the environment? Do I need to reconnect to that sense of freedom? Probably true on both accounts, and in my most vivid of dreams I often travel to that intermingled place where land meets the sea.

At times of these visitations I am reminded of poor old Ebenezer Scrooge. In response to his strange visitors of the night, Scrooge was somewhat resistant to the experience, ‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!’ Certainly an understandable reaction. And I too have found myself trying to ignore or at least avoid the wisdom to be found in my hauntings. However from experience I have found that my continued ignorance simply means that the universe keeps resending the same message over and over again, sometimes in different form but there is no mistaking the unchanging message at its core. The universe has all the time in the world and does not leave me in peace until I properly accept and act upon its message.

Just like Ebenezer’s Christmas ghosts, a personal haunting reveals several different possibilities – a disturbing vision of the past, a reminder of a current promise, or a potential future that is still yet to pass. A haunting is a curious beast indeed, but despite the negatives that can arise, the experience should ultimately be embraced. After all we have little choice in the matter. The universe will do whatever is necessary to ensure we properly acknowledge these otherworldly communications. Unfortunately we can exert no control over the messages that we receive, instead the messages that we are destined for have an uncanny way of catching up with us eventually. All we can do is be ready.


  1. John

    Greetings from one of the haunted.

    When there’s nothing else to stand on, you can make a bridge from words like these.

  2. Jo

    We should get together to swap notes, I’ve had many, many spooky experiences. Great post, Tracey…..

  3. jan

    It is said that Proust wrote “Remembrance of Things Past” because of the events conjured up by tea cookies (madeleines?) Perhaps the universe is telling you to follow Proust.

  4. PaulS (gingatao)

    Beautiful descriptions of your ghosts really brought them alive (haha), scent is the most powerful evocative sense, wonderful writing,

  5. Ricardo

    Very vivid descriptions. I’ve had moments where a scent or a sound or color has sent a chill down my spine and taken me to another time and place in my own own life. It becomes so strong that I forget where I am for a few seconds.

  6. Tracey

    Hi John – How did I know that you would understand exactly what I’m talking about??? Thanks for your lovely bridge metaphor. All we can do is use our words to build strong foundations for eachother.

  7. Tracey

    Hi Jo – Thanks for your kind words. Ohh, a fellow hauntee…I’m sure we could find many interesting tales to speak of. I know that apart from the type of hauntings of which I speak of here, I’ve had several strange experiences over the years. Some of them still give me a bit of a spine chill when I think of them now.

  8. Tracey

    Hi Jan – It’s funny that your bring up Proust as I’ve been meaning to do more reading into his work. I recently finished reading Alain de Botton’s wonderful book ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life’, and I found much of interest in his words. Perhaps you’re right, perhaps I need to pursue Proust a bit further. The universe does indeed work in mysterious ways.

  9. Tracey

    Hi PaulS – These ghosts are most definitely (and quite strangely I guess) alive and well. Some such visitors are welcome, but sometimes these reminders from another time and place I could really do without. It is amazing how scent can transport our minds and souls so readily.

  10. Tracey

    Hi Ricardo – I am always astounded at the way that just a passing thought, glimpse, or scent in the air can move us so powerfully. And you’re right, sometimes the impact is so potent that you can kind of lose yourself in the moment.

  11. Narnie

    Ohhhhhhh, this is a recurring theme for me and all I can say is… oh, there’s really nothing I can say apart from lovely writing. You draw the reader in. 🙂

  12. Tracey

    Hi Narnie – It seems that a lot of us are ‘haunted’ in this way. Perhaps some of us have more messages coming to us from the universe, or perhaps we are just more open to such experiences. Thanks so much for your lovely words!!

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