Aug 23, 2009

Forgive me, Becky Sharp

Her name really was Becky, but the "Sharp" is my own addition. I don't know what her surname was - we'd only just met, in the courtyard of the Brisbane Arts Theatre. She didn't strike me as a hard-nosed, manipulative type (like Thackeray's Becky Sharp), but she did have bright eyes and a keen sense of self-confidence; hence, the nickname.

"Are you with us?" she said excitedly, as I sat down and began examining my Ghost Hunt forms. She'd seen my lanyard with the large "C", indicating my group for the tour. "I'm Becky!" she exclaimed, then introduced the rest of her party at lightning speed - so fast I immediately forgot their names.

Within 15 minutes, we found ourselves in the theatre's workshop, where a "communication board" had been placed on an upturned black milk crate that I suspect may have served as part of a coffee table in He Died with a Felafel in His Hand.

Three of the ladies from Becky's party refused to put their fingers anywhere near the board, but Becky and one other eagerly volunteered. Not having participated in a three-way ouija before, I took my place to Becky's right, and placed my left index finger on the dial.

And we asked questions.

I thought there'd be some deep breathing or focus work before we began, but no, our enthusiastic spiritual guide simply launched in with "Is there someone there who'd like to talk to us?"

Despite persistent interrogation, the dial was quiet for a fair few minutes. I was trying like crazy to keep my hand still, removing my finger and flexing my hand to ease the tension. I knew about the ideomotor effect; but sadly, the awareness that the dial could not move of its own accord seem to pervade my muscles as well as my thoughts, and there was nothing unconscious about what happened next.

Ever so slightly, the top knuckle of my finger moved, and the dial shifted half a millimetre to the left.

"It moved!" exclaimed Becky. Our guide nodded her agreement.

We went back to asking questions. Was the spirit a man? Did he work at the theatre? Was this his workshop? Did he want us to be there? Was there someone at the table he was drawn to in particular?

....I flicked my knuckle. The dial shifted to the left.

"He likes me!" exclaimed Becky, her eyes wide.

"Does Becky remind you of someone you know?" said Becky's companion. A slight shift.

"Does Becky remind you of an actor you knew?" That was my question, accompanied by another shift.

Becky stifled a squeal. Her eyes widened and she shivered, as if scared. But her bright eyes couldn't contain the thrill at being singled out by a spirit.

I didn't really move the dial all that much. A couple of flicks. 'Cause the ghost, if he was there, wasn't really being very communicative. And Becky Sharp and her friends were so eager for something to happen. What's the harm in a teensy flick of a finger?

Or, for that matter, a teensy flick of a foot?

We finished our investigation of the workshop by examining the paint room; kept closed and locked due to 40-odd years of accumulated Dulux tins. Our paranormal overseer told the group that the paint room was often the scene of encounters with the other-worldly. She said if we knocked, someone might knock back.

Becky Sharp was unanimously chosen as The Knocker.

Her friends gathered behind her, with me further behind, my back to a wooden stage flat.

Becky knocked. Silence.

Becky knocked again. Silence.

Becky knocked a third time. Silence.

She turned to address her friends, and at that moment, I quickly flicked my right foot behind my body. It connected with the flat with a round wooden crack.

"Did you guys hear that?" Becky asked, sharply.

"That was a knock, I heard a knock," said our guide. "It came from over there!" exclaimed one of the women, pointing in the opposite direction to where I was standing. My face was a mask of furrowed eyebrows and pursed lips.

There was a shiver of excitement. "Knock again!" And Becky knocked.

And I was too shit-scared to attempt the flick-kick again.


Murmurs, whisperings of "there was definitely a knock from somewhere over there" and "it was definitely a wooden sound". Then I fell into line as we filed out of the workshop, and back upstairs. We still had two more "sites" to visit. But I was done with my mischief-making for the night. Anything else that may have happend to those people had no interference from me.

Now, dear readers, you may think ill of me. But I stress - I did not want to trick Becky Sharp. She was just 18 and so genuinely interested and excited. I wanted her to have the scary, thrilling experience she so obviously wanted.

The finger move may have been done with some interest into whether such an action would be noticed and dismissed; but the foot kick was spur of the moment. There was just such a silence after Becky's knock - and I'm an actor. It may have been the workshop, but it was still part of the theatre.

And the audience deserves a good show.


  1. I don't blame you. In fact I recall I when I was a teenager in the mid 80s, when we spent the summer hols at the Miami Caravan Park (just across the Gold Coast Highway from Magic Mountain) having an impromptu seance in a friend's annex one evening, circa 1986. I seem to recall giving some poor teenage girl the fright of her life by moving around the glass on the monopoly board we were using. Mind you, someone else must have been in on it as sometimes the glass would come towards me and I only had one finger on it.

    Anyway the poor young thing needed a lot of consoling and I was just the boy to help.

    Great times.

  2. I've always thought that a fun way to mess with a close friend of mine who does ghost tours would be to wait until he calls forth to the spirits then run out dressed in a sheet with eyes cut out of it.

  3. Seen too many movies where people end up in ALL SORTS of shit to dick around with it.

  4. Nat, you've just proven what we all think when we do these things: It can be done!

    Incidentally, I've spent many a year in that paint room. Mostly the only odd thing that happens is the discovery of a small civilisation in the ochre paint (it's always the ochre. I don't know why).

  5. Ooooh !!!!!!!

    Who's a naughty trickster then

    The Ancient Man

    PS Alls fair in Love, War & messing with someone's mind....

  6. Reminds me of a hypnosis attempt I made back in the day. With Ash, troy and a gang of friends. No-one was more surprised than me when one of my friends actually 'went under.' I wonder what Darren is up to these days.

  7. Maybe he's the one who jumps up and does the chicken dance evry time Beethoven's Fifth is played.
    The Ancient Man

  8. Bwahahahahaha..... Now for the hidden lines and the eerie lighting fx

  9. I've done almost that same thing (minus the $65 fee and ouija board) with a couple of new crew chicks who wanted to see the scary workshop ghost. What they got instead was me hiding up the back in the dark, waiting for a good moment and throwing a wooden ladder into a pile of other wooden things. The screams as they fled were so worth it.


  10. That paint room smells... did the ghost do that?

  11. That would be from all the donated rotten paint, which some people still like to use even if it makes the set stink for the first few days. Apparently it has better "texture". Eeeuugh


  12. Mmmm, community theatre.

    You can't beat it.

  13. It might add more colour to the theatre to say it was ghost smells as opposed to old paint though...