What is going bump in the night?
The cliché continues. Paranormal investigating goes hand in hand with the term, “things that go bump in the night.” Tracking the news like I do for Ghostvillage I read the term on a daily basis as unimaginative writers fall back on the phrase, knowing the reader will now a ghostly trail is about to be set. I’m guilty of it myself, although seeing it as much as I do now, I’m thinking about retiring the phrase.
I forced myself to think about what it actually meant. What goes bump in the night? The term really doesn’t describe most of what I’ve encountered in the almost fifteen years I have been doing this. I remember some odd noises at the old Charlesgate Hotel that sounded like the dragging of a corpse in the ceiling above me, but when you strip away the potential for giant mutant rats, who probably did actually make the noise, it still wasn’t a bump.
I’ve heard many a noise in the field. I’ve collected hundreds of stories, and the disembodied noise is a common theme for hauntings of all kinds. I’ve heard about children giggling and old men yelling. I’ve heard gunshots, footsteps, voices, knocking, and even scraping. I’ve even heard of a woman vomiting and a phantom fart, but no bump. I’m not even sure what a bump would sound like. I guess it wouldn’t so much be a bump in the noun form. The action of a bump might make another sound, like something falling to the ground. In that case, I have heard a shattering.
The problem is the denotation of the term. First, it makes it seem like something is out to get you from the realm beyond. Very dramatic, but not consistent with most people’s experiences with the paranormal. The fear comes from the unknown, not the treat of a push. It also implies some type of ghostly mishap. Unless you are trying to make it look that way, bumping is the act of an accident. I bumped into the person trying to get on the train. The paranormal does not feel that way to me. There might be times when two worlds cross each other and the living gets a glimpse of the dead, but usually a paranormal experience is not by accident. From one side or the other there is some kind of intentional communication going on.
I think I may be kidding myself. I like the term and will probably use it again. There is a convenient warmth to it. It balances something dark with a bit of levity, making the reader know what is coming up. It conjures up a dark night and a storm outside, trying to sneak inside your window. Yes, a dark and stormy night.
Wait. I think I’ve heard that saying before too.