“For Retrocentrics, The Spirits
Of The Past Haunt Year Round.”
Eric Renderking Fisk - Halloween 2009
One of the Halloween traditions in this New Hampshire town where we
live involves the
college students who hand out candy from their dorms and student apartments.
This past Tuesday while I was bringing my two boys around for Trick-Or-Treating I was reminded
of when I did the same more then 30 years ago. The dorms
and the student apartments are very similar to the places where my family
lived in 1974/1975, simultaneously I was in the moment and flashing back
to my own childhood.
I remember one Halloween when I was either 5 or 6 and I made a Frankenstein
mask out of a brown paper bag and some other stuff. After wearing the
mask for few minutes later I threw
up because the smell of the glue made me sick. My mother wanted to call
it quits but I insisted that we keep going.
After quickly cleaning up and
getting another costume we started again. For the sake of The Fedora
I want to say that one of the other residents of Westgate (our
neighborhood where we lived at the time,) Mr. Audet, let me
borrow an old fedora and other items of his because of the now unusable
paper bag mask.
I remember later that night,, when my brother and I were with some
of the other kids from the neighborhood and together we cut through a patch of woods to get to another
part of the development. Imagine the bunch of us running through the small forest
illuminated by the almost full moon. The colors
of our costumes were faded
and muted, the shapes transformed into sharply contrasted silhouettes,
changing everyday things and people into haunting and mystical images.
In my mind, this moment created my own idyllic thoughts on what this season should
That night I not only learned that Halloween was supposed to be about
being afraid and spooked, but also about over-coming fear and being brave. A lesson
that I learned as a young child served me to this day when there's a sudden chill
that rouses goose bumps or when there's a sound from outside that's unexplainable
I wonder what iconic images from this season will be created in my children's
memory this season. What will happen that will teach them to not be afraid of
the bumps in the night in the years to come.
That's only a small part about of what it is that I wanted to talk about
in this rant. During the past few days I've been thinking about the
concept of ghosts, both figuratively and literally And how "ghosts" might have
a different connotation for fellow retro's then the rest of the world.
In the literal ghosts; I remember for the first time as a child thinking
of the concept of ghosts, a spirit that either chooses to stay in this realm
and not go to the great beyond or can't for some reason. Why would a spirit that had to leave it's
body want to remain behind? What could be the reason why someone would want
to remain tethered to this world? I think about the people who lost their
lives during what we now call The Golden Era and why they would want to
haunt us? I think of all the unfinished business they left behind and
left undone because of lives cut short. Do some spirits stay behind out of the sense that they didn't do enough
when they were among the living, out of a sense of lack of accomplishment?
Or is it out of fear of either what waits for them; heaven, hell... purgatory
imagine if there is a life after death I would be consumed with my own concern
of what will remain behind such as the safety and security of my children
or the heartbreak my wife will feel, the grief of my friends. Do I have
the type of personality that would cause me to haunt the people I love and
the home that has become as much a part of my personality like my temper
and preoccupation of all things in the past?
Or do ghosts even exist? Are they figments of our own imagination or
a manifestation of a phenomenon we have observed for eons and still don't
In the figurative sense of ghosts, the best example I can think of is
that magical moment of sentimentality when we watch a classic movie, listen
to Jazz or Swing recorded during those decades or look at pictures and items
from those decades.
I remember a time recently when my wife and I were driving down Route
202, a particularly curvy and winding section and passing buildings and
homes that could have been around during The Roaring Twenties, Bootlegging
and Prohibition, The Depression and World War II. I found a local radio
station that rebroadcasted shows that were aired back when, and the thought
dawned on me that there must have been radios receiving them when they first
aired, either in other people's homes or, later on, cars.
What were those people doing when they heard this musical show when it
aired the first time. What concerns and worries did they have about the
years that have by now already passed? What where their hopes and aspirations
of their near future, what has become our distant past. Could they have
imagined what the 21st Century could have looked like, that there would
be some of us who would choose to emulate them in some way with our "futuristic"
In a sense, that's what being retrocentric is all about. We choose to
be a little haunted by the past when we look at those old photos, watch those
old movies or listen to that music. We invite those specters
from the past to visit us. We want them to speak to us and tell us what
was it like to be them. What made your generation "The Greatest." We want
to learn their lessons and not make the same mistakes they made.
Late autumn is the perfect season for this as well. As the foliage
falls and the trees begin to hibernate, other vegetation dies as their
seed goes dormant on the ground ready to start the process over again,
people like ourselves think about that cycle on a grander scale. We
think about the older generations in their twilight years and leave
their knowledge behind either in books or in the spoken narrative. As
autumn changes hands into winter we think about mortality and the
generations that have passed before us. We think about those people who
used to occupy the space we claim as our own as we ask our selves
quietly about those who were here before us.
I personally think about the people who worked this land before my
wife and I built this house on it. Who built the stone wall that I
maintain, with the trail running along side it. Who were the first
people to touch these rocks and what were their lives like when they
weren't working? Who were we... as a society back then. So, in that
sense - this place is haunted.
We are the haunted, by choice.