Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Maud & Mary: An Interview

May 11, 2010 · No Comments

As I have mentioned before, my paper topic is about the importance and anthropological value that lies unnoticed in the often overlooked history of ghost stories. In order to understand how and why ghost stories are relevant to our understanding of history, I first wanted to ask selected people (those about to embark upon the walking tour downtown that I had yet to take) a few questions that would enable me to sift through the “myths” and misconceptions that revolve around the modern ghost stories. So I constructed a very brief questionnaire for my victims, i mean subjects, to answer. My questions are as follows:

  1. Why are you taking this tour?
  2. Why are you interested in this topic?
  3. How many tours have you been on?
  4. Why does do you think people are so interested in the supernatural?
  5. What was the most interesting thing that you have learned while on a ghost tour?

I believed this was long enough to hold their attention, but short enough to not completely bore my subjects. I never expected what would happen next. TO begin, I wanted to start out slowly because I am single-handedly the most awkward human being alive. I chose two older women whom I believed would act a lot like my grandmother…sweet, quiet, and willing to help. Instead, I got Mary and Maud. Both women were grasping enormous pints of ale which led me to believe that they very well could have kicked my ass if I asked the wrong questions.  BUT this was research so I worked up my courage, threw out my cigarette and cautiously approached them. My little speech began something like this: (Read extraordinarily quickly) Hi my name is Madeleine and I’m doing some research about the contemporary and historical significance of ghost stories and I was just wondering if I could ask you a few questions….” Maud and Mary just stared at me for a good 10 seconds after I had awkwardly trailed off which sounds like a short amount of time, but think “1 MISS..I..SSI…PI”.  Then Maud, the larger one, simply said “right” which I took to indicate her consent and I geared up to proceed. Mary however, began asking me questions instead, including, but not limited to things like: Where abouts are you from? Why are you here? Who are you with? Do you like Norwich? Are the boys friendly? Once I answered all her questions, I think they decided that I was indeed trustworthy and told me “to ask the questions, then.”  This is how the conversation went:

Q. So what brings you out here this evening? Why are you taking this tour?

A. (Maud) It’s a lovely evening, we are both on holiday and wanted to do something new every night. (Mary, in agreement) Yes.

Q. Oh yeah? That’s nice, I’m on holiday too. So why are you interested in this ghost tour?

A. (Mary) Simple entertainment. This sort of thing is fun. (Maud, in a feat of uncommon depth) You can learn a lot about the past through these ghosts, can’t you?

Q. (Excitedly) That you can! And that is what my research is all about! So how many other tours have you been on?

A. (Maud) Twice, a couple of years ago. (Mary) Never before, actually.

Q. I only have a few more questions. Why do you think people enjoy these tours?

A. (Maud) Entertainment, belief, interest in the unknown….

Q. All great points! Ok, final question. What was the most interesting thing that you learned on these ghost tours?

A. (Maud…vaguely) I once learned about a guy…(trails off into an unnecessary story that I didn’t even bother to record)

Towards the very end of my interview, they really started to warm up to me and once I’d concluded the interview altogether, Maud wanted to discuss some irrelevant things such as where I could find the nearest medium to communicate with the dead. I attempted to sidestep this subject in the vain hopes to interview more people, but the two women were extremely persistent and they continued to talk to me. This sort of ruined my plans of interviewing other people, so I decided to just settle by returning the following Thursday to take both the tour, and interview others. In the mean time, I had to put up with Maud and Mary would spent a good 45 minutes talking to me before the tour started (they had two more beers in that amount of time, by the way). I decided to bow out when I could feel the more people start to queue up for the tour and I thanked both Maud and Mary for being more than willing participants in my survey. As I was walking back to the city centre, I briefly reflected on the interview. Despite being extraordinarily gregarious, Maud and Mary supplied good answers to my questions and not only that, but their desire to walk the ghost tour that day proved something to me. Ghost stories are important in contemporary culture because they create a link, a bridge from the present to the past that reveals an unparalleled insight into the nature of humanity. Ghost stories depict class segregation, lost love, murder, religious tumult, the corruption of political power…all subjects that we can identify with even now. One doesn’t have to be a believer or a non-believer to understand that something else is going on here, something much deeper than most people (including myself) previously thought. Supernatural folklore ties the past into the present. I mean, why exactly do all legends of ghosts depict pain, suffering, and social unrest? Not to sound potentially pessimistic, but I think that this somehow proves that the only constant throughout history is human suffering. These stories provide glimpses into the painful past of our ancestors, and perhaps attempt to teach us about ourselves and what could potentially be at stake if we become too wrapped up in power (religiously, politically, monetarily). I’m really looking forward to the Norwich ghost tour next week now, I’m excited to see if I can prove my theory by actually taking the walk.

Categories: Maddie · Uncategorized

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