Those of you who were at the Skeptics in the Pub trivia I hosted last night will appreciate this blast from the past. (For those who weren’t at pub trivia, my last round was all about sex, including a few questions about some figures in this piece.)
This essay was originally posted on Skepchick back when we were a humble monthly e-zine. I’ll be periodically re-posting the articles that were on the original site so that they can find a new audience.
Things That Go Hump In The Night, or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned to Love My Resident Spectre In A Very Real, Very Physical Way
Originally posted April 2006
For most guys of a certain age, the idea of having sex with a figment of the imagination is a fairly mundane part of an adolescent’s natural development. We do it pretty much 24/7 and anyone who says otherwise is, at best, a liar or, at worst, a full-time, paid-up member of the clergy. At least that’s what we tell ourselves to stop feeling so damn guilty all the time. In fairness, sex and death and have always gone hand in hand, or at the very least as long as artists have nurtured wacky imaginations. There’s a vaguely famous, quasi-erotic painting called The Nightmare, for instance. Youâ€™ve probably seen it. Painted by Henry Fuseli in 1781, it depicts an ill-clothed temptress being taunted by what can only be described as an imp and a demonic horse. Whether the nightmare is real or not, well, that’s in the eye of the beholder but even so, a demonic horse?
That’s pretty fucked up.
For me, the connection between ghouls and getting laid was solidified by something way less highbrow: Ghostbusters. Aside from all that “I am the Gatekeeper, are you the Keymaster?” nonsense, I’m talking specifically about the scene approximately half-way through in which our heroes, business booming during the countdown to Armageddon, perform unspeakable acts with invisible phantoms for the purposes of general hilarity. True, nothing starring Dan Aykroyd can ever really be described as sexy but nonetheless it can’t be denied that the scene was possibly a little too kinky for a PG movie about goblins and wisecracks.
In truth, the pseudo-reality of ghost sex is far more sensational. Just ask Anna Nicole Smith. In 2004, fun-loving, fossil-digging Anna confessed to having “amazing sex” with a ghost she had initially assumed to be her boyfriend. Apparently, she was so enamoured with her supernatural lover that she never questioned the morality of getting poked by something that wasn’t altogether of this world. (It’s never been revealed if Anna’s boyfriend was perturbed by this unnatural adultery – presumably he had better things to do with his time, like eating his own face with a spoon.)
Instead of spending other people’s money and generally behaving like one of the most dislikeable human beings to walk the Earth since Genghis Khan, perhaps Anna should spare a thought for the good folk of Zanzibar. Something wicked’s been coming in their general direction for quite some time now, at the least since 1995, and so far the world has been slow to respond to their plight. According to a 2001 report by the BBC’s Zanzibar correspondent Ally Saleh (yes, the BBC has a Zanzibar correspondent – I know, I checked twice) residents have long been terrorised by a mysterious spirit known only as Popo Bawa, a particularly vicious entity that sodomises his victims and never, ever calls after the first date. The really strange thing about Popo Bawa is not so much his general lack of chivalry but the perception that he only seems to materialise when the country’s having election problems, that’s to say when the outcome of a particular poll is under scrutiny. Who knows, perhaps Popo Bawa believes a healthy dose of rough love is the best method of influencing swing voters? Even so, it does beg the question: if thereâ€™s something strange in their neighbourhood, who are they gonna call? An exorcist, or Jimmy Carter?
For most people, ghost sex is more of a personal experience and doesn’t have to play a major part in shaping their country’s political future. Take the case of Sarah Owen, for example, whose sordid encounter with the supernatural was so personal that she felt compelled to share it with a couple of million Sunday Mirror readers. As per Monica Cafferty’s exclusive interview in a 2005 issue of said tabloid, Miss Owen and guests were celebrating her hen night by taking part in a seance (as you do) within the auspicious surroundings of a Welsh manor called Bodelwyddan Castle (ditto) when things started to turn a little hairy: “I felt someone bump into my left arm. Then I was groped from behind. The ghost then grabbed my arms and shoved me hard from side to side…the force was so strong I stumbled.” It’s certainly a compelling account, if only for the revelation that she chose to spend her hen night chasing dead people rather than, you know, having a few cocktails, an Indian meal and a bit of a disco. Of course, this isn’t really an example of ghost sex per se, more a case of spiritual harassment although this by no means makes it any less intolerable.
Even more poignant were the reports from Kuala Lumpur, home of the Petronas Twin Towers and renowned hotspot of paranormal activity, of a man known only as Kelvin, who claimed to have been sleeping with a ghost whose insatiable appetite for inter-dimensional bonking seemed to rival that of Anna Nicole Smith. Kelvin, 34, told press that he’d been fired from his job ten times after turning up to work exhausted following all-night sessions with a woman who committed suicide over thirty years ago. He also said that the on-going affair had affected his ability to form meaningful relationships with other women. In a last-ditch effort to dump her once and for all, Kelvin performed a wedding in which 3 paper dolls representing a groom, a driver and a maid were all burnt in order to keep his spectral bride company in the netherworld, a kind of â€œtrial apparitionâ€ if you will. Kelvin’s experience isn’t that peculiar. After all, how many guys haven’t dated overbearing partners? If you ask me, he was too keen to sever those ties and should probably have explored all avenues of reconciliation before ending the relationship. I mean, hasn’t the guy heard of couples therapy?
On the other hand, Kelvin’s story clearly shows that thereâ€™s a whole bunch of ghosts out there who are just 100% without a shadow of a doubt gagging for it, not just in a casual, fun way, but in a weird may-never-walk-again Christina Aguilera way. But take care – as easy as it is to make assumptions, be careful not to paint every spook with the same brush. Not all of them want to slap on a Barry White album, whisper sweet nothings into your ear and take the wine bottle back to the bedroom. Some of them hate sex, as Sue and Ian Davies, a normal couple from Kent in the UK, will attest. Says Ian, “the ghost is a real passion killer and a better contraceptive than the Pill.” According to the Fortean Times, Sue and Ian have been haunted for years by the ghost of a deep-sea diver who they believe cannot abide their after-hours shenanigans (I have no idea why the fact he was a diver is relevant to their story, presumably itâ€™s some kind of S&M thing.) To make matters worse, the couple also said that their resident spectre is specifically a poltergeist, effectively the “happy slapper” of the spirit world, which disrupts their love-making by groaning and banging on the walls in a manner akin to Britt Eckland in The Wicker Man. As a temporary solution, they upped sticks and moved into the garden so their passion could run amok amongst the gooseberries.
The depressing thing is that this just scratches the surface. If you’re ready and willing and have no problem getting your hands dirty, there are plenty more accounts of ghost sex all over the web. Just head over to Google (just one of many fine search engines available) and knock yourself out. There’s the Hare Krishna guy who claimed his friend was having regular sex with ghosts but ended up in a mental institution. The sex shop haunted by a particularly frisky phantom. Or my personal favourite, the lap-dancing club that was so desperate to get to the bottom of a series of unexplained assaults, the manager hired a paranormal investigator to case the joint (incidentally, the culprit was identified, somewhat inevitably, as a very dead lesbian.) The tragedy for believers is that most of these incidents, even the scary demonic horse thing, can be debunked with textbook psychoanalysis. It’s curious, for instance, that Sarah Owen’s attack at Bodelwyddan Castle took place on her hen night, an evening designed to celebrate a woman’s final hours of independence before settling down to a lifetime (and the rest) of domestic conformity. The easy conclusion to draw is that her experiences at Bodelwyddan Castle were simply the psychological manifestations of neurosis associated with her impending marriage. As for Kelvin, the guy from Kuala Lumpur with the unearthly libido, who’s to say he didnâ€™t just live a boring, unfulfilling life but rather than implement positive lifestyle changes and try and improve his situation, he subconsciously constructed an unprovable and therefore, in his mind, flawless fantasy to somehow fill the gaps? As for Anna Nicole Smith, well, she’s just nuts.
My advice? If you really must have sex with a ghost (ideally in the context of a loving relationship) then keep it safe and always wear protection. A crucifix should do the trick but if you don’t have one of those antiques lying around the house then don’t worry. A proton pack will do just fine.
Chris Blohm is London-based writer/visionary/bon viveur who passes the time by listening to obscure alternative music, blogging incessantly and watching more movies than is healthy for a 30-year old. His interests include breakdancing, social drinking and angst.