ElderCollege goes searching for ghosts

Ghostly class scares up thought-provoking opinions.

  • May. 29, 2012 6:00 p.m.

By Marlene Robertson

Let me set the scene – I walked into a classroom in downtown Parksville, the instructor took her seat and began the class by saying, “I believe in ghosts, do you?”

I knew it wasn’t Halloween or April Fool’s Day, so what the heck was going on? Right away I had a sense that whatever was happening wouldn’t be dull or boring. And how right I was.

The ‘ghost lady’ was Sandra Walker and the ElderCollege course was Southern Gothic which means ghosts, spirits of the dearly or not so dearly departed, a little voodoo and lots of superstition.

The dictionary defines Gothic as a style of architecture, the Goths, a third to fifth century Germanic people, or their language, or a style of literature marked by a gloomy setting, and mysterious or sinister events.

Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the book we were asked to read for this class, lived up the dictionary’s definition. It was repelling, mesmerizing, spooky, depressing and gave one a sense of why slaves needed to have something to believe in to get them through the horrors of their lives. They invented their own reality, and that reality didn’t necessarily have to be made of skin and bones.

It wasn’t only the slaves who developed their own reality. Every race and culture has stories – often passed on from generation to generation – which can stretch your imagination pretty much to the limit.

Think about children and their imaginary friends. Those ‘friends’ are totally real to them. They play together, have tea parties and are often best buddies.

And what about authors who are driven to write?  Why do they have to put those characters and events filling their heads down on paper?

Probably some of the most famous ghosts were created by Shakespeare. I can’t imagine there is anyone who hasn’t heard of Hamlet and his ghostly family. Do some authors have ‘ghost’ writers in their heads? Who knows?

We all have certain sensitivity, but it’s not developed or is ignored by most of us because things we don’t totally understand can scare us. Ghosts aren’t real in the sense we understand real, so the question remains; do you believe in ghosts?

Talk about food for thought. I love classes that make my mind work in an entirely new way, and believe me, Southern Gothic did just that. The class discussion was spirited and gave everyone attending a chance to voice their thoughts, beliefs, and of course, opinions – lots of thought provoking opinions.

Southern Gothic is just one of many fascinating and a little ‘out of the ordinary’ classes offered by ElderCollege.

Watch for the new fall catalogue and sign up early or you won’t have a ghost of a chance to experience something totally different.

For more information on ElderCollege, please call 1-866-734-6252 e-mail pqcampus@viu.ca.