Probably the spookiest experience I ever had was when I worked at the Mush Hole. I was working with a dance company. Our office was located in the basement of the old Mohawk Institute, Canada’s first residential school. Part of the job was physical training all morning long. From Monday to Friday our teachers would crack the whip and have us skipping, dancing, and running the trails. One afternoon my very tired friend, Gyasoh laid down on the couch in our office to take a rest. It was quiet and there was only two or three of us there at the time. I was sitting at the table, doing my beadwork, and suddenly I could hear this loud rattling noise coming from the couch Gyasoh was laying on. I turned to look at her, saw her sit up straight and a look of horror came over her. We looked at each other and both watched as the couch she was laying on shook, back and forth.
A little while later, I was in the washroom in an upstairs office, and suddenly brightly coloured craft feathers were slowly drifting down and landing on my lap. I looked upwards and an entire box of craft feathers slid out from the shelf above me and fell on my head. It wasn’t long afterward, our crew participated in a feast for the building and for the spirits of those who were held back.
To me, residential schools is one of the grossest offences of humanity. How many children died from abuse at the hands of those who claimed to act on behalf of God? It is horrific. We go to great expense and great efforts as a nation to pay respects to those who have passed on. We help them to move on by feasting for them, burning tobacco and offering prayers. If this is a solemn responsibility of ours as a nation, how can we turn around and then be entertained by ghost hunters trying to contact the spirits and communicate with those who may be spiritually trapped? It doesn’t make logical sense to me. In fact, its quite taboo.
Unfortunately in North America, people love the adrenaline rush of being scared. One of the artistic directors for the worlds largest haunted houses said their guests want to “live out the fantasy”. I have to ask: what is horrific? Is it being scared by psychotics and demons? Or is it that as North Americans we are so detached from reality, and numb from our privilege, that terror has become a commodity? Where we create artificial playgrounds where we terrorize people for fun, for money, and to live out a fantasy?
I confess, I am the Scrooge of Hallowe’en. I will probably be accused of trying to be ‘more-Indianer-than-you’. I’ve seen the meems. I guess I’ve reached the point where I am comfortable embracing the social fallout my “bah-humbug” attitude will inevitably bring. At least I’m being honest. And honestly speaking, I am uncomfortable embracing latex guts and severed limbs while people in Egypt are tripping off land mines and the Japanese are being irradiated.
My point isn’t to convert anyone here. Quite honestly, I am still forming my opinions. I take my kids trick-or-treating. I am not staunchly against Hallowe’en or those who participate in it. When I revisit these issues I get a funny feeling inside that tells me something isn’t right. Every year I ask myself, am I trivializing human suffering? Every year I question myself over and over; am I doing the right thing?