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Tony Grist

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Stairs [Jan. 12th, 2005|10:13 am]
Tony Grist
Alfred Hitchcock loved staircases. They're everywhere in his work. Suspicion, Vertigo, Psycho, Topaz, Frenzy, Family Plot (I'm only listing movies I've seen recently) all feature important and/or climactic sequences involving stairs.

Nothing is more suspenseful (and Hitchcock's business was suspense) than a person on the stairs. Ooh, don't go up there! Ooh, don't go down there! Stairs are transitional. Uncanny. In Limbo. As Christopher Robin says of
his special place halfway down the stairs-

"It isn't really
It's somewhere else

Unsurprisingly a lot of hauntings focus on staircases. You lie in bed and hear the footsteps come creaking up- to stop (if you're lucky) just outside your bedroom door. One of Hans Holzer's "true" stories has a woman turning on the stairs to see the bloodstained figure of a man below her reaching out his hand for help.

I remember crouching at the top of the stairs to hear my mother and father arguing at the bottom. "You are the most selfish person I have ever known," she said. In that moment I realized that they and I were separate. They could tear one another to pieces and it didn't have to affect me. My heart stopped hammering and I felt peaceful. I had a soul of my own. There were stairs between us.

My grandmother told me of a flight of stone steps going down to the river in her home town of Maidstone. Folklore said that it you climbed it 13 times you would be doused with a bucket of blood. Of course, no-one had ever actually put this to the test...

From: archyena
2005-01-12 03:42 am (UTC)
You know, this actually explains why so many people think the Brady kids are really creepy. A bunch of too chipper children that are always on the stairs.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-12 05:02 am (UTC)
Yes indeed.

I haven't seen it. Does it live up to its title?
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-01-12 04:47 am (UTC)
This was fun to read.

Stairs (and bridges) being only useful for transitions, they seem appropriate for hauntings, which are failed transitions.

It's wonderful that as a child you used the staircase as a metaphor for your separation from your parents.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-12 05:09 am (UTC)
I didn't really make that connection as a child. At the time I only knew I felt oddly safe. I was thinking about staircases and that event came into my mind (not straight away- I had to dig.) I believe now it was a formative experience.

I had a nightmare around the same time which placed me on those same stairs. I was being chased by a big black dog. I turned and faced him on the stairs (by this stage he had turned into a man in a costume) and stabbed him with a dagger. He fell through the bannisters and lay unmoving in the hall.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-01-12 05:20 am (UTC)
I had a similar dream (as an adult), but without the dog--just remembered:

I was going down some stairs and saw a terrifyingly disinterested wooden man at the bottom of the stairs.

I hit him hard with something (forgot what) and he fell to the floor, where he turned into a green man.

Since you were young, maybe your dream was about facing fears (oh, I am expounding the obvious)--which you did, very well.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-12 06:03 am (UTC)
It was the single most terrifying dream of my life.

Closely followed by the one where I ventured into a cave only to discover that Merlin the magician was in residence.

Your wooden man turning into a green man suggests a theme of rebirth- renewal. Would that make sense?
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-01-12 04:48 am (UTC)
BTW, I hope your posting means you're feeling better today.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-12 05:10 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'm mentally alert but physically still rather wobbly.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-01-12 05:26 am (UTC)
Here's hoping you'll soon feel better.

Maybe some hot tea and a good Holzer ghost story by the fire?

Isn't he fun? Last night I read about a house that was haunted by a soldier from the Revolutionary War. He kept being upset about his hands, which must have been injured in battle. He kept asking that people pray for peace.

It turned out the house had been a Quaker gathering place.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-12 05:58 am (UTC)
Ah yes, I read that one the other day.

I like it when he has Mrs Meyers or Mrs Twigg on hand to speak up for the ghosts- and we get some idea (usually confused) of the story behind the haunting.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-01-12 05:08 am (UTC)
YOu sound much more like yourself today...I'm glad.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-12 05:11 am (UTC)
Thank you. I can put up with feeling a bit ill. Feeling dim and stupid is much more upsetting.
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[User Picture]From: haikujaguar
2005-01-12 06:44 am (UTC)
Now I want to write about a staircase. Except my aliens have ramps, not stairs. :P

Very evocative, though!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-12 10:35 am (UTC)
Stairs, ramps; where's the difference? They're both areas "in-between". :)
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