Collective Fear

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Despite geographical and societal differences, humans tend to have the same hopes and fears. We love, and we fear that which threatens to destroy what we love. That’s why I find Carl Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious so compelling—in spite of our differences, we share in the human experience: birth, growth, and death. Perhaps we share the same monsters as well.

My family is fond of telling spooky stories: shadows glimpsed from the corner of one’s eye, misty apparitions hovering over a bed, unexplained banging noises, doors closing by themselves, electronic devices coming to life on their own. Maybe a normal childhood isn’t supposed to include tales of the paranormal, but the practice of telling stories was important in my family.

As an adult, I was astonished to hear ghost stories that mirrored my family’s tales—the friend who awakened to the sensation of an unseen visitor sitting on her bed; the co-worker who heard knocking coming from inside a closet when he worked late, alone in one of the oldest buildings at a university. While it is possible these creepy tales are bold-faced lies, perhaps they are accounts of actual hauntings. Or maybe the ghost stories we’d heard influenced our perception of these experiences, prompting us to interpret disconcerting phenomena as supernatural in origin, transforming the echo of our own footfalls into ghostly footsteps. Or, what if something else was responsible, something more sinister than any of these explanations?

Sign of the Throne was inspired, in part, by this “what if” question. Remarkably similar tales of bogeymen can be found all over the world, from the phooka, a goblin that sometimes appears in Irish folklore, to the talasam in Bulgaria. It seems humans all fear the same dark, shadowy phantom that hides in our closets and threatens to steal us away. It is the same with other legends. Water spirits, for example, can be found in mythology globally, from the mermaids of Puerto Rico and Thailand to the yawkyawks of Australia. That in itself is fascinating, but the more interesting question is, where do these stories come from? What if they are not just part of the collective human imagination, a projection of our common fears?

Sign of the Throne is a young adult fantasy exploring these ideas, weaving mythology with psychological concepts to add a twist to the bogeyman story. In Cai Terenmare, a magical realm parallel to our own universe, these nightmarish creatures actually exist. Sometimes these monsters find their way into the human world, inspiring our legends and ghost stories. And sometimes, this ancient and insidious evil is hidden in plain sight. Or maybe under your bed.


  © Melissa Eskue Ousley 2012