Are You Afraid of the Dark?

     Recently I had the privilege of watching the 1961 film The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr and directed by Jack Clayton. It is a wonderful adaptation of the 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. Yet it does force the viewer to ponder the question, "Are you afraid of the dark?"

     Deborah Kerr stars in the movie as Miss Giddens, a young, attractive woman who takes a job as a governess for two children in a desolate part of the countryside. The film definitely makes one question one's fears and beliefs in ghosts. It is simply natural human instinct to hear something in the shadows or see something out of the corner of one's eye in a dark room. It is easy for us to laugh these things off and just say, "Our minds playing tricks on us," but what if it is not? In the movie, the governess is tormented by two ghosts in her own home. Unlike her character, I have not had a first-hand experience with ghosts, yet I feel there is some truth to their existence. People's fascinations with ghosts and spirits have gone back for many years. People want a feeling of connection between them and the afterlife.

     Fear of ghosts is also a human instinct. The governess had fear with good reason. She thinks the ghosts, Peter Quint, the valet (Peter Wyngarde) and the ex-governess, Miss Jessell (Clytie Jessop), are trying to possess Miles and Flora, played by Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin, to regain their lost mortality. What could make the children so susceptible to the spirits is that their inhibitions are let down when it comes to trust. At a young age children grow to trust and respect the adults that are frequently around them. Along with the governess, I feel that this is the reason that they could have been singled out.

     So next time one is walking alone down a dark street, or is in a dark room and one thinks one sees someone, should one be so quick to just laugh it off? One should not doubt what one sees, just as the character of the governess did with the first encounter with the ghost. The character of the governess just played the encounter off as only her imagination, yet it just might have been a visitor from the great beyond.

Ryan Jenkins

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