Indirectly, yes, which is partly what inspired my first book, Spirit Sisters. After years of living peacefully in our little 1920s-era home in Sydney’s Rockdale, my husband suddenly began to see full-blown apparitions. While I didn’t see “the visitors,” I could certainly sense them. The air inside the house was charged, as if a thunderstorm was looming, household items were moving around and my children’s sleep was disturbed. I found it very interesting that although my husband was the only one to “see,” all of us were affected in some way. Spirit Sisters partly came about because I wanted to explore what happens when someone who professes no interest in the paranormal—who’s actually sceptical—suddenly begins to have these sorts of experiences, and what might bring this about.
While researching for Spirit Sisters, you say that you became afraid of the dark. I felt much the same while reading Where Spirits Dwell. What do you think it is about ghosts that both terrify and enthral us?
Indeed, what it is about being scared that is so enjoyable? From my perspective, ghost stories hint at a world beyond our own, and I find that immensely reassuring. While I love a good scare (and I’m very much a fan of traditional-style ghost stories and spooky films—2001’s The Others is a favourite) my fascination with the paranormal isn’t driven by the thrill of being spooked, rather, it’s the mystery behind a ghost story that draws me. How could this event be possible? What does it mean that such a thing could happen? Ghosts can be scary, but that’s because they are the ultimate representation of the unknown.
Is there a purpose for hauntings, if so what is it in your opinion?
After speaking to many people who’ve lived through hauntings, it seems possible that hauntings are sometimes designed to “awaken” a person to their psychic abilities. According to some of my interviewees, the spirits persist until the person begins to embrace their psychic/medium side. In other cases, some sort of correspondence between the living and the dead could be seen to “ignite” a haunting. In other cases, hauntings are beautiful and welcome—when late loved ones make their presence known, in order to communicate a message of enduring love. Who knew that houses could be haunted by love?
Do you suggest to anyone who is experiencing paranormal events in their home to research the history of the building to try and understand who or what is behind the occurrences?
I agree that this would be a good idea in many instances, but I haven’t actually suggested this to my interviewees. Partly because, a lot of the time, the stories are retrospective—the person has since moved out, or the phenomena has ceased—and partly because the interviewees sometimes already have a good idea of who or what could be behind the occurrences, or researching the history of their homes is a route they’ve already taken. However, if someone has the time and/or inclination to research the history of their home, this can prove to be extremely rewarding. This was certainly what I found when I looked into the history of our former house at Rockdale.
If someone is feeling uncomfortable with the paranormal occurrences happening in their home, what do you suggest they do?
Once they have ruled out possible practical explanations (eg., considered the possibility of electric malfunctions, checked for rodents, etc) a good place to start would be calling the Australian Institute of Para-psychological research. Their public officer, Robb Tilley, is happy to offer advice and/or house calls. (I attended one such house call with him and wrote about it in Where Spirits Dwell).
From the hundreds of people you’ve talked to about hauntings, would you say that there are more good spirits or more troublesome spirits around?
This is a difficult question. Judging from the people I’ve interviewed, it could appear that whether someone experiences “bad” or “good” spirits may have something to do with their state of mind and/or environment. For instance, for a young person with above average psychic awareness, discord and tension in the family home seems to pave the way for negative experiences. Throw a Ouija board into the mix, as one of my Spirit Sisters interviewees did, and things can get very dark indeed. Personally, I prefer to explore more positive spiritual experiences. My next book, which I’ve started researching, will be solely about the myriad ways our late loved ones continue to make themselves known to us. If you have a story you’d like to share about this, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The overall consensus is that people who see spirits have some form of medium-ship, but they may not yet know it. In your opinion is it harmful to suppress or reject those abilities?
Not harmful, but it can be frustrating and exhausting, judging again by my interviewees’ experiences, not my own. I met a lady for Spirit Sisters who said she was woken up nightly for a couple of weeks on end by a group of “dead people” standing around her bed! It was only when she began to accept and to embrace her gift that she learnt how to set boundaries for her unearthly visitors and eventually attain some measure of peace.
BIO: Karina Machado was born in Uruguay and was 2 when her family moved to Australia, where she grew up hearing stories of her mum’s psychic gift, igniting a life-long curiosity about the paranormal. Passionate about books and writing since she taught herself to read with Golden Books, Karina always knew she had to “work with words.” She began her career in journalism as editorial assistant at TIME magazine in 1994, and is now a senior editor at WHO magazine. She’s also obsessed with the Tudors, and has been known to dress up as Anne Boleyn, whose ghost she’s sadly never seen. Karina lives in Sydney with her husband and two children.