12/13/13

The Púca

It began with a book we bought in Harten's newsagent and book shop in Navan Shopping centre. It was from a trashy series of weird phenomena books we loved called "World's Greatest." It was "World's Greatest Ghosts." The book was full of blurry photographs. We became quickly obsessed with them on account of their terrifying power over us. A moment with those photographs was all it took to leave the two of us feeling consumed by sucking dread, even nausea.

Despite the havoc they wreaked on our peace of mind, we filled our minds with ghosts during the weird and heightened months that came after the book. That's one odd thing about dread, it's an addictive feeling. During the period, I was completely open to the possibility of their existence. So much so, in fact, that I saw them, or at least I thought I did, which is the same thing really. I remember two ghosts, though there are probably more. I'll write about them both, over two blog posts, starting with the púca.


I wasn't the only person who saw the púca. There were at least twelve of us. But that's getting ahead... The púca phenomenon began in third class in the boys' primary school in Kells. Our teacher that year was an eccentric but deeply thoughtful old Kerry man. He was long past caring about the curriculum, and he'd completely neglect it for literal weeks on end, instead telling us rambling stories about Tír Na nÓg and the Fianna and such like. Many of his stories concerned the supernatural and he once told us a very disquieting and convincing story about the púca. We learned from it that the púca was an entity that lived in vegetation and could shift its shape. It quickly found its way from the teacher's story into our real lives. Looking back, I can see how all this is testament to what a masterful story-teller the old Kerry man was. He put us under an enchantment.

The gang I palled around with during lunch, the oddballs who didn't like soccer or handball, often played games that drew on the imagination. We couldn't wait to weave the púca into our ongoing narratives.

We began a daily púca watch. At lunch every day we would position ourselves in the grass at the back of the school field, and stare at some trees and a low wall, in the hope of seeing it. A mythology grew within days, with secondary ghosts and backstories galore for the púca. The púca was a green face, we decided, a green face with no body. It appeared in trees, we said, it had cursing eyes.

Of course, then we all began to see it.

First there were individual sightings of it, always in the trees. In my own vision (which came after staring at the crotch of a tree, like a believer waiting for a statue of Mary to move), I saw a great green face arrange itself, facet by tiny facet, from nothing. It smiled at me.

What happened next can only be described as a mass hallucination. Someone shouted, "the púca the púca is behind the wall," and we soon stood crowded, tippy-toed against the wall, all somehow seeing the same thing: a man marching towards us, stretching into the shape of a horse as he went. 

10 comments:

Ciaran Gaynor said...

I've been reading a book about The KLF and it has a whole chapter on Bill Drummond's obsession with a pooka. Drummond had signed Echo and The Bunnymen to his Zoo record label because he thought that was the sort of psychedelic thing a band should be called. At the time the band had been telling the music press that they were named after a drum machine they were using, which they called Echo and that 'The Bunnymen' was a meaningless afterthought. But Drummond thought this wouldn't do. He thought the red splurge which adorned the sleeve of the band's debut single The Pictures On My Wall looked like a sinister bunny and he imagined that this bunny's name was echo. The band, according to this logic, were The Bunnymen and were under this magic character's spell. He thought this myth would make the band a far more alluring and mysterious prospect. This turned into a real preoccupation for Drummond who - really as an idle mental experiment - sought out any evidence that might back up his fantastical notion that there was a real bunny out there called Echo who had some cosmic hold over the band's fortunes. As has since passed into legend, he had the band tour clubs around Liverpool that when traced on a map drew out the shape of a bunny's head. He would stand on a specific manhole cover near Eric's nightclub in Liverpool which was at a location which he had dreamed of while the band were on stage expecting to feel some kind of cosmic vibration, or to pick up a sign or be struck by some sudden revelation. This manhole cover by the way had a lot of symbolism for Drummond, as it had also been dreamed of previously (and mentioned in an essay) by the psychologist Carl Jung, who had never even visited Liverpool. Anyway, he was about to abandon the idea completely when he spotted the sleeve of the first Echo and The Bunnymen album 'Crocodiles' lying on the floor of his office and he saw an image of a bunny staring right back at him. If you look at the sleeve the tree in the foreground seems to resemble a bunny's head, bathed in green and red light. Drummond took this as a sign not that Echo really existed, but that his magical notions, which resembled the approaches adopted by the pataphysician Alfred Jarry and exponents of discordianism like Robert Anton Wilson, were interesting enough to pursue. This mental attitude led to the formation of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and ultimately to the burning of a million quid. Apologies that my details are sketchy, there's a whole lot more to it than this, but it's all contained in John Higgs' book "The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned A Million Pounds".

endofera said...

There were a few Púcas in my school too....the human kind who terrorized us inside and outside the walls. This serial installment is like a Flash Gordon programme on Saturday morning tv from the 80's...can't wait for the next installment!!

Gardenhead said...

More to come on Monday or Tuesday. Thanks for the comment.

TAD said...

Where have you GONE? Come back....

Gardenhead said...

hi tad I'll try write something before the weekend

Gardenhead said...

Tad I am going to write some stuff next week you will be glad to hear. Hope all is well with ya

TAD said...

Hi G, I'm good. Right now I'm reading Ramsey Campbell's PROBABLY, which is a collection of essays and reviews he's written over the last 30 years, and it's GREAT! I find it way more human and way funnier than his fiction. Drawback -- it's expensive. But if you've got a few spare Euros, it's worth checking out....
How's the writing going? Good, I hope. I've finished two e-book memoirs since November, and am about to send off a third. It ain't makin me rich yet, though.
All the best!

Gardenhead said...

Tad unfortunately I cant guarantee I'll write anything more here until late summer. I am just too busy with my other writing. Sorry man

Gardenhead said...

Tad unfortunately I cant guarantee I'll write anything more here until late summer. I am just too busy with my other writing. Sorry man

Miss Simmonds Says said...

I've also been tormented by The World's Greatest Ghosts. The Willington mill story causing sleepless nights. I think the Puca may have entered my subconscious now and I'll be looking out for him. I live next to a large wood