a \‘shȯrt-rēd’\ piece
Quite some years ago I went to deliver a paper to a conference of mainly psychologists and, in particular, psychotherapists. It’s was pre-PowerPoint days so I delivered the paper, called ‘Black and White Ladies, Weeping Women and Bloody Mary’ using a ton of photographic slides. It was about the kind of spooky, ghostly storylines that children use during their recess/playtimes at school. These storylines have what seem to be universal themes.
For example, I showed a photograph of a red painted metal door in the wall of a primary school (actually a heating oil point) and explained how children had told me that this was the ‘furnace’ where, “The witch burned the bad boys and girls” and how if you looked through the key hole you could definitely see the bones of previous victims!
It turns out that some kind of cooking pot or furnace and associated storyline has been present at every single one of the hundreds of school play audits that I have ever done. But they are kept secret and so adults are almost always oblivious to this fact and even when they see some of these features in use they interpret them literally rather than figuratively.
I recently posted online a photo of a small concrete square on a school field with a hole in it and asked people what they thought it was. Almost everyone said, a pop-up sprinkler, a washing line point, an old Maypole, a pot holder, etc. - all very literal answers. In ‘real life’ it was actually the stump of an old cut down netball post but children at the school told me that this was the ‘cauldron’ where “the witch makes her spells” which was the reason why it was full of water (on a dry day), small berries and twigs.
After delivering my paper there was only sporadic applause for my efforts and despite the convener asking if anyone had questions there were none. Once I got back to my hotel though the emails from audience members started to arrive and there was a theme with these too. One said, “If what you have said is true then I have serious concerns for the psychic health of Britain’s youth.” Another said simply, “This is deeply concerning.”
Given that kind of reaction is it any wonder that children consciously keep these kinds of stories secret?
#playconversation #justsaying #ghosts #pretendplay
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