D.S. Dollman has had a life-long fascination with ghosts, poltergeists, shadow people, and other mysterious beings. She blames her obsessions on the cheap burritos she ate as a kid while watching vampire movies in the dark. Dollman received her BA and MFA degrees in creative writing from Colorado State University. She was a member of the English Department faculty at Colorado State University teaching classes in creative writing, composition and literature, and instructor of a variety of writing classes at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley and Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, Colorado. D.S. Dollman lives in Texas, home of the real headless horseman, where the bugs are the size of small children and the natives say, “Hey, if you don’t like the weather here, wait a minute. It will change!”
This is such an honor for me, a ghost story writer, to guest blog at the Stiletto Gang on Halloween, the 3000 year old Celtic celebration honoring the end of harvest and the first days of winter. Later this evening, as the skies grow dark and cold, and the veil that separates the living from the dead grows thin, the spirits of the dead will once again walk among us. There was a day when the thought of ghosts made me nervous. There are some characters in history that should not be allowed to walk this earth again. The ghost of Jack the Ripper creeping through the shadows of my kitchen doesn’t appeal to me, but I guess you can’t choose your ghosts any more than you can choose your family.
If I could choose a ghost to haunt my haunts, I would choose the ghost of Elizabeth I of England. I first read a biography of Elizabeth I when I was ten years old, and I was mesmerized. The thought of a woman prospering, excelling, and conquering a man’s world appealed to me, an abused child, in ways that I could never put into words. “I will never be, by violence, constrained to do anything,” Elizabeth once said. It wasn’t her successful reign as Queen of England as much as her stubborn resistance to gender-based oppression that attracted me, even as a child.
Elizabeth I was born in 1533, the second daughter of the infamous King Henry VIII. Her mother, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded three years later. Anne was Henry’s second wife, and when she failed to provide him with a male heir, he reacted in a manner that was to become his trademark response, exposing Elizabeth at a very young age to the undeniable truth of her times—it was, indeed, a man’s world.
Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England in 1558 when she was twenty-five years old. It was a time of great mystery and intrigue when enemies were poisoned and queens lost their heads. Elizabeth’s remarkable life was fraught with moments of intense fear that she could not outwardly show as it would have weakened her image and placed her in danger. I sometimes wonder if it saddened her to know she could never have a “normal” love relationship with a man. I wonder if it was, as some have speculated, a fear of a power struggle that kept her from making a marital commitment. “I may not be a lion, but I am a lion’s cub and I have a lion’s heart,” Elizabeth once said. She certainly was capable of feeling love, but perhaps she reserved her love for her people and never really longed for marriage as much as one might think.
Elizabeth I ruled over England for forty-four years, a surprisingly long reign. And it seems as if her familiarity with the daily routine of a ruler has kept her bound to Windsor Castle, the official home of British royalty. According to witnesses, Elizabeth’s spirit, dressed in black, still walks the halls, and occasionally the walls, of the castle. Elizabeth’s ghost has also been spotted at the Tower of London where she was imprisoned by her older, half-sister, Mary. Elizabeth spent many long, painful days in the tower staring out the windows, waiting for the soldiers to lead her to her death.
If I could speak with the ghost of Elizabeth, I would ask her where she found her strength. What was its source–ambition, fear, a love of power, or something deeper, spiritual, and personal? Perhaps it was faith in her self, in her belief that she was destined for something better. In this day and age when we rely on drugs, alcohol and doctors to give us strength and make our world seem brighter, I think we all could use a little faith like Queen Elizabeth’s.