The objects of those attending our ghost lab in Seaham, 22nd May 2017, and a few observations:

Fairy story book

Fossilised sea urchin

Biscuit tin

Deputies’ lamp 


Foreign stamps

Sandalwood seed

Holy Island mug

Pit check and knife

An ecology that’s there in the way atomic particles move when we’re looking. Trying to pick out an element of nature, but John Muir saying it was connected to everything else. Our conversation moved like it can when people are sat together comfortably and want to understand our place in the world better.

There was a practical ecology too, the participants said, connecting domestic life and the pit and shipyard. The pit pools to swim in, the girders for the fashionable dining room conversion; the skipping ropes sourced from underground. But more than things, vibrations in to an unborn baby.

Objects seemed to contain kinetic energy, from which an affective ‘whoosh’ transported a person to alternative lives and glimpsed possibilities. 

One woman, when asked to express her feelings in response to a situation when her Nan’s mug wasn’t where it should be, stated that she could see herself as a little girl (or more, she was that girl), going to her mum’s china cabinet, seeing it wasn’t there, feeling a vulnerability that was almost visible; with the absence of that mug, that little girl the woman stated, is gone. She said it had taken 50 years to build a sense of security and she had felt it go. Time seemed to crack, with a one-line exercise.

A man with limited literacy held my gaze to a cluttered draw, that I can see in front of me in my own kitchen, where his pit knife lies, to a 500 metre roof of black rock, almost hanging before dropping - taking the air with it. The wind too.

People were individual, but together. Their words didn’t narrate anyone else’s life but found a shared space for them to weave. The “strike wasn’t the pit” and the comments online about scabs are miles away from that dropping rock roof.

There was longing for a past that couldn’t be reached, and there was scenes of rescue and survival. 

“Once he has grasped himself and established what is his, without expropriation and alienation, in real democracy, there arises in the world something which shines into the childhood of all and in which no one has yet been: homeland.” Ernst Boch, The Principle of Hope*

*I didn’t choose this as a neat theoretical summation or description of the ghost lab, but what I heard points this way.

Max Munday

Max MundayComment