Have you ever been to a place which makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and your skin crawl? Is it the history of the place that’s got to you? Did something horrible happen there? Or is the history / purpose of the place totally unknown to you?
In my life, the places which were used for good have been significantly outnumbered by those which weren’t. For example, the three spookiest places I can remember visiting are:
- Glencoe in Scotland, where in 1692 members of the MacDonald clan was massacred by members of Clan Campbell on behalf of the English government;
- Culloden in Scotland, where in 1746 the Jacobite rebellion was crushed and Scotland finally subjugated by the English; and
- James Island, which is in the middle of the Gambia river and was a staging post for slaves before they were shipped to the Americas.
At all three, there’s a palpable sense that something “bad” happened. I didnt know the full story when I visited the first two but I still “knew” something nasty happened in the past. As for James Island – it was really hard walking over the island, looking at the ruined fort and cells where so many unfortunates were held before being forced on board ships with no idea of where they were going, or what was going to happen to them. (The Gambia is where Kunta Kinte, the first of the characters in Alex Hailey’s Roots came from.) There were a lot of tourists there when I visited over 20 years ago, and I don’t think there was a single person on the island who was unaffected.
I find it odd that I didn’t get that same skin crawling feeling at Auschwitz, and the only thing I can attribute that to is that perhaps my senses were so totally overwhelmed at the horror and scale of the place, that they were totally overloaded and unable to take it all in.
If I contrast that “bad” feeling with one that was almost euphoric, the first place that springs to mind (not including gigs / listening to music) is the Sanctuary near Avebury in Wiltshire, England. It’s a neolithic site which once had circles of wooden posts and, later, stones. My partner Dee and I were visiting one day recently and walked into the circle. She’d walked straight into the middle, while I remained on the periphery reading some information about the circle. As I walked towards her I stopped dead in my tracks, and could feel the hairs on my back, neck and scalp tingling, in a very pleasant way. At the same time, Dee said her hands felt as though they were burning with positive energy. As we left the circles, the feeling subsided, only to return when we walked back into the centre. After we left the site, the feeling of “good” lasted for half an hour or so – it was really strange!
What is it about places that give them the ability to make you react in either a positive or negative way? Is there any place in particular that makes you feel really good, or really bad, possibly without any logical exmplanation? I guess it’s just another of life’s mysteries…