Spooking the Trolleybus
The Ghost Trolleybus of Headingley
The Trolleybus Enquiry has now ended, Mr Cameron has given his final closing, and all the papers and documents carted away in their voluminous box files.
The controlled passion of six months of Enquiry and years of preparation has now been spent.
There was a feeling like the end of term and I was reminded of a ditty I probably haven’t thought of since I was a child.
No more going round the bend,
The term is coming to an end
No more pain and no more sorrow,
We will all be home tomorrow.
It felt strange also to be leaving behind something that had become so much a part of the objectors lives over this last half year.
Finishing and leaving it behind on Hallowe’en, the end of the old Celtic calendar year, the gateway to the dark of the year. We have often made jokes about how it was likely to end on this day and the amusing connotations. I had often speculated that it might extend to Bonfire Night, which would have provided a worthy end for a cardboard effigy of the despised trolleybus, but no, we were spared the extra few days, and Hallowe’en it was.
But this draws us into a dark realm of bizarre coincidence, strange connections and perhaps crazy conspiracy theory.
It was a year ago exactly that was the closing date for objections to the application for a Transport and Works Act Order which triggered the Public Enquiry. So the entire process has been encompassed from Hallowe’en to Hallowe’en.
Mere coincidence of course. But we now move into the imaginative world of numerology as we notice that the Enquiry has taken exactly 72 days. 72 is a number much beloved of mathematicians and numerologists alike, being as it is one fifth of 360, the number of degrees in a circle, as well as being the number of years it takes for one degree of the precession of the equinoxes. Being one fifth of 360 means that it is also the external angle of a pentagon, and the internal angle of the points of a pentagram, the power symbol used by a variety of occult and mystical belief systems.
So by this one might imagine that the Enquiry has been encompassed like a pentagram within the circle of the year. Spooky synchronicity, or just an imaginative interpretation?
So far, so Goth.
But there are deeper and more disturbing coincidences.
There is an old legend that crossroads were sometimes made on the graves of murdered people or the sites where murders had taken place, probably related to ancient customs were animals would be sacrificed into the foundations of major buildings or forts. At the crossroads it is said that one could summon the Devil at special times, such as Hallowe’en.
The trolleybus, which one might be forgiven for holding to be at least the metaphorical work of the Devil, would actually pass over such a place along its route.
Now I have to say at this juncture that I speak as an Art Therapist of a Jungian inclination. The collective unconscious and group soul of a community, or a place, is something which has been recognised throughout human history as being of importance. Seemingly only our modern technical civilisation is in denial of the importance it holds, preferring to put all value in economic gain and leaving no space for the inner world, the numinous world of dreams and the imagination where our collective memories lurk and linger.
It is at times such as Hallowe’en, the gap between the years, the wood between the worlds, when we need to acknowledge the existence of these ghosts, these phantoms that remind us of their existence, like Cathy at the window.
NGT would make a crossroads and a roundabout of the most tragic spot in Headingley, the spot on Alma Road where the Yorkshire Ripper took his 13th and final unfortunate victim Jacqueline Hill, on the evening of the 17th November 1980, thirty three years before the Enquiry was triggered. Thirty three is another number which is favoured by those with a penchant for numerological interpretations, and there are groups who place immense importance on this number.
I was given the opportunity to reference the matter of the Ripper murder, which I had thought too occult and recherché for the Enquiry, when Mr Thomas Walker crassly referred to treating Wood Lane ‘sensitively’ because of the Ripper murder, thus opening this subject as a matter which could be examined on. Though in referring to the incorrect location, (where NGT wishes to put a stop and shelter) he was concerned for extreme sensitivity, when the correct location was pointed out to him, (Alma Road) and it was suggested that having a crossroad roundabout was not a sensitive treatment of that particular spot and memory, he sneered that he thought I was making too much of it.
As one who believes strongly in the genius loci and collective memory it disturbs me to think that hundreds or possibly thousands of people a day would pass over the unfortunate site on Alma Road. Should they be shielded from knowing this? Should it be denied as too difficult to face and written out of local history so as to protect commuters from the uncomfortable truths of our collective past? Alma means Soul.
I certainly know that I would find it an unwelcome experience to know that I was travelling over this site of desecration on a daily basis. Animistic cultures, and any religion or belief system which acknowledges these realities would say that this was a place of ill omen which should be left in peace and not disturbed. The passage every few minutes of a mechanical leviathan would mean that this spot would forever be disturbed and in turmoil, never to rest as the spirits of the dead are meant to.
The truth has a way of getting itself found out, and try as they might, those like Mr Walker who wish to deny the human importance of such memories only seem to provoke them when they attempt to instead dismiss them as of no value. There is no more vengeful spirit than the spirit who is disturbed and debased. The grateful dead are those who are left in peace and honoured at the appropriate times. Hallowe’en is one of those times when the spirits come out from the cracks between the worlds and seek to be honoured.
This is a deep Jungian process which we represent by ghouls and ghosts and monsters in popular culture, but they are also deep unconscious currents that connect us with the essential energies of the world about us, buried though they may seem to be, hidden from our daily lives. But as an art therapist it seems to me that these things, if ignored, nonetheless find their way out in our actions, our body language, slips of the tongue or nervous twitches. And sometimes they find their way out in more structured symbolic forms only interpretable from a long distance.
It may be that some dark force is guiding the trolleybus and showing itself through these numerological symbolisms and strange coincidences with ancient practices and legends. Or it may be, that from a Jungian point of view, the collective mind somehow organises our perceptions so that the unforgettable is not forgotten. Like a fractal forming around a point of chaos, or a pearl around a grain of sand, reality, rather than being deletable, overwritten like the land which the trolleybus track would be laid out on, is not infinitely malleable, but rather has a character and a meaning which will come back to us until it is accepted and integrated as part of who we are.
NGT takes no account of the people, no account of the Soul of Headingley, or anywhere else along the route for that matter, and that is why it has raised so much opposition.
Tonight is Hallowe’en, the gap between the worlds when we gaze into that dark space and open ourselves the weirdness hiding behind consensus reality.
The Inspector’s report knows little of such things (although I did manage to mention the importance of Social Anthropology in my Heritage cross examination), and will certainly not be decided on the spooks and speculations of a maverick art therapist such as myself.
But the world is a greater thing than mere reason can account for, and while economic forces grind on pressing for this or that, the deeper collective psychological forces of the collective mind continue to work their processes and are the invisible context to this all, whether acknowledged or not.
So kind reader, as Hallowe’en passes and the gap in reality closes, put away these idle speculations and remember only that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than can be dreamt of in any philosophy.