5 Questions with Tom Christophersen and James Dalton

Tom Christophersen

James Dalton: What are the three most common mistakes people make when their house is haunted?
Tom Christophersen: I’m really glad you asked this. This is important stuff. When people encounter paranormal activity they usually do one of the following three, very dumb, things…

1) Deny everything, or worse, blame the strange chewing noises in the attic on the family cat. It’s never the cat. If paranormal reality television is anything to go by, ignoring creepy stuff is just going to bring about your quick and violent demise as the spirits/demons/energy in your house raise the stakes in order to prove its presence to you.

2) Burn the ouija board. Never burn the effin’ ouija board. It’s a portal. Spirits cannot return to the dimension they have been summoned from if you trash the portal. Think demonic ‘Sliders’. Put the board somewhere safe and priest-up. Get the heck blessed out of it and then have it removed and stored far, far away from your mortal soul.

3) Refuse to move. If your walls are bleeding ectoplasm, your children are possessed and your family pets are under spiritual attack, it’s probably best to leave. Immediately. Don’t even pack. Moving house can be financially demanding – but your life is more important than your credit history.

I’m about to die, how can I become a ghost?
Make sure you are really, really sad. Or better yet, furious as hell. It seems that people who die experiencing an extreme negative emotion are more like to imprint their energy onto a place/building/object. Similarly, murder victims often appear as ghosts, echoing clues or messages about their demise to the living. If you have unfinished business on earth, you’re likely to stick around.

You say your dad encountered spirits when you were a child. What lasting effect has this had on you?
At the time I thought it was completely normal. My parents divorced when I was about ten. I have distinct memories of Dad coming over to rental properties we (my mum, my sister and I) were thinking of putting in offers for to ‘check them out’ for ‘anything suss’ – ghosts. It was only when I was a teenager that I started to ask more questions about my dad’s experiences. For the record my father is the very picture of Agnostic-straight-white-Australian-masculinity which added to the mystery of these stories and encounters which became almost unspoken family lore as I grew up in Adelaide. It set up an idea in my head that the fantastic and the domestic could cohabit the same place.

What is queer about ghosts?
The American-based ‘Spiritual Science Research Foundation’ claims that 85% of gay men are possessed by female spirits (reverse that for lesbians). I’m not too sure that math checks out for me personally but it’s a pretty insane answer, right? Honestly though, I think there are ideas of otherness and outsiders that can be related to thinking around queer culture and ghosts. Both these things have been relegated to exist in the specific peripheries in our culture and so hold a certain taboo power. I guess both have the ability to scare people. They are both explainable but not with the scientific tools available to us at the present time. They both make complete sense in my mind.

Who would be a GILF?
So I’m going to assume that they are going to appear in their prime, right? If yes, then James Dean (total queen), River Phoenix… and Elvis because god dammit those eyes.

James Dalton

Tom Christophersen: Why is telling ghost stories in the theatre important?
James Dalton: Theatre is a ghost story. Our stages are haunted and we all huddle together in the dark like toffs at a Victorian séance, waiting to clap the dead away for the night.

Your work is often surreal. Why is surrealism important to you and how does Business Unfinished carry this notion of the fantastic?
Naturalism and realism say “this is how the world ought to be”, but surrealism croaks “this is how the world is”. Talk to children, talk to people up late and anxious, talk to someone in shock, talk to someone manic with joy: they all do, feel and see things that are bent from the norm. It’s unhealthy and worse to hide and deny such things, only telling people how there is a limited way we ought to be.

Business Unfinished is surreal in that you have brought these powerful images from the fringes of your waking life, introduced them to experiences from the fringes of other people’s lives, and share them in a mode that is both endearing and horrifying.

What five items would you insist be included in your personal ghost busting kit?
Audio recorder. Night-vision camera. My great-grandmother’s rosaries. Salt. Thriller on cassette.

What is your favourite scene from a foreign horror film and why?
The final video footage sequence at the end of J-horror classic Noroi: The Curse. It features people standing still in a way that feels wrong, and this is by far the most terrifying thing anyone can ever see.

Where do we go after we die?
We become the song that everyone remembers us dancing to.

James Dalton directs Business Unfinished, written and performed by Tom Christophersen. The show is a part of Bondi Feast 2017.
Dates: 27 – 29 July, 2017
Venue: Bondi Pavilion