Memory is a weird thing. That is a topic explored at length in my new psychological suspense novel Storyland. In fact, its key to the entire plot. What do you think? Is your memory solid or does it play tricks with you?
There was a school of thought for a long time that eye witnesses were the best source of evidence in a crime. These days, cops know that this is far from the truth. Rather than being a tablet written in stone, for most of us, our memories are really like clay. The right suggestion from someone, the right alteration, push here or there, can completely change a memory. You may think you visited Disneyland as a kid, with your family, in 1976, but in reality you went to Santa's Village with your grandmother in 1978. It all depends on a number of factors.
The recent true crime series The Keepers deals with this a lot. It's the horrific story of a bunch of girls who were horribly abused by a priest when they were in high school. The key witness, however, is a woman who says she only started remembering the abuse as an adult. This brings up the entire idea of repressed memories. There is still tremendous debate as to whether or not these are legit.
At one time, it was thought that hypnosis could allow people to remember repressed memories. It was used by cops to prosecute all sorts of crimes, and people in the UFO world hypnotized supposed abductees like crazy. Then, over time, it became obvious that the type of questions being asked, prodding from hypnotizers with agendas, and other factors could create false memories.
That's the other thing about our brains. We are good at remembering dreams, imagined things, confusing them with reality and building walls around memories to protect ourselves from the damage those memories can do. With all of that, it's no wonder the police look at the idea of memory and eye witness accounts with a sideways glance.
I myself have weird memories from when I was a kid that I know could not have actually happened. I have a distinct memory of being terrified by a huge yellow balloon my grandmother brought into my bedroom, but a photo of that event shows me to be little more than an infant when this happened. Did I see that photo and form a memory? Could some part of me possibly retain the trauma of that - even as an infant?
I have a truly bizarre memory of playing with a toy truck and some weird white thing with teeth biting the back of the truck and tipping it over. What could that have been in reality? Was that a dream I had as a toddler and it somehow got mixed up in my head and became a memory instead?
I have another distinct memory as a child of hearing something outside that sounded like pieces of metal banging together over and over again. I remember thinking it was the sound of airplanes crashing together! Again - what could that have been in real life? Was that a dream or me hearing a sound and relating it, in a child's way, to something I could relate to?
I don't know what any of it is, really. I probably never will and when I die, the reality of those things will die, too. Which is another theme Storyland explores - the tenuous link between reality, imagination and memory. Which of those can you trust? Any of it?
What about you - do you have any weird memories from when you were a child? Do you wonder what they might be, if they were real, or what they mean? Tell me about them. I'd love to hear them. You can reach out to me via this website, or any of my social media outlets.