The Millions

Why Do Found Texts Fascinate Us So Much?

1. Ghosts

A few years ago, on a hike in central Oregon, my niece found this scrap of paper alongside the trail. It reads: “ghosts are people who’s spirits haunt the place they died. Ghosts can be both good and bad. It is posibowl to walk thrugh a ghost.”

Later, while we were trying to get our various daughters to bed, I pocketed the note. I figured it was most likely for me, for my purposes. It was sent to me.

Please understand: Ghosts are mysterious. But nothing in this message is particularly new to anyone familiar with such spirits. These sentences simply list some characteristics of ghosts. What is haunting, here, is what is unknown—who wrote this note, and why, and to whom? Is the “posibowlity” of walking “thrugh” a ghost meant to be reassuring or provocative? Are these words reacting to a specific situation, or are they meant as part of a more general definition?

Herein lies one fascination of a found text: its disconnectedness. We don’t tend to know the writer, nor the intended recipient, nor the intention. The text comes from nowhere and finds us as much as we find it. It

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Millions

The Millions18 min read
Translation as a Condition of Life: The Millions Interviews Aron Aji
One’s proficiency in a language has little to do with one’s birthplace. Proficiency requires training, study, and practice. The post Translation as a Condition of Life: The Millions Interviews Aron Aji appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions2 min read
The Millions Top Ten: August 2019
Major shakeups led to half of our list being populated by newcomers. Welcome J. Robert Lennon, Téa Obreht, Yoko Ogawa, Helen Phillips, and Olga Tokarczuk! The post The Millions Top Ten: August 2019 appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions4 min read
The Time I Opened for Bon Iver: On Allowing Failure to Flourish
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a fleeting hint of pride. Not for what I’d done, but for what we’d done together. We took a risk and the risk paid off. The post The Time I Opened for Bon Iver: On Allowing Failure to Flourish appeared first on Th