Penelope Grundle is a life coach, New York Times best-selling author and twice-Editor of Australian Vogue. She is also NUPSA’s resident advice columnist, in accordance with the terms of her Community Service Order (Crimes [Sentencing Procedure] Act 1999).


Trick or treat, my darlings! Such an odd turn of phrase… Why must it be only one or the other? Pain and pleasure, punishment and reward. Life is nothing if not both of these, equal and opposed.

I’ve been terribly busy over the past few weeks, organising my calendar, wardrobe and retinue for the next three months. The great majority of parties (or at least those worth attending) are held between October and the new year; appearances are important, so it’s best to prepare. Last year, Lady Gaga and I dressed as matching draugr for a Halloween party at Club 76, which was tremendous fun, and this year she has fashioned us the most exquisitely grotesque raven gowns, so we can attend as Huginn and Muninn.

Christmas is the busiest time for social events, of course. I don’t observe it myself – I celebrate the Saturnalia, with all its contradictions – but I’m always happy to wear a resplendent Yule-dress in acorn and thistle, and meet them halfway.

And this year, I will of course be attending NUPSA’s own Annual Dinner on November 30! I confess, it’s not the sort of affair I’d normally entertain, but I’ve so enjoyed sharing my wisdom with you all this year that I’d love to meet some of you in person. (Also, I’ve left the country a dozen times since July in apparent violation of a court order – so there are certain, shall we say, fires to put out.)

I do hope that, whatever your work commitments, you also take time to enjoy all the festivities this season has to offer. They are deserved reward for all your efforts, so treat yourself. Or trick yourself! Whatever feels good, darling.


Dear Penny,

I took your advice back in July and managed to scare away my housemates, so I have the whole place to myself! But now, weird things are happening – I hear noises from across the house at night, and in the morning, things are missing or moved to places I didn’t put them. Last week, I’m sure I saw something moving in the hallway in the dark.

I know you’ve been to the spirit realm before, so can you tell me if this is the work of an angry ghost? Or is it just my angry ex-housemates pranking me? I need your help!

Sincerely yours,



Dear Spooked,

I’m pleased to hear my advice was helpful to you – though less pleased to hear you’re being menaced by a poltergeist. Haunts are a common occurrence at loci of power; if you’ve been passing yourself off as a hag, however untruthfully, it’s quite possible this has attracted a spirit of some variety. (The gods have a sense of humour, after all.)

First, then, we need to establish whether this is the work of the supernatural, or merely a group of childish students (who, if they’d expended the same energy on tidying up after themselves, might have avoided all this nonsense in the first place). This is easy enough to do: either place a hidden camera at each entrance, or, if you’re of a mind to repay their mischief, scatter caltrops or other obstacles along the floor to catch them in the act.

I favour barbed plant seeds (such as devil’s thorn or puncturevine) for this purpose, but you can go military-issue or fashion something yourself if you wish. Just be sure to remember where you placed them afterwards.

Of course, if your intruder is spectral, measures such as these will not slow it down in any way. Thankfully, however, there are a host of other deterrents I can recommend. Salt is easily the most common: used since ancient times to purify the dead, it will repel almost any non-corporeal entity that may wish you harm (and, incidentally, disguise all but the worst flavours of student cuisine). You should already have some in your kitchen. Just pour a trail of it across the doorways and around the skirting boards of each room, and your ghost should bother you no longer.

And if that doesn’t work, my dear, then I’m afraid to say you’ve attracted a rather more serious house guest. A wraith or revenant, perhaps, or even a wight, though these are extraordinarily rare. I’ve been plagued by such creatures only once in my life, while house-sitting in London for Helena Bonham-Carter. They were horrid things – levitating tables, starting fires, swapping all the rooms about at random, possessing Helena’s children and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

To placate them, I was forced to appeal to Hekate, ancient titan goddess of magic, guide to the departed, patroness of witches and mother of all night creatures. I assembled a small shrine in the foyer, feathered it with keys and candlesticks and small knives (knowing she was fond of these) and summoned her right there, at the foot of the stairs. Oh, she was beautiful… with a sort of morbid elegance, that I have since attempted to emulate on occasion.

We spoke for a good ten minutes – I in my usual tone for narrating audio books, and she in a discordant jangle of gravebound whispers – and were able to clear the whole thing up. It turns out I’d been cursed by Anthony Hopkins following a misunderstanding at his recent premiere; certain remarks on his performance had found their way outside to the assembled press, and then been falsely attributed to me, despite the fact I was in the company of Wentworth Miller the entire evening. An honest mistake. Anyone could have made it.

She snapped her fingers (one of them fell off, poor thing), and all was right again. I cannot promise you that she’ll be so readily understanding in your situation, but at the very least you’ll discover the cause of this haunt, and what must be done to dispel it.

Whatever you do, do not attempt to confront a wraith directly. Ghost flu is an utterly dreadful malady, and highly contagious.


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