Thursday, 31 October 2019

"I do believe in Spooks"


Well, I don't really. But I've always been interested in the supernatural and things that go bump in the night and, hey, it's Halloween so now must be the time to talk about it, right?
I'm more interested these days in fictional ghoulies and ghosties but when I was younger I was borderline obsessed with the supernatural and was always reading "true life" ghost stories. As a teenager I subscribed to the infamous part-work The Unexplained which contained many a tale of spooky and, yes, unexplained phenomena in its eldritch pages.
Of course I had an active imagination as a kid and the fact that I was brought up in a creaky, draughty 200-year old farmhouse just added to my fascination for the weird and bizarre. I was always imagining footsteps on the attic steps outside my bedroom door or hunting for secret passages in the cellar. My dad, Pete, told me his family had lived in the house since 1930 and nobody had ever seen even the merest wisp of a spectre. By the time I was a teenager I was starting to doubt that...


As an adolescent I started having weird experiences at night ( no, not those! ) which had me thinking there were stranger things in heaven and earth etc. etc. On many, many cold dark nights I would wake up ( always at 01:40 am for some reason ) with a feeling of absolute dread. I found myself unable to move, as if some giant weight were pressing down on my chest, and there was usually the impression of a shadowy figure standing at the foot of my bed, no doubt meaning to do me harm. After much struggling and scrabbling around to find my light switch I would feel the weight suddenly disappear, switch on my light and reveal... nothing. I don't know for sure how long this lasted  -  probably a couple of years  -  but I was understandably freaked out by it. I couldn't tell my parents, or anyone else for that matter, because I was sure they'd (a) think I was nuts, (b) laugh at me or (c) both. I began to think that the house was indeed haunted... or I was indeed going nuts.


Many years later as an alleged adult I was watching a TV documentary about sleep and dreams ( this time in our resolutely non-spooky one-bed suburban terraced house ) when the narrator mentioned the subject of sleep paralysis and I nearly fell out of my chair. This was it! This was the cause of those fear-filled nights. There was no nocturnal creature holding me down or lurking at the foot of my bed, merely a quirk of REM sleep which keeps the body immobile and presumably safe whilst dreaming. I wasn't haunted or mad! There was an actual physiological explanation for this private night-time terror which had gripped me for so long but was now an adolescent memory. Boring or what?

As much as I might wish otherwise I've still never had any real kind of supernatural encounter. Even when my mate Paul and I tried to sacrifice my sister to the Devil down in the cellar of the farmhouse there was no puff of sulphur or echoing voice from another world. ( I suspect Lucifer would have rejected her for being just too nasty for the hot place anyway. ) All we got was a telling off from my Nan for "trying to raise evil spirits"  -  chance would be a fine thing!


Really, the only sniff I've had of the spirit world was sometime in the early 90s when Sarah and I visited Littledean Hall in the Forest Of Dean. This is one of the oldest houses in the country and is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest, being home to a colony of Greater Horseshoe Bats. I'd spotted it on my travels ( I was a truck drivin' man in those days ) and thought it would be worth a look. We had a nice couple of hours there, looking around, and although there didn't seem to be anything too notable about the place, it was a pleasant enough way to spend a Summer's morning. There was very little in the way of information on display so we didn't really find out much of the house's history at the time.
One of the last rooms we looked in was a fairly unremarkable, almost bare room containing not much more than a table, a fireplace and some exposed roof beams. For some reason, even though the day was warm and all the other rooms felt light and airy, I suddenly felt an extreme cold creeping into my bones. As the room felt colder and colder I started  to feel anxious, claustrophobic, I just felt I shouldn't be there. I didn't say anything to Sarah because, again, I would have felt foolish but I was extremely relieved to get out of that room and breathe some fresh air and feel the sun on my face. From the outside I could see that the room was bathed in sunlight, not obscured by trees or hedges, and there was no real reason why it should have been so marrow-chillingly cold.
In the car on the way home Sarah suddenly confessed to me that something had really upset her in that room and she'd felt oppressed and nervous and couldn't wait to get out. She hadn't told me in case I thought she was just being silly...

Brrr! I'm feeling cold, just typing this. ( Well, it is October. ) We later looked up the history of Littledean Hall and apparently it's been the site of many supposed hauntings over the centuries. We hadn't been aware of that before our visit and had no reason to expect any "cold spots" in the house or anything like that. We both just think of it as a strange anomaly that we can't explain and it certainly didn't turn us into believers in ghosts. But... maybe, just maybe...







11 comments:

Kid said...

Funnily enough, for the last few weeks there's been a cold area just above my bed where my head rests on the pillow. It's a tangible thing and I've not been quite well since it started, having a cold that's hard to shake. I wonder if someone from the spirit world (if it exists) isn't a fan of Crivens! ? Is that other blogger guy still alive?

Steve W. said...

I had a few bouts of sleep paralysis when I was 18. Fortunately, around that time, I saw a letter in Claire Rayner's agony column, from someone who also had the problem. Claire's advice was that the way to stop it is to try and bend your little finger while it's happening. Blow me down if she wasn't right, and I've never had it since.

On the subject of ghosts, what I find interesting is that if you ask people if they believe in ghosts, they nearly always say no but if you then ask them if they've ever encountered a ghost, they've nearly always had a ghostly experience. The disconnect between people's experience and their beliefs is intriguing.

cerebus660 said...

@Kid
So, are you saying you're part medium / part blogger? Now that is scary ;-)
This may sound obvious but is there a crack in the wall?

@Steve
That advice about the sleep paralysis is bizarre isn't it? As long as it works...

People's belief or otherwise is indeed intriguing. I've met enough people who believe in ghosts ( or God, angels, the Loch Ness Monster etc. ) without a scrap of evidence but are unshakeable in their beliefs. I find it hard to believe in anything without some kind of evidence / proof but still wonder deep down if there are still things out there beyond the ability of science to prove. But there probably aren't.
This all makes me think of the quote attributed to French author Madame de Stael: "I do not believe in ghosts but I am awfully afraid of them."

Kid said...

No, but there might be a crack in my head.

I think there's a huge number of things beyond the ability of science to prove, Cer. The fact that you think there isn't suggests an almost religious attitude to science. To know everything that definitely isn't, one must first know everything that definitely is, and most scientists admit that they probably know less than 1% of everything there is to know.

cerebus660 said...

Sorry Kid, in these days of rabid anti-intellectualism, with anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, Holocaust deniers and Flat-Earthers seemingly on the rise everywhere... I'm coming down fully on the side of proof, evidence, logic and reason.

Kid said...

Proof, evidence, logic, and reason - all of which can be faked (and not always intentionally), and which so-called science isn't always compatible with. Not that I subscribe to any of the list in the first part of your sentence.

There's place in Texas which has strata of rock with shod human footprints criss-crossing with dinosaur footprints, yet it's rejected because it doesn't fit the theory of 'science'. They can see these interwoven footprints for themselves, but still won't accept it as evidence that suggests some dinosaurs may have co-existed with man. Legends of 'dragons' may well have sprung from sights of Pterodactyls. I'd say that's quite a reasonable and logical theory, but 'science' just won't have it. Once they've made up their minds, there's no changing them - despite any evidence to the contrary.

Science isn't always the science it claims to be. I believe the literal definition of science is 'knowledge', and like I said, unless you know everything there is to know, you can't really know everything that isn't.

Kid said...

To be fair, I've just noticed that some scientists are now saying that the 'supposed' (as they would claim) human footprints were created by dinosaurs (took them years to come up with that 'explanation'), but it smacks of a 'dismissal' approach to me.

cerebus660 said...

"All of which can be faked"
Okay, I officially give up at this point...

Kid said...

Evidence is down to interpretation, Cer, and what sounds reasoned and logical may not BE reasoned and logical, and proof is very often subjective. That's why 'science' constantly has to be rewritten every few years, and that's why there are different factions within the various branches of the scientific community who all disagree with each other on a plethora of subjects. My point was that it's not all as simple and straightforward as you might assume. To take issue with that FACT seems to me not very logical or reasoned.

A perfect example of something that can presented to appear logical and reasoned is the so-called evidence against the Moon landings. It all sounds very reasonable until one digs deeper, and then one can see that, while the 'evidence' might seem reasonably convincing, it actually isn't when examined.

Probably best that you give up at this point, 'cos you seem to have already made up your mind about certain things, which isn't really a very scientific approach.

cerebus660 said...

Kid, I'm impressed that you can figure out my entire world view and belief system ( or lack of same ) from a semi-serious post about spooky Halloween stuff. I know from the numerous online feuds you've had that you love an argument but I don't, especially not on my blog when I wasn't asking for one. To be honest, your consistently negative comments ( especially on my Doctor Who reviews ) just get me down and I could really do without that. So could you please stop commenting here and un-follow this blog and I'll do the same with yours. Thanks.

Kid said...

I've detected a certain snide disdain from you for a while now whenever you've responded to (or ignored) my comments, which I found strange as I only ever commented to show support for your blog. Your lack of comments on my own blog were also very revealing. As for 'consistently negative comments' on your Doctor Who posts, I take it that you regard any view not in accord with your own as 'negative', which kind of suggests you just want people to 'tickle your ears' by agreeing with you. I don't consider the enjoyment of discussing different views on a subject the same thing as loving an argument, so I can only conclude that you're insecure in your opinions and feel threatened by dissenting ones.

Also, I don't presume to know your entire world view and belief system, but when you rather pompously dismiss the views of others (not that I subscribe to any of the beliefs on your list) by saying that you come down fully on the side of proof, evidence, logic and reason as if anyone who believes differently from you on certain matters is a stranger to these things, then I can see where the problem lies, and it's squarely with yourself. All I did is point out the undeniable truth that sometimes proof and evidence are down to subjective interpretation, and that what appears logical and seemingly reasonable may be an illusion and equally subjective. Science is constantly under review and open to being revised on a regular basis, and to say so is hardly controversial. It's surprising to me that you see anything in that view to disagree with. Perhaps the application of thought is a little too taxing for you?

I once took the time and trouble (little though it was) to send you a copy of the cover of Terrific #1 at my own expense, which I think demonstrates my willingness to help others (even if it was only in a small way), and reveals that my heart is in the right place. Therefore, your inability to accept that I have my own views on things (or your annoyance at me expressing them) is a poor reflection on you. And while I hardly expect eternal gratitude for my small act of consideration, I find myself surprised at your eagerness to jump on the 'anti-Kid' bandwagon merely because I don't share your views on Doctor Who - or on the contents of this post.

Frankly, anyone as close-minded as you appear to be isn't someone I really need as a blog member anyway, so consider your wish granted.

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