Ghosts, you ask? Why ghosts for this guest post? Well…because I use the paranormal an awful lot in my books. And because I’ve had a few experiences myself. And because it’s an interesting subject up for debate. But mainly because I want to, so there. J
I guess in my family, there has always been the subject of ghosts and bumpy night things, as I’m half-Irish. And in case you didn’t know, the Irish are BIG on folklore and ghost stories. But for the record, I never paid much attention to them. I’m much more cynical, and lean towards science for an explanation, but more on that later. There was the story of my grandparents, who had to live with an angry poltergeist when they were newly married. Then there was the story of my parent’s car stopping on a road near to where I live now (a road famous for this ghost) and coming face to face with a floating white shape known only as ‘The Hag’. Or there were also the numerous stories from my aunt, who likes to go ‘ghost-hunting’.
I never paid a lot of attention to these stories, because although I was always sure there might be other things that we cannot explain, everyone seeing so many ghosts seemed odd. Take my parent’s story, for example. Apparently, you only ever see the ghost in the summer months, when it’s raining, and if you’re feeling sad, and your car stops abruptly so the ghost can pass the road. Let’s look at that properly for a minute. We do have the odd day in the summer here, where it’s hot enough that the roads can create steam when it rains. And this particular summer was apparently a scorcher. Add to that the fact it was late at night. And both my parents were upset about something. Now we all know when you are upset about something, you’re not exactly paying attention properly. So for a minute, let’s imagine it’s not a ghost. Let’s instead imagine that the rain hitting the hot road has created some steam. Maybe a lot of steam, that has piled up into a large amount. Then along come two people in a car, just in time to see this large pile of steam floating across the road. They are so upset about something that they don’t pay attention to the fact it’s steam. Add to this the stories of that road, and the fact it’s dark and scary. They brake without realising it, because they’re so freaked out. They won’t remember this later, because of the fright from the sight, and they’ll imagine it stopped on its own.
This is exactly what I used to think of that story, and I still do. About that one, anyway. But then something happened to me to make me change my mind a little.
A few years ago, I lived I Newcastle-upon-Tyne, aka. ‘The Toon, aka. ‘Geordie-Town’. All true, and everyone there is fabulous. Fact. However, I moved around a few flats when I was there, and one of them was not so fabulous. On the surface, it was an okay flat for what I was paying. It was very dark inside though, due to a dodgy planning decision on the windows. Whoever had planned them had been having an off-day that day. And it had six-foot high damp in the bathroom. I know, I know, but at the time it was the only option, and I was told it would be fixed. It was ‘fixed’ several times. But the mysterious damp kept coming back, thicker and faster each time.
After a few weeks of being in the flat, funny things kept happening. One of the strangest things was crying. Yeah, I know, it sounds silly. But I would have friends come around and they would burst into tears in my living room. For no reason. One second, we would be laughing about something, the next they would have tears streaming down their faces. When I asked them what was wrong, they would always reply with a surprised, “I don’t know!” Then it happened to me a few times. I would be doing nothing in particular, I could be having a good day, but then tears would start falling out of my eyes, and I would get this crushing feeling of sadness about me. I brushed it off, thinking it was probably just something hormonal. Yeah, I’m sorry using that one ladies, but we can be hormonal, and I’m practical above all else!
Then our electrical equipment starting going funny. Because it was a small flat, a lot of things were in the living room. Everything would be switched off, then-everything would start turning itself on and off starting from one end of the room to the other. Trust me, there is nothing stranger than standing in a room while the radio switches between stations on its own, then the TV comes on and off switching through channels, then the computer starts up and off again. But again, I’m not silly. I didn’t run screaming out of the house. I thought, sensibly, that there might be an electrical fault. I switched the power off at the fusebox, and called someone out straight away. But he checked it, and said nothing was wrong. Nothing. I told him about the surge, and he shrugged. “I don’t know what it could have been, nothing is wrong with your electrics.”
This continued for a long time. Weeks. It would move through the house like an electrical ripple, switching things on and off. I paid no attention to it, still refusing to believe it was anything out of the ordinary. Then we began to hear sounds. Running about in the kitchen. Scratching along the walls. Now I have to break here to explain how the house was laid out. My bedroom was at the front of the flat, with a hallway next to it. Then a spare room, and the living room in the centre. Then the galley kitchen at the end, coming out form the living room, and the bathroom at the end of that. My cats stopped going near the kitchen or bathroom. I had to move all of their things into the spare room for them to use.
Then came the night I will never forget. I was still up, as I don’t really sleep very well on a night. I had the light on, a comedy on the TV, and was laughing away. Hardly the right set-up to be terrified. Nothing to make me jumpy or upset beforehand. I’d had a good day, the noises and electrical surges seemed to have stopped, and I was feeling happy. This was at about 2am. I needed the toilet. So, not worrying about anything, I got up, walked over to the kitchen door, and opened it. What I saw there chilled the blood out of my body. I’m actually getting shivers still as I write about this.
As I opened the door, I went to switch the light on. Now I would like to note the kitchen was lit up perfectly, as there used to be a streetlight outside, but it was habit. Then I noticed ‘It’. Just in front of my bathroom door, at the other end of the kitchen, was a large, eight-foot black shape. It wasn’t like a shadow on the wall, flat and bent in, but it was moving and solid. Although it had no face, I could make out a head, and shoulder, and the fact it was tall. Something in my brain registered ‘It’ wasn’t supposed to be there, and it literally felt like the blood drained from my body. I’d never felt that before, and I was frozen to the spot. ‘It’ twisted, and began to make a growling noise-a LOUD growling noise.
I panicked, and managed to move again, slamming the door shut. I rammed the sofa in front of it, grabbed the cats and their stuff, took them in the bedroom, and shut us all in. I put the bedroom TV on as loud as it would go, all the lights on, and pushed things in front of that door. I didn’t sleep that night, terrified of every little sound I heard outside the door. The next day I and the cats went to stay with a good friend, and I made arrangements to move. The next time I went back, I took friends, got all my stuff, and left.
There was one final time I went back. The Post Office managed to mess up where my post was going, and some of it ended up at the flat. As I had one more day until I had to hand over the keys, I decided to go and pick it up. Unfortunately, the only time I could go was after work-at 9pm at night. So I went anyway, and luckily didn’t have to go in. All I had to do was open the door, and grab the letters. As I opened the door, it echoed in the darkness of the hallway, as places do when there is no furniture in them. As I bent to pick the letters up, I heard scratching noises at the back of the flat, where I knew the kitchen door was still closed. Then I heard whispering. And then there was a loud thump, as if the door had been broken through. I grabbed the letters, slammed the door shut, and ran. I didn’t even lock it. I figured anyone stupid enough to break in would get what they deserved.
So while I’ve had a few more experiences since then, this was the one that opened my eyes. While I am STILL the sceptic, and will always try to find a rational explanation for everything, nothing can be explained for what I saw that night. And it actually helps with my writing. Whenever I have to write a scene that’s scary, I know exactly how the characters should feel. So whether or not you believe this, and whatever your thoughts on it are, you can’t deny it helps with writing about the paranormal. J