Now and then some small stimulus – a word, a question, something seen in passing – will set up a train of thought which doesn’t go away. Though you might try to ignore it, put it back into that great filing system of grey stuff you’ve got crammed in your dome, it will keep coming back.
I wrote this in response to a Twitter question ‘have you ever had a supernatural experience?”
‘No chills, no horrors, just a presence – in one case, a girl in Edwardian dress, maybe 11 or 12, standing in a doorway watching me’.
So yes, I have. I’ve had three.
Now immediately you open this particular Pandora’s jar you get pigeonholed: people who might otherwise have respected your intellectual integrity begin to smile at you indulgently and change the subject; people you’ve never met before suddenly become fast friends and passionate fellow believers.
Let me say right from the start that I am neither passionate about the supernatural nor a fanatical believer. I simply witnessed three things which had no logical explanation, and the only reason I am re-telling the stories is to expiate the profound impression they made upon me.
The curious thing about these episodes is their intensity, their relentless detail. Whenever I remember them, which is often, I see them again with the sharpness of the first experience. Now I know that memory moves from recollection to recollection: that when we recall something we actually recall our last recollection, not the thing itself – I know all that. Which is why I might believe something else is at work here – some different form of imagery.
Our home at that time was called Cobblers Cottage and there was no reason to believe that a previous occupant had not served as cobbler to the small village community that surrounded the house. I was writing at my desk and it was late at night. I was not tired but I was alone. My family had gone to bed. At some stage something – a movement, a sound, maybe – prompted me to look up, turn to my right and see the young girl who stood in the doorway. A long dress, a plaid shawl, dark hair. Not a very striking face, though I still recollect every detail of it now, and certainly not the face of one troubled or in pain. She stood as if she was waiting for me to follow her from the room.
In our youth a rite of passage was the ‘night in the haunted house’. Now we had one, a genuine old grange that stood on the site of what had once been a monastry, close to the town where we grew up. In the company of four friends I stayed the night there on a hard floor in a sleeping bag. It was abominably cold, but that had nothing to do with unearthly powers.
Insomnia and the need to keep our circulation going led us to explore. The place was being converted into flats so parts of it were already altered from the original. We opened many doors: only one sticks in my memory. Behind it, despite the darkness, I saw a room with a long refectory table down the centre and benches to either side. The room was deserted, apart from one occupant: an old man in grey monk’s habit sat at the head of the table, facing us as we looked in. We all saw him. (BTB, in later years I actually occupied one of those flats without any strange experiences).
Now that’s two of three, and this piece is already long enough to bore the pants off the most tolerant reader, so I’ll stop there.
Three episodes all with a common element. They were brief images – things seen for no more than maybe five seconds – yet they have left me with an imprint of their presence I cannot erase. They leave me unable to deny, cold atheist that I am, that there are things in heaven and earth, Horatio, undreamt in our philosophy (horrible paraphrasing – sorry!)
All comments welcome!