Strange happenings are afoot here in the cage; inexplicable happenings, some would say paranormal happenings! So being a man of rationale, a man of science, a man bored by the ‘Normal’, I decided to investigate not only the happenings, but the whole paranormal thing too.
What does it mean ‘Paranormal’? Well in etymological terms ‘Para’ means ‘next to’, ‘alongside’, or ‘against; normal means just like everyone/thing else. So there’s normal and then there’s next to normal, alongside normal, normal’s twin brother ‘Para’ trotting gamely beside him spooking people out with his weird shit.
Here in our big old draft ridden house, guests have reported peculiar noises late at night; creaking floorboards, bedsprings, doors, and thuds followed by cheerless chanting that chills the warm night air and curdles the blood. Some have reported strange sightings, old men shuffling in billowing nightgowns, headless chambermaids passing through walls a metre thick and woeful, sombre looking children staring in through windows three stories up. Most people don’t make it past the first night and don’t spare the horses on their untimely departure.
I am, I have to say, sceptical of most things but I’m really sceptical of anything superstitious or otherworldly. Not that I haven’t had my fair share of ‘paranormal’ experiences, according to one survey in America I’m in the lucky 1 percent of people who have actually looked a ghost straight in the eyes. Most reported ‘sightings’ are really dancing shadows seen in the corner of one’s eye or odd musty smells or weird noises. I have actually seen a ghost, not that I believe in ghosts one little bit, but I can’t deny what I saw! I have what I believe to be a rational explanation for all of this but first allow me to set the scene.
Twas a misty trek across the moors, my Dash hound Camelot by my side, my man servant Kevin whistling an ear-worm picked up from the court Jester the night before. Oh no that was another time, another life, sometimes I get my incarnations confused, I spent a whole day recently believing I was Napoleon, I was Napoleon once of course, once but not now.
Twas a misty trek across the moors, my long hair damp, and my feet wet with dew, a biting cold had soaked into my young but sturdy bones. A sense of ‘déjà vu’ clung to me like a curse as I trundled along a familiar path, a path that arrived, as it always did at a pub on the outskirts of Bodmin, ‘The Crooked Quill’.
The barman, a rounded, well fed fellow with cheeks like a recently spanked bottom, accommodated me with a flagon of ‘Olde Scuttocks original’ and a pork pie. I sat in a window seat gazing at the town yonder trees and tinkered with my Camera lenses. The early morning mists were fading, slowly being burnt off by an Autumnal sun to reveal a promising day.
An hour later I wandered through the open Iron gates of Bodmin cemetery, camera in hand and ready for action. As I was focusing my lense on an ornate moss covered tomb stone, its epitaph chiselled by a hand long gone, a young man popped up from nowhere and presented me with a wry smile. I smiled back and offered a greeting – as is the custom in such places- I had the time to study him before he took off across the graveyard. He bounded –rather nimbly – towards the dilapidated Tor that stood crumbling under the weight of centuries. I gave chase, intrigued as to who he was and why he was dressed in a crisp, neat American GI uniform? He disappeared; I couldn’t find him anywhere, swallowed by the day he vanished without a trace. I questioned my own mind, I had it must be said, dabbled with various hallucinogenic substances over the preceding months, organic or otherwise, and wondered whether I had experienced a ‘head fuck’ of some sort. The mind does like to play tricks on us and we are left to decide what is real and what is not after all.
Later that day, back in the croaked Quill, I met up with long term resident and Cousin Nicolas for a beer or six and after some initial trepidation recounted my tale. Still unsure of what I’d experienced or if I’d experienced anything at all I was amazed at his nonchalant reply. It transpired that, according to Nicolas I’d seen a ghost; a ghost that had haunted the graveyard for many a year and my description matched that of many before me.
What does a sceptic like me make of such a thing? All will be revealed later but first let’s explore the whole Paranormal thing in its condensed form.
The Paranormal breaks down into various categories, sub-categories and just plain gories. You’ve got your ghosts, phantoms; poltergeists and you’re average run of the mill walking dead person. Then there’s UFO’s, aliens are not paranormal per se, but their unidentified crafts are! After UFOs there comes the cryptids, all manner of beasts unobserved by science, such as the Loch Ness monster, werewolves, unicorns and Bigfoot. The reason all these things are classified under Paranormal is because none of them have been proven to exist. Once the inexplicable has been explained it pops right on over to the fact isle in your local library, which by the way is another favourite stomping ground of the dead. Well known sceptic and stage illusionist James Randi is so convinced that all paranormal activity is purely a trick of the mind that he has offered 1 million dollars to anyone who can unequivocally prove otherwise under agreed conditions. The prize has yet to be claimed.
It was once believed that the spirit of a person lived on after death and that that spirit could, if it had unfinished business, linger on to haunt the living! Generally it’s agreed that the spirit in question hangs about at the site of an untimely demise, either by foul play or gruesome accident and just sort of mopes about in a dejected state. Post Pagan souls, Christian souls or souls of the Christian Epoch had until ‘all Hallow’s eve’ to reap vengeance on their enemies before buggering off to the afterlife. To disguise themselves from the vengeful dead the living wore masks on ‘all Hallow’s eve’ least they were done over! This way the wronged, not known for their cunning, were thrown off the scent and either ascended or descended to their final resting place. The Reformation put an end to any state inhabited by the dead between death and deliverance to God’s palace, hence drawing a line under any form of purgatory in England…apparently.
So what about my ghost? I know what I saw, I had that young man in my eye for several eerie seconds and an eerie second is worth about three earthly seconds as well you know. Well I don’t believe in life after death in any form, without strong scientific evidence to support these theories they are nothing more than primitive answers to complicated questions, fiction or a tool to control by fear.
My Ghost had been dead for decades but alive when I saw him, what I believe I saw was the past or perhaps even the future. Space and time; the universe is full of unanswered questions and the probability that time can somehow leak for a moment, that for an eerie second or two you can share the same space with someone alive in their time, but dead in yours is not impossible to believe. So there we have it, I saw a point in history other than the one I was occupying or I was stoned, one of the two. Of course I’m not going to claim any prizes – a million dollars or otherwise – coz I can’t be arsed but someone should really look into the possibility.
As for the groans and headless spectres in my home, well a trick of the light should suffice. After all it’s dark; you’re sleepy and have a belly full of the finest cuisine available to man. You wake to a creak or a grumble from the house, you glance over to where you hung your dressing gown before climbing into the bed and conclude, without a shadow of a doubt, the only logical thing it can be is a headless horseman. The imagination is a wonderful thing but knee jerks to the most primitive conclusions when confronted with the inexplicable; a fight or flight situation that often ends in flighting in the middle of the night! Queue spooky laughter. Fade to headless dressing gown billowing on the moonlit lawn……………