Blogging about Japan, food, parenthood, music and life!
It’s cold and dark; the wind is blowing a gale outside. A couple of candles are throwing their unreliable light over the desk, and dusk is deepening - the perfect conditions for a discussion about the supernatural…
As a child, I always had a hard time getting to sleep because my imagination was cunningly lively in the dark, and because I had a firm conviction that there was a lot more going on in our universe than the ordinary eye could see.
However, I really am not a tree-hugging, crystal-clutching, ghost-preaching evangelist. I think a lot of phenomena in our lives are unexplained – and why wouldn’t they be? Why should we, the human race, be so arrogant as to believe everything we experience must be quantifiable and justifiable and validated by science or religion – simply because we think the universe exists for the sole purpose of our habitation?
I LIKE that there are inexplicable events in our lives. It’s exciting. It reminds us that there might be more to existence than bills, commuting, fast food, politics and war.
When I was 12 years old, our English teacher asked us to research, document and deliver a 3 minute speech on a subject of our choice. We had several weeks to complete this task, and I immediately chose to investigate ‘The Paranormal’.
I went to the library and borrowed as many books as I could find on the subject, scared myself silly by reading them cover to cover in the middle of the night, and worked feverishly until the day of the speeches, haunted by some of the anecdotes – some of them all the more chilling for their matter-of-fact, pragmatic reporting style.
As it happens, I discovered that I couldn’t deliver a speech to save my life – I had horrendous stage fright, and a complete memory blank – but the written part of the project was thorough and quite interesting. I probably still have it in the attic somewhere.
In the interests of research, I had asked family members and friends whether they could share any first-hand anecdotes about strange or eerie happenings, and I was amazed to find that almost EVERYONE had a tale to tell.
I, too, have a tale to tell. I can guarantee it is not hyped-up, adrenalin-fuelled whimsy… because at the time, I didn’t even realise what I was seeing.
Around the time I was doing A levels, I had a piano teacher who lived in London, a good hour away from our house. Usually, my mother would drive me to his house, and wait in the lounge while I had my lesson in the music room. On this occasion, we were a couple of minutes early and I walked into the lounge followed closely by my mother. I noted that an old lady in a green dress was sitting on the sofa, assumed that she was waiting for a student, and therefore went to sit down to wait until my allotted time.
My piano teacher called me from the hallway, and said I could go straight through to the music room. I said goodbye to my mother, who had taken a seat opposite the old lady, went back out into the hall, and entered the music room where my teacher was waiting for me.
As always, it was a challenging and stimulating lesson, and I was quite enthused in the car on the way home, discussing the new pieces that I was learning with my teacher. I felt like I was finally climbing out of a depressing pit, and making some progress.
Suddenly I remembered the woman.
“Who was the old lady in the lounge?” I asked conversationally.
“The woman on the sofa…” I repeated. “She obviously wasn’t waiting for anyone, because my teacher sent me straight into the music room.”
My mother turned her head towards me, and the whites of her eyes seemed to be floating in her head, making my skin prickle with anticipated terror.
“WHAT?? There wasn’t anyone in the lounge!”
We stared at each other, open mouthed in horror, for a moment, and then babbled and laughed hysterically for a few minutes until we managed to get a grip. Turns out, the lounge, AS PERCEIVED BY MY MOTHER, was completely empty when we arrived at my teacher’s house; but I definitely saw a lady in a green dress sitting on the sofa. She had curly white hair, pink-rimmed thick glasses, and looked to be in her 70s.
There is no point trying to explain that one away. If I hadn’t asked my mother about her in the car, I would never have known that my mother hadn’t even seen her, and that would have been the end of it. Makes me wonder how many people I see that other people don’t see on a day to day basis.
Eek. Sounds like the basis for a good film.
Pets and small children often make me wonder if they can see a different plane of existence to the rest of us. My cats regularly seem to notice things – moving things – that they follow with their eyes, that are invisible to me. Mind you, they’re both bonkers; they chase ‘greeblings’ at witching hour, spang high into the air when the fridge makes a clicking sound, and crash into items of furniture at high speeds – so it’s hard to take their 6th sense seriously.
However, my son was a very perceptive, studious little boy – even as a baby. He had some early words at 12 months – door, more, music, and his favourite… man. We first realised he was saying ‘man’ when he pointed vigorously at a picture of the Fat Controller, repeatedly saying, “Man, man, man!”
His bedtime routine was lovely and gentle. He’d have a bath, get changed into a fresh vest and babygrow, and after I’d read him a story, we’d sit together on the rocking chair as he had his last milk of the day. Usually, he’d be so drowsy by the end of his feed, that his eye-lids would be drooping. Sometimes he even fell asleep – though this state would never last the 2 foot journey to his cot.
On one occasion, he was having his feed, but instead of disconnecting slowly from the world and spacing out as he usually did, he was oddly alert. His eyes were fixed steadily on a spot to the right of our rocking chair. To my great surprise, he suddenly spat out the teat, his face crinkled into a huge grin, and then he laughed. My son didn’t laugh very often. As I’ve mentioned before, he was thoughtful and quiet. My spine started to tighten, and I felt distinctly uneasy.
Then my son sat up straight, laughed again, and turned his head to look at me. He pointed to the right of my chair.
“Man!” he said, with a dimpling smile, continuing to point at that spot. “Man, man!”
My skin practically crawled right off my body.
I scooped my baby up, bottle and all, and lunged towards the door in one fluid movement, hastening downstairs to sit in a different room, my son looking at me with bright curiosity. Hubby wasn’t at home. I was alone with my son.
But after a little while, I went back upstairs. After all, I’d felt no sense of malice or unpleasantness. In fact, it must have been a presence so benign that my son had smiled and laughed. I rather trust my ‘feelings’ about such things (there are houses that simply being in have made me feel ill and crushed), so Baby went to bed, and that was that.
I am researching for a blog post about Japanese ghosts – because, wouldn’t you know, they have their own cultural haunting style, completely different from Western phantoms.
A good friend of mine is a professional investigator of paranormal phenomena – you might be interested in his blog. I’ll put the links down below. It’s well worth a read, even if his stories can’t compete with the fact our old house was haunted by a jolly Fat Controller.