I had included this article in my memoir (yet to be published), but after I was advised to reduce its word count as the manuscript was considered too long at 145,000 words, some of my writing had to be culled. Rather than “lose” this piece altogether, I decided to publish it here on my blog.
I know this may sound odd, and I cringe to admit it, especially as not everyone believes in ghosts – yet I do, only because from experiencing certain unexplained sounds, feelings and sightings. I can only conclude that my body acts like a sort of conductor for these manifestations. Perhaps my creativity wills me in believing their existence, but there have been too many of these “unexplained” phenomena for them not to be real.
The first time I “witnessed” such an occurrence was in Hampstead, London, UK, when my family resided in Maresfield Gardens. I was driving dad’s Humber Hawk; my two oldest friends, Simon and Tony were following behind in Tony’s Hillman Imp. It was Sunday morning, we had been in church and were returning to my home for lunch – and no, I wasn’t drunk. The road was narrow, with cars parked on either side. A large, old black car, looking like something out of the 1930s, but could have just as easily been a hearse, was coming down the other way, and its driver wasn’t slowing down. I just managed to pull into someone’s driveway to avoid the on-coming vehicle. Needlesstosay, I let rip with some choice words as he passed. I looked over my shoulder to see Tony pull up next to me and ask why I had swerved? “Didn’t you see that maniac driving the big black car?” I said, to which Tony replied “What car?”
Perhaps I had hallucinated it, but it had left me quite shaken. Had that been the one and only ‘spiritual’ experience then I probably would have dismissed it from my life and this blog, but it was to be the first of several such “experiences”; although it was the only one where I actually saw one of physical form. The others were/are sounds, shadows and feelings.
The next time there was such an occurrence was when we were living at a three-storey house in Kingscroft Road, West Hampstead. As usual, I was in my bedroom on the top floor of the house, (as were those of my two sisters). It was a nice room with a side view, so if I had extra-long arms, I would be able to touch the house next door. Fortunately, the neighbour’s sloping roof meant my window allowed some natural light and fresh air – if you can call London air ‘fresh’. I would spend endless hours either painting, making ‘Airfix’ models, reading, or writing. The latter was limited to poetry and short stories. During daylight hours, there was no need for any artificial lighting, unless I was making some intricate model, then I would turn on my desk light. You can imagine my surprise when, one day, the overhead light came on. I looked up expecting to see one of my family at the door, but there was no one, yet the wall switch had been flipped down. I stood and walked to the landing. I was alone, so I switched the light off and returned to the desk. Even though it was a warm day and the window was open, a chill that wasn’t previously there seemed to have descended in the room. Again, I thought nothing of it, except that it seemed odd, so I mentioned it to dad in case it was a faulty switch. It wasn’t.
My father was a very superstitious and religious person, and when we moved into any new home, the first thing he would do was to invite the local priest to bless the house. I expect his reasoning was to make sure there was no lingering evil from past residents, and to ensure the health and safety of our family. Whatever his reasons, the benediction of the house made no difference to the world of the spiritual; or come to think of it, neither did it spare us from health issues.
The next time something odd happened, I was alone in the house. The only other person who was home was my grandmother, but she was in her ground floor flat, and she would rarely ascend the three flights of steps to visit me in my bedroom. If she ever needed me for something, she would stand in the downstairs foyer and yell out my name – she did have a really shrill voice when she needed to be heard – bless her. Hearing the sound of someone climbing up the stairs, I rose from my chair and stepped out on to the landing expecting to see nonna. There was no one. If it had only been me, then I would have said I had imagined it, but my elder sister, Lesley had had a similar experience, however like me, she thought she had imagined it. And it was only recently, when I was discussing my plans for writing my memoirs, when I raised this ‘haunting’ experience, that she admitted her scary moment.
The thing is, these occurrences don’t happen all the time, so I beg to ask why I am prone to them at all?
During the summer holidays Simon’s parents used to rent a large house, ‘The Garth’ located at Burnham Overy Staithe in Norfolk, close to Burnham Market. From time to time, I, as well as Tony and, another friend, Dominic, would join them for a few days. We were always made welcome. Simon’s parents, Pam and Dennis, were lovely, likeable people, and were looked upon more as family than just friends. Dennis, was convinced the house was indeed haunted, when in one instance he was on the upstairs landing, on espying a well-groomed gentleman approach the house he descended the stairs to greet him. The front door had a window above it so the path could be seen from the upstairs landing. When Dennis opened the door, there was no one there.
Maybe it was his ‘tale’ that got my imagination going, but one night whilst asleep on a camp bed in the sitting room, I heard someone walking around outside the door in the hallway. Thinking it was one of my mates or the family dog, I got up and stepped out in the gloom. Apart from an unexplained chilliness, there was no one about.
Another weird experience I encountered, was a feeling of ‘déjà vu’ when, in the early 1980s I visited for the first, and only time, the island of Anglesey. I was in North Wales on holiday and had gone into Caernarvon to visit the town, when on impulse decided to cross over to the island. As I stood near open fields in a remote area, a strange sensation came over me of having been here before. Even though I knew this was not possible, the familiarity of the place was too strong, and after the visit I kept having re-occurring dreams of the place.
It would be another twenty years or so later, when another, unrelated, event would more-or-less convince me that I had, in fact, been on Anglesey before – but not in this life.
It happened when I was in Australia, sometime in the early 1990s; I had visited a small café at the coastal town of Wamberal on the Central Coast (about 50km north of Sydney) with my 2nd wife (now my 2nd ex-), Sandra. As we sat there enjoying a light meal, I noticed a sign saying they had a Tarot card reader in a private room. As I’m interested in the occult, Sandra paid the fee, as a special treat. Whilst Sandra waited for me outside, I sat opposite the reader. The medium shuffled the cards and made me split them into three piles. Taking the centre one, she began to turn them face up. Up until this point I hadn’t spoken to her. She then told me the following, some facts accurate, some not quite, but one revelation that blew my mind: “you grew up in England, but you weren’t born there (correct). You are/were a soldier or a cleric (not correct, but I still had an interest in both – more of that later). I had visited the island of Anglesey (correct!)”. Perhaps I should have asked her to elaborate on that last fact a bit more, but I was too stunned by her revelation.
On the subject of being either a soldier or a priest, and of being on Anglesey, it seemed to me that my soul had possibly occupied the body of such a person hundreds of years previously. As much as I don’t like getting into discussions of a religious or political nature, because everyone has their own beliefs, and I wouldn’t want to be influenced by them, nor would I dare impose my beliefs on others, but as this article is about me, then it is only fair to share my feelings regarding this matter. I will only say, that as much as I was born to a Roman Catholic family and was brought up into that religion, too many things have happened in my life making me question the sincerity of any religion, let alone my own. I suspect, that my present beliefs, compounded by the Anglesey phenomenon, as I choose to call it, is that our souls are immortal. We inhabit a body during a certain life span, but when that body dies, we are placed in some sort of limbo until a suitable body becomes available, either on Earth or on another planet amongst the billions of star systems in our galaxy.
I have always had a fascination with history and anything historical. I used to drool over a collection of Medieval swords that were on display at my paternal grandmother’s apartment on the island of Malta. And I was drawn to my paternal family history, thanks to my father’s elder brother, Edwin. He was so interested in our roots that he carried out an intensive research into it, tracing the line as far back as the early 16th century, on the island of Malta, and in Spain previous to that. Two of our ancestors were not only brothers in blood, but brothers in arms – they were religious Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. They are buried together in a tomb in St. John’s Cathedral located in Valletta (tomb number 267 Emanuele and Giuseppe Borg).
That said, and returning to the theory that I had lived sometime in the past, I can only conclude, should my uncle be correct about our links to Spain, perhaps I had been a soldier of Christ aboard one of the many ships of the Great Armada that had sailed for England in the year 1588. When the English Navy attacked the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Gravelines, most of the Spanish ships were able to escape by sailing up the North Sea, around Scotland, and then heading south to the Atlantic. Although the majority were sunk due to severe storms off the west coast of Ireland, it might have been possible for a ship or two to have slipped through into the Irish Sea and run aground either by accident or by design, onto the island of Anglesey.
I know it sounds far-fetched, but it’s the only way I can explain this weird event in my life.
Going back to spooks though, the buggers hadn’t left me alone (and they still don’t). Even though I was now living in Sydney, Australia (from 2nd November 1988 – 1st March 2016), in a new house, not previously lived in, I was sure there would be no such visitors. I was wrong. Sandra had bought a house in the leafy northern suburb of Berowra in 2006. The property was one of fourteen town houses on land which was once occupied by stables. We had designated one of the upstairs bedrooms as a study, where I would spend endless hours (when not at work or doing family things) either writing or playing computer games. On one particular occasion I heard someone walking along the landing, and in my peripheral vision, a shadow passed into the other bedroom. Thinking it was Sandra, I rose from the chair and stepped into the bedroom to see what she was up to. The room was empty. I went downstairs, she was out in the garden, pottering.
There had been other sounds in the house, mostly shuffling or scratching sounds, but we explained them away as rats in the attic – which of course, there were, but that’s another story.
Before I leave the subject of ghosts, I will just add that it would only be fair to include my present “unwelcome” house guest. The apartment I currently live in is located in the small coastal town of Golfe-Juan in southern France, located in between Cannes and Antibes on the Côte d’Azur. I have been living in Golfe-Juan since 2nd March 2016, after Sandra and I separated (for the second time) after twenty-eight years of marriage (not my choice). Five days after my arrival I purchased the flat. It was the first property I visited, but fell in love with it and refused to view any others. It’s a nice, small flat – with an emphasis on ‘small’ – the entire apartment is no bigger than the size of the lounge-diner at the house in Berowra which Sandra still owns; but it’s home, and its size means there’s not much to clean. Sorry, I’m getting side-tracked, so I’ll tell you about my ghost. What I cannot comprehend though, the building is only 25 years old. The previous owners were an Italian couple who used it as a holiday let for tourists, and also for themselves. So, unless, someone died whilst at the property, or there was an incident on the field where the apartment building now sits, I don’t understand why I keep getting plagued by this weirdo. He (could be a she) lets me know of his presence by banging the floor-to-ceiling bedroom wardrobe doors – usually in the early hours of the morning, and making me jump out of my skin. The room becomes exceptionally cold, and only returns to normal after I tell him/her to sod off: in English, Italian, and French…. Well you never know, do you? There are times he makes his presence known during the day, but those occasions are rare – he much prefers to wake me up!
I have become used to having these presences in my life, and I don’t fear them. For all I know it might be someone close to me that just doesn’t want to leave, and has stuck by, and will no doubt continue to do so. Or, as I have come to suspect, once our body dies, we are at a loose end until we find a means to begin again in another life-form; and hang around at the last place we had ‘lived’ at.
RLB – Tomewriter