Ghostly goings on

Having spent the past hour procrastinating by watching Ghost Adventures on Really (I know, I know, shame on me) I felt it appropriate to discuss that very topic in today’s post. I’ve always had a healthy respect for the paranormal, which I think stems from an experience I had as a small child in a stately home in Oxfordshire. I remember standing on the upstairs landing at the end of a long hallway lined with portraits and being rooted to the spot, inexplicably struck by terror. Even now all these years later I remember it vividly, and when I told my mother she was amazed I remembered as I’d been so small at the time.

A few years after that incident there were some rather odd goings-on at our family home. It only lasted a short while, but during that time the sign on my bedroom door was removed and stuck back on the other way around, and a shirt belonging to my step dad that my mum had hung to dry in the spare room was found with its sleeves tied in a knot (only me and my mum were present at the time and both adamant we hadn’t done it).

Whilst my own experiences hardly offer conclusive proof in the afterlife, they’ve certainly made me question the existence of ghosts – and other peoples’ stories have only served to back up their existence. My ex-boyfriend’s family had some stories of their own about their family home, one of which involved his brother leaving a jigsaw on the kitchen table one night and returning the following morning to find it completed on the floor (and before you ask, there was nobody else in the house at the time, so unless it was a thief with a keen interest in jigsaw puzzles I’d suggest this was rather odd, to say the least). I stayed there many times and always noticed a chill on the lower landing at the back of the house – not knowing for some time that was where my ex’s sister once claimed to have seen an old lady in a rocking chair.

I can’t prove the existence of ghosts any more than the next person, but I do believe in an afterlife, and in the possibility of souls becoming trapped between this world and the next if they feel they were unjustly taken from the world, or if they have a message for the living that’s preventing them from passing on. Some might think I’m crazy to hold these views, but I know what I felt that day on the landing as a small child in the grip of fear. And unless they too have experienced that fear I’d politely suggest the doubters keep their views on the matter to themselves.

My earliest memory

If memory serves it was a summer’s day, the kind that has us Brits rushing for the strawberries and cream and slathering on the high factor sun lotion. My recollection doesn’t stretch to what I was wearing at the time but common sense would suggest it was some form of seasonally appropriate attire. For the purpose of adding colour to this story let’s say it was a yellow dress with white trim, matching white socks and shiny red shoes with gold buckles.

We were standing in front of a big grey house, my mother and I. As I looked up at it in wonder I thought I had never seen anything so gigantic in all my life. It had creepers growing up its walls, and large, foreboding windows which, despite their size, revealed nothing of what was within. We walked down the gravel drive and followed the path around the side of the house until we reached the garden at the back.

It was a large garden, with neatly kept flower beds containing multi-hued sprays of chrysanthemums, roses, bougainvillea and clematis (am I overdoing my artistic license here?). The air was thick with the scent of lavender, and busy little insects tended to the flowers like nurses to the sick. Dotted around the garden were other visitors like us, drawn by the fine weather and the prospect of tea and cake.

But there was another reason why they came – why we had come. Inside the house, on the upper floor, was a long landing. It wasn’t just any landing, it was also a gallery. Lining its walls were portraits of long dead ancestors of the house’s owners, the kind whose eyes follow your every movement, waiting.

We stood on this landing, my mother and I, and I felt a sudden stab of fear. I clutched her hand tightly as we began to walk, the floorboards squeaking underneath our feet. Slow and tentative steps I took, conscious that I was pulling back, not wanting to proceed – but she didn’t notice, or at least seemed not to. I remember trying not to look at their eyes, those soulless black holes that demanded attention but offered nothing but sinister stares in return.

Halfway down the corridor I stopped dead. A chill ran right through me as I looked up into the eyes of one of the paintings. Nothing happened, per se, but to this day I can remember that sensation of abject fear.

I know it sounds far-fetched and I imagine those who don’t believe in ghosts and such like will be scoffing as they read this. All I will say is that when I recounted this story to my mum a year or so ago she couldn’t believe I remembered our visit to that country house – because I couldn’t have been much more than two years old at the time. Now how’s THAT for spooky?

Image

I took this photo whilst walking around the beautiful gardens surrounding Sydney Harbour. It’s blurry background seems quite fitting for this mysterious and slightly chilling (but true!!) story.