Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Do you believe in ghosts?

by Jasmine Ward.

I have always considered myself quite a 'spiritual person'. I mean I'm the sort of person who lights incense and eats falafel. However, I hadn't ever experienced anything other-worldly until this July; the summer of my 22nd year.

I had set off for an early evening run near my home in Oxfordshire. I happened to be running down a lane fittingly called Dead Man's Lane. Mid-jog I  started to make out a figure about 300 yards in front of me. The man was wearing khaki attire and appeared to be carrying a large, black sack. I thought nothing of it, harvest season was about to begin and it was surely a farmer.

As I continued jogging, the figure began to move in sharp zig-zag movements down the lane; as though he was on a skateboard. This was strange, what farmer skateboards and who can skateboard holding a massive sack?

The figure stopped at the side of the road and I could see his shadow larger and darker than the silhouettes of cow parsley beside him. Remaining calm, I continued jogging. When I reached the place where I had seen him stop, there was nothing there. A trick of the heat? No, it was six o'clock and there was a listless evening breeze.

I couldn't really work out what had happened and, to this day, I feel very casual about my encounter; partly because when I got home and told my family, no one believed me; but mostly because there was nothing sinister about the event. My home was used as a hospital during World War Two. There is a wooden hut in the garden and its walls are etched with love poems from wounded soldiers to the nurses who cared for them. I suspect that the figure was one of these soldiers, stuck forever wandering the lane, trying to work out what he died for. 

I have thought a lot about ghosts since my experience, I want to know what the general public believe. So I set out to Portslade with my notepad and asked five people, "Do you believe in ghosts?"

Here are their responses:

Name: Alfred Emery 
Age: 73
Occupation: Semi-retired teacher
Description: I found Alfred inside a dingy cafe wolfing down a greasy fry-up. After a slight pause he happily answered my question. 

"Well, it's an interesting idea. If you are an intelligent person you need to at least consider the possibility of other life. If you are a true Christian you have to believe in spirits because of the Holy Spirit. There's a difference between spirits and a place memory. A violent thing that can be imprinted onto the fabric of a location. It's a memory on playback like a DVD. I know they have them at Auschwitz. Physics researchers call these occurrences 'place memories'. They are not a stranded consciousness or a person."  

Name: Ian
Occupation: Ceramic tiler 
Description: I ran into Ian on the street and he was immediately keen to answer the question.

"This is cool, a bit unexpected. I've never seen one, but I believe there is some sort of after-life. You have to be a certain kind of person, you know, in tune with the atmosphere. I've never been like that. I may believe in God but I don't think he's some old geezer in a toga." 

Name: Jessica Thomas
Occupation: Unemployed
Description: I caught Jessica whilst she was lighting a fag outside the corner shop. She had two small children and was distracted, not eager to talk. 

"Yeah, kind of. Just because I want to believe. I've never experienced anything funny." 

Name: Carol
Occupation: Retired 
Description: Carol was very nervous. She was standing outside Peacocks, wearing a pink fleece and holding a tiny dog. She didn't want to talk and was despondent.

"I've never seen one. I'm a bit unsure."

Name: Mo Stuart
Description: I had given up on the vox pop and gone into a charity shop. I was fumbling around when Carol approached me again.

"You need to meet my friend. She's got something very... uhh, different to tell you. Much better than what I had to say."

Intrigued, I walked outside the shop to find a tiny, bizarre-looking woman. Mo had round, tinted glasses with shock-white hair. She was so pallid she could have been a ghost herself. Before she started talking, she took my hand and asked me if I felt safe.

"I can tell you're a people person," she said in a thick Scottish accent. "I see spirits a lot. My friend's relative died in a car crash and came to my bedroom. He just walked around my bed... My friend's stepfather did the same exact thing after he died. In York, I have seen them walk past me. You just know they're spirits. Not because they are see-through or bruised. It's the way that they speak and smile. I have only felt threatened once: I felt something dark snatch my hand, it came from my wardrobe. I said 'Dear angels, please protect me,' and it went away... I have always seen them since I was a child. When you are a child you are a lot more open. That openness never left me." 

Conclusion: I left feeling truly satisfied with all the responses I received. I'd had a philosophical conversation, a couple of colloquial chats and, finally, a talk with a true seer.


  1. Absolutely ridiculous. Can't help but think of Carl Sagan's "There's a Dragon in my Garage" essay whenever I read an article such as this.

  2. Thoughtful piece, Jas. I really enjoyed it. :)

    Ludwig, do you have a Troll in your Garage, too? ;)