There are a couple of ghost stories passed around in my family – mostly fairly benign visits about ‘i’m dead’ or ‘someone’s gonna die!’ – but I’ve only ever had one….or three…spooky experiences. Well, two spooky experiences and being awfully good at Tarot, but I think the Tarot thing was just being good at stories.
Anyhow, the first semi-spooky experience I ever had doesn’t really count. It was literally nothing except a creepy feeling.
Are you Watching?
OK, so between the ages of 6 and 22 I used to always feel like something watched me through the window at night. It was a distinctly unfriendly thing, it was always in the lower left corner of a window, and only came out when it was very, very dark. I wasn’t scared of it, but it was that weird, goose-bumpy feeling of eyes on you. People have gone ‘it was somebody dead looking out for you!’. It was NOT. This thing did not like me. It was cold and hateful.
Now, I’m a bit of a coward with a good imagination so that could just be my problem. However, when I moved to my new house way out in the country the feeling followed me. For a couple of weeks. Then it left and it hasn’t been back since…which I am superstitiously convinced is because of the MASSIVE amounts of crows who used to gather in the tree next door.
Maybe they ate it. Maybe it left before they could.
The next story is sort of…two linked stories.
Black Dog on Your Heels
I used to drive to work in Belfast. One day as I stopped at the lights a young man crossed from the other side of the road. Cute guy, probably a student at the Art School there, and on his heels was a black blob of shadow that…popped along behind him like a happy little Pomeranian. I was awake, caffeinated, and about as good as I get of a morning, but I swear I saw this tangible ball of shadow follow this guy.
It was weird, but weirder still was my completely calm conviction that this man was going to die soon. It was…certainty. Like he was halfway through a long drop.
A few weeks later I went away to a writer’s retreat. It was….awesome hell. It’s this huge old house in rural Ireland with no phone reception, an internet connection that cost £1 for 15 minutes of gerbil slow DSL connection. The staff cooked your food and looked at you askance if you weren’t writing. My room was the old servant’s quarters up in the attic, where I had to trek down two flights of stairs to get coal for the fire to try and find the impossible balance between ‘Oven’ and ‘Icebox’. Turned out it wasn’t for me. I wrote a lot, not much of it was good. Other people did better, I just don’t like isolation.
Anyhow, it was surrounded by farms and woodland and one day I decided to go for a walk. It started out well. I tramped along a country lane with my camera, at one point a dog joined me. It was unseasonably warm for late October. Then it started to get dark, the country lane turned into a woodland track, the track peetered out, and I was lost in the dark. Remember there being no signal for the phone? So I stagger along through these woods, maybe cry a little, in what I think is probably the right direction In the end, it’s Ireland isn’t it? I can’t get really lost, not American lost.
Finally I carefully climbed over an electric fence, stumbled through a muddy field between some cows, and found my way onto a paved road. OK, now all I had to do was aim at the turrets (it was a BIG old house) and start walking. OK, it was 9 o’clock now in late October and I’m completely alone, but that’s fine.
I walk. As I pass one farm a dog goes completely bat shit through a fence at me. I apologise for upsetting him and keep going. After a while I hear a dog behind me. You know, that tick tick of toenails on tarmac and the huff of a jowly dog breathing. Fuck.
It’s not close, so I risk a look back. The lane is empty. I hesitate, but maybe the dog just wandered off. I start walking again. The dog is still there, only it’s closer now. I look again. Nothing. Now this is getting a bit creepy. I start walking again, and now the dog is right on my heels. I can feel the heat of it.
This time I’m not going to look around. I just keep walking. It sticks close behind me. I’m a bit freaked out, but there doesn’t seem like there’s anything to do so I just walk. It pads along behind me. This goes on for about a mile, and then I walked past a field.
There’s a big, old horse at the gate. It snorted at me, obviously used to being fussed over, and then it pinned its ears flat to its head and took off at a gallop into the dark of the field. Like something had chased it.
The rest of the walk, there was nothing behind me. Also no-one at the retreat had even noticed I’d been missing for most of the day. So it’s a good thing I didn’t electrocute myself on that fence!