[Ghosts, theories - and the strange case of Ordsall Hall...!]
Do ghosts exist?
Before my first supernatural experience, way back when I was at art school in Reigate, I was unsure. But now I feel certain that they do exist.
It happened when I was at a party. I had not had much to drink, neither was I indulging in smoking "whacky baccy" as some of the others were. I was helping the party's host, Kim, to carry food upstairs to the revellers, most of whom were lazing around on matresses on the floor, smoking and giggling. Some were asleep. As I carried a quiche lorraine upstairs, on reaching the top, I felt a slight rush of air beside me and had a fleeting glimpse of someone running past me, in a flurry of white flapping material. When I turned my head it had gone. I looked forwards at the landing. There was no trace of a running figure departing. This ghost was not malevolent in any way, in fact I felt privileged to have seen it. The house was a Victorian semi-detached house, in a street of similar houses.
In later years I had a recurring nightmare which felt like being attacked by a poltergeist, while lying paralysed in bed. These nightmares happen to a lot of other people too. They can be caused by lack of sleep, or eating (or drinking) the wrong thing late at night... coffee can cause such dreams, which seem very real, as the dreamer feels that he or she is at home, and the feeling of being still awake is very strong. But to this day there is still a glimmer of doubt in my mind, a nasty feeling that it may have actually been a poltergeist. It's good that sleep researchers have some reassuring explanations for paralysis dreams - the main one being that, when someone is asleep, the body shuts down and becomes immobile. But if that person wakes at the wrong time, while the body is still inert, then he or she will feel a frightening sensation of helplessness. Then the brain begins to fill in with bizarre, frightening storylines (hallucinations or dreams) to explain why the paralysis has happened, e.g., a ghost, an incubus, a masked intruder, perhaps, holding down their arms and legs. I have included this rational explanation because I don't want anyone else on AuthorsDen to suffer these dreams or worry that they might have them. So please be reassured...
Ghosts which can be seen are far more pleasant than poltergeists. They do not mean any harm, they seem to simply replay parts of their lives like some kind of spectral videotape. It's as if the fabric of old buildings has absorbed images from the past in the same way that tape recorders pick up sound. Recently I have started looking at various ghost webcams online. Most of these cams only produce very vague "sightings" which look like faces or figures. Sometimes the "ghosts" turn out to be only (living) visitors or researchers. Sometimes the cam image is so smudgy that random "faces" can appear simply as a result of poor lighting or focus. I have collected a few such images. They are amusing but their validity is questionable.
By far the most exciting web cam I have ever seen, was the one at Ordsall Hall, near Manchester, England (see picture posted with this article). I was very disappointed when it closed down last November. At various times during 2002, I collected some wonderful images of a very distinctive, solid-looking ghost, which usually appeared between 12.00 noon and 2.00pm. Very occasionally it could be seen at night, but looked less three-dimensional. It always stayed in the same place, which was a framed coat of arms, propped up against the right-hand wall, on the floor. The coat of arms would look perfectly flat for much of the time - then whoosh! Suddenly a glowing white head would emerge, or a thing that looked like a baby's arm. Sometimes several faces would pop out at once, like glowing spirit faces leaning out of a window. It was as if the frame was a window, or a kind of portal from their dimension into ours. The picture above shows a sad face looking up at the ceiling, with features that are like holes in swiss cheese. Underneath that, there appears to be a chubby child's face, topped with a Tudor hat. Below it there seems to be a ruff collar. These shapes are all sticking right out, and they seem to be carved in white light. And the woman behind the table is actually watching it - she saw it at the same time I did. If you look closely you'll see that her mouth has fallen open in surprise!
I have quite a few good screen captures of this phenomenon, taken on different days. Due to the size limit of pictures on AuthorsDen, I can't paste them all here in a large pastiche. But what I would like to do is ask the BBC, or any TV company, if they would ever like to do an investigation of Ordsall Hall, after seeing the screen captures. Others have investigated the hall and discovered an extensive occurrence of white orbs, and spooky EVPs. If a television company investigated this amazing place, who knows what evidence they would find! They might even get a startling close-up of the coat-of-arms appirition. Also I hope that the administrators at Ordsall Hall will set up another web cam some day soon.
In the meantime, here is a sonnet of mine, inspired by Ordsall Hall:
Sara L. Russell, 3rd July, 2002.
In Abby's room the shadows slowly spin
deforming and re-forming in the air
shape-shifting with the subtlety of djinn
enveloping her dolls, and tattered bear.
In Abby's room a chair stands up askance
revolving in a stately arabesque,
grim faces come and go where dust motes dance,
as unseen hands open and close the desk.
The door is always locked to Abby's room,
All sudden noise is left as unexplained,
No cut flowers in this house will ever bloom,
Rarely are any house guests entertained.
When darkness writhes, when silence seems to roar,
Tread cautiously when passing Abby's door.
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