Every time I speak at a conference or similar event there is a Q&A session directly after my talk and, more often than not, someone will ask me “Have you ever experienced something weird that you cannot explain?” Yes, is the response. I’ve seen some pretty weird shit over the years. Reactions to this answer are usually one of two – if it is a skeptical audience I share what happened and people try to work out what it could have been (which can be interesting), or if it is a believer-orientated audience I share what happened and I’ll be asked another question “Why don’t you believe in ghosts then?”
I have been researching and “hunting” for ghosts for roughly ten years in one form of another. As regular readers of my blog will know I used to believe in ghosts and tried to find evidence that they existed but this changed in 2007 when I re-evaluated what I believed to be true about the existence of ghosts and an afterlife. When I stopped believing ghosts to be real it was because I learned about rational causes for weird things people associate with ghosts and was able to rule out a lot of the strange experiences I’d had over the years, but there are still some things that happened to me and my team mates on location that I cannot explain. Here are three such experiences…
#1 – The Little Boy That Wasn’t There
During one of several ghost investigations held overnight at a small shopping centre somewhere in Wiltshire I was sitting on the floor with three other investigators and someone was asking out for a response in true ghost hunter style (“let us know if you’re here. Can you make a noise? Show yourself? Move something?“)
What happened next was over in an instant and, to this day, I can recall the sense of not quite being able to process what I had seen. I was facing a long, straight section of the mall area that ended in a sort of T-section which led to other out-of-sight areas of the shopping mall. At the opposite end of the straight bit that I was facing was a large cafe with a seating area outside in the mall. I watched as a little boy ran across the T-section from one side to the other, in front of the cafe seating area, before vanishing from sight into the mall area around the corner.
The shopping centre was locked up and the only people on site were one security guard in an external office and us. “Did you…?” I began to ask, and two other team members confirmed that they’d seen the child too. We went off in search for a little boy that had somehow gotten into the mall despite it being locked down but we reached locked doors in either direction and the guard confirmed no child was on site.
Perhaps we didn’t see a child, but our expectations shaped something random into a child we expected to see? Perhaps there was a child and we were the butt of a prank? I can’t be certain, but it was pretty weird
#2 – The Whistler
This happened at the same location some months earlier with a different group of people. The centre was locked down once again and the only people on site were our team and a security guard in the external office. This odd experience happened in the same straight section of the mall that experience #1 (above) happened in. There was a vendor stall in the centre of the shopping area from which someone was selling personalised gifts and, because the shopping centre was shut, it had been covered over for the evening with a large cloth.
Us ghost hunters were just beginning our evening in the Centre and we were standing in a group on one side of this vendor stall talking about what we were going to do and when, when suddenly we all realised that we could hear someone singing from the other side of the vendor stall. It still makes me shiver to recollect that moment. They were singing “laaa-laaa-laa hmmm hmmm hmm hmmm”.
We stared at one another with wide eyes not sure what to do when, suddenly, the la-la-laing stopped and someone frickin’ laughed at us from the other side of the stall. This sent the team scurrying around the vendors stall in both directions to “trap” whoever was messing around with us (for that is what we presumed was happening – that we were the butt of a prank), but in true horror movie style we met on the other side of the stall and there was nobody there. We then lifted the flaps covering the vendors stall to see if we could find anyone hiding inside which was the only other place they could have gone… but there was nobody there.
#3 – “Something just grabbed my fucking arm!”
Littlecote Manor in Berkshire is a 16th Century mansion that is rumoured to be haunted by some pretty sinister spirits. The manor has been turned into a hotel, the management of which allow ghost hunters access for a price, and I have visited this location on several occasions.
The second occasion at this location saw me witness something that baffles me to this very day. The mansion/hotel still has the original chapel in the centre of the building and I was in the chapel setting up a camcorder on a tripod (as seen in the photo below) when someone behind me pulled my elbow as though trying to get my attention. I span around to find nobody standing directly behind me and asked a team member nearby if they’d grabbed my arm. They denied that they had and other team members vouched for them not being anywhere near me prior to the moment I reacted.
I do wonder if it was a muscle spasm or if my shirt got caught up somehow, but to this day I’m not 100% sure what caused the sensation of a tug on my arm but I do recall that it felt real and it surprised me.
Lots of people can’t understand why I don’t believe in ghosts if I’ve experienced these things but the answer is simple; there is no evidence that any of these things were ghosts. I could assume these things were ghosts, I could suggest these things were ghosts, but there is no certainty in the conclusion that these weird things I experienced were ghosts.
I can’t think of a satisfying rational explanation but I understand that this does not mean there isn’t such an explanation.
To say these experiences of mine were evidence of the survival of the human soul would be a leap of logic, and this is why I do not accept eye-witness testimony as evidence that ghosts are real, that a place is haunted or that a reported occurrence was caused by ghosts. People find it difficult to accept that eye-witness testimony doesn’t count as proof but that really is the case… I mean, if I don’t accept my own eye-witness testimony as proof because of the lack of evidence to support a paranormal conclusion, why would I accept yours?