3 Weird Things That Happened To Me (& Why I Still Don’t Believe In Ghosts)

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.

Me in the chapel at Littlecote Manor
Me, on the right, in the chapel at Littlecote Manor

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?

About Hayley Stevens 434 Articles
Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

9 Comments on 3 Weird Things That Happened To Me (& Why I Still Don’t Believe In Ghosts)

  1. When I was about eight years old and living in Northumberland I went on a school trip to Alnwick Castle. My class teacher told us we were going to see a Pageant. I suppose she may have explained what that was but I don’t have any recollection of that. The night before I had a vivid dream in colour – it was like watching a film.

    On the day, sitting in a vast grassed area inside the castle walls on one of many lines of forms, with other kids from other schools, it started. I saw a soldier walk along the top of the castellated wall, from right to left, before me – this was exactly what I had seen in my dream. I said to myself “now a soldier will climb up those steps” and one did.

    By this time the hairs on the back of my neck were up and I was feeling quite disturbed. I definitely knew what would happen next – a man on a large horse wearing a helmet would dash into the arena from my left hand side. And so it happened! Richard the Lionheart arrived. I have never been able to explain this – could it have been a glitch in time?

  2. Doesn’t this all hinge on what a ghost is? This always bothers me and I’m not trying to sharp shoot you…. the ghost phenomenon is certainly real. People are having genuine experiences. Any rational person will agree with that. The issue is, is it paranormal or is it occurring through currently accepted scientific principles?

    But that is murky too. Some of the “scientific” explanations for ghost phenomenon are far from proven. In fact one could be tempted to label these explanations (like infrasound, magnetic field-induced hallucinations, waking dreams, etc) as paranormal because they hardly qualify as settled scientific theory: They are hypotheses in need of testing and evaluation but somehow they avoid the paranormal label.

    Ultimately it all comes down to labels. There is a stigma that comes with applying the label of paranormal. In reality any hypothesis proposing something not currently held in scientific theory, if correct, would imply the phenomenon was indeed paranormal. Of course it would cease to be paranormal as soon as it was proven. And that’s another dilemma. Can we prove anything was ever paranormal? Not really. As soon as an explanation is proven it becomes accepted by science and “normal”. But that’s semantics.

  3. Sorry for the second post but had more thoughts… It’s really about labeling philosophy. Your logic is “I can’t think of a satisfying rational explanation but I understand that this does not mean there isn’t such an explanation.” and I’d agree. But if we follow this logical line of thought to its conclusion nothing can possibly be classified as paranormal. Through this line of logic we can only falsify the paranormal label, we cannot prove it is true. Let me expand on that point.

    Let’s say we are all wrong and ghosts are the remnants of the deceased. How would we prove that under current scientific practices, instruments and accepted theory? Skeptics are quick to point out that EMF, EVP and other instruments are not proven to correlate with ghosts. But that notion extends to cameras and virtually every other type of recording instrument. We can’t even measure the phenomenon, much less implement adequate controls if we were to try such an experiment today.

    For this to be feasible we would have to have scientific “groundwork” supporting the fact that ghosts are the remnants of dead people. We would need to have some breakthrough studies on afterlife or something similar. With that we might have enough to design this type of experiment and give the hypothesis a fair chance to be true. But at this point the phenomenon is no longer paranormal. In fact the phenomenon would be proven true based on previous scientific groundwork. At which point one could make the logical argument that it was current scientific understanding that led to the conclusion which by definition is not paranormal. In short a paranormal hypothesis today could be correct years from now but never be acknowledged as paranormal.

    The point I’m trying to get it is labels are just labels. I call anything resembling a ghost a ghost and stories of werewolves by name. For me acknowledging the name of a phenomenon is not synonymous with accepting a paranormal explanation for the phenomena. There are even differences among believers for possible explanations for these types of phenomena.v Bigfoot may be the result of hoaxes and misidentification but I think it is incorrect to say the Bigfoot phenomenon is not real. Not paranormal? Maybe. Not real? No. But that is my labeling philosophy. I’m not implying your line of logic is wrong, I simply seek to point out how labels like paranormal are all in the perspective. In the grand scheme of things who cares what we call it, but I believe all lines of explanation should be given fair evaluation.

  4. What is your working definition of what a ghost is or may be?

    IMO I feel there’s nothing wrong with your attitude. On the contrary, perhaps what we need in these fringe fields is more researchers with the strength to remain in a perennial state of agnosticism 🙂

    • I used to believe ghosts were the dead and that our spirit (the life energy) survived after death, but now I don’t find that convincing enough to believe it.

    • Which is why I personally *loathe* the term ‘paranormal’. It implies an unverified supposition –that there are phenomena which fall outside the domain of Nature 😉

    • I was once at a manor house and interviewing the owner about the weird things that happen there. It was a genuinely lovely conversation in which he said “whatever it is that causes things to happen here doesn’t bother me because whatever it is, is a natural thing and it just happens and that’s fine with me” and I thought that was the best attitude 🙂

  5. Simple grade school physics makes it clear that our senses are only able to perceive a minute fraction of the light spectrum.

    To say something does not exist because you cannot logically explain it, using your limited scope, is extremely Simple minded.

    In fact, the Only logical conclusion is that there is more which cannot be seen/measured, than that which can. Which makes any “rational” explanation more faith than fact.

    Haley also reduces the definition of ghost/apparition to the most cliché, a soul left behind after death. Perhaps it’s simply a temporary focusing of another wavelength of light. Who has ever proved that our narrow bandwidth is all that is occupied? In fact, other dimensions must exist if you believe in the results of experimental physics.

    Haley’s point of view isn’t unique or limited to people with a poor understanding of logic and biased rationalism. Unfortunately it is common among the science community. Which is very depressing. Makes me wonder if it is intentionally misleading and dumbed down. Pay no attention to the anomaly, nothing to see here.

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