Happy Halloween, one and all! Yes, it’s my favourite day of the year and as a writer of spooky tales, and someone who’s studying spooky films for her thesis, it seemed only right to talk about something spooky today. However, rather than making a list of my favourite ghost stories, or horror films, which would be all too easy but also all too predictable, I thought it might be more interesting to list the top five weird things that have ever happened to me! There are a lot more than just these five, but these were unusual enough to warrant inclusion. They’re in no particular order, and given the fact I don’t remember actually being scared, just ‘weirded out’, I think I must have the psychic constitution of a concrete elephant!
1) Talking to a fictional character on a ouija board.
Last April, I went to a ghost hunt at Kielder Castle in Northumberland, where I was blogging about the event. A ouija board session was started in one of the downstairs rooms, and after a couple had apparently had a conversation with a deceased relative, someone (or something) spelled out my real name. I asked who it was, and the planchette spelled out ‘Grey’. By now I’m pretty sure you’re all familiar with Grey O’Donnell, the bounty hunter hero of my pulp Western, The Guns of Retribution. I was a little taken aback, so I asked him if he had a message. He said simply ‘Thank you’, and when I asked what for, he replied ‘Life’. He said goodbye and that was that – and I found it completely weird! It was especially strange since neither I nor the only other person in the room who knew my real name were actually touching the board, and the other three people didn’t know me, or Grey, from a hole in the ground. Question is, did I create Grey and imbue him with some form of life through the creative process…or did he come to me to tell his story?
2) Feeling a hand on my shoulder.
During another ghost hunt, I was in the pit beneath the Black Gate in Newcastle. It’s allegedly a site of poltergeist activity, and people often report ouija conversations with a seventeenth century witch finder named Thomas in the area. We were doing another ouija board in the pit, when I suddenly felt something touch my shoulder, as though someone had tried to get my attention. There was no one near me and at the time, I had this stupid notion that a spider had dropped on me, but it would have needed to be a spider that weighed about the same as a small house cat to make the same impact! Was it a hand? And if so…whose hand was it?
3) There was someone behind us.
I went to Wales in 2008 with my parents, and one of our trips was to the Llechwedd Slate Mines. It’s a fascinating place, if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods, and one of the things to see is the mine workings that lie about ten storeys underground. In the first room, we were standing in a group looking up at one of the slate workings, and the staff turned off the lights so we could experience exactly how dark it would have been in its heyday. My mother and I were standing right at the back of the group and we both turned around at the same time, convinced that someone else was standing behind us. The lights came back on and there was no one there, and no one in the room had moved, so who, or what, was it? Having seen The Descent, I can only speculate…
4) The woman on the landing.
In my last flat, I lived on the second floor at the top of the building. There was a landing outside my door, and every now and then, I’d feel like I wasn’t alone if I went onto the landing – usually at dusk, and especially in the winter. I usually chalked it up to an over-active imagination but on one particular occasion, I had to venture out onto the landing to go downstairs to the toilet. I practically threw myself down the stairs, such was my discomfort at being out there and my hurry to get back to my flat, and as I was passing underneath the landing on the lower staircase, I got a peculiar mental image of a blonde woman, dangling from a short rope. Even stranger, the name ‘Miranda’ popped into my head. I turned it into a story, The Stairs, which is in my Checkmate story collection, but that landing never stopped freaking me out.
5) The doll who moved on his own.
One of my previous boyfriends was a huge fan of Final Fantasy and for his birthday one year, I bought him one of the collectible figures of Squall from Final Fantasy VIII. Thing was, Squall wouldn’t stay where you left him. I remember seeing him in my boyfriend’s bedroom, then going into the bathroom and finding Squall lying on the edge of the bath. Given my boyfriend was in the back garden at the time and I was the only one inside, I found it a little strange that Squall should beat me to the bathroom. He kept turning up in all kinds of places, including the shed, and we never did get to the bottom of it. There was some sort of presence in that flat, one that definitely didn’t like me, and it used to make my boyfriend’s kitten go nuts, but I have no idea if it’s still there.
How about you? What weird experiences have you had?