Ghost Stories

Happy Halloween

I, admittedly, have never had much interest in the holiday itself, but I do quite enjoy the spooky and the bizarre, so I have decided to mark the occasion by doing something a little different. In this article, I bring to you two (allegedly) true ghost stories as experienced by members of my family. I’ve always had an interest in the paranormal but I cannot claim to be a believer since I have not witnessed anything personally. I like to think that I have a scientific mind and I always try to think critically and logically, but I am open to the idea that there is more to our world than what we can see and understand, and there is some very compelling evidence out there, if you know where to look.

My first story was told to me by my father about ten years ago and concerns a bizarre encounter he and my step-mother had when they were walking in an area called Bowes, near Cumbria in the North-east of England. It had been a pretty rough winter that year, and the area had seen heavy snowfall in the weeks leading up. My father and step-mother were walking along the trail in about six inches of snow. It was the late afternoon and it was hailing a little but, overall, visibility was good. They both belong to a local walking club and often embark on their walks with other members, but, this time, it was just the two of them.

My father and step-mother were moseying along, not really paying attention to where they were going, when a blurred figure suddenly came surging past them before vanishing just as quickly. It moved so fast neither my father nor step-mother were able to get a good look at it, but my father said it was about the size and shape of a person. However, it didn’t look like a normal person. Rather, it seemed like they were clothed in a mist that completely obscured their true form. The way it moved didn’t seem human either. Instead of walking, it seemed to float by, unimpeded by the weather or any other natural force. Both my father and step-mother got a shock. They stopped still and stared at where they last saw the figure. My father asked my step-mother if she saw it, and she said she did.

By this point, you might be thinking: “it was obviously just a person walking fast and they weren’t paying attention”, and you’d be perfectly right to think that. That would be the conclusion I’d draw if I heard of such a thing, as I did when my father told me the story. But then he told me what happened next. After the figure vanished, my father looked to the ground where it had passed, and saw something that only shocked and confused him further. The thing, person, whatever it was, had left no tracks. There were two sets of footprints: my father’s and my step-mother’s and nothing else. So what just passed them? And how did it leave no trace of its presence? Was it just a cloud or mist that just happened to be in the shape of a person? Possibly, although I still find that a little difficult to believe.

In the end, my father and step-mother simply shrugged their shoulders and continued with their walk, chalking the whole incident up to: “Well, that was weird”. They completed the walk without further incident and never saw the figure again.

When my father first told me this story, I immediately began trying to come up with a logical explanation, but, even after all this time, I’m still not able to come up with one that satisfies completely. I can buy that it could simply have been some kind of mist or steam or other weather-related phenomena, but why and how would it take the size and shape of a person? I’m not so sure. I could have also bought the idea that it was just a person walking fast, but how do you explain the lack of footprints, and the almost ethereal way they looked and moved? How do you walk through snow without leaving footprints? You’d have to be weightless, or a mass of energy that is somehow able to manifest itself in the form of a person without actually having a physical presence, namely, a ghost.

As for the whole story, the only other explanation I’ve ever been able to come with is that my father simply made the whole thing up, but that doesn’t really add up either. He’s not a big believer in the paranormal. He’s like me: open to the idea of there being things in the world that are beyond our understanding, but he needs evidence. In addition, he had nothing to gain from making up such a story. There was no money to be made, and, as far as I am aware, I am the only person he has ever told it to. Why would he bother going to the trouble of making up some outlandish tale just to tell his teenage son? It doesn’t make sense to me.

In the end, the most likely explanation is that it was just some kind of mist that shot by. That’s why it didn’t leave any footprints, because it never had feet to begin with. However, this explanation still doesn’t quite add up in my mind. My brain wants badly wants to believe that my father and step-mother saw something more that day. It’s also worth noting that the area has been inhabited since the Roman occupation of Britain, and, most likely, long before. The medieval castle known as Bowes Castle which is situated near the village of Bowes sits upon the ruins of an ancient Roman fort. With that much history in the area, I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few spirits linger. The village’s only pub, The Ancient Unicorn, is also reputed to be haunted.

The second incident I was actually present for, but, unfortunately, I didn’t see anything. It, again, involves my father and step-mother, but it was my sister who had the encounter in question. Before she and my father moved into the house they live in now, my step-mother lived in an area called Silksworth in the city of Sunderland in North-east England. The area now known as Silksworth is believed to have been inhabited since the bronze age and, in the industrial age, played host to a coal mining village. My step-mother’s house was built some time around the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, meaning that it has a lot of history and it’s entirely possible that someone died there before she moved in.

The incident took place when I was about twelve. Me, my sister who is four years younger than me, and my father were visiting my step-mother. My father, step-mother and myself were in the living room talking. My sister was playing in my step-mother’s bedroom. Suddenly, we hear her come racing down the stairs before bursting into the room. Her expression is one of shock and disbelief. She looks, and pardon the expression, like she has seen a ghost.

“What’s the matter”? My father asks.

My sister stares for a moment, then replies: “There’s a man under the bed”.

The same look of shock and disbelief now occupies all of our faces. My father asks my sister to repeat herself and she does. Surprised looks are exchanged, and then my father gets up and heads upstairs. We sit in tense silence while he looks around. He returns a couple minutes later and says there’s no one there. Me and my step-mother react with relief but my sister is even more shocked; she’s adamant there was someone there. My father asks her to come upstairs and show him where she saw the person but she refuses. She’s so scared she can barely move. Then my step-mother offers to come upstairs as well to help put my sister’s mind at ease. She finally agrees and all of us go upstairs to look. My sister leads us into my step-mother’s bedroom, points to the bed. My father looks underneath and sees nothing. He then asks my sister to come and look but she’s reluctant. We all end up looking together and . . . nothing. My sister eventually calms down and, like in the previous entry, we all just shrug and chalk it up to: “well, that was weird”. My sister, however, would always insist that she saw a man under the bed, and would always be nervous about future visits to my step-mother’s house. She would never go back in the bedroom alone whenever we visited.

OK, a couple possible explanations. My sister was only eight or nine at the time, so, naturally, it may just have been a case of a young child’s overactive imagination. However, after seeing my sister’s face when she came rushing downstairs, and how nervous she was afterwards, I find that a little hard to believe. She was terrified, and only agreed to go back upstairs if we all went with her. I’m not sure something imagined could produce such a strong reaction.

Another explanation is that it may actually have been a real person although I find this even less likely. All the windows upstairs were closed and locked and there was nowhere to climb up to them from the outside. If it truly was a person, how did they get in? And where did they go when my father went upstairs to look? Again, all the windows were closed and locked and no one came downstairs before he did. We would have seen them. There was nowhere they could have gone.

And, of course, the final explanation: a deceased former owner of the house continues to reside there and may still all these years later. It’s worth mentioning that I was in that house just as much as my sister and I never experienced anything out of the ordinary. I slept over there and even watched television alone in my step-mother’s bedroom a couple times, and I never saw anything. However, I never looked under the bed.

Happy Halloween.

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