In honour of Halloween

In honour of Halloween, I am putting up some posts I wrote for bloggers during my Weight of Souls tour.  In the first I give you my own real life paranormal encounter – including photos!

It may surprise you, given my career of choice, that I am logical and fairly scientific in my approach to many things (I did maths and biology at A-level as well as English literature, somehow my brain finds comfort in both).  I like to think that I am quite open minded.  I will listen to both sides of a debate.  I have even been known to change my opinion if presented with sufficiently compelling evidence.  A belief in ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night doesn’t fit well with the way that I think, it makes me uncomfortable to consider the possibility.

And yet …

As a teenager I was obsessed with ghost stories, I had books about real life hauntings, I loved to visit haunted places.  I wanted an encounter of my own.

I struggled a little with how that all fit in with my Catholicism then decided that God moves in mysterious ways and I didn’t know everything.  It was possible that there were some spirits that stuck around for a while after death before heading to their final destination.  And of course the Catholic church has no problem with Demonic presences.

Then I grew up a bit.  Decided that perhaps these real life hauntings were not spirits, but more like footprints left in sand; the residue of a strong emotional experience replaying to sensitive minds.  Or perhaps, I thought after being exposed to certain scientific theories on space and time, they occur at thin places, where folds in space-time allow people to occasionally see through to something happening simultaneously but in a different time.

And yet …

I won’t touch a Ouija board.  I simply cannot bring myself to go near the things.  There was a short craze in sixth form.  For a while I observed the groups and entertained myself by working out who was doing the pushing.  Then I was banished from the room for bringing ‘negative energy’ so I hung out by myself until the sessions were over.

The Ouija board thing ended when one of the boys was ‘contacted’ by his dead father.  I still wonder, to this day, who, out of all our friends, would have been so cruel? Image

Then I went to university.  I read English literature at Corpus Christi College Cambridge, one of the older colleges in the university.  The oldest, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284, Corpus Christi was founded in 1352. 

Corpus itself has an Old Court and a New Court.  This is new court.


My first year room was in New Court at the top of I staircase above the library.  In third year it was opposite the chapel (the photo above shows the view from my room).

Go through a corridor to the left of the picture above and you come to Old Court.  During the day it was gorgeous (that’s me with my tongue out in the middle)


At night it was terrifying.

In the nineties the staircases in Old Court had no bathrooms; if you wanted a shower, or to use the toilet, you had to put on your bunny slippers, cross the courtyard and go to the shower blocks.  At night the courtyard was pitch dark and always covered with a lowering mist.  Talk about atmosphere.

I never lived in Old Court, but my boyfriend did and so did some of my friends.

Several of them claimed to have seen and experienced things.  I never did.

Then one night …

I had snuck my boyfriend into my room in New Court (it’s okay because we’re married now) and we were sleeping.  I woke up, a bit disoriented, and there was an old woman leaning over Andy.

Initially I thought it was what I call a ‘leftover dream image’.  You know when you’re awake, but your brain hasn’t quite caught up yet and for a second your dream seems to bleed into real life (or is that just me?) …  So I blinked a few times.  She was still there, resolutely refusing to fade, fingers stretching out to touch his sleeping face.   I was fully awake by this point, so I reached to touch her.  My hand went through her shoulder.

I screamed my head off.

When I opened my eyes again Andy was freaking out and she was gone.

I still don’t believe that what I saw was just a dream.  I know I was awake, very awake.

Somehow I remained sceptical …

Andy’s third year room was in R staircase, in old court.  He rarely slept there and I rarely went in.  It was always cold and, frankly, creepy (and not in a ‘dirty socks’ sort of way).  My friend Jo, who claimed psychic tendencies, point blank refused to go near R staircase.  Despite the weight of good looking boys on R (and Jo did like good looking boys), she never went past the steps.

I didn’t think much of it, until Graduation.

It was our very last day in college and of course we were all taking photographs of everything we could; we didn’t know when we would be back to this place that held so many happy memories.

It was only when I got my photographs developed that I saw it.  Andy’s room.  Glowing.  Here is one of the the photographs.


The sun, in case you are thinking it, is more or less above the building you see, not opposite.  There is nothing available to reflect across and none of the adjacent windows have caught the same reflection, if reflection it is.  Only Andy’s room.  It doesn’t matter which angle you take the picture from, that glow remains right there.

Does that mean that Andy’s creepy, cold room had always housed a non-corporeal presence?

Ask me if I believe in ghosts and I will dither.  It doesn’t sit comfortably with the way that I think to admit that actually yes, I do think that there is something out there.  Do the dead walk? Is it something else: a hole in space-time, a footprint in the sand?  I don’t know.

Call it what you like, but I suppose I do believe in ghosts.

Happy Halloween!

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