Category Archives: Hallowe’en Tales

Hallowe’en drama: all fall down!

This spooky story is set towards the end of  my restless twenties, a period where I earned my living as an adult education teacher. Here, I learn with my students that many an episode in this life of ours lacks a rational explanation….

Fly-by-Night....

Fly-by-Night….

Ever on the move, I had just given up a full time post as a college lecturer in scenic Wiltshire, England, UK,  to “be a writer”, returning to my native island to do so. However, living with my parents, a mutually unsatisfactory arrangement, was followed by my moving to a small Scottish town that autumn to live with a poet friend who had a creative writing fellowship at the local university. Sharing her house, I hoped, would provide an appropriate creative stimulus. It certainly provided more than a few hangovers!

With my usual facility for obtaining employment in those days, I soon had several part-time teaching jobs including a few hours a week teaching drama, having acquired such experience “on the hoof” in my last full-time job, officially teaching English to A level students. The new drama teacher had failed to turn up at the beginning of term, and my head of department assigned me the job thus:

“You seem the dramatic type, Anne. I’m sure you’d love a weekly Drama class….”

Back then, education was a much more laid back and less regulated pursuit than it is now!

Hallowe’en that year thus found me teaching a Thursday twilight drama class from 4.30 to 6.00 pm in Dundee College of Commerce, a fairly new brick and glass building situated on a hill with stunning views across the River Tay’s estuary. The drama studio was a great space to work in: a clear light empty area with polished wood floors and a couple of heavy, six or seven foot high wooden stage sets free standing at the back wall.

I was sitting in a circle on the floor on the opposite side of the studio, with a class of lively young women in their late teens – working with them was exhilarating and fun. Through the huge picture window we could see the city of Dundee spread out below us, the local river, the ‘silvery Tay’, catching late glimmers of waning light. Outside was a clear night with a hint of autumnal frost. Inside, the studio was quiet, warm and low lit.

Hallowe'en

Hallowe’en

It being Hallowe’en, I decided to set aside our usual programme, asking them if they would like to tell spooky stories instead. They enthusiastically agreed. I no longer recall what order we worked in, nor what the stories were. Most of the girls had a strange tale to tell, then it was over to me.

“Go on, Miss, tell us one of yours !”

I can no longer remember whether I told them one of the chilling stories  handed down by my mother from her side of the family, or whether it was one of my own experiences. But I do recall with vivid clarity what occurred next. At the climax of my creepy tale, both the stage sets fell forward, clattering onto the bare floor of the studio with a deafening crash…..

After we had recovered somewhat from our shock and fright, the students and I went over to examine the stage sets. With some difficulty, since they were heavy and hard to manoeuvre, we restored them to upright positions. They were perfectly stable. There was absolutely no reason why they should have fallen over, none at all. There had been no vibrations, or wind. It was not possible for someone to have come into the studio without our noticing. Had anyone been hiding in the studio and pushed the stage sets over, they could not have got out without being seen.

Subdued and silent, we left to go home in a tight little group, furtively glancing behind us until we reached the comfort of the well-lit streets. I would be willing to bet that none of those present with me that night have ever forgotten it!

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Do you have a spooky story you’d like to share during this Hallowe’en week? Do leave as a comment – should the spirits move you…

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To read more of my ‘weird’ experiences, check out my recently updated memoir “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness : an open-minded take on paranormal experience” 

wisps-from-the-dazzling-darkness#2

700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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A ‘Time Slip’ Tale: Mediaeval church music 1980s to 1990s

Everybody knows the secular holiday of Hallowe’en. But not everybody knows it derives from a holy day,  All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, which is followed by All Souls’ day on Nov. 2.

The root word of Halloween – ”hallow” – means ”holy.” The suffix “een” is an abbreviation of “evening.” It refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before the Christian holy day that honours saintly people of the past. All Saints is a celebration of the communion of saints.

The religious connotation of today thus fits well with the third of my series of Uncanny  Tales. This time, I am offering what is only a fragment – but a very vivid, intermittently repeated fragment during approximately a decade of my life from the 1980s to the 1990s. I am curious to know whether any of my readers have had similar experiences  – vivid, but fleeting. Do tell!

St Paul on All Saints' Day

St Paul on All Saints’ Day

When Ian and I were on one of our walking trips up in Northern Scotland, driving in lovely remote places, or pottering about at home, plain chant religious music from around the mediaeval period would occasionally come on the radio, or Ian would be playing something of that type and period from his extensive music collection.

I would suddenly, without warning, experience a kind of consciousness “shift”. Feeling my bare feet on the stone flags of a big church or cathedral, I would actually be there, in some religious capacity, feeling deeply connected to the music and its spirituality. This “shift’ would last only seconds, then I’d be back in my own time.

When they came at first, these episodes were very vivid and ‘real’. But gradually they got wispier and less substantial over time, disappearing over a few years, never (so far) to be repeated.

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This account is an extract from my memoir “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness” – an open-minded take on paranormal experience – now published as an ebook and available  HERE.

Dazzling Darkness

Dazzling Darkness

“…. I was immediately taken by the compelling nature of your words, the honesty, the authenticity and the simplicity…..Your work is incredibly important because you address these issues very clearly and simply and with grace…” ( charty at fablefoundation.com)

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

Oh no – not more Tudors!! Reincarnation Tales for Hallowe’en (ii)

I was in my twenties; about to leave my lecturing job, my flat in Bath, and return to the Outer Hebrides to “ be a writer”. A few weeks previously I had met artists and astrologers Gloria and Seamus. Since their delivering of one of my greatest ever shocks, in the shape of an unsolicited and stunningly accurate horoscope reading, we had become friends. They intrigued me, as well as being warm hearted, kind people.

They subsequently introduced me to their friend Jake, an author and expert on astrology amongst other Arts. Seamus had joked that we had to be careful of Jake – he was rumoured to be into all sorts of occult practices.

None of this meant much to me, since I still fancied myself as a Marxist intellectual at the time, and was a member of the local Communist Party in Bath – not an association which was of any duration! It would be accurate to say that my life was in a strange state of uncertainty, confusion and flux  that summer.

One balmy summer’s evening Gloria, Seamus and I fetched up at Jake’s house in a small country village in Somerset. It was a very old house, pre-Tudor. Jake was supposed to be there, but wasn’t….I don’t recall why. I had the flu, and was feeling pretty low in spirits. We all sat by the big open fireplace and had some wine. I began to feel very shivery and unwell. Gloria escorted me upstairs to Jake’s bedroom, where I lay down on the double bed and dozed off. It was a dimly lit room.

I have no idea how much time passed – I woke, and became aware that a stout man wearing a chain of  office of some kind was standing at the foot of the bed, regarding me. From paintings of the Tudor period, I recognised his clothing as that of someone of some standing. I felt that I had been judged, and harshly.

The next thing I remember was having staggered off the bed and out of the room. I felt as though I was standing on a balcony, being presented to a crowd below who were yelling unpleasantly up at me. The man with the chain of office was there beside me. My hands felt bound.

The next thing I knew, I was screaming. Gloria and Seamus came rushing upstairs, half  carrying me back downstairs again beside the fire which had been lit. Someone thrust a hot drink into my hands, and my experience split.

On the one hand, I was aware of  where I was in the present. On the other, I felt as though I was in a cart, bumping over cobblestones – a man, dressed in a rough white tunic right down to my ankles. I was tied. A name came into my mind which I couldn’t quite understand because it seemed so peculiar:  Chiddoch ? Tyburn? It came to me that I was going to be executed. Seamus was shaking me.
“ Scottie, Scottie! Where are you ?” I gradually came back to the present. Seamus and Gloria gently but insistently got me to give an account of what had been going on.

“ We’ll have to call you Spooks from now on, Scottie,” chuckled Seamus. He had rather a warped sense of humour. “ This is a weird house, and Jake is a weird guy. I’m not that surprised you’ve had a weird experience here.” Shortly after that, they took me home – I lived very near them in Bath – so shattered by what had occurred that I have no idea to this day how we got there. None of us had any transport.

Jake came to see me the next day, presumably having been informed by Seamus that I’d had a strange experience in his house. I wondered if  he had discovered as yet how much of his whisky Seamus had drunk. He insisted on my giving him a detailed account of what had happened, although making little comment.

Viking Ship

Viking Ship

Before leaving, he gave me a chunky silver ring, more suited to a man’s hand. It had a viking ship on it and was rather too big,  but I liked it. I wondered why he had given it to me, but did not ask, finding Jake somewhat intimidating. He had once refused my hesitant request for him to read my hand.
“No” he said. “ If  I did, I would then know everything about you. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

I continued to be shaken by the experience I’d had. And by the name…Chidioch Tyburn?…you couldn’t have made it up. I probably had, said the dominant inner sceptic, rather challenged and rattled by my inability to make sense of  a vivid and very disturbing occurrence.

Meanwhile, in the real world, I concluded discharging my remaining duties as an English teacher as the end of the college term and my imminent departure to the Hebrides approached. One evening, I was flicking through some poetry
anthologies, to see if I could find something gripping to do with my increasingly restless -0- English students.

Ah yes, here’s a poem about execution, I thought. How very appropriate, considering several post-adolescent males in that group whom I could cheerfully have strangled. “Lines before execution” ……that should do. And then I noticed the name of the author. Chidiock Tichborne.I read the poem, my hands shaking. It was written to his wife by a young man about to go to the gallows – on the night before he was executed.

The next day, I went to the public library and looked up the name in an encyclopedia. There it was! Chidiock Tichborne, born in 1558, was a party to the Babington Plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth 1 and restore England to Catholicism. He had been taken from the Tower of London and hanged, along with other members of his group, on 20th September 1586. Reading this, I felt very cold and very shocked.

To this day, I do not know quite what to make of the experience. Perhaps I had read the poem at some point in the past before visiting Jake’s house, and memory had retained the name and a sense of the period in which the poem had been written. Perhaps this had somehow got caught up in  the atmosphere and ghostly residues clinging to an old house, and my mind had picked up on those, temporarily disturbed as I was by a mixture of impending change, flu and too much alcohol?

I had no recollection of ever having read the poem before, but my ability to retain names has always been poor, even when I was young. Perhaps it was a genuine reincarnation experience, in which time had somehow “slipped” and I had re-experienced brief but intense snippets of a former life?…or even someone else’s life ?

I left Bath, returning briefly to the Hebrides that summer, but couldn’t stand living with my parents again – I have no doubt the feeling of relief on my departure was mutual. In October I went to stay with a writer friend in a village just across the Tay estuary from Dundee, Scotland. Life was a difficult struggle, and one day the following spring I became convinced the viking ship ring which I had worn ever since leaving Bath, had brought me bad luck somehow.

This strong feeling, which I couldn’t shake off, embarrassed me, a person who didn’t believe in something as irrational as luck of any kind.

One bright and blustery day, I got on my bright yellow ladies’ racing bike and cycled to St Andrews. Standing on some cliffs close by St Andrews, buffeted by wind, I had a very strong intuition to slip the viking ring off, and throw it into the breakers. The ring, a little too big, normally slipped off easily from my middle finger where I always wore it. On this final occasion, I could barely manage to haul it off. When I finally did, blood was trickling over my knuckle.

Without delay or ceremony, I hurled it into the foamy sea, immediately feeling a great sense of lightening and release. Life did gradually improve from that point on…..the sceptic, of course, put it all down to co-incidence.

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This account is an extract from my memoir “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness” – an open-minded take on paranormal experience – now published as an ebook and available  HERE.

Dazzling Darkness

Dazzling Darkness

“…. I was immediately taken by the compelling nature of your words, the honesty, the authenticity and the simplicity…..Your work is incredibly important because you address these issues very clearly and simply and with grace…” ( charty at fablefoundation.com)

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To read the third Uncanny Tale, click HERE

1500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

Do we come back ? Some thoughts on Reincarnation in the week of Hallowe’en…

When I first came across this quotation, it made me chuckle…trust Henry Miller!

“Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation. The other eight are unimportant.”

Henry Miller

Definition of reincarnation: “(in some beliefs) the rebirth of a soul in a new body.” (p 1216, The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, Oxford University Press 1996)

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In Nature’s great cyclic pattern, from the tiny to the vast – gnat or galaxy – the same basic stages apply: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new. This can apply to a life cycle of a day, and to one of millions of years.

They all hold another factor in common: as modern physics has taught us, nothing that dies, being composed of energy, can ever cease to exist. It merely changes form. Death is a change of  state, not an ending.

Thus modern science validates what humans have held intuitively to be the case from the beginning of our sentient, conscious awareness of ourselves in relation to the universe of which we are part. All cultures across the globe share beliefs that the souls of humans (and all beings, eg in Buddhism) continue in some form beyond physical death.

Only in the narrow, brief context of western secular materialism – over the last two hundred and fifty years or so – has it been believed by some that physical death is the gateway to nothing at all, that life is a random pointless accident in space and time.

Thanks to the meticulous work of the Society for Psychical Research for over one hundred years, and indefatigable individual researchers like Professor Ian Stevenson, as well as many other reputable people, a very large body of experiential evidence is available which appears to support claims since antiquity that one life is not the sum total of our soul’s journey.

I am by nature sceptical in the true, open-minded,  sense of the word. I am happy to read and hear about other people’s experiences – but the empiricist in me demands proof via my own experience in all spheres of life, especially those which lie beyond the range of what our consensus view defines as “ordinary”.

The two stories and the fragment which follow over the next few posts have remained vivid in my memory. They do not provide proof of reincarnation, since a less unlikely explanation is that I was somehow ‘tuning in’ to residues of other lives, rather than experiencing former ones of my own. Nevertheless, they remain intriguing. Over thirty years later, in the case of the first one, and twenty in the case of the second, I still don’t quite know what to make of them!

I would be interested to hear my readers’ views on this great subject which has challenged humans for millennia…do tell!

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ps. To read the first of the uncanny tales, click HERE

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Even sceptics see ghosts !

Samhain Blessings!

Samhain Blessings!

Have you ever seen a ghost? Even when you did not believe in them? I would be interested to hear your stories as we enter the time when the ‘veil between the worlds’ is supposedly thin….here is my story….do leave yours as a comment on this post. 

An imaginative child, I found going upstairs to bed scary most nights, having probably heard too many ghost stories as I grew up in the storm-tossed Outer Hebrides – home to many a Celtic tale of the otherworld of the supernatural. 

There was the woman wrapped in plaid who jostled my maternal grandfather in the winter dark as he traversed the remote, eerie Uig Glen. There was my maternal great-grandmother’s hearing the wheels of lorries rumbling through her remote village toward a deserted headland – many years before they actually came, bearing the materials to build an RAF station there. There was at least one ghost car. There were the shades of the dead appearing to those few in possession of the Sight – sure harbingers of imminent family death. There were ghostly lights luring sailors to their deaths in stormy seas. More has been forgotten than I could ever now recall.

Fortunately for me, vivid imagination has always sat in tandem with a strongly empirical streak. So I was a true sceptic –– until the day I  saw a ghost for myself….

Perthshire, Scotland, Autumn 1977

It was the autumn of 1977. My twenties had been turbulent. Restless wandering – from one career to another, one city to another, one set of friendships to another, and one dwelling place to another – characterised the whole decade. Now, I was in a mood to settle. Time to face my dissatisfactions, rather than running away when novelty wore off and disillusion set in.

Resolution thus colouring my mood, I left Dundee in September 1977 to do my social work training at Glasgow University. Having been such a hippie in my twenties, all I owned could be fitted into several boxes and stowed in the back of my old blue Morris Traveller.

I set off to spend a night or two, en route to my new abode in Glasgow, with my boyfriend at the time who lived in the scenic market town of Perth, half way between Dundee and Glasgow. The Dundee to Perth road was mostly dual carriageway, and a distance of about twenty five miles. I drove happily through the area known as the Carse of Gowrie, which grew the best raspberries in Britain. “Pity I’m in a hurry”, I thought. “A few raspberries for supper would be nice.” It was a clear evening, around seven pm, growing dusk. There was very little traffic on the road. A few miles outside Perth, my headlights picked out a male cyclist on a racing bike, a little way ahead of me. I pulled into the overtaking lane to pass him – and he vanished.

I arrived at Peter’s flat very shaken by this experience. “I can’t believe I imagined it. What I saw was definitely a cyclist. He was as substantial on that road as you are, standing right now in your kitchen !”

Peter was quiet for a few moments. He looked thoughtful, as if trying to decide whether to say something or not. At last he told me that a young male cyclist had been killed on that stretch of road a year or so previously. This was something of which I had no knowledge. Why should his ghost appear to me?

“Firstly, because you’re so sensitive anyway. Cast your mind back to some other odd happenings which have occurred  since we’ve been together. Secondly, your life is in transition. I think at those times, normal consciousness is more porous, as it were. Impressions from other layers of ‘reality’ find it easier to seep through….”

I remember feeling quite relieved that I wouldn’t be travelling on that stretch of road for the foreseeable future….

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NOTE: this story is an extract from “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness – a sceptic’s take on paranormal experience “ which will be available as a downloadable pdf from this site shortly. If you’d like to be informed of the publication date, do send your email address to me at: info@anne-whitaker.com, titling the email “Dazzling Darkness book”.

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700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Samhain: what will we find in the dark this Winter?

It’s 6.30 am here in dark, rainy, leaf-strewn post-Hallowe’en Glasgow, Scotland – and I have been catching up on one of my favourite blogs: Linda Leinen’s “The Task at Hand: a writer’s ongoing search for just the right word”.  Her latest post is The Sandburg Season, a meditation on the American poet Sandburg’s prescient commentary on the state of America in the 1920s, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind”. She, like the poet, contemplates the state of the nation in the aftermath of the ravages of the latest devastating hurricane to hit the USA – at this time in USA’s history a grim prelude to the upcoming election on 6th November, a mere six days away.

Samhain Blessings!

Samhain Blessings!

magickalgraphics.com

Reading this deep, rich post and the wonderful range of replies has put me in a meditative mood. It’s now 1st November – Samhain – Samhain has been celebrated in Britain for centuries and has its origin in Pagan Celtic traditions. It was the time of year when the veils between this world and the Otherworld were believed to be at their thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most readily mingle with the living once again. It is a contemplative time; a time for honouring the renewing power of darkness, and for facing the humbling fact that everything passes, including us….

Later, when the festival was adopted by Christians, they celebrated it as All Hallows’ Eve, followed by All Saints Day, though it still retained elements of remembering and honouring the dead.

The core sentiments of the Sandburg poem recalled for me Shelley’s “Ozymandias”. (So out of tune was I with my early secondary education that, having been sent home from school to learn Wordsworth‘s “Daffodils” by heart, instead I learned “Ozymandias” …..I should have realised then that I was in for a complicated life!) Both poets comment on the vanity of human endeavour in the face of the irresistible forces of Nature and of Time. So I was very struck by Shelley’s great poem appearing via one of Linda Leinem’s commentators, Steve Schwartzman. I sense a community of reflection out there, as we descend into the dark: ready for our symbolic death into Winter, knowing the rebirth into Spring will also come.

We need the dark, as this festival of Samhain reminds us. Within the year’s natural cycle, the diurnal alternation of light and dark brings restful silence at night and the restorative power of sleep, without which all creatures including us would burn out and die before their time. We are in danger of forgetting this – at our peril – as an increasingly technology-driven culture sweeps the world, creating the illusion that we can live sustainably and healthily in defiance of the ancient rhythms set by the great cycles of nature. The Great Round of  conception, birth, maturation, decline, death and rebirth applies to everything, from gnats to galaxies. Human endeavour is not exempt.

Perhaps our whole culture/civilisation is in its Winter phase – the signs of descent are everywhere, should we care to look…….and in the meantime, I am with Linda Leinen: “Most of the time, I just try to do what I can.” Renewal, whether we live to see it or not, is always round the corner….

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What are YOUR thoughts and feelings regarding the Descent into winter? It would be interesting to have them!

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Hallowe’en Chiller: Overtaking a phantom

Ghosts seem harder to please than we are; it is as though they haunted for haunting’s sake – much as we relive, brood, and smoulder over our pasts….on the whole, it would seem they adapt themselves well, perhaps better than we do, to changing world conditions – they enlarge their domain, shift their hold on our nerves, and, dispossessed of one habitat, set up house in another. The universal battiness of our century looks like providing them with a propitious climate….”

Elizabeth Bowen

Definition of a ghost : “the soul of a dead person which supposedly manifests itself to the living visibly (as a shadowy apparition), audibly etc.”

(p 356, The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, Oxford University Press 1996)

An imaginative child, I found going upstairs to bed scary most nights, having probably heard too many ghost stories as I grew up in the storm-tossed Outer Hebrides – home to many a Celtic tale of the otherworld of the supernatural.

There was the woman wrapped in plaid who jostled my maternal grandfather in the winter dark as he traversed the remote, eerie Uig Glen. There was my maternal great-grandmother’s hearing the wheels of lorries rumbling through her remote village toward a deserted headland – many years before they actually came, bearing the materials to build an RAF station there.

There were the shades of the dead appearing to those few in possession of the Sight – sure harbingers of imminent family death. There were ghostly lights luring sailors to their deaths in stormy seas. There was at least one ghost car. More has been forgotten than I could ever now recall.

Fortunately for me, vivid imagination has always sat in tandem with a strongly empirical streak. So I was a true sceptic –inclined to disbelieve in the absence of proof – until the day I  saw a ghost for myself….

Perthshire, Scotland, Autumn 1977

My twenties had been turbulent. Restless wandering – from one career to another, one city to another, one set of friendships to another, and one dwelling place to another – characterised the whole decade.

Now, I was in a mood to settle. Time to face my dissatisfactions, rather than running away when novelty wore off and disillusion set in. Resolution thus colouring my mood, I left Dundee in September 1977 to do my social work training at Glasgow University. Having been such a hippie in my twenties, all I owned could be fitted into several boxes and stowed in the back of my old blue Morris Traveller.

Laughing to myself, I recalled the occasion when, in my role as unqualified social worker, I had called by my flat in a poor area of Dundee to collect something I had forgotten. Accompanying me was the hard bitten female client I was accompanying on a visit to Dundee’s Family Planning Centre.“For f—s sake!” she remarked, quickly scanning my accommodation whilst I hunted for the forgotten item. “Your standard of living’s even worse than mine!”

Thus in transition, I set off to spend a night or two, en route to my new abode in Glasgow, with my boyfriend at the time who lived in the scenic market town of Perth, half way between Dundee and Glasgow. The Dundee to Perth road was mostly dual carriageway, and a distance of about twenty five miles. I drove happily through the area known as the Carse of Gowrie, which grew the best raspberries in Britain. “Pity I’m in a hurry”, I thought. “A few raspberries for supper would be nice.”

It was a clear evening, around seven pm, growing dusk. There was very little traffic on the road. A few miles outside Perth, my headlights picked out a male cyclist on a racing bike, a little way ahead of me. I pulled into the overtaking lane to pass him – and he vanished.

I arrived at Peter’s flat somewhat shaken by this experience. “I can’t believe I imagined it. What I saw was definitely a cyclist. He was as substantial on that road as you are, standing right now in your kitchen !” Peter was quiet for a few moments. He looked thoughtful, as if trying to decide whether to say something or not.

At last he told me that a young male cyclist had been killed on that stretch of road a year or so previously.

This was something of which I had no knowledge. Why should his ghost appear to me? “Firstly, because you’re so sensitive anyway. Cast your mind back to some other odd happenings which have occurred  since we’ve been together. Secondly, your life is in transition. I think at those times, normal consciousness is more porous, as it were. Impressions from other layers of ‘reality’ find it easier to seep through….”

I remember feeling quite relieved that I wouldn’t be travelling on that stretch of road for the foreseeable future….

******

800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page