Tag Archives: Hallowe’en

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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In the Spirit of Halloween: Ghosts and Shadow Men

Beverley Young is one of my favourite bloggers: her site is a ‘must’ for those of my readers who are interested in all matters beyond the ordinary. Here, as a warm-up ( or should I say a chill-down! ) for Hallowe’en, are some extremely spooky tales sent to Beverley by her readers. Enjoy the stories – and it would be great if you left me some of your own as comments.

Books, books, glorious books…in praise of Indie Book Stores…

There we were, the 6’5″ nephew and myself, leaving Waterstone’s, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, UK last year without buying a book. What a triumph of willpower over two lots of biblio-addiction! And then –  a title caught my eye: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops”

This book is irresistible!

This book is irresistible!

“Hang on a minute”, I said to the nephew, ” just a quick look. I won’t buy it, honest…”

However, after a fast flick revealed the following gems offered by its author, Jen Campbell : ‘Can books conduct electricity?’ ‘Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?’ ‘Excuse me… is this book edible?’ I gave in. Yes, Reader, you have guessed correctly. I bought it – and went on to have the best laugh I had had for ages, perusing (as one five-star reviewer memorably put it )‘… some absolute howlers from the misinformed beast that is the general public…’

This affecting little tale is offered to demonstrate two things. One, the fundamentally irresistible nature of books to book addicts, in this case the nephew and myself.( It is always a great comfort to share book addiction with a fellow spirit). And two, the importance of having a good bookshop in your local area into which you can stroll any time you feel like distracting yourself from Life’s Onerous Challenges (fill in according to your particular current oppression). If there is also good coffee on offer, so much the better.

The above will explain why I could barely contain my excitement over this summer on finding out that an independent bookshop, ie a new branch of Waterstones,  was returning to Byres Road, Glasgow, about fifteen years after our much loved and lamented local John Smith’s bookshop had fallen victim to the march of regress.

The shop has received a warm welcome from shoppers in Glasgow’s West End. “Almost every single person who has come in has complimented the staff, the store and the fact that we’re here,” reported bookshop manager Xavier Jones-Barlow shortly after the shop opened on 29th August. The following day, I was fortunate to capture a moment of fun and frolic whilst passing by.

No, not Hallowe'en...

No, not Hallowe’en…

 No, I was assured, it wasn’t Hallowe’en in a time warp. It was a book launch. Waterstones has started as it means to go on!

What is the indie book situation where you live? I’d be most interested to know. I found a cheering article from earlier this year on USA’s The Daily Beast, titled Indie Bookstores Are Finally Not Dying , which carried the following optimistic comment: “In reality more bookstores have opened than closed in the last couple of years in the U.S. They have always been and will always be anchors in many communities.”

So – let’s all go out there and support our local bookstores, shall we? And the next time I visit your  friendly and brilliantly well-stocked Waterstones store, Xavier, I promise the nephew and I will buy at least one book each…

Books!

Books!

500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015/”Witches” Photo copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

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

 

Samhain: A little flare of magic in the night!

If you went down to The Children’s Wood, North Kelvin, Glasgow, UK  tonight, you’d find this:

a little flare of magic....

a little flare of magic….

photo: Anne Whitaker

in the centre of the photo, a tiny flare of fire: a long IPhone shot of a beautiful, leaping bonfire on a crisp, cold, dry autumn night. Fireworks going off all round, sparks and whorls of vivid colour in the dark. Dozens of parents and children: children entranced, parents sipping mulled wine, enjoying the first mince pies of an extended winter season which now seems to begin at Hallowe’en. Yes, The Children’s Wood hosted a stunning event then too….fairy lights, food….and five hundred neighbourhood folk.

The local community has proved over the last six months that we need and want and use this  green space. Support us by signing the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign petition. I have recently discovered that most of my blog followers live in the USA and Canada, followed by the UK and a healthy sprinkling of readers around the world. Can you help make this campaign international? If you can, sign the petition and circulate the link. Thank you!

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

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