There was, and maybe still is, a great tradition in our family of naming a son after the father. This in effect has turned us into a franchise of ‘Robin Hood and his Merry Men’ with: ‘Big John’ and ‘Little John’, ‘Big Frank and Little Frank’, ‘Big Mike and Little Mike’, ‘Big Dave and Little Dave’, ‘Big Owen’, and ‘Little Owen’ — and ‘Very Little Owen’
Very Little Owen (we didn’t really call him that) was my Uncle Owen, and his wife Pat lived close to us. I have very clear memories of my Aunty Pat, and I think something needs to be said: very young children recognise a beautiful woman well before all the nonsense of puberty kicks in. My Aunty Pat was beautiful and she died very young leaving two small children. My uncle was distraught, understandably drank a little more than he should, and sometime later took up with another woman who treated the children poorly.
One day she was found at the bottom of the stairs, scared out of her wits and claiming that she’d been pushed. Her account was quite graphic. She’d been walking up the stairway when a woman materialised out of thin air and pushed her down. The first time I heard this story I was about eight, sitting under our kitchen table attempting to turn the Liverpool Echo into a Magic Carpet with scissors and some complex origami. I remember closing my eyes, trying to visualise the scene. I wanted to pop out from under the table with a whole series of questions, but wisely stayed put. The general consensus was that it must have been Aunty Pat, coming back to protect her two children, and I remember waving my scissors in glee.
Now this, I confess is a second-hand story, though in a family Celtic through and through accepted as more probable than possible.
My second ghost story is a personal experience – and you can take it or leave it.
I was a student at the time, lodging in 17 High fields Road, Langland, Swansea. It was an interesting place, run by an ex officer in the RAF and his wife with the help of a small hunch-backed lady. Husband and Wife resented the fact that they had to take in students, and their servant was forever trying to explain away their distaste for us.
One night I woke up in pitch darkness, and there was a woman, standing at the foot of my bed. There was no colour to her apart from a generalised whitish glow. I remember easing myself on to my pillow in quiet excitement. There was no fear, just this intense excitement that something inexplicable had just occurred— was occurring —she was still there. The thought crossed my mind that it had to be a dream, so I scratched and pinched myself. Then came the fear that despite all this, in the cold light of day, I might well try and convince myself it was after all a dream. I pulled some hair— kept on staring— and slowly she disappeared. (And no, I hadn’t been drinking that night)
The interesting thing is that she came back a few months later. This time I was at home in Liverpool, and I woke up in the middle of the night to see her standing over me at the side of the bed. Again, no fear— a sense of peace— AND, possibly more significantly, instant recognition. It was the same lady. Don’t ask me how I know. Again I went through the pinching of the flesh routine; she faded a little more quickly than previously, but was there long enough for me to be sure I was awake.
I know all the quasi-scientific explanations that can explain most things away, and there are others who’d claim it was my Guardian Angel. People believe what they will whether ‘New Age’ or ‘Materialist’. My only regret is that I haven’t seen her since.
PS: For those who enjoy ‘real life’ ghost stories, ‘Bus Stop’ in Tales from the Murenger is based upon one such, though suitably embroidered. It was told to me by the brother of the bus conductor involved when I was a student working in a biscuit factory.
And, in case you missed it, don’t forget to check out ECHOES AND BONES, an anthology of dark fiction written by myself and the other Dolls. If you’re an American, you can enter to win a copy on Amazon. Live in another country? Keep an eye on our Facebook page for a chance to win.