Prediction magazine: Elvis has left the haunted building
Prediction Magazine, October 2003
When people ask me about my belief system, I always say that I am a sceptic. By which I mean: I neither believe nor disbelieve, but rather choose to reserve my judgement on most things.
Take the subject of ghosts, for instance. I've never seen one myself, but other people say they have. So I can't believe in ghosts, but I can't disbelieve either. I guess it depends on who is telling you the story and what you think they might be getting out of it.
My friend Jude, who lives in Glastonbury, quite often has ghostly experiences. She told me that one day, walking along Chilkwell Street, she was greeted by an old lady on a doorstep.
"Hello," the old lady said, brightly.
"Hello," said Jude, and then walked on, not thinking any more about it. It was only later that she heard that the old lady had died the day before she met her.
It's the sheer mundaneness of the encounter that makes this particular story at least plausible. There's no histrionics here, no ghoulish ghastliness, just a little old lady hanging around in the world a little longer than is normally expected of dead people, saying hello to any passing person with the extra-sensory equipment to notice her.
You may wonder why she was hanging around. Who knows? Maybe it was a nice day, and she didn't feel up to the journey just yet. Maybe she liked saying hello to people. (She was probably a nice person in life, why not in death too?) Maybe Charon was on strike, and the heavenly ferry hadn't arrived. Maybe she was just whiling away the time of day, being far too interested in the local comings and goings to let a little thing like death distract her.
Anyway, she did her small bit of polite domestic haunting for a day or two, and was on her way, never to be seen again.
Another friend of mine, Steve, stayed in a haunted house once. This was in Gabalfa in Cardiff, a few years back. The story of the haunted house had been in the local papers, which were offering a challenge for people to stay in it overnight. So Steve and a friend took up the challenge, got the keys, and spent the night there.
There was some dispute over who, exactly, this ghost was supposed to be. Some said a headless soldier, others the spirit of Elvis Presley (although quite why Elvis Presley would want to visit Gabalfa in Cardiff escapes me: perhaps he'd been recommended it by the spirit of Richard Burton, who might, at least, have heard of the place). Anyway, whoever it was, Steve and his friend nabbed a couple of bottles of wine, and let themselves in.
"at certain times, the room would go deadly cold, and there would be this strange smell, like lavender. This is known in the profession as a cold spot, and is quite common, apparently"
It was a quite ordinary house, still furnished. Nothing unusual at all. Except that, at certain times, the room would go deadly cold, and there would be this strange smell, like lavender. This is known in the profession as a cold spot, and is quite common, apparently.
Steve is the sensitive type. He knows about these things. Me, I'm far too worldly for that. I probably wouldn't even have noticed the cold spot, being far more likely to be interested in the wine.
Well I'm sorry. My ghost stories seem to lack punch. Steve went to bed, and had a really nice night's sleep. And that's all there is. He says he had a better night's sleep than he normally does.
There was a bit of a kafuffle the following day, however. Steve went out to the nearby shop to get some stuff in for breakfast, and was instantly surrounded by the local kids, wittering on enthusiastically about the house and its haunted status. Later the previous tenants turned up (these were the ones who had declared the house to be haunted) and then the tenants before them. It was this last family who had been the source of all the rumours. The grandmother was reputed as a medium, and used to dabble in the occult occasionally. It was she who would channel the spirit of Elvis and who claimed to see the headless soldier.
So maybe now we know what this was all about. A dispute between tenants. The previous tenants and the ones before them hated each other, and there was a good deal of taunting between the two families, the former calling the latter "evil".
Later again the press turned up, and Steve invited the reporter in, but he refused. He stood on the doorstep and asked Steve some questions. Had Steve noticed anything?
"A little bit of astral disturbance," said Steve, and he saw the reporter write it down - "astral disturbance" - very carefully, in his notebook. And what was it like to sleep there?
"Very nice," said Steve. "I had my best sleep ever."
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