I personally have experienced The Paranormal – at least five times.
1965, Autumn, Cassiobury Wood, Watford, Herts, England.
As a boy of barely thirteen Summers, I was walking through this small forest at DUSK, shwooshing my feet through the carpet of leaves. Under the trees, it was pretty dark – so you can imagine my disquiet when I heard myself being FOLLOWED. Someone – or someTHING was shwooshing through the leaves behind me.
I stopped and turned – but there was no-one THERE. I continued walking and as I did so, the leaves resumed their shwooshing, behind me.
This time, I continued walking – whilst screwing my head around like an owl, to see what was happening. And even though it was dark, I could clearly see the movement in the leaves behind me.
I stopped again – and so did whatever was following me.
I began to reason what it might be. Something caught around my feet? But the scwooshing behind me was completely out of step with ME. A small animal? But surely, such a creature would run AWAY from me – not FOLLOW me.
Now most people would have taken flight at this point – and if I had, I would NEVER have solved the mystery. But I was young and foolish, so I slowly approached the point where the leaves had last moved, bent down – and began gingerly probing the area with my fingers…
1987, The Maypole Pub, Tiptree, Essex, England.
Now grown up (sort of) I was a service engineer and had a call to fix the payout tube on a fruit machine, in said pub.
Background: The Maypole is an ANCIENT watering hole. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Alfred The Great drank there. It is a squat, thatched, two-story cottage with a small bar downstairs, that is actually a few feet BELOW ground level – you walk down steps to access it – with living quarters for the landlord and his family upstairs, in a sort of mansard.
It was mid-afternoon and I was alone in the bar. Having completed the repair, I was refilling the coin tube with ten pence pieces (the old, BIG ones) through the slot at the top of the machine. But as I neared the end of the task, I accidentally dropped one. It bounced off the waist-high button bank and hit the middle of the floor – landing on its EDGE.
I froze. I looked around, but the bar was still empty. No-one had seen this except ME. Slowly, knowing this was important, I prostrated myself before it, my face just inches away.
I examined the floor around the coin. It would originally have been earth and straw, but now it had been surfaced with smooth concrete and painted – many times. Essentially, it was FLAT – with tiny pimples, where the paint had been applied over the concrete.
Having taken that in, I gently touched the top of the coin, whilst keeping my gaze fixed rigidly at the point on the floor where the coin stood. As soon as my finger made contact with it, it fell over.
I then attempted to replace the coin in the EXACT position it had occupied. It was just possible – but not easy.
I tried PRESSING the coin into the same position, but the paint had long ago hardened and the coin made no impression whatsoever.
Having learned all I could about the floor where it had landed, I now rose to my feet and examined the coin itself. It was not new, with a nice square edge – nor was it worn, with a rounded edge. It was just about average.
I considered what had just happened. The coin had landed in open space – and had not even rolled and stopped. It just want DONK – and stayed there, on its edge.
I looked at it. What to do? I considered KEEPING it as a “lucky coin” – but suppose it was CURSED? Usually I had no time for such bollocks as luck.
As a fruit machine engineer, I was only too well aware of how luck happens in good and bad runs – with mechanical machines, thanks to stats and the perfidy of fate – and with electronic ones, the design of the programme. But this had SHAKEN me.
Eventually, my cowardice won out and before I had too long to think about it, I HURLED the coin into the cashbox and KICKED it – thus mixing it with a thousand others.
Then the landlord appeared and I told him what had occurred. “Oh that’ll be George,” he said.
He went on to explain that when his brewery had assigned him to the place and he and his family had moved in – a number of strange things had happened.
Oh, no bleeding walls or stuff like that – just things disappearing and turning up somewhere silly – that kind of thing.
They had christened the phenomenon – George…
1994, 23:00, Somewhere In The Scottish Highlands.
Me and a companion were just settling down for the night in the back of my estate car. The vehicle was parked just off the small, single track road that lead alongside a loch, in the woods. Despite the windows being open a few inches (screened against the midges by a layer of net curtain) the windows were already beginning to mist up.
As usual, I had parked my vehicle JUST far enough away from the road to be unobserved by any passing car, but when I heard one approach, I opened one eye, to make sure it CONTINUED to pass.
And as I did so, through the misty window, I saw a bar of light in the sky. Then, a beam of light shone down from it. As I continued to watch, I saw the whole thing was headed TOWARDS me.
I had always thought that if I DID have a Close Encounter, I would be fascinated. But now the reality was imminent – I was TERRIFIED.
Then suddenly, the bar and its accompanying beam DISAPPEARED…
1999, 04:00, The Full Moon Party, Koh Pha-Ngan, Thailand.
So there I was, boogying away to a Trance anthem with a local companion, on the Haad Rin beach – when I looked up into the sky and saw a series of small lights there. So having heard all the UFO stories, I gave them a hard look.
They were not planets, helicopters, planes, ball lightning, shooting stars, a flock of birds, a cloud, a vapour trail or any of the usual.
They most resembled hot air balloons – but I knew enough about that science to realize it was impossible. Since they were tiny, they would have had to have been at least a mile up – thus, given the speed they were traversing the sky, their ground-speed would have been around 100 miles per hour.
And whilst wind speeds – and directions – vary according to height, on the ground there was only a gentle breeze.
Plus, I was on an island, surrounded by the SEA. And apart from special trips – like a Channel crossing if the wind is in the right direction (with a support boat in case it CHANGES) – or one of Sir Richard Branson’s endurance flights/publicity dos – balloons do not travel across large expanses of open water.
And finally, it was NIGHT. The whole point of ballooning is to enjoy the VIEW – which is pretty much non-existent at four a.m. Also, the tricky part of the business is always the landing. Something made far MORE hazardous if all you can see are the support vehicle’s lights across a field.
So they COULDN’T have been balloons – therefore, what the hell WERE they? My fellow dancers were too busy boogying to have noticed the curiosity and not wishing to look a prat, once the lights disappeared, I returned to my partying.
But the next day, in the afternoon, having returned to the neighbouring island of Koh Samui, I saw MORE of the things.
I was riding one of the island’s comedy motorcycles along the main road, with the afore-mentioned companion sitting side-saddle on the pillion – so I stopped and pointed the lights out to her…
You will recall we left 13-year-old me probing a carpet of dead leaves in a dark forest, looking for the cause of what appeared to be a one-legged invisible monster, that had chosen to STALK me.
As I carefully ran my fingers through the leaves – I came across a piece of FISHING LINE, which some careless angler had obviously discarded on the river bank I had been walking along, before turning into the forest.
Having been tightly wound around a reel, the light, clear length of nylon had formed itself into a loose SPRING. Thus one end had curled around my ankle, while the other had formed a hook which was what was moving the leaves behind me.
And the reason it was out of step with me was the physics of the thing. As it stretched, it had eventually overcome the resistance of the leaves, moving in one long motion, until the force had dissipated. Simple when you know how.
The Maypole, Tiptree.
Coincidence. In a life filled with millions of events, it would be a statistical ANOMALY if a few of them did NOT wildly coincide. Oddly enough, that pub later produced ANOTHER wild set of coincidences – but I will not bother you with those now.
Suffice to say – as Mr Holmes observed – “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains HAS to be true.”
And if you drop enough coins, eventually one of them WILL land on its edge. Fact.
So what about the landlord’s experiences? Well, he was either pulling my leg – or more likely, one of his kids was just messing about.
That one was a bit like the Cassiobury thing.
I had been on the edge of sleep when I had first observed the phenomenon, but now I was wide awake. I waited.
After a few minutes, another car approached and the same thing happened AGAIN.
It made NO sense that the “aliens” would only appear when a car did – so I reasoned that the two events were CONNECTED. Reassured there would be a mundane explanation, I fell asleep.
In the morning, it having become light, I looked out of the window towards the point where the “spacecraft” had appeared. And there was the electricity pole.
The “bar” was the piece of wood that supported the wires and the “beam” was merely the wooden pole which it was attached to. I reasoned that as the cars’ headlights had come around the bend in the road, they had first lit the bar – then the pole. And as they passed, the light had travelled around the pole, illuminating it in such a way as it appeared to get BIGGER – thus from my perspective, it was APPROACHING me.
The Full Moon Party, Koh Pha-Ngan.
“Oh I know what THEY are,” my companion said – and proceeded to educate me. And the next time we went to a Full Moon Party, I got to SEE some.
TOY hot air balloons. You have probably seen one (or even sent one up, yourself) by now – but at the time, the fad had only just begun.
If you still do not know what I am talking about, they are tall, clear plastic bags with a thin wire frame at the open end – in the middle of which is a small, doughnut thing.
Two people hold it up, while a third sets fire to said doughnut. It burns slowly, filling the bag with hot air until it inflates, at which point they let go.
The contraption then ascends to about 500 feet and goes where the wind takes it – until the doughnut burns out, at which point it lands on some guy’s windscreen, causing him to crash his car, killing himself.
[Update – 04/12/13: one landed in my garden the other day. Hanging from a tree, it drove my cats MAD.]
And Finally – the disappearance of THIS piece.
Technology will be a wonderful thing if they ever get it to WORK – a principle not unknown to users of WordPress. I had to REWRITE this epistle – from SCRATCH.
Something had earlier gone PHUT. Perhaps the cleaner at WordPress Towers pulled the plug out of the mainframe, to plug in their hoover.
But like that damn coin, the fact the piece was about The Paranormal was just – a coincidence (however – if it disappears AGAIN, I’m gonna SHIT).
SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
Well, anyone who studies magic as I have – knows that it is EASY to be fooled. The most IMPOSSIBLE illusion ALWAYS has a mundane explanation.
And just because we cannot immediately figure it out, does not mean there ISN’T one.
But we like to BELIEVE in magic and mystery – to give us a thrill that transcends our boring reality.
There ARE aliens – but traversing the VAST distances between stars may simply not be POSSIBLE. Either way, if YOU see something up there, while it MAY be ET popping down for a look at you – it is most likely NOT.
The World is FILLED with REAL wonders – we do not need to go looking for ones that are SIMPLY NOT THERE.
Supplemental – 13th March, 2011, WordPress.
Yesterday, I had reason to direct two of my chums to this very article – which I originally (re-)wrote, nearly two years ago. But when I sought it out, to give them the URL – I could not locate it.
I used WordPress’s search engine, using a NUMBER of words I KNEW to be in the piece – like Maypole, Tiptree – but to no avail. I eventually went through all the 500-odd pieces I have EVER WRITTEN, but still – ZIP.
Whilst all of my other pieces appeared to be present and correct, my piece on The Paranormal had VANISHED…
…it has since returned.