I firmly believe that, for most, an interest in the paranormal begins with an unusual or mystifying occurrence that might be difficult to explain in the cold light of day. There are those of us who witness such an event, whether that be witnessing the apparition of a relative or favourite pet and, as odd as it might seem, would consign the experience to no more than a trick of the light, a migraine or too many sherbets from down the pub. Over time it is forgotten about and the daily routines of life take its place.
For others though, it triggers the start of a journey; reading, exploring, researching or investigating the paranormal. Perhaps to re-live that moment when you first witnessed something that was ‘beyond the scope of scientific understanding’. The paranormal is often a deeply personal experience. And for those of us who spend our time investigating supposedly haunted locations or theorising about the paranormal, there is always that sense of expectation that we might be able to capture the evidence that confirms the paranormal. More often than not, not for some sense of wider scientific understanding, but for ourselves.
For yours truly, the moment that ignited my interest started early. I was eight years old when my parents moved home and I found myself in a large 5-bedroomed Victorian property that, at one time or another, had been a local shop serving the workers of a large shoe factory that stood opposite. It was also the time that, from the very first night in the home, poltergeist activity began.
If you were to ask me now about the whole experience, it wouldn’t be filled with over-dramatic scenes taken from films. It was more comical bewilderment. My parents have always been hard-working, no-nonsense people who had never previously given much thought to such things as ghosts. To find unusual phenomena taking place in front of their eyes, for them, made the whole experience utterly confusing.
Looking back now, the poltergeist was pretty stereotypical. You could pretty much tick off everything a poltergeist would be expected to do:
Short lived? Tick. Two months only.
Children in the family? Tick. Myself and two brothers.
Objects thrown and moved? Tick.
Loud noises? Tick.
Knocking on doors and walls? Tick.
The list goes on. In terms of poltergeist phenomena it really was quite predictable in its nature. Not that my family had any concept of that at the time.
One event that used to happen on a regular basis was the persistent banging of one wall in our kitchen. Violent in nature, the banging would rattle the decorative plates that my mother collected on the wall, to the point that she believed they would come crashing to the floor. At first, my mother was terrified with no idea as to what was happening. As time went on however, this gave way to feelings of annoyance and then to anger.
“For Fuck’s sake, stop it!” she would scream. At which point, the banging would immediately stop. I’m still amused to this day that my mother would be able to scare a poltergeist into submission.
Does this mean then, some 31 years later, that I quite willingly accept all phenomena as paranormal? Or that I’m in any way an expert in this field? Of course not. Quite the opposite. I have been in locations where objects have been thrown at me and where I’ve witnessed objects seemingly moving by themselves. Do my previous experiences make it easier to believe that a poltergeist is to blame? No. Not at all. As interesting as they might seem, any good investigator would be thinking: DEBUNK, DEBUNK, DEBUNK. Or at least they should be. Object moving? Vibratory effect. Sloping surface. Object thrown? Foul play. Delapidated building. Crumbling ceiling. Noises? Guttering. Drainage. Traffic. And on and on and on. Debunking. Checking. Double-checking. In fact, if you were a ghost or poltergeist you’ve got to work damn hard to convince me of your existence. Which, I’m guessing, would piss off something like a poltergeist no end.