The Shared Diary of a Novice Paranormal Investigator, aged 52 and Three Quar

When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.

(Stevie Wonder)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamed of in your philosophy.


Ri fol ri fol tol de riddle dee.


A Winter Ramble with Rifol

Apologies for the poor formatting of the previous entry.  This was caused by an extreme form of  incompetence sometimes called 'inability'.  We join Rifol during the Christmas holidays...

It is Boxing Day.  Like members of so many other families at this special time, we each cannot wait to slope off on our own for a bit.   It is a cold, breezy day with a bright sun in a blue sky, so I pack a rucksack and escape.

I head first for a nearby village I like to visit.  It was an early industrial settlement with attractive rows of old cottages and some open spaces.  I have always liked coming here.  There is an atmosphere.  If I had to describe it, I would say I feel deep contentment in my sternum.  I am not sure if one normally has feelings in one’s sternum, but that how it feels.

From the village, I follow an old packhorse route, rising steeply up to a farmhouse on the spring line.  I stop and stand on a grassy patch, leaning on the damp drystone wall to have a think and to take a good look below.  What makes Atmosphere Village special?  The first thing I realise is that sounds are different.  In the village, all sounds seem muted – doors shutting, car engines, children playing… there is not much going on, and what there is seems to have had the volume turned down.  Yet I can hear very plainly the conversation of the mountain bikers just turning up the lane below.

Looking wider, I realise for the first time that Atmosphere Village is surrounded.  To the west, the ground is quite flat and eventually it slopes down to the main river valley.  High moors rise up to the north and south, with the packhorse route passing through.  There are Iron Age earth works nearby.  To the east, there is a steep, narrow valley which I know from personal experience to be gloomy, boggy and impassable to the sane (but that is another story).  There is a modern quarry, and there are dozens of very old disused quarries.  The village is cuddled by a long inhabited landscape.  Is that why it feels happy?  Or does it feel happy because the high land mutes harsh noises, and cuts out the wind?

After chatting to the mountain bikers, I press on.  My favourite path leads up and off to the left after the farmhouse, but today I want to visit a spot in the next valley, so I stick to the packhorse route as it contours round the hill.  Some people believe this to be an old Roman road, which may even be true.  Either way, it has been in use for hundreds of years, and in places it has worn low between grassy banks.  Walking here is easy, and it is one of those sparkling fresh days just made for long walks and big dinners, when your legs feel as if they could take you absolutely anywhere.  I stride out like a good ‘un. 

Panting friends sometimes complain that I am an unnecessarily fast walker.  It is true that I am not often overtaken.  So it is a surprise to hear someone not far behind.  I turn.  I see the stony path in the sunshine.  Not a sheep, not a bird, nobody.  I watch and listen for a few moments.  Nothing there.  Nothing has changed, but something is not right.  I do not feel right any more. This is not a happy feeling in the sternum, this is a sense that the air is different, round my arms and shoulders. I continue on my way, a bit of the sparkle gone.

Eyes on my back.  No doubt about this.  Unfriendly eyes right on my back.  I turn again, but there is nobody around.

 I consider sitting down and waiting to see if anything happens, but I am interrupted by other walkers coming towards me.  It is hard to feel like a proper paranormal investigator when little dogs keep sniffing at your ankles.  I start to understand why so many organisations choose to hold night vigils.

I continue to feel observed, off and on until the path takes me down into the next valley.  Here, the force of the weather hits me full on.  As I round the corner, what was a bit of a breeze turns nasty and blows Arctic air straight in my face.  It is quite horrible.  Still, at least I seem to have lost my unwanted company.  I press on into the wind.

I do not usually come this way.  We are blessed with marvellous walking territory, and this valley is a bit ordinary.  It is popular with families and elderly dog walkers, though, and it offers an easy way up to the moor.  I have chosen to come here because I once heard a ghost story attached to a place near the top of the valley, and I think that might be a good place to sit and observe.  This is one of those paths used by both Walkers and people Out for a Walk.  These two groups behave quite differently.  I am a Walker, so this means that, especially in these parts, I greet other Walkers as we pass, whether I know them or not.  People Out for a Walk tend not to do this, (although I understand the rules are different if they have dogs).  Sometimes people O for a W look quite alarmed if accidentally given a Walker greeting.

The sun is still very bright as I arrive at what I think might be the scene of the sighting.  It is a disused quarry.  I ferret about until I find a comfortable rock sheltered from the wind, where I can sit and observe without interruption.  I sit with my back to one side of the quarry with a large rhododendron for shelter.  There is a good view of the whole quarry, which rises up some fifteen feet, topped with bilberries and heather.  It really is dreadfully cold.

I examine my own feelings.  I am very cold, very hungry and dazzle from the low sun is affecting my vision to the right.  I am a little bit tired, and I have probably still got a bit of red wine drifting around my bloodstream somewhere, left over from Christmas dinner.  Any data I collect today will be rather suspect.  I am enthusiastic about my turkey salad sandwich.  Suddenly, I see a dark head, peeping at me from the top of the quarry wall opposite.  It ducks down straight away.  As quickly as this happens, I understand what it is.
We can see specks inside our eyes.  These are called ‘floaters’ and they are quite natural.  That ‘head’ is a floater, by chance in line with a clump of heather moving in the brisk wind.  I have fooled myself into seeing a ‘head’ because that is what people do.  We try to interpret what we see as something familiar.  This, I am told, is called Pareidolia and it is quite common. We turn everything into stories we can understand.

The painfully bright sunshine is making me see floaters all the time.  I am too cold to sit for long anyway, so I pack up and march off, munching an apple for pudding.  If I want to be a proper investigator, I will have to learn how to sit still for longer than five minutes.

Once at the top of the valley, I head across the moor.  I love this path, and it is the highest spot in our area.  I was once told that it was used by children from Atmosphere Village, so that they could attend Sunday School in the next valley.  I consider this as I walk.  I do not know where that story came from, but knowing the churchifying nature of our Victorian ancestors, I think it unlikely that they did not have an adequate Sunday School of some kind in every village.  I see a flash of pink, and somehow I see a little girl with bare arms walking down to Sunday School, on a summer day.  Of course, there is nobody there and it is still freezing December.  I have seen waving heather, still bearing a pinkish hue in this light, and again my mind has made up a story about what I have seen, faster than I can consciously think.    According to National Rational, these effects fall into the category of ‘misperception’.  This means that our senses can be fooled so that we think we have experienced something else.  Misperception may be the real cause of many ghost sightings.  It must be very common if it happened to me twice in an hour.

We take more information through vision than through any other sense.  Human beings are seeing animals.  We rely on the eye.  Yet what our eyes give us is not a continuous picture: our eyes move about all the time, leaving tiny gaps in the scenes sent to our brains.  They send our brains these disjointed snapshots, and our poor brains have to make sense of them.  They piece together the individual pictures, they cope with the gaps between the pictures, and they turn it all into sense.  Our brains do this by using stored information about what we have experienced before, or what we know about the world.  Misperception happens when our brains get half a picture and interpret it wrongly.  Misperception makes us think we have seen things.  I imagine I am not the only person very prone to this on Boxing Day.

This moorland path takes me the pretty way down and back towards Atmosphere Village.  As I get closer, I notice again that peculiar quality of the sound here, and it is a great relief to leave the wind behind, blowing itself crossly against the other side of the hill.  It occurs to me that I should take some photos.  I often forget I even have a camera, but I decide I ought to start recording some of my experiences, so I take pictures trying to show the special character of Atmosphere Village.

It is delightful here.  I am not ready for home yet, so I follow another path I do not usually take.  It brings me out on a rough muddy track up the smaller valley.  I cannot remember exactly where this goes, so honour demands I continue.  Quite quickly, I find myself in pleasant woodland.  This area is not well known for mature woods, and large beech trees are a novelty.  Because it is warm and sheltered, I decide this is a good place to start training myself to sit still.  I choose a rock and get out the thermos.

There are more sounds than I thought.  Plenty of birds.  Lots of rustling, as the breeze picks up the dead leaves.  A car, in the distance.  A bit of creaking.  There is plenty to look at.  Russet layers of leaves drift around islands of mossy green stones.  Smooth tree trunks rise up to bare tangles of branches and twigs.  The sky is still a bright, clear blue but I am shaded from that harsh low sun.  I am peacefully still and alone.  After two cups of tea, I am bored to death and, without thinking about, it I stand up to leave.  I think I may have lasted between five and ten minutes.

I head for the other end of the packhorse route.  I expect to encounter one of those special moments of contact along here, because it has always seemed to be that kind of a place.  The path leads past the Iron Age humps, along just below the brow of the hill, between the cow level and the heather level, passing one or two isolated houses.  It dips sharply where a vigorous stream tumbles through a ferny corner.  Perhaps it is the combination of age and isolation which makes this track a fey place.  However, it is not feeling that way inclined today, so I have an uneventful end to my wander, as I trudge down the hill and home along the valley bottom in the freezing dusk. 

I had some kind of experience today, although it was not quite what I expected.  What I need to do next, is to investigate any stories I can find about this area, to see how they might match up with what I noticed and felt.


The Paranormal, the Beliefs, the Google

Finding out what Mrs other Couple was talking about means time for more google and more reading. 

Most of Mrs OC’s stories are grounded in beliefs associated with Spiritualism; a movement which developed in the USA during the mid nineteenth century.  Of course, stories about human beings passing the time of day with mysterious entities show up any time, any place, anywhere, and the early Spiritualists were themselves building on the ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg, who, in turn, appears to have been influenced by all kinds of things.  

What marks Mrs OC’s experiences as part of a Spiritualist tradition is the belief that the dead have still got tasks to do, or life lessons to learn and that they will communicate with the living.  It is that same tradition which is informing popular activities in some circles.  Knocking on tables, moving glasses around tables and tilting tables all stem from that same beginning, during the dark days before Trivial Pursuit was available, to keep us occupied after dinner.

Spiritualism is connected to Christianity, and it has features and practices familiar to Christians.  A highly significant difference is that instead of being directed to heaven or to hell, the souls of the departed are sent to a place of learning, where they are expected to improve themselves before they move on.  These souls can be contacted by the living.  Sometimes, souls (or ‘spirits’) advise or guide the living.  Some living people have particular talents which enable them to communicate with spirits.  They may have a spirit guide who helps them in this work.  These are the features of Spiritualism which I have met when poking about the paranormal websites and talking to Mrs OC.

Other aspects of Spiritualism are worthy of respect.  Among the seven principles which form the movement’s bedrock are solid values of personal responsibility.  Not quite such a thrill as a message from dead Uncle Egbert, but probably much more useful to the Human Race.  This, then, is what the real Spiritualists are on about:

1.      The fatherhood of God: (nothing new here)
The spiritualist God is the same all powerful, but benign father figure met in most mainstream versions of Christianity.  They believe he created the universe and has a divine plan and divine laws which we, his children, obey.
2.       The brotherhood of man: (also familiar)
Because they believe God is our father, they also believe we are all brothers and sisters and therefore we have a duty of service or care towards each other.  

3.      Communion of the spirits and the ministry of angels: (possibly a little more controversial, this one)
We survive death and continue to communicate with the living through mediums.  We each have a spirit guide or guardian angel who helps us.

  1. Continuous existence of the human soul:
The way we live now determines the next step for us after death.

  1.  Personal responsibility: (If you are near a Christian, duck now)
Jesus did not save us by his death.  We have knowledge of right and wrong and we have free will.  We have to choose correct actions and take responsibility for the consequences.  God will not judge us, we will judge ourselves.
  1.  Compensation and retribution hereafter for all good and evil deeds done on earth:
    The way we conduct our lives on earth determines what our state will be when we die and move to the next world.
7.      Eternal progress is open to every human soul:
Each human is on a quest to achieve spiritual perfection in this world and the next.

Those are the bones of Spiritualism, a religion as worthy as any other, I feel.  We had not really been expecting, as we stepped in to that party, to meet a new religion.  Nice as they are, I like my religions clearly labelled.
Mrs OC’s stories drew on at least one other belief system.  Attacked by an elemental.  Four elements.  Those ideas are also worth a poke or two.  I am not sure how many elements there are, but I am certain there are more than four, especially because I know people keep inventing new ones.  Time for a refresher visit to ‘O’ level Chemistry.  Never did like it, but, in for a penny…

 Chemistry Land provides us with this information:

Just as electromagnetic waves are arranged in a display like birthday cards on a mantelpiece, elements are neatly arranged on an imaginary table, each one carefully labelled with numbers, the significance of which is not easy to understand but, I am relieved to say, is neither interesting nor important right now.  It looks a bit like this, but much more complicated:

Elements most of us have heard of.

  salt vinegar chips
Old fashioned Elements which we all know about, like Any Old Iron.
All kinds of outlandish things.  Elements discovered by people who then name them after their aunties.
Dorisite, Susanite.
Noble gasses.

We cannot be expected to take this seriously.

Aragorn, Eragon
(pay your money and take your choice)
The Periodic Table of the Elements,
a personal view.

Many, many more than four elements here.

The belief in four physical elements dates back to long before we had that handy table.  Hundreds of years ago, scientific thought was not divorced from religious dogma or philosophical inquiry.  ‘Facts’ about the natural world would be given credence if they conformed to existing ideas about the world and its relationship with God.   In this country, early scientists were influenced by the Greek version of the elements – fire, water, earth and air.  Because science was woven in with other spheres of human thought, the four elements also seeped in to other areas of activity.  You find them in poetry and art, for example.   As the body of scientific knowledge grew and developed over the centuries, the four elements moved aside to make way for a more complex picture.  They remained solidly in areas which draw their wisdom or inspiration from the past.  So now, if you read a book on astrology then you will certainly find representations of those same four elements, coupled with notions of how they might interact and what influence they may have. 

Mrs OC’s aggressive elemental has its intellectual roots in the 16th century, when thinkers were still influenced by the four elements.  Paracelsus was one of those strange hybrid characters who explored the physical and the metaphysical world before the start of what we know as empirical science.  Part philosopher, part scientist, part occultist – his world was so different from ours that we have not got a word to describe him.  Paracelsus classified nature spirits from folklore into four groups, corresponding to the four elements.  A similar classification and listing was made by another famous hybrid, Agrippa.  The notion that there are four kinds of elemental spirits grew from those lists.  A trawl through some of the more imaginative internet sites quickly shows how many people today still use the ideas of these two thinkers, hoping to find some truth there.

 How many people using these 16th century constructs know where their information came from, and what systems of belief produced it.  How many paranormal clubbers know when they are operating within the belief system of Spiritualism.  Not many, I am sure.  I love this stuff, and I only found out about it yesterday.

So, where does that leave my thoughts and feelings?  Without having any solid facts, or spending any time on sensible reasoning, I am going ahead to believe in the elementals, but I am holding on the spirits.  I will never have any way of knowing or understanding what Mrs OC’s experiences were, so I am following a gut reaction.  My gut has a thing about elements and the open air.

Walking is, I understand, just about the most popular pastime in this country.  According to the statistics, it is right up there with dangling your rod in the canal, and the equipment is much cheaper.  I have walked all my life.  In company, alone – I do not really care.  I have always had a need to tramp about, preferably high up.  I know lots of others who feel the same.  I also know I am not alone when I say I feel an atmosphere in some places.  I do not just mean stone circles or barrows, either.  I mean otherwise unremarkable bits of path, little streams, groups of trees or outcrops of stone which, for no reason I can discern, seem to pack a punch.  That is why I imagine that there could be something there.  Possibly not a little gnome in a hat, or a winged girl in a frilly frock; but something else I do not understand right now.  I suspect that the notion of elementals may be a metaphor which helps us to think about or talk about that specific kind of experience, and perhaps some kinds of local folklore come about as part of the same process.  So that is why my next poke about will be an outdoor one.  I will go looking for elementals


Paranormal Party Time

Long Suffering Spouse and I bumbled our way in to the venue, stopping to check with the merry group of smokers outside that we were headed towards the right room for the function.  Once inside, a smiley, relaxed looking woman welcomed us and introduced herself.  She was one of the core team running the club, and she was the MC for the evening. 

We were in a sizeable public bar, most of which was taken up by two large tables full of people who all seemed to know each other.  Coming into an unknown building to mix with a few dozen strangers is not my favourite way to spend an evening, and LSS could not have been described as enthusiastic by even the most optimistic observer.  However, we muddled our way through and found two seats at a small table with another couple.  The MC followed us to make sure we were comfortably accommodated.

The other couple, it turned out, had travelled for more than an hour on unpleasant roads to get to the party.  Mrs Other Couple was a veteran paranormal buff; she attended events with four groups, but this one was her favourite because of the congenial atmosphere.  Mr Other Couple, also there because of domestic blackmail, had more in common with LSS.  They were eye rolling together before the end of the evening. 

We had chocolates and nuts on the table, there was a quiz; karaoke was looming.  The MC turned out to be a professional entertainer.  It was how I imagined a cruise holiday might feel.  This was not the experience I had been anticipating, but we passed the time quite happily.  I inspected the other members.  They were a jolly-looking bunch, generally aged between 30 and 50.  There was plenty of laughing and table-hopping.  I started to think that being in this group might be a pleasant and easy way in to the paranormal scene.  A big hairy character shambled over to have a word with Mrs OC.  I was quite alarmed by him.  He exuded something, but I did not know what it was.  I have occasionally had inexplicable reactions of fear or dislike when meeting people for the first time, feeling they might be somehow dangerous.  I have never been proven right yet. 

Later on, yelling in my ear above the thudding music, Mrs OC told me that he was a medium.  She told me that she was a sensitive.  This, she said, meant she could sense facts by touching items, and she was aware when spirits were present.  She seemed very proud of this.  The MC appeared next to our table with a microphone.  I realised that there was no CD playing; karaoke hour had started and she was singing.  Perfectly.  Like a pop star.  She had come over, as the song was ending, to consult with Mrs OC about her choice of song.  Mrs OC got up and sang beautifully an emotional song from a light opera.   There was not a dry eye in the village.  Someone else had a turn.  I was told he had been on ‘The X Factor’.  They were certainly a group of people with talent and drive.  I have a voice like a demented frog.  It makes strong men weep.  Even people who are quite fond of me beg me not to hum along to music in case something dreadful happens.  I was starting to suspect I might not be the Right Stuff for this group at all.

To enthusiastic applause, Mrs OC took her seat again and responded to my ham fisted attempts to pump her for information.  I learned she has a spirit guide who places her in dangerous situations so she can make progress in her psychic skill.  She receives messages and warnings, I forget from whom.  She helped a trapped spirit to pass over, and as she did this she saw his wife welcome him to the other side.  She once suffered an attack from an elemental; she had an idea what kind it was – again the details have drifted away from me, but I expect it was fire, water, earth or air.  She explained that sprites were shape shifters.  LSS and I went home soon after. 

Make no mistake.  This was a nice, happy, ordinary looking woman with a nice, eye rolling husband, and, she told me, she has a nice daughter.  She has a trained operatic voice and a fulfilling hobby singing in local productions.  She is not crazy or ignorant, and I do not see how she could need any more attention.  She was, however, speaking the biggest lorry load of nonsense ever heard outside of the House of Commons.  I am ready and willing to believe a good many outlandish things, but this was a seriously deluded lady.

So where did that bizarre belief system come from?  How many others share it?  Are all the club members the same?  Is there a kind of orthodoxy, or is it more of a pick and mix?


About a Month Later

Welcome back to the oddly timed, but absolutely true, adventures of Rifol, who, for no real reason, is trying to learn about the paranormal.  For us, a wet bank holiday weekend marks the transition between the warm rains of August and the cooler damps of September.  For Rifol, however, winter is in full flow.  It is dark by tea time and she is wondering where to put the Christmas tree this year...

Progress is slow, slow, slow in the paranormal world.  Nothing seems to happen, even if you try to push the right buttons.

I received an email from National Rational, the scientific group I have managed to half-join, asking me if I intended to go on their training day.  I replied, saying if they could send some information, I may well do just that. A very kind friendly answer arrived, apologising for the missing new members' pack and promising to send one soon.  I asked if the training event would be suitable for a person with no experience, and did not get an answer until a few weeks later, when I was invited to book a place on the follow-up event.  Kafka is alive and well, and he runs a club.

Heart below boot level, with no clear way forward, I jumped back on the internet and reconsidered the local groups.  Peculiarity of spelling and syntax is an unnerving feature of many club websites.  This does not inspire trust.  ('We have got youre, saftey cover'd') I also suspect we will all be just spectators in an all-night imitation of TV shows.  I really do not want to pay to watch other people Doing Things (whatever they are) with Stuff (whatever it is).  If I am going to poke about in the paranormal, I want to do it in person, especially if it costs money.  There do not seem to be any other options for the inexpereinced, however.

After a lot of hesitation, I paid up and joined the nearest one, still in the virtual world, accessed from the anonymous safety of the living room.  Charmed by the ready welcome from the club secretary, I ventured into the chat room.  This was yet another entertaining use of the new PC!  I had never been in a chat room before.  It was very odd, but I did like it.  After a shaky start, during which I realised I was sending myself private messages ( I hadn't said much) we had a wonderful time bitching about that TV programme.  Nothing brings people together like a scorn fest.  It was almost, but not quite, like making some new friends.

I went back in the following week, no stranger now to emoticons, fragmented syntax or inventive spelling.  The second visit was far less satisfactory.  There was a different group of people.  We did not continue the bonding ritual; we all talked about our pets ('I love my pussy to bits')  This was not a paranormal adventure.  It was distinctly mundane.  I felt I was losing the plot, so I had a glass of Baileys (in December, it is almost mandatory) and lost it more thoroughly.  Chat rooms are probably not for me.

I was surprised, though, and very pleased, to receive an invitation to their Christmas party.  It is very generous of them and, at last, I will have an opportunity to meet face to face with some people who might know something about Stuff.  Being a lone investigator is not very illuminating and meeting like-minded people will be so much more fun.  I have persuaded my Long Suffering Spouse to miss the football and accompany me to the party instead.  That puts me in heavy Relationship Debt, which might take some time to repay, so I hope it is worth it.


After the Long Weekend

And I did feel different.  Empowered, if that does not sound too dramatic.  We stayed there for a couple of days, sleeping in my old bedroom and being busy with the family.  We had a very good take-away, a pretty walk and a ride on a waltzer. 

We are none of us completely objective.  We have to see the world through our own eyes.  When we gain new information, it can change how we interpret the world, but it also can change our attitude.  How much does attitude affect experience?  If I had gone in feeling craven, might the Nasty Thing have been lurking in that old room this weekend?  Was it absent this time just because I had changed?  Maybe it was, in fact, there all the time, but I had insulated myself against it?  Maybe there was no infrasound happening on those days.

 I am aware that I have not proved or disproved anything at all.  I have learned a new word, though, and I have found out that a quick visit to Physics land can make a person feel better and bolder.  It is something else to think about as I consider how our perceptions can affect our experiences.  This must have been my first case!  I do not suppose anyone could call it officially rubber-stamp solved, but perhaps it could be described as folded up and put neatly away.

Rifol is taking a little trip and will be back on 28th August with more diary pages in which there are Good Bits.  It seems a shame to wander off so early in our relationship.  I hope you have enjoyed it so far, and if you have, please come back when I do.  I have loads more to share; if you like it, spread the word!


In order to understand infrasound, I needed a refresher course in Physics.  Back on my trusty PC, I googled  ‘electromagnetic waves’.  Suddenly, I was fifteen again.  My Physics teacher had a nasty disposition and a tweed jacket.  He loved to yell ‘hence!’ while slamming a metre rule down on the table.  It was not surprising I took to poetry instead.  This is what I re-learned, after all those Science-free years:

There are a lot of different kinds of electromagnetic waves, and they slosh around in nature.  They all have three qualities which can be measured; frequency, wavelength and energy.  Frequency is measured in Hertz.  Low frequency electromagnetic waves have not many Hertz, high frequency ones have loads. 

Wavelength is measured in metres, kilometres and similar.  Low frequency waves have long wave lengths.  High frequency waves have short wave lengths.  Very high frequency wave lengths are so short that they have to be measured in special tiny units.  Very low frequency wave lengths are so long that they have to be measured in specially big units. 

The energy is measured in volts.  High frequency, short wavelength waves have lots of volts.  Low frequency, long wavelength waves do not have many volts. 

For reference, the list of electromagnetic waves is arranged in a row, like birthday cards on a mantelpiece.  It is called the electromagnetic spectrum.


Infrasound has a very low frequency – less than 20 hertz.  This means it has a very long wavelength and not much energy.  We cannot hear it, but it can be measured.  It occurs naturally, and it can be made.  Apparently, some animals   use it to communicate.  Some think birds may use it to navigate long distances (a kind of Rough Guide to Migration).  It can be associated with earth tremors, explosions and severe weather.

All the way back in 1998, a scientist called Vic Tandy had an eerie experience working in a supposedly haunted laboratory.  Like some other workers there, he suffered the grisly feelings and he thought he saw something.  Vic had a serious poke about in that lab.  He discovered that infrasound of 18.9 Hertz was the culprit, and went on to uncover the same effect in other ‘haunted’ locations.  The newspapers called him the ‘ghostbuster’.

This has been a revelation to me.  I feel quite disappointed to that people have known all this for years and nobody told me until just now.  Apparently, reports of this research were cunningly hidden away by being printed in easily available national newspapers, one of which I often pretend to read. 

Most interestingly, infrasound is sometimes associated with diesel engines.  Think about that in a spooky bedroom near a railway line and see how different you feel.


Gentle readers, I notice there are some of you out there, and I thank you.  If you have followed the other posts (and nothing will make sense if you have not) (although there is no guarantee it will make sense if you have, either) you may have begun to notice that this diary is not running in real time.  There are reasons for that, and if anyone truly cares enough to ask, I will explain.  Otherwise, I hope you relax and enjoy the ride.

The googling is starting to pay off.  I have finally got some information from people who know something about paranormal Stuff.  I sent off an application to join a national association dedicated to the rational study of the unexplained.  I want to learn about Stuff from real experts.  After only two months and a couple of e-mails, I finally received what seems to be one half of the information I think I was supposed to get for my money, plus some documents which seem to belong to somebody else, already active in doing Stuff.

On first reading, it all appears very sensible and logical.  It is a bit involved (‘equipment list – 2 x 36 metre cabling’) but I guess this is the right way forward for me on my journey.  I want rational, I do not want monkeyman, or any of his silver-rattling, fancy-dressed tribe.  I set to digest all of it.  I have a task in mind for the national rational approach.  I want to figure out how it might illuminate one particular place.  I have in mind a place which has been very important to me for a long time.  I think this place deserves a bit of investigation.

When I think about my childhood, I feel it is odd, that, in a family which delighted in all kinds of spooky tales and Hammer Horror, nobody ever mentioned the Nasty Thing on the top floor.  Of course, not everyone had cause to go up there, but some of us spent plenty of time in the attic, and I had my bedroom there for eight years.  I still do sleep there, when we visit, very frequently.

The Nasty Thing is best understood through the metaphor of the elephant in the room.  You squeeze past it, but you cannot stretch your mind to comprehend it, or to figure out how there ought to be more space in the room, because it is so heavily there.  You cannot talk about the elephant in the room, because it is so big and so obvious that we are all alone with it.  We cannot even perceive it properly.  I never spoke about the Nasty Thing until the new, younger generation broke the ice, and even now, I have not said much.

Today, I have been giving this some thought.  I have been going over the reasons for not speaking up, and I have been considering the consequences of silence.  I certainly would cringe with embarrassment if I had to admit I was taking seriously the stuff of our Friday night entertainment.  There is more to it, though.  I am not that much of a coward, and I do not think many other people are, either.  We can all give ourselves a prod, speak up, and then recover from a bit of social shame.  If that were the only problem,  we could all cope.  What keeps the muzzle firmly on is a kind of social conscience.  Not in front of the children… don’t worry anyone…I expect it has gone away now… if I don’t make a fuss, it won’t happen to anyone else.    These reasons may well be good reasons.   Maybe blabbing would result in all kinds of hysteria and discomfort.  Who knows what might happen?

Results also flow from not blabbing.  Perhaps we non-blabbers have slowed down the progress of human knowledge.  No wonder the paranormal is such a mystery, if we don’t all share what we know.  Networking  - sharing and swapping experiences, must be one of the oldest, most basic ways of building group understanding.  If the only people sharing paranormal experiences were thrill seekers, or poor souls hungry for attention, then that group understanding would have very wobbly foundations indeed. 

So; to blab or not to blab.   I am certainly not responsible for finding answers to that dilemma, but, as this is my personal journey, I will personally blab this much:

I slept in that room between the ages of ten and eighteen.  Sometimes, I experienced heart-sinking sensations of chilly sickness.  These always passed very quickly.  Although I felt afraid, this fear also passed immediately: it was part of the sensation, it was not generated by the sensation.  I did not draw any conclusions from these occasions.  It could be likened to experiencing an injury from time to time – like often stubbing a toe on the same piece of furniture.  Sometimes, I used to let the dog sleep on my bed. (Many young girls do this.  I believe it is nature’s way of preparing us for the nocturnal sounds and smells of married life.)  The dog often growled in the night.  Once, I watched her head moving as she growled, following the path of something unseen, moving from the door to the window.

That is my blab.  As we all grew up and moved away, the room was used less and less.  Now, our children are young adults, and one or two of them have started to blab among themselves.  I feel some responsibility.  I want to make it better.  Looking through the information I received today, from the Rational National society, I have found mention of ‘infrasound’.  This is sound we cannot consciously hear, but which can affect us, giving rise to sensations like those I experienced.  This gives me a lead to follow, something to learn about before I go back there


I found a parking place very easily, then started worrying about finding my way home. 

The fair was held in a typical Victorian municipal building, with a broad flight of steps up to an impressive arched doorway.  Nobody stinted on tiles or carvings in those days.  You got a lot of building for your money with the Vics. The main purpose of such buildings was to make ordinary folk feel inadequate, which was certainly working as far as I was concerned.  A part of me expected some kind of social policeman to rise up from the skirting board and bar the way, ‘You can’t come in here!  You are sensible and steady!  Go back to Marks and Spencer, where you belong!’

 I held back and, observing that none of the fair-goers outside had two heads, I followed them in and through to a space the size of a small county. I was too nervous to take in much detail, and I felt too shy to stop and take a good look.  I was hit by a hammer of colour and sound.  My first clear view was shiny, shiny crystals and jewellery.  Good.  At least I could get something pretty out of it.  My second view was – oh welcome sight!  It was Mrs Used-to–Work-in-our-Building.  How wonderful to meet a friendly face.  And a bit of a coincidence, of course, as Mr Koestler would say.  Mrs Used-to was close to the door, selling Indian ornaments, head massages and eyebrow threading.  As she (ouch) tidied up my unruly face and told me all her news, I sneaked a little look around, one eye at a time.

It was, after all, just a large hall, with an ornate but not, strictly speaking, attractive, ceiling.  Stalls were crammed in an oval arrangement to make a circuit for the customers to roam around.  Ornaments, books, arcane bits of kit, CDs… there were plenty of things to buy here, and most of them smelled of incense.  Practically all of the stalls offered products, but many of them offered services, so some of them had scary hospital style trolleys, or ominous curtained areas.  Some of them displayed screens.  It was thronged with eager shoppers.  I had no idea how popular these events were.  I was in a maelstrom.

Released, and looking a little tidier, I decided that to recover from the rigours of the drive and the assault on my eyebrows I would need tea.  A small café had been set up in a side room, away from the hurly burly.  The queue was long, so I spied on my fellow visitors.  It was a relief to find my apprehension had been unjustified.  The shoppers here were less scary than the crisp chomping, belligerent buggied crowd at the local market.  The conversations overheard in the queue sounded civilised, if maybe slightly out of the ordinary: ‘You are where I was last year’, said someone behind me, implying that by this time next year, her companion might have travelled through all kinds of mysterious territory.  It sounded rather personal for public airing, but not too bizarre.  I started to relax.  Away from the main shopping zone, it felt like visiting a craft fair.  I anticipated scones.  Only one person did look seriously weird, a short, monkey looking man wearing far too much jewellery.  I do understand that boys may resist sensible sweaters, but surely there is a limit.  What kind of family would allow a loved one to leave the house dressed for a minor role in a fantasy movie? 

Over tea (alas, no scones), I read my programme.  The contents were based on the supposition that, if not here for the purchase of bright shiny things, we must be in need of healing or help.  They offered angels, tarot, reiki, different kinds of massage and more life coaches than you could shake a stick at.  I promised myself a go at one thing.  I did not feel strong enough to lie on a trolley in the busy hall with a stranger massaging my body, so I concluded that I was not well enough to cope with healing.  I did not want to have anyone messing with my head, either, so I was certainly not going near the hypnotist, even if that meant I would forego the opportunity to learn about my past lives.  I decided to have my aura photographed.  It sounded unusual enough to be exciting, without being dangerous or invasive.  I judged it to be a good starting place for a novice, and I hoped it would be a good colour.  Royal purple, perhaps, or a soft blue.

There were Talks, as well.  One was due to start just as I finished my tea.  The time was right, to jump in with both feet, to seize the moment.   What else was I going to do?  After all, I was supposed to be on an adventure.  I should not by-pass any Stuff coming my way.  Oddly enough, the speaker was a medium – just what I had planned to avoid.  Recklessly, I plunged in anyway.

He did not have two heads, either.  He was quite normal, except for his cord trousers.  He was pleasant, unassuming, reassuring.  Not theatrical at all.  There were three thoughts in my head.  They were, in this order:

  1. Real, deluded or fake?
  2. Please don’t let him speak to me, please, please, please.
  3. Please I want him to give me a message, please, please, please.

I did not have much time to think or observe: I had slipped in just as the show was starting.  We were in a semi-circular room which I thought might be used for very large meetings, or perhaps for a magistrates’ court.  There was a lot of good-quality woodwork, and the seats were upholstered in green, arranged in small tiers.  It had a slightly parliamentary feel.  I shoved myself into the first seat available, on the end of a row not far from the door, but uncomfortably close to the front.

I thought about how I would handle this audience if I were a fraud seer.  The tiers of seats divided the room into five sections.   To keep everyone engaged, I would have targeted one person from each section.  When this medium worked the crowd, he spoke to one person from each section, then two more.  I would have given bland, safe messages like:  Somebody says you must take care, somebody says you have not had the best from life recently… Most of his messages were like that – probably true of everyone in one way or another in dreary wet days when the autumn has arrived two months early, but it is still too early to think about Christmas. 

It was very interesting to observe how he presented himself.  He projected a cosy psychic-next-door image, even injecting some humour into his narrative, while maintaining authority as a person with special skills and gifts.  He had a stage presence; he had a persona.  There was no doubt he understood the craft of the entertainer. 

Being a member of that audience was a curious experience.  I was aware of how that setting must daily witness events of a very different nature.  Possibly only yesterday, councillors may have been wrangling over planning permissions and licences, but today, we were keeping company with the dead.  I found myself fascinated just by the seats.

As unobtrusively as possible, I observed my fellow punters.  They were a varied bunch; mixed sexes, mixed ages.  There did not seem to be a ‘likes mediums’ type.  It was not long, however, before some people emerged as punters plus.  Some people needed attention or assistance of some kind and they were the ones eager to engage the medium in a longer conversation.  Many of them seemed needy or vulnerable, and I was uncomfortable on their behalf.  One woman was memorable: physical and mental ill-health were written all over her, and she wanted help to become a medium too.

Twice, the medium said very specific things, – ‘Your Mother is dead’ ‘You are trying to sell your house’, which the punters said were wrong.  At least three times, he said very specific things, - ‘You had a cheeky puppy that died’ ‘You work with people close to death’, which the punters said were right.  I did not know what to think.  It was astonishing.

If everyone was so happy with the banal generalities about trying to get on, or not letting them grind you down, why did he take these risks?  How did he get some of them right? 

Just suppose, for a moment, he really was in contact with friends and relatives in a different place, where the Dead live.  This means that dead people spend their time trying to contact the living and, according to this particular gentleman, meddling with their affairs in order to secure them a better deal.  He mostly spoke to his punters about mortgages, promotions, savings plans… this was not just the stuff of life, this was the stuff of economics.  Nobody today was big on philosophy or relationships. Surely even dead people must have more of a life than that?  I was left with an image of a celestial cyber-café where the departed endlessly google their family and friends.  It cannot be right.

I cannot even begin to think about how his mediumship might be real or fake; it is the implications inherent in that world view which are a problem for me.  

I had started out today intending to avoid mediums; I ended up watching one.  I am none the wiser, although I do now have a whole winter’s supply of slightly soapy-smelling cut-price sandalwood incense sticks.  I give the last word today to Mrs Used-to.  As she waited for customers, she observed another organisation performing authentic, exotic Indian head massage.  She told me:  ‘I said to her, what are you doing it like that for?  We don’t do it that way in India.’

PS The aura photograph?  Went there, saw monkeyman in charge, ran away.


Mostly, at weekends, I like to stamp up and down the Peak District.  Today, that is not going to happen.  A mild virus has changed my blood into lemon squash, the weather is bad and we have some irritating chores to complete in the house.  A proper day hike is out of the question, but perhaps I can make something happen.

I have decided to take time out to look for a small adventure with Stuff.  I am going to visit a ‘Mind, Body and Sprit’ fair half an hour’s drive away.  It is in competition with a ‘Psychic’ fair only fifteen minutes away.  I might manage both, but I think I will start with Mind etc.  I do not know much about mediums, but at the moment, I think I would prefer to avoid them.  I imagine they must be either sleazy or very unhealthy and possibly in some kind of danger.  A psychic fair is probably not for me, right now.  Maybe another day.  I do not really know what a Mind etc fair is, and that seems like an excellent reason to go.

I do not want to go on my own, but nor do I want to invite any of my friends because I do not want them to think I have started believing in loopiness.  I find myself secretive about my new hobby; perhaps I should have chosen another activity after all, if I find it so embarrassing.  I am anxious that it will be wild and wacky, that I will be out of place, or bored with no companions.  Being a lone investigator is an isolating experience.  It is like being Philip Marlow without the hat.  ‘It was a tough psychic fair, off a dirty junction, through a mean one way system’.  I tell myself to get a grip, I study the road map and start worrying about finding a parking place.


Expect the unexpected seems like a good motto.  Peculiar events are happening already.  That was fast.

 Instead of attending a meeting, I found myself hurrying 60 miles North to rescue Child Number Two from a nasty mess of his own making.  Fortunately, the sensible footwear and explorer’s equipment were all prepared.  I used my new satnav for the first time, and felt oddly comforted by its calm presence.  Listening to ‘Perform a u-turn as soon as possible’ is so much more positive than screeching ‘My God!  I’m on my way to Ouagadougou!’ 

From number Two’s fragrant bower, while attempting to salvage a way forward through the train wreck of youth, I phoned the friend who had agreed to act as Chief Moral Support.  I wanted to warn her I would be missing the meeting, because she was only going for my sake.  Surprisingly, she had forgotten the arrangement.  She had, on a whim, driven 60 miles South, to visit her Youngest.

She does make that trip frequently, but I would still call it an odd coincidence, that unexpectedly, we should both travel sixty miles in opposite directions at the same time.  I mulled it over, as I counted the financial cost of rescuing prodigal sons.  Had I already started experiencing mysterious effects?  There are theories about coincidence.  I fished out a book I remembered half reading years ago, and I flicked through it again.  ‘The Roots of Coincidence’, by Arthur Koestler.  This is what I gleaned from it, but I am afraid it is certainly far less than was there:

Looking at the world of atoms gives us a very different view from our usual, day to day, don’t-forget-the-potatoes practical perspective.  Seemingly solid objects are really made from tiny particles moving around in a void.  Matter is not matter.  Therefore, perhaps we should not be surprised if we notice something odd. 

We have all been comfortable for the last couple of hundred years living with a belief that things happen because of cause and effect.  Someone pushes you: you fall over.  However, cause and effect is really just another theory – it explains the world as we see it right now, but an extra observation or a bit
more information could disprove it any minute, and upset the whole apple cart.  Consider the attitude of our ancestors, ‘… of course the sun moves around the Earth, you can see it every day.  It’s only common sense’. 

Some people have concluded that there is another reason why events might happen, which is not cause and effect.   Sometimes, events and objects get pulled together because they are alike in some way.  Koestler said this idea had been around some time and it had had a couple of different labels over time. I liked the sound of ‘synchronicity’, so I have adopted that.  Synchronicity may explain some of the events we perceive as paranormal, and it certainly explains a coincidence like two women who had agreed to meet, suddenly both driving away symmetrically, to be with their respective offspring. 



Today is the day, then.  With no idea what to expect, or who I will encounter, I am going to a meeting of what seems to be the nearest local group.  The most altruistic friend in the world has agreed to come along for moral support.  It all starts here: the big adventure which might zoom off in any direction.  It is the first day of a new life.  I do not feel any different.  Still, I am hardly likely to give up the day job.  Or the family.  Or the domestic drudgery.  Or flopping around on the sofa with a fleecy throw and an Aero.  I wonder what paranormal investigators wear?  Eye liner seems important.  I think I will settle for sensible footwear.  Convinced I will get lost, I put a road map, an apple and a water bottle in the car.  It is a wicked world out there, and I am only familiar with the bits of it which have kept me busy for the last quarter of a century.  The rest of it is the abode of dragons.  Oh well, here we come.


Nobody is ever too old or too daft to learn something new.

I am going to learn how to be a paranormal investigator.  I could have chosen an art class, I could have gone in for Oriental cookery, I could have joined a book club, or taken up boxing.  In fact, I could have been a contender.  I’ve got the legs for shorts.  None of those available activities appeal.  I want to hear ghost stories, and I want to go to haunted places with other people who like ghost stories.  I want to ferret out secret knowledge, arcane mysteries…I might wear a long black coat.  There is Stuff to find out about.  I am not yet sure exactly what Stuff is, but I will know it when I find it.  There are adventures to be had, and I am the woman to have them.

I have not actively sought out anything other worldly since about 40 years ago, when we all had a craze for secretly holding forbidden séances in our bedrooms.  We had a pack of cards with letters on.  It was part of a very dull educational game, so subverting it to the Dark Side added a delicious frisson.  We would place the cards in a circle on whatever surface we could clear of juvenile debris, then sit solemnly asking if anyone was there.  Even then, I think I knew one of the other children was pushing that glass.  Either that or spirits are poor spellers.  We also played an odd game called ‘levitation’ in the girls’ toilets at school.  One of us lay down on the tiles while the rest chanted ‘she looks pale, she looks ill, she looks dead’.  At the end of the game, the victim was supposed to float to the ceiling.  Everyone knew somebody who knew somebody who had seen it work.  Happy days.

So that is my previous experience of poking about in the paranormal.  It does not amount to much.  I have felt, sometimes, though, that the paranormal has poked me.  Poked quite hard, on a couple of occasions.  I have also soaked up dozens of wonderful stories from all sources; many of them clearly nonsense, but no less wonderful for it.  I am filled up with nonsense, curiosity and hope, engine running and raring to go, Stuff detector primed.

Starting a hobby as a paranormal investigator is not simple.  I could not find an evening class.  There were no adverts in the library (‘Thinking of exploring the unknown? Psi study group meets every third Tuesday.  Tea and shortbread.  Bring your own Ouija board’).  Also, most people I know, including my nearest and dearest, hoot with derision at the slightest hint of illogical Stuff.  Friends and family just do not want to join in.  It looks like I will be flying solo for this venture.  The good news is, I have recently bought a PC of my very own.  I no longer have to queue up for a turn on the internet, or bribe teenagers to let me catch up with my paperwork for half an hour.  It has got a password, it is all private and it is all mine.  I have got a PC of my own and an independent income.  I can do anything I like, and I like to Google.  There are whole communities out there, I am sure, waiting to welcome newcomers and share Stuff.  A quick search is all it will take.