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.

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