Spooky Stuff

Last night I climbed into bed relaxed and comfortable with my cat Nadia beside me.  I switched off the lamp and moments later I heard the sounds of a cat moving around the house.  It’s very quiet where I live, bordered by fields so every sound is amplified.  I heard a cat jump down from a height and then the gentle clicking of claws on the wooden floor.  I was confused as I could feel Nadia snuggled up against my legs.  Convinced a stray cat must have sneaked into the house I quickly switched the light back on.  There was no-one there.  I switched the light off again and the noises continued.  It was pretty spooky.

This was not the first time I’d heard unexplained cat sounds since my loyal ginger cat, Sputnik, died four years ago.  I’ve sometimes heard a cat wailing. At first I put it down to missing him but now I’m not so sure.  Perhaps he’s still around me.  It would be nice to think so.

One of my friends had an uncanny experience after her beloved dog died.  A few days after his death she was visiting a relative in hospital.  As she walked the length of the ward she was stopped by an old lady, one of the patients.  “What a lovely spaniel you’ve got there, dear,” she said to my friend.  “Fancy the nurses letting you bring a dog to visit!”  My friend’s deceased dog had, in fact, been a spaniel.  The old lady could describe the brown and white dog following along behind. It’s hard to find a rational explanation for this.  The lady had never spoken to my friend or her sick relative before.  How could she know about her dog?

Acccording to a recent poll about fifty percent of people in the U.K. believe in ghosts.  In an age where secularism and science are the undisputed new religion it’s surprising that so many believe in the supernatural.  Cynics would say, it’s all in the mind, a trick of the light, a hallucination or there must be a rational explanation.  But surely everything is in the mind.  Our experience of what we name ‘reality’ is entirely subjective.  The world is perceived and interpreted by our mind, there is no other way.  So if we think it’s ‘real’ then it is ‘real’.

The word “ghost” in English tends to refer to the soul or spirit of a deceased person or animal that can appear to the living.  In A Natural History of Ghosts, Roger Clarke discusses nine varieties of ghosts identified by Peter Underwood, who has studied ghost stories for decades. Underwood’s classification of ghosts includes elementals, poltergeists, historical ghosts, mental imprint manifestations, death-survival ghosts, apparitions, time slips, ghosts of the living, and haunted inanimate objects.

In Asia the belief in ghosts is more widespread than in Europe.  Ghosts are seen as benevolent, healing spirits,  ancestors watching over us.  In the U.K. while some people are frightened of ghosts, many participate in ghost hunting holidays staying in supposedly haunted hotels.  The tourist industry cashes in on these spooky thrill seekers.  The medieval city of York is famous for hauntings and organised ‘ghost walks’.  When I was six years old, too young to know anything of history or the supernatural I must have seen a ghost in Clifford’s Tower.

Clifford’s Tower is a striking landmark in York built on top of a steep mound.  It is the largest remaining part of York Castle, once the centre of government for the north of England. The 11th-century timber tower on top of the earth mound was burned down in 1190, after York’s Jewish community, some 150 strong, was besieged and massacred by an anti-Semitic mob.  The tower was rebuilt and the present 13th-century stone building was used as a treasury and later as a prison.

I visited the tower with my father and grandfather, climbing the fifty five steps to the entrance and then up a twisting stone staircase to the roof.  We were on the decked walkway at the very top of the tower admiring the panoramic views of York.  I wandered off on my own, as children do, and descended a narrow spiral staircase, not the one we’d ascended.  Halfway down I discovered a furnished room bathed in a rose light with the door ajar.  A man wearing a crimson, velvet cloak trimmed with white fur was seated at a desk, his back turned to the door.  He was writing with a quill pen.  I was astonished.  With great excitement I ran back up to the roof to find my grandfather, dragging him down the stairs to see the strange man with the fancy clothes.  But everything had changed.  The door was now bolted and disused.  There was no-one there.  My grandfather dismissed my claims as childish fantasy but it was completely real to me.  It was only years later, as an adult that I recalled this incident and realised the mysterious figure must have been an apparition.

I would love to know who or what I saw that day.  Was it just a memory imprint in the fabric of time, like a psychic photograph?

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When Winston Churchill visited the White House soon after World War 2, he reported a ghostly experience.  Naked after a long soak in a hot bath with a cigar and a glass of Scotch, he was walking into the bedroom – only to encounter the ghost of Abraham Lincoln.  Churchill kept his cool and announced: “Good evening, Mr President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” The spirit smiled and vanished.
The writer Arthur Conan Doyle spoke to ghosts through mediums and Alan Turing who invented the first computer believed in telepathy.  These three men were all famous for their intelligence and yet they believed in the supernatural.

So perhaps I’m in prestigious company!  It’s good to think that there might be more to life than our humdrum material world, that there’s still a mystery to ponder.

I would love to hear your personal ghost stories.  Please leave a comment if you have  any.  And sleep tight!  It’s the living and not the dead we need to worry about!

Raining Cats and Dogs

They say the weather in Scotland is unpredictable- typically four seasons in one day but at this time of year it’s mostly the wet stuff!

 Two poems about April Showers

April showers
Are here again
And I can hear the loud thunder
Also

By Aldo Kraas

 

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Photographic image by the author

When April Showers

When April showers,
I shower with her.
Daffodils dance
As we make love
like paper into origami.
My driveway
Becomes a lovers’ lane.

By John Peter Creighton

Sweet Dreams

It was not an ordinary day.
The east wind sparked salt and I awoke
to dreams of the unicorn. My old bones
rolled the waves and the falcon’s shadow
shifted. I knew what I must do.

Down Fast Eddie I chased the Dragon’s Tail,
surfed by leafy isles, rested in deepening
pools a while, glimpsed churches, spiraling treetops,
salmon swimming through castle walls.
I passed beneath Ness Bridge unseen.

It was the end of an ordinary day. So at So Coco
the waitress wrapped sweet fancies in tissue twists
as the last customer licked cappuccino
from his lips. At The Mustard Seed the chef marinaded
for dinner. At the Victorian Market they folded
tartan as gates clanged and the clock chimed.
In Falcon Square the piper belched away his ale

and no-one
saw my passing.  No-one saw the unicorn
fall.

 

Note 1:- The Loch Ness Monster is a mythical aquatic creature reputed to dwell deep in the cold waters of Loch Ness near Inverness in Scotland.  There have been numerous sightings and photographs showing a curvaceous beast rising out of the grey waves.

Note 2:- The unicorn is Scotland’s national animal.  A statue of a unicorn is located in Falcon Square, a landmark in the centre of the city of Inverness.

 

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Photographic image created by the author

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Scotland is the land of magical rainbows.  Unfortunately this also means there’s a lot of rain, particularly on the west coast.  Scottish weather is typically ‘four seasons in one day’,  always unpredictable and a popular topic of conversation.  Warm jumpers, boots and waterproofs are essential.  Umbrellas are useless as it’s usually too windy!

Here are a couple of my favourite photographs shot through the rain splattered windscreen while I was waiting for the ferry to the Isle of Unst (one of the Shetland Islands and Britain’s most northerly point).  I love the atmospheric distortion of the images, almost like an Impressionist painting.  Hope you like them too!

 

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Original Images by the author

The Road

buckles and bends
a bandage of rain
-bows shadowing
the shore. The sea watches,
murmurs peace man
or cries life sucks!
One after the other
they come seeking;
white camper vans
celebratory as iced
party cakes sprinkled
with cycles, paddles,
canoes, fishing tackle,
picnic hampers crammed
with yummy goodies;
coachloads of pixelated
tourists, heads turning
in syncopated rhythm,
dead-lined couriers
weary in uniform
Ford Transits; tinted salesmen
swaying on hangers
in Vauxhall Astras.
The sea watches,
curious in turquoise
or flirty with plutonium frills.
Always too cold for swimming
beyond the no-man’s
land scarred with ruins
and new builds.
One after the other;
the vintage Harleys,
the butt naked
End-to Enders,
the goggling Euros,
the English salt
and vinegar families
all seeking the lights
of John o’Groats.

 

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Painting (acrylic on canvas) by the author

Some Like It Cold

In John o’Groats Marilyn is ready
for the fray, fresh lipstick, folded pink
napkins, polished counters.
And her namesake pouts from on high.

One scoop or two? She’s ample
with vanilla, frivolous with fudge
frosting when the Orkney ferry men
drop by for cones and the latest crack.

The easterly ripples the canopy stripes,
keening like the piper from the pier,
The Pentland Strait froths whirlpools
of café au lait on the rocks.

End to Enders celebrate, guzzling
champagne, taking turns taking
photographs under the signpost.
By lunchtime Marilyn’s low

on peaches and cream, high on rum
and raisin.  She pops out for a fag,
sits on her bench in the car park reading
War And Peace as Stroma disappears into haar.

Herring gulls scout for wafers at her feet.
A bus full of Germans reverses past
the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, clockwork heads
turning her way.  Mizzled tourists queue

but Marilyn is oblivious. The wind surges
and her skirts swirl like a snow flurry.
A sudden gust and she rises, bench and book
and all, up, up high into meandering skies.

 

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Note 1:- John o’Groats is a small village on the far north eastern tip of Scotland with spectacular views out to the Orkney Islands.  It’s a landmark destination for tourists, many of whom wrongly assume it’s the most northerly point of mainland Britain.  In fact, a remote spot named Dunnet Head is the most northerly point and is located about 15 miles west of John o’Groats.  ‘End to Enders’ is the phrase used to describe the many determined folk who journey like pilgrims, sometimes on foot or by bizarre means, from Land’s End (Britain’s most southerly point) to John o’Groats, a distance of 874 miles.

Note 2:- ‘Crack’ or ‘Craic’ is a northern term meaning gossip, news or chatter.

Note 3:- Stroma is a small abandoned island, part of the Orkney group.