Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hearing Ghosts?

The closest I have ever come to an authentic ghostly encounter happened whilst staying in a 16th century manor house near Tintagel, Cornwall on a blustery early April night. Of grey stone and ivy covered, the old house was surrounded by tall trees that sheltered the strangely dramatic nests of vociferous rooks, whose continuous shrieks lent a rather macabre air to the atmosphere, even on the sunniest of days. Sumptuously decorated, our bedroom allowed views out over wind-swept fields, all the way to the sea.
I had caught a most devilish cold in damp and chilly Bath and carried it with me to the Cornish coast where, undeterred by fever, I had scampered up
Tintagel Castle hill and stood out on its seaside bluff conjuring to my memory long cherished passages of Arthurian legend, in which Tintagel Castle plays a decidedly seminal role. A grand experience, and one I would never regret, but pay for it I did, with high fever and chills greeting me that night. As I lay in bed, sleepless and miserable, around three in the morning I heard a most unusual and unsettling sound, almost a Poeian cliche. A persistent, thundering knocking; a booming thump-thumping that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. The Songwriter sat up, fascinated, to listen, as on and on it went, for what seemed like hours, but what was in actual fact only minutes, I’m sure. The rest of the old stone house was silent, no one stirring. No one of the living variety, at least. Anyone who had ever seen the spookiest of sixties movies,
The Haunting, would surely remember poor Julie Harris in exactly the same situation as we found ourselves now, as we listened from our four-poster in Cornwall. I suppose the normal reaction would have been to wonder if perhaps poor Julie's fate could be mine also, and I have since often wondered how I would have reacted if I had felt well, and quite my usual self. As it was, however, I
wasn’t the least bit frightened, and frankly, could not have cared less, a fact I most definitely attribute to illness rather than bravery.
I have stayed in places most ghost-worthy, where the wind howled relentlessly all night and the shadows were deep enough to hide all manner of creature. I have burrowed in bed with one eye open, half in fear, half in hope. But alas, no apparition ever ventured my way, no spirit slid under my door. However, I’m young yet, still open minded, and there’s still time. I do wonder if I’m visited again if I’ll be quite so sanguine about it as before. We will just have to wait and see.

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
" 'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door;
Only this, and nothing more.".....
from The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe