Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A ghostly presence, at last!

CobwebTo some people, I suppose it's an appropriate time of year for a novel ghostly experience. For me, I'm interested in anything weird any time.

The other day I was walking along an alleyway, in daylight. I was walking slowly, staring at the ground looking for cobwebs, which can look spectacular in autumn. Regular readers will be aware of my interest in wildlife, which means I'm often looking around while walking, hoping to catch a glimpse of a bird, insect or unusual plant. Anyway, I suddenly had a strong feeling that there was someone behind me. I felt distinctly uncomfortable as the person was making no attempt to pass me, even though there was enough room. I carried on until the end of the alleyway and then looked back. There was no one there! What is more, I felt the 'presence' right up until I turned round, so no one could have run away in time for me not to see them.

Thinking back, I realised I never actually saw or heard anything! I just 'felt' that there was 'someone' walking right behind me. Though it was quiet, I would not necessarily have heard anyone behind me as some people walk almost silently. Had another person had my experience they may well have concluded that they had just been followed by an invisible ghost!

So why did I think there was someone there? I believe there were various contributing factors. Firstly, it was an alleyway which can make pedestrians feel uncomfortable with its lack of 'escape routes' (in case of problems) and restricted visibility in most directions. Secondly, I was walking slowly, which may have caused someone behind to become impatient. Thirdly, I was staring at the ground, which some people might regard as 'odd' behaviour. These last two factors could have caused me to feel embarrassment. Put those factors together and they could have made me feel distinctly uncomfortable, though I don't remember feeling like that consciously.

While these factors may contribute to being uncomfortable with the POSSIBILITY of there being someone behind me, they don't mean that I will necessarily SENSE someone there when they aren't. It's possible that I heard some slight noise, subliminally, that started off the idea that I was being followed down the alley. Once the idea got into my consciousness, it may have been sustained by the various 'uncomfortable' factors mentioned before. This may be how some paranormal witnesses get a sense of ghostly presence - a combination of 'uncomfortable' factors and an unexplained sound or other sensory stimulus.

I have now experienced several of the major natural causes of many paranormal reports. I often notice misperception, for instance. I have also had hypnagogic experiences and visual spatial distortions typical of OBEs. All of these experiences have been highly illuminating in understanding how many weird experiences can have xenonormal causes. One common paranormal experience that has eluded me until now is sensing an invisible presence. Perhaps, now I've had one, I'll get them regularly! Why is that not a comforting thought? Happy Samhain!


  1. Nice observation!

    My niggle would be with the idea of an 'unconscious feeling'. What defines a feeling, of course, is that it just *is*. You can feel angry -- say -- even though there's no justifiable reason for you to feel that way. Feelings have no true or false, right or wrong. They are what they seem -- because that's how we define a feeling in the first place.

    So if someone says, 'I felt x, but I wasn't conscious of it,' I can't recognise that as an experience I've ever had -- and I suspect it's *not* an experience anyone can ever have. Because it's a rationalisation! It's the replacement of what was actually felt with an idea or concept. It's a sneaky shift away from feelings into thoughts.

    On the other hand, this also puts 'ghostly presences' on the same footing. They're just feelings! There's no true or false about them. Just because a person feels a 'ghost' is there, they can also recognise it doesn't mean there actually is one.

    Another question: do we feel 'a sense of presence' when someone is actually with us, beyond our sense of whatever that person happens to be saying or doing? I'm sceptical! ;-)

  2. To clarify: I was consciously thinking, there's someone behind me, I hope they don't think I'm a bit strange because I'm looking at the ground. I suppose the feeling was a sort of social anxiety. I wasn't consciously worried about being followed by a stranger in an alley but it may have unconsciously contributed to the anxiety.

    We often feel things without knowing consciously why. I've sometimes felt uneasy for no obvious reason only to later find that there was a big spider nearby. I guess I'd spotted it subliminally but it hadn't registered consciously.

    Your question about feeling a sense of presence from real people is interesting and one I will try to research. I think you probably can sense the presence of someone you find attractive or threatening. I think there has to be a strong emotion involved for it to happen.