I’ve promised I’d write about the ghost walk last week so here I am. Normally I’d already have gone to bed but now I have finished at work for the moment I’m happy to burn the (not quite) midnight oil and tell you all about it.
Now let’s get something straight: I do believe in ghosts. Not the stupid stuff you get on Ghost Hunter, Ghost Whisperer and Most Haunted. That’s just hokum for entertainment. No. I believe that as far as ghostly goings on are concerned, there’s something real happening. I am not sure what. My dad has long held a theory that some places act as a kind of video recorder and certain people act as a receiver; we may actually be seeing something as a kind of coded playback of events. My dad is a pretty openminded sort of chap about the paranormal; given that for a period of time in his youth he used to dream the names of the winners in the following days’ races, I guess he’d be a bit daft to be closed minded! I do believe in the survival of the spirit after death too and having seen a number of ghostly things over the years, I’m quite happy to accept that indeed, there are more things in heaven and earth Horatio….
Back to the ghost walk.
I wasn’t convinced that taking 39 exciteable Spanish 12 year olds round this town in darkness and telling them ghost stories was the best of ideas but I do what my bosses ask of me. My colleague Dillon didn’t think it was a good idea either and since the Spanish are almost always late for everything, we got to the park where we were to meet to ghost walk guide about 20 minutes late, hoping he’d have given up and gone home. Our boss had said if that were the case we could take them all down to the bowling alley!
The poor brave man was still there and immediately voiced his concerns to us. We told him we agreed but we wouldn’t hold him responsible should anything happen. God knows who would be hauled over the coals; probably me. He took us through the park to the bridge over the ravine and when we’d got the kids to shut up, he told us of one memorable suicide there and of the ghost that still haunted it. He then told of Black Shuck, the red-eyed devil-dog that haunts East Anglia. If you see him and speak of it to anyone something terrible will happen to you, you see.
The vast crocodile of squealing and jostling children made its way down the road, stopping at various points to hear about what ghastly spectre had been seen there. I nearly got crushed against some railings when I said I could see red eyes down in the park below; a screaming mass of kids lurched to try and either see or get away. The eyes were bicycle lights, by the way.
To add a slight frisson to the proceedings, I’d brought along my set of vampire teeth which I would slip in and allow one or two students to see for a second or two before discreetly removing them and smiling back normally. It probably says a lot about me that not only do I have fake teeth but also fake blood stored at the back of the spice cupboard.
Now as well as a healthy assortment of rather dubious spectres, my town has a lot of actual history and while none of it is of any nationwide importance, it’s quite interesting in a general way. Some of the last witches to be executed died here, having been tried by a kangaroo court of superstitious locals and then hanged. We had packed into one of the Scores (narrow steep alleyways that travel from the top of the cliff where the town is to the beach below; made either by fishermen’s feet tramping for centuries or by the action fo spring water) where the ghost of one of the witches is sometimes heard calling for help. Wilde’s Score is narrow and cobbled with flints and descends so steeply it had steps cut into the rock. It’s also pretty dark and when we’d got the kids to shush, he started telling the story. At a crucial moment, a back gate jerked open and one of the students fell backwards into the yard behind, creating wild panic and screaming fit to melt earwax.
After that we took the whole group down Maltster’s Score, which twists and turns as it descends from the high street. Historically it was the Score where you were most likely to meet a violent death as robbers used to simply lurk round the corners and wait for drunken sailors to come from one of the pubs or from their boats drawn up on the beach below( the Harbour wasn’t built until well into the 19th century) and relieve them of their valuables and often their clothes and their life as well. I was last in this mad cavalcade so I could hear the screams and shouts as they made their way down in semi darkness. I was disappointed as the local council have fitted an automatic light halfway along that comes on if someone walks through.
I’m sad to say that no one saw anything remotely ghostly and nothing untoward(beyond the backgate) happened, but sufficient students were scared stiff by the whole experience for it to be a likely memory for most of them. I’m slightly concerned that it might be repeated again but I know I shall recommend that it not be done with more than 20 people. It might be more fun if people could be persuaded to be quieter when the guide is talking but that said, the poor guy did a great job of coping.
I used to work on nature reserve and it was always frustrating that except on one memorable occasion when a red squirrel started throwing twigs at my head, the wildlife NEVER put it an opportune appearance. It’s just as frustrating that phantoms are even more unlikely to appear just for the amusement of visiting students.
Where’s the Canterville Ghost when you need him???