GHOSTS LONDONJust a little further North from Highgate Cemetery, in the borough of Enfield, a rather gentle ghost story comes from a lady who lives in Bush Hill Park, North London; although at her request she is referred to here only by her first name, Jean. Her story concerns some strange occurrences at her house - a large Edwardian house in Queen Anne's Grove which was built in 1913 - and is 'gentle' because, unlike the Highgate entity, its ghost is neither particularly frightening nor malign.
In fact, Jean moved into the house in 1980 with her husband and two young children - a baby girl of six months and a little boy aged two - following a family who had lived there for four years. During their tenancy the previous owners had done a certain amount of work to the house, but although the ground floor was nicely decorated, much less attention had been given to the rest of the house; in particular, to the first floor. Here, two bedrooms overlooking the rear had been roughly artexed with their walls painted over, and a small box room at the front bore rather undistinguished wallpaper, but the largest bedroom - the master bedroom - lay with stripped walls, with a yellowing ceiling that appeared to suggest that it had been left in a general state of neglect and disrepair. Jean thought this was unusual - if not somewhat uncanny - because the main bedroom would not have been expected to have been left in such a state.
But, after moving in, the house was gradually improved and eventually, the master bedroom was completely redecorated.
During this period, after having initially moved into the house, Jean's husband was kept very busy at work and sometimes did not arrive home until late in the evening. Alone in the house, apart from the children, (and by this time they were usually asleep), Jean soon discovered that it was a common occurrence to hear the sound of 'somebody' moving on the stairs; also the sound of distinct footsteps 'walking' across the first floor landing. Invariably, when she went out to look, the sounds abruptly stopped and subsequent investigation revealed no possible cause for the sounds; certainly the lack of any human agency.
In fact, these 'footsteps' occurred with increasing regularity, and although by this time she was not really afraid (there was a lack of any 'hostile atmosphere' accompanying the sounds, for example, that might have otherwise suggested that they could pose any possible threat), Jean was more intrigued to discover any explanation that could explain their causation.
When eventually, she mentioned the matter to her husband, he was less inclined to accept that there could be any 'supernatural explanation' for these persistent sounds; indeed, he pointed out that the house was old and would be prone to such noises, and apart from this, as the house was semi-detached, Jean could well have been hearing the movements of the people next door.
Such an observation, of course, was not beyond the realms of possibility, but did little to explain why the sounds always stopped abruptly when Jean went out to investigate; or indeed, why they occurred regularly in the same places with such timed persistency. But accepting this as perhaps being the only possible explanation, Jean gradually lost interest in these nocturnal footsteps; at least, she tended to ignore them accepting that the whole thing had some logical explanation and should not be allowed to interfere with her normal family life. Indeed, things eventually 'returned to normal' in the household ... the strange sounds not abating but being accepted as a 'part of everyday life'.
Then, one day in 1987, Jean was surprised at the door by a visit from a pleasant old lady who explained that, when young, she had been a frequent visitor to the house. She explained that she used to visit some elderly relatives who lived there, and went on to say that she was only visiting the area that day and was anxious to once again see the house. In fact, it transpired that she knew the place well, and could even identify many features in the garden where she recalled she'd spent many happy hours playing as a child.
Her curiosity aroused, Jean asked this lady about some of the house's history, and was informed that, at the time, one of her relatives had become ill there - eventually becoming bedridden - and it had been necessary to employ a live-in nurse to look after an old lady who needed constant care and attention; the room in which she'd been confined being the master bedroom. But as this old lady was very demanding, she needed her nurse constantly, and her poor companion would frequently be called from her bed to attend her.
Following this encounter, Jean told the author ... "I then understood that these were the movements that I had heard; the companion coming to and fro along the landing attending the old lady."
"Our neighbour opposite confirms that elderly people did occupy the house until it was brought by our predecessors. Maybe they felt stronger manifestations of whatever was happening; maybe that's why they hadn't decorated the master bedroom; perhaps that's why they only stayed in the house for four years ..."
Such an observation could indeed be true. Many old houses are capable of harbouring or 'storing' psychic energy which, in turn, is capable of 'trapping' poignant sounds or emotions of the living (even images of the living) and transmitting these far into the future; at least, as long as a specific environment remains intact.
This is not to imply, of course, that all forms of psychic activity are just 'dead' or unintelligent mental impressions or vibrations that have somehow been 'caught' in the atmosphere to be picked up at some future dates by unsuspecting people (though when this commonly happens, such transmissions - in the form of sound, visual effects or feelings - are invariably interpreted as 'ghosts'); but I would venture to suggest, without expounding on other existent forms of psychic activity, that certainly a large proportion of alleged ghostly phenomena can be safely placed under such a category.
© David Farrant