By Ashley Lister
I have a novel coming out next month: Doll House. It’s a horror story (similar to my previous novel, Raven and Skull) and because it deals with the uncanny, it got me thinking about the supernatural.
My experience with the supernatural has been, thankfully, very limited. I tell colleagues and students that I don’t believe in ghost or spirits during daylight hours. However, when it’s dark, and if I’ve been watching a scary film or reading an unsettling novel, I’ll turn every light in the house on if I have to go to the bathroom. Sometimes, if I really feel unnerved, I’ll beg my wife to accompany me to the quieter corners of Chez Lister. I feel confident, if we’re ever faced with something menacing, unnatural or otherworldly, she’ll know what to do.
So, when a student of mine asked if I wanted to take advantage of her ticket to a local ghost hunt, I was surprised to hear myself accept the invitation. The student wasn’t able to make the tour and she didn’t want the ticket to go to waste. I’d always wondered what went on at such events, so I accepted.
Naturally, I took my wife in case I genuinely encountered anything spooky.
The ghost tour started late at night. I’m an old man nowadays and ten o’clock at night is more like bedtime than time to head out and start walking around an old cinema that is now being used (during daylight hours) as marketplace. Nevertheless, I was excited and armed with a torch and my trusty phone, I wrapped myself up wearing thermal underwear, a woolly hat, heavy denims and steel toecap work boots.
The organisers gave everyone involved a chance to work with EVP equipment, crystals and Ouija boards. I’m not a big fan of Ouija boards (I’ve yet to read a story or watch a film where one of those things provides a happy ending), so my wife and I declined the invitation to play with one of those. I also begged off the idea of participating in a séance because I’m not comfortable holding hands with strangers in the dark.
But I was happy wandering around the site, chatting with other ghost hunters and feeling goosebumps when they told me about their personal supernatural encounters. In the silence of the deserted cinema/marketplace, I could hear the one-sided conversations going on in the séances. I could hear gasps of incredulity coming from those following the Ouija board’s planchette, and I spoke with people who claimed to have experienced inexplicable encounters.
One woman told me she had been talking to the ghost of a man who had been a regular patron at the cinema when it still was a cinema. “His hair was glossy with Brylcream,” she told me. “And he said his name was Jim.” As a writer, I thought the narrative of her story was somewhat disappointing because Jim’s existence seemed to lack a point. Did he want revenge, or closure? Or was he simply lingering in the afterlife, communing with the living, so he could advocate the lasting powers of Brylcream?
We didn’t manage to stay for the whole night.
As I said before, I’m an old man with an old man’s need for sleep. Worse, I have an old man’s bladder and, although my wife will put up with a lot of things from me, she seemed reluctant to accompany me to the gent’s toilets in the supposedly haunted cinema. However, one of the pictures I took from that evening did make me think the evening hadn’t been a waste of time.
Admittedly, a lot of my friends claim this is a dust mote, or some sort of camera flash. But, personally, I’m convinced this is the picture of a spirit. More importantly, I think this is a picture of Jim – that is, what he looks like without the ghostly façade of a human form. The reasons why I feel sure this is Jim is because, after I took the photograph, I had an irresistible urge to go and buy Brylcream. And this is more remarkable when you realise I’m bald.
Doll House is published by Caffeine Nights Publishing and will be available from June 28th2018. Treat yourself to something far scarier than dust motes.