Saturday, 19 May 2012


00:00:00 Posted by Ashley Lister 9 comments

By Ashley Lister

It’s all about binary opposition, isn’t it? Light against dark. Knowledge against ignorance. Right against wrong. Good against Tory etc.

I consider myself to be a fairly rational person. Admittedly, I get a little jittery around Friday the thirteenth, but that’s about as far as my superstitious nature goes. Yet, at the start of this week, light and dark had a head-on collision in my corner of the world. And, in the battle between knowledge and ignorance, I think it was ignorance that won.

As some of you may know, I enjoy watching horror films and reading spooky novels. I adore the fictional world of the paranormal yet I tend not to subscribe to any aspect of the supernatural as genuine beliefs.

Except, that is, for Monday evening.

I’d been immersing myself in ghost stories and eerie urban myths. I was trying to prepare materials for a class I was teaching the following evening. The session was based on supposedly true ghost stories. To help with my research Tracy shared a true story she’d heard:

This couple were driving down a quiet country lane late at night. A white car pulled alongside them, indicating to turn right at an upcoming junction. The couple passed the white car without incident but the wife noticed a red car speeding up behind them. The wife of the couple saw the red car smash into the white car.

The husband, watching the road ahead, only heard the horrific sounds of impact.

The wife saw the two vehicles smash together. She saw the body of a woman hurtle through one windscreen. She told her husband to turn back.

He had to find an appropriate point in the narrow country lane where it would be safe but it didn’t take more than a minute to get the car turned round and return to the scene of the accident.

But there was nothing there. There were no damaged cars. There were no damaged people. No blood. No broken glass.

The wife of this couple believes she’d witnessed a supernatural event. She believes she’d seen an event that has either happened or will happen.

As I was writing this anecdote into my class notes I started to get a chill. As I said, I don’t believe in ghosts. But that story, and a handful of similarly eerie narratives, seemed to suggest that there might be more things in heaven and hell than dreamt of in my philosophy.

It was, I suppose, the invasion of a dark belief in superstition casting shadows across the enlightenment of rationality and knowledge.

But I was genuinely scared.

Ordinarily I’ll spend long evenings writing at my PC. I can be at my most productive when the house is still and everyone is asleep. But on Monday night I didn’t dare stay up alone.

Something was making the hairs on the back of my neck stand upright. Something was causing an icy fingertip to tease against my spine. Something, I felt sure, was waiting for me in the shadows.

Obviously I didn’t encounter anything spooky. I scurried timidly off to bed and hid beneath the quilt like the inveterate coward that I am. But that frisson between the known and the unknown genuinely unsettled me for the whole of my Monday night.

I won’t prattle on here about binary oppositions and credence in cohesive narratives. Instead, I’ll ask two favours of you, dear reader:

1) If you haven’t yet voted for the Dead Good Poets to win the Radio Wave website of the year award, please go there ( and cast your vote now. Voting ends soon so there’s no time to lose.

2) If you’ve ever come across a spooky situation, like the one mentioned above or even more disconcerting, please share it in the comments box below. If I’m ever teaching another class on urban legends it would be useful to have some further resources.


Lindsay said...

I love a good ghost story. People always have ghost stories. I can't find as many decent ones in modern fiction though, I suppose they aren't fashionable anymore. One of the most chilling I've ever read as a teen was 'Snuff' by Phillip Pullman before he was famous. Genuinely creepy stuff about a group of children who sat around to watch a snuff movie. I won't ruin it for you in case you read it.

I'd love for there to be spooky happenings that are real. I am so logical though and think that most things can be explained by an overactive mind and lack of stimulation in the small hours which leads to a hightened sensitivity to things we wouldnt ordinarily notice, noises, cold areas. Normally we are so busy we just dont notice these things.

Louise Barklam and I used to love halloween and ghost stories, I used to retell ones I had read.

The weirdest things that I cannot explain have been physical things happening. A few nights after my dad died (on friday the 13th with £13 in his pocket no less, between 12-1am, the witching hour) was a sports bag he'd given me randomly fell off my wardrobe in the early hours of the morning. It was nowhere near the edge and made a massive bang which woke Clive and me with a fright. It fell with force and was nowhere near the edge, so we couldn't explain it.

The other thing was just weird. We have a really noise kettle, and it is a fast boil one. You need to physically press the button down and click it for it to come on. A friend of ours was round and we were all watching a movie when the kettle started to boil. None of us had been anywhere near the kitchen in around half an hour. It can't be knocked accidentally, it has to be pressed right down. We all looked at each other wondering what was going on, and I went in. It was switched fully on, light glowing. I checked whether it could have been placed on slightly askew when last filled and had slipped in to place, but this was impossible on the base. No explanation whatsoever. Kettle never did it again.

Not majorly creepy I know, but I dont believe in ghosts and those things were unexplainable.

Lindsay said...

After a check it's called 'Video Nasty' by Philip Pullman, not snuff.

Ashley R Lister said...

These are genuinely disconcerting stories - suggestions of evidence for spirituality that otherwise remains ignorable during the rational hours of the day.

As you say - they're not majorly creepy. But I honestly would not want to come back to read these stories when it's dark.

I shall now try and check out Philip Pulman's Video Nasty.


Louise Barklam said...

Ah yes, Spooky goings on.

I wouldn't know where to start as I have so many to tell. Lindsay knows, and despite a certain group of people from a certain TV programme my Mum's House has Spirits in Residence (I don't mean the alcoholic ones either!).

Yes, Lindsay and I love Halloween, still do and work for the display this year is already underway. ;-o

I will tell them to you when I see you Ash, just make sure that you have a good hour free!


Ashley R Lister said...


I look forward to hearing your stories.


Anonymous said...

I have never believed in ghosts but this happened around twelve years ago, and now I'm not so sure.

When my daughter was six her grandad (my husband's father) was taken into hospital. At the time we lived about one
hundred miles away from our family.

At around 10pm one evening we took a call to say that his condition was deteriorating and that it would be a good idea for
my husband to make his way to the hospital as soon as possible.

He set off immediately, leaving me at home with the children. Both my daughter and her younger brother were fast asleep.

About an hour later I called the hospital to see if there was any update only to be told that my father-in-law had passed away.
Sadly my husband didn't make it there in time.

Following the phone call, I went upstairs to check up on the children. As I went in to my daughters rooms she woke up.
I sat on the bed beside her and, stroking her hair, asked her if she was okay.

She sat up and said, 'Grandad just came to see me. He said goodbye.'

Ashley R Lister said...


That really is an unsettling story. I'm being brave reading these today.


Jo said...

See, I don't find that story unsettling. More reassuring, if anything. I can understand not believing in ghosts because you're a person who needs empirical evidence in order to believe in things - but then where do the chills come from? It's in the dark of night when something is tapping on the window that it counts :)

My husband had a ghostly encounter on the dark road up to my parents house long ago - a dark figure moved out from the wall of the old ruined castle (which is illuminated by the lights at the church corner, before the trees and dark close in again)and moved towards him - he sidestepped to get out of its way, but it kept coming, and then... went through him with a whoosh. Then he had to walk another ten minutes up the pitch dark, tree lined road to my old house - and he knocked on the door, didn't even come straight in. The first thing he said when I opened the door was, 'Is there something behind me??' He was white and clammy and totally freaked out.

Ashley R Lister said...


Your husband sounds like a hero. How the hell did he manage to walk for those further 10 minutes?

I'm genuinely in awe.