Ghosts. Lots of ghosts. Shimmying, haunting, wailing, guiding, gliding, reclining and smiling. Ghosts are with us in our everyday life. Present in spooky ale-houses and far-off quarries, everywhere from student accommodation to local police stations, we are swarming with spirits of a far less innocent nature than absinthe. If we but knew their guises any one of us could have coined Haley Joel Osmont’s memorable mantra, “I see dead people…all the time”. Or at least this is what some would have us believe.
Nottingham is a self-styled ‘city of caves’. I saw that today on the front of a local newspaper and have been assured of its integrity. Here we thrive on ancient myths and ruins, where the ethereal post-grave fingers of England’s bloody past tug at our clothing all too frequently. Yes, there are Haunted Trails for chubby tourists, yes, there are really nice looking books on the subject, but what we are looking for are the raw realities. Do ghosts exist? Do they affect us? Are they bad? How should we attempt to deal with them?
With a soggy notebook and Romanian cigarettes, myself and Mr. Vlad Wha’gwan ventured into every dark corner of the city, determined to smoke out the truth wherever it lay. Taking accounts from local residents, mechanics, barmen, police, and Americans, we pieced together a guide to ghostliness for all you confused cat dudes out there.
I should say at this point that myself and Vlad have no prior knowledge of the subject, merely wilful curiosity and a day to kill. Our first stop was Forster street NG7, home to the hulkingly spideresque frame of arguably Radford’s creepiest building. The scaffolding had rotted to the point of dripping, while broken glass scraped underfoot. A cacophony of menacing screeches, bumps, rattles and whines gave ‘the black flamingo’ its own aura of death and decay. I asked Mrs. Takonda, a neighbour, for the words behind the truth.
Me: Hello, sorry to trouble you, we’re working on a ghost report for a top magazine. Do you have a few moments?
Me: How long have you lived opposite the ‘black flamingo’?
Her: (pleasantly) eh?
Me: How long have you lived here?
Her: Two years
Me: Have you ever seen a ghost?
Her: (gigging) no
Me: Do you believe in them?
Me: If they exist are they the souls of dead people?
Her: I think they are more to do with witch craft and invocation of spirits
Me: Do they mean us harm?
Her: Normally, they are here for a reason. It can be good or bad
Me: So there aren’t many?
Me: Who can invoke and uninvoke them?
Her: I don’t know, the lady at 141 might
But sadly, she wasn’t in. We did however see our friend Patrick being slapped and robbed by a sexy lady outside 143. Mrs. Takonda had been helpful, challenging the popular assumption that ghosts are dead people, but she had had no contact with the spirit world. We needed answers badly, and lunch. So it was a stroke of luck that we found a stone for two birds amongst the sandwiches in Spar, in the form of Barwell Menzes, a Persian mechanic who eats ghosts for breakfast. He told us that ghosts do exist and that they ignore you unless they are angry. He paused, before darkly muttering “he shows himself to you only to suffer”, recalling the story of his Grandpa who on the eve of his 2nd marriage was advised against it by his deceased former wife. The story was complicated by Barwell’s confusing of the word ‘Grandpa’ with ‘girlfriend’ but nonetheless it remained a compelling account.
Before we went any further it was important to remember who we were. Students on a student magazine. So we shot off round halls and outposts housing our brethren, but we were dismayed at the walls of scepticism confronting us. “There is a lot to be said about ghosts but it’s probably bullshit” suggested Jack Higgins of Cripps, adding that he was “just a normal guy”. When pressed he admitted he couldn’t be sure ghosts didn’t exist, but if he saw one he wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. Rachael Stanley of Broadgate had slightly more respect for the world of witchcraft and phenomena, open to the idea of spirits to the point that she would fear a ouija board or a séance where contact is made. Furthermore, she cites “unfinished business” as a reason for the possible existence of ghouls and spooks, hinting at a darker side to ghost culture than Casper the Friendly Ghost, for instance, would have you think. I could not find one student who could tell me they had seen an apparition, other than Vlad’s friend Bub who was very young at the time and wasn’t wearing glasses.
Enough. We’d had enough. There was one place to go and that was Canning Circus police station, surely the home of hard evidence, openness and honesty. What we found was quite shocking to anyone who has seen the X-files…
Me: Hello, we’re working on an article about the supernatural…
Fed: I’M SORRY I’M SORRY WHAT?
Me: It’s for a student paper. We were wondering if there had been any reports of strange phenomena…
Fed: WHAT? WHAT? Who told…? You want to know about what? I’m sorry what? We don’t have… I mean we don’t…
Me: Has anyone complained of ghostly harassment recently?
Fed: LOOK! We’re very busy, nothing happened, if you don’t mind, call in a week. WE’RE VERY BUSY
Me: So nothing?
Fed: GO AWAY
Clear evidence of a massive cover up at the highest level. We were convinced we were on the right track. If the police were afraid to face the issue we certainly weren’t. As we meandered off we smelt several briefcases worth of top secret files being burned. We spent a while eyeing up the castle, determined to apprehend any spirit that felt cocky enough to venture out. It was only after I had developed a mild cold that we noticed the real jackpot lay beyond the Jerusalem Inn, eight-hundred and twenty years old and home to the finest range of ales this side of Ipswich… the perfect breeding ground for things that go bump in the night.
It didn’t disappoint. All the barmen were named either Sam or Stu and between them they painted a vivid picture of the Inn’s past. Frequently bottles or glasses would fall from a great height only to land safely, perfectly as if clutched by an unseen hand at the last second before breaking. Stu denied that this had made clumsiness acceptable “I’ve never dropped anything in my life, not even acid”. Black shadows would pass over the fireplace or past a window, but never lingering long enough for certainty. Yet upstairs was the pulsating nucleus that powered the ghastly ghouls.
In the 1600’s a sailor from far off lands had bought the cursed galleon to its resting place. It is a ragged model ship encased in glass, not so much for its safety, but that of others who might dare touch it. The last three hands to caress its hide met with untimely and inexplicable deaths, no subsequent attempts to repair or clean the galleon have taken place. It is thought to be protected by a vengeful Dark Angel, invoked for the purpose and completely separate from the Sky One series of the same name.
The Jerusalem brings pilgrims from all over the globe and we encountered some merry yanks, downing Rucking Moles in blissful ignorance of the dark goings-on. They were surprised at our quaint superstitions at first, before Cherie admitted a light had once turned itself off in her house for literally no reason. All five accepted the existence of ghosts, thinking it merely a question of relative concentration. For instance, old people’s homes and Los Angeles have many ghosts according to Samson, but Iowa has very few. He went on to suggest that they are sociable and “experiment with future technology” so that they might be able to talk to us.
So most people are open to the idea, we just need less police cover ups and Haunted Trails. Perhaps Ghost Studies should be added to our national curriculum to help our understanding in a practical way. Ghosts may exist, be they dark clouds, witch doctors, dead people or metaphors. Few fear them, indeed they trail ninth in a list of terrifying monsters (1-Dracula 2-Cyclops 3-Werewolf etc.). Many people even believe they are helpful and friendly. So don’t quiver or shiver, but if you find yourself in a pub with a model ship that says it’s cursed, then keep your grubby lil’ fingertips on a Romanian cigarette and talk about your exam results.
Kieron Monks Kaufman