Do You Believe in Ghosts?

One question I get regularly, as a writer of stories with a paranormal slant, is whether I believe in ghosts. My children are particularly obsessed with this. Even though I think having a sixth sense would be tremendously interesting—or immensely terrifying, depending how the experience would turn out—I can’t say I have ever actually seen a ghost.

That said, I think many of us have had, at some point in time, an experience that defied a rational explanation. I don’t necessarily always need a rational explanation; sometimes things just happen. Maybe it’s just intuition kicking in at the right moment. A gut-feeling. Or maybe we do all have a sixth sense, somewhere deep down, only to stir and warn us when “something” triggers it.  I like to keep an open mind—the brain is after all a fabulous thing. Then again, it’s also very much capable of deluding us.

Many years ago, I visited a friend in Edinburgh, Scotland, and we went on a ghost-tour. Edinburgh is a really good place for things like that; Scotland is riddled with ghosts apparently, if you believe the rumors.  My friend and I signed up for a tour that went underground, through Mary King’s Close. It’s an area that used to have very narrow streets, called closes, lined by high buildings. Back in the day the poorest people would live on ground level (where all the sewage and waste was piled up), and the richest people would live on the top floor, as far away from the stench as possible.

In 1753 this area was covered up for the construction of the Royal Exchange.  The ground level of the buildings was used as foundation, and the closes were covered up. But they are still there.  It’s eery alright, being down there in the near-darkness, with a guide whispering spooky stories.

One of stories we were told was about when the plague visited Mary King’s Close in 1644. To quarantine the people living there, the close was completely sealed off, essentially leaving the people within to perish without food or water. For days the people screamed, begging to be let out, until finally the screaming subsided. It is said that a little girl, named Annie, who died of the plague, still roams the place, looking for her doll.

A story like this is enough to curdle your blood, morphing any shadow into a little girl searching for her doll. Or worse.

Did I see a ghost? No. And neither did my friend. But we were certainly creeped out.

If you dig around on the internet, there are several websites stating that this story is not true. The people were provided with food and water, even a doctor. Healthy people may have been sequestered elsewhere. I truly hope so, cause otherwise they were imprisoned in a plague-infested area. And the flees didn’t stop biting.

Whether the story is true or not, the tour was well done. And very memorable. If you like to be spooked, I would highly recommend doing a ghost tour in Edinburgh; there are plenty to choose from!

Funny thing is, I did have a “strange” experience in Edinburgh. My friend and I stayed at a large house that was completely empty, aside from the two of us. She mentioned that some people, who had stayed in this house, had eerie, frightening experiences while sleeping in one of the guest rooms. She did not tell me which room, but instead dared me to walk around the house—on my own—and see if I could identify the room. I did (highly skeptically), but to my surprise there was one room that stood out. It was identical to any of the other rooms I’d seen thus far. However, when I entered, the temperature seemed to drop several degrees. The room felt “different,” for a lack of a better word. It wasn’t like there was something evil present, or like I suddenly had unwanted company. But I remember feeling so uncomfortable that I wanted to leave the room. I didn’t finish my tour of the house. I knew this was THE ROOM, and it was.

But of course, I had been looking for this room, with heightened perception. The question is, if I had been assigned this room for the night, unaware of the stories, would I have noticed the same discomfort?

I firmly believe in science—I’d like to think everything has an explanation. It’s just that we haven’t figured out everything quite yet. And for some things, maybe we’re not supposed to either. Because when it comes down to it, we all need a little bit of mystery every now and then.