Prediction Magazine, October 2003

When people ask me about my belief system, I always say that I am a sceptic. By which I mean: I neither believe nor disbelieve, but rather choose to reserve my judgement on most things.

Take the subject of ghosts, for instance. I’ve never seen one myself, but other people say they have. So I can’t believe in ghosts, but I can’t disbelieve either. I guess it depends on who is telling you the story and what you think they might be getting out of it.

My friend Jude, who lives in Glastonbury, quite often has ghostly experiences. She told me that one day, walking along Chilkwell Street, she was greeted by an old lady on a doorstep.

“Hello,” the old lady said, brightly.

“Hello,” said Jude, and then walked on, not thinking any more about it. It was only later that she heard that the old lady had died the day before she met her.

It’s the sheer mundaneness of the encounter that makes this particular story at least plausible. There’s no histrionics here, no ghoulish ghastliness, just a little old lady hanging around in the world a little longer than is normally expected of dead people, saying hello to any passing person with the extra-sensory equipment to notice her.

You may wonder why she was hanging around. Who knows? Maybe it was a nice day, and she didn’t feel up to the journey just yet. Maybe she liked saying hello to people. (She was probably a nice person in life, why not in death too?) Maybe Charon was on strike, and the heavenly ferry hadn’t arrived. Maybe she was just whiling away the time of day, being far too interested in the local comings and goings to let a little thing like death distract her.

Anyway, she did her small bit of polite domestic haunting for a day or two, and was on her way, never to be seen again.

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