As we saw in a brief overview of Borley Rectory, the godfather of all haunted houses, it so inspired fiction, and in turn fiction has inspired popular culture, that much of the dubious claims at Borely are not only taken as true today but are the standard when investigating any claim of a modern haunted house by so-called ghost hunters or paranormal investigators. As we’ve seen the cold spot or cold room is one of the most spurious attributes of haunted houses.
But the Society for Psychical Research fell into the trap that so many fall into in the realm of popular discourse on a topic. In their tardy investigation of Borley Rectory they showed a tendency to merely counter a claim rather than to actually objectively investigate it.
The most potent example of this is the “Nun.” They dispelled the idea that there was ever a nunnery or monkery about and then added that Miss Ethel Bull said that on the two occasions when she saw the “figure” there was nothing to indicate any religious jewelry or anything white on the figure to indicate a nun. It was merely a black draped and apparently female figure. How to explain this? The SPR never tried.
So it wasn’t a ghost of a nun, so what was it? One cannot simply dispel the popular interpretation of a reported phenomenon; one must explain it.
Interestingly, a black draped though largely amorphous figure has been reported in other hauntings. One notable incident occurred in Grimsby, South Humberside, England, to the family of Sharon Grenny. This event was even commented upon by Arthur C. Clark, eventually to find inclusion in his popular second series World of Strange Powers in 1985.
The haunting apparition was just that– a black draped, hooded figure described interestingly not as a nun but as a monk. No features were discernible. “It” first entered (always shuffling) the room of the little 6 year old daughter Stacey Grenny. She could only describe him as a man with a “dishcloth over his face” because she couldn’t see any features. She was laying in bed, and the figure shuffled in. This continued to repeat itself; each time little Stacey came into her mother’s room crying. Sharon believed Stacey was having nightmares. This was becoming so regular that Sharon moved Stacey into the back bedroom. Soon Stacey slept through the night undisturbed. Despite putting Stacey’s toys in the front bedroom, she would not go in there day or night.
The incident does not end here. This is a rare example of where another person also saw the apparition. It was Stacey’s little friend Janet. Then three weeks later Sharon saw it. It was half past 8 pm. She had just put her little boy to bed and was now laying down in her own bedroom. The lights went out and then she started hearing shuffling noises. “When the light came back on, it came walking into the bedroom. It stood at the foot of me bed. I couldn’t see no eyes or no nose or anything. Just his hood. I couldn’t see no hair.” She didn’t know what to do, but finally she bolted out and ran downstairs, even forgetting her son in the process. Downstairs she met Janet and together they returned upstairs to get her son out. Upon returning they discovered the “monk” was gone.
The similarity to the black draped “Nun” of Borley is obvious. In fact, it is the same in each reporting. The most consistently reported apparition is just such a dark “hooded spectre,” for lack of a better word.
Sir Arthur offered that since the eye is basically a camera lens that sends the image to the brain, can the reverse be true and the brain, under certain conditions, sends an inner image to the eye where it is basically then a TV screen and the person seeing the apparition is actually seeing the image sent by their own brain to the retina?
It is an interesting theory, and having studied some of the complex properties of sight I would tend to think it is possible. But how does this account for the lights going out and then the audible sounds of shuffling? How does this explain more than one person seeing it?
Though I often spurn the handle “paranormal investigator,” I have made it clear that I will investigate any mystery that catches my attention, whether it is a famous unsolved crime case or something quite obscure but holding its own Scooby Doo vibes.
Having this reputation, one of my baristas at Starbucks with whom I am well acquainted thought I should know of her experience in a semi-secluded vacation house her family had rented in South Lake Tahoe. Like Sharon Grenny, the events were experienced by the whole family. These included audible “manifestations”– the calling by name of the barista, though no one was around, and one night the appearance in her grandmother’s room of a black clad form or hooded shape like that of a person standing off from the bed. Her grandmother is a very spiritual woman, a catholic, and was so frightened she bolted up in bed and pulled the sheets over her and kept shouting at it to get out. This caused the rest of the family to rush to the bedroom to find, of course, nothing.
It was an odd place, each member having some strange encounter or feeling even before the incident with the grandmother. My barista noted that when her name would be repeatedly called, the unknown voice had a strong, southern twang to it.
The phenomena continued after the family left the rental property. The barista in question experienced the typical feelings of someone sitting on her bed, pulling at her feet and even got thrown from bed once.
Although she doesn’t like to talk about it, she finally told me that it stopped when she refused to believe in it.
Although this declaration is worth pursuing in her case, it is a fact that the experiences began in that haunted chalet in South Lake Tahoe and were experienced by the whole family. Each came away with a very weird feeling about this place in the woods.
Clarke’s theory is very interesting, and it may explain why there is a similarity in the “apparitions,” but other odd things happened to the other members of the family in my case. What can there be about a house or its location that can act upon people and affect their minds in different ways? Is it the theory of residual energy or EMR? Is it the house’s design, causing it to act like a channel or battery for energy? Is there something else?
More on this one haunting that I have personally investigated later.