Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

Samlesbury Hall is a 14th Century manor house with the usual collection of ghosts
Samlesbury Hall
and other 'Goings-on'. I worked there for twenty five years and never saw anything but the story of White Ladies persisted.
White Lady

Among the many volunteers we had working there, mostly women, I remember Anne, a very down to earth person who once told me she 'saw' people on the back, servants staircase which was away from the public areas of the Hall. I was intrigued and talked to her about it.

Anne didn't see White Ladies or ghostly figures, just servants going about their business. When I asked her to explain she said. "I've 'seen' people all my life, that's the only word I can use because there isn't a word for what I experience. It isn't seeing in the way I can see you although in many cases I can describe the person in fair detail. Please don't tell the others, they'll think I'm potty!" I didn't say anything to anyone but it prompted me to write the following:

Robert English had stopped talking about “Seeing”.
Until he was about ten years old he had tried, unsuccessfully, to explain what he meant. The big problem was that the only word he could use was “seeing”. There simply wasn’t a word to describe what he experienced.

When he tried to tell his parents about the people he had “seen” they simply told him to stop being silly. He even once heard them talking about seeing a doctor about his hallucinations. That put an end to “seeing” as far as others were concerned. Now, here he was, trying to explain things to a psychiatrist.

This is a transcript of the conversations they had .

Robert, I am sure you know that your GP suggested you see me in order to alleviate the severe stress and depression you have been suffering from ever since the ‘Incident”. You say you have been seeing things since you were very young. Can you remember when it started?
I can never remember at time when it didn’t happen. My earliest memories include some of the people I “saw”.
You said your parents tried to stop you talking about “seeing”. How did that make you feel?
At first I think frustration was the worst thing. I simply couldn’t understand why they didn’t see them as well. Eventually they punished me if I talked about it and when I overheard them talking about me having to see a doctor, I stopped telling anyone what I saw.
They say they punished you. How did they punish you?
Oh! They weren’t hard parents. It was just depriving me of treats and things like that.
When did you discover that other people didn’t have your ability to “see” the people you could see?
I think I was quite young. As a kid the last thing you want to be is different, and when the others started saying I was a crackpot or weird, I realised that I would have to keep it to myself.
Have you ever tried to explain why you mean by “seeing” ?
Not since I tried telling my parents when I was very small. The problem is language and vocabulary. There aren’t words I can use to explain what I experience.
Will you try to explain to me what it’s is you see?
I will try but you will have to be patient because, as I say, the words simply aren’t there to make it easy. Even as we sit here in this small room there are people around us and the only word I can use is “see”. Obviously, it isn’t like real seeing - - - it’s so difficult to put into words. I don’t blame them but I think my parents getting angry with me when I was young makes it even more difficult to explain.
I’m not going to get angry, I really would like to try to understand. Let’s take a step
at a time and don’t worry about the words, use them as you like and we’ll sort it as we go along.
This last few weeks I have had to think about it long and hard and the best I can do is to compare it to what everybody calls “The mind’s eye”. If I ask you to think about someone in your office you can probably bring a picture into your mind. If it is someone you know very well it will be a clear, sharp picture but if I ask you to think of the man you bought your newspaper from last week, you will probably remember him but it will be more like an outline or a very sketchy image. Am I making any sense?
Yes, I get the idea but it sounds as though you have a great many people round you, people that you have never met and aren’t lodged somewhere in your memory. Try to tell me how that works.
They aren’t all there all the time and some of them are a bit vague - almost like transparent shadows. In my mind I think of them as being near or far. I don’t mean in distance or years but it’s just that some of them are clearer than others, I don’t know why.
Again, if I can go back to your mind’s eye, all the people you remember aren’t there all the time but even if you don’t try to remember them, don’t they sometimes pop up without you trying?
I’m not sure. I would need to think about that. I suppose memories do pop into our minds and I suppose if they do, they must include memories of people. But the people you see seem to come from all over and even from different ages. What’s that about?
I simply don’t know but they often seem to be related to the place I am at the time. Do you know if this an old hospital? Because there seems to be a very mixed bunch here. There’s what look like an old fashioned soldier - very scruffy and somebody with in a bloodstained white coat. In the middle there’s a fairly clear man in what I think is an air force uniform. I think he must be training because he only has half a wing on his chest with a letter ‘O’. Perhaps he’s a trainee pilot officer and will get the second part of his wings when he completes his training.
Could it not be that these people you “See” are based on memories or even your imagination?
They can’t be. I have never seen an old fashioned soldier but there he is. I think if I had imagined one I would have put him in a red uniform but this chap’s in a blue uniform with a sort of red lining. He has something like a pirates hat. I would also have imagined him as being very smart but this one is very scruffy. His white leggings are covered in muck and his jacket is anything but tidy.
Do you ever interact with the people you see?
How do you mean?
Do they ever speak to you or do you speak to them?
Oh no, it’s not like that. It’s more like watching a silent film - or at least it was until this thing happened. That was really frightening.
I’m sure it was and we’ll come on to that in a minute but you must have read about ghosts, is that what these people are?
I suppose they could be but people always seem to be scared by ghosts and until this thing happened, I have never been scared.
Could you describe someone you can see?
Yes, there’s a nurse over there. Not a lot different to one you might see around here but I think she is from much earlier. She is very stiff and starchy and her skirt almost touches the floor..
Let’s get onto this thing that happened which caused your breakdown. Tell me how it started
The first thing was, he seemed to be watching me. Normally they are just there, almost as though they are at the other side of a two way mirror but he seemed to be getting through the screen and watching me.
Did that worry you?
No, I don’t think it worried me, at least not at first but then he started appearing in odd places.
What do you mean by that?
Well, normally there is some sort of pattern. If I am near a hospital like this I expect to see nurses and patients. Or at a station there are porters and passengers but he appeared in all sorts of places and he sort of stood out.
Try to explain what you mean
One time it was in the park and there were old fashioned nannies with prams and normal looking kids and to see a Japanese soldier just didn’t fit.
Did you recognise him as a Japanese soldier?
Yes, I suppose we have all seen war films and that’s what he looked like. He wasn’t small - quite big in fact and he wore that hat I had seen in
Jap Soldier
those war films and the Samurai sword they all used to wear.
Have you any connection with Japanese or that war?
My Grandfather died as a Japanese prisoner of war. The story from survivors was that he had escaped execution by running into the jungle where he must have died. Of course, I never knew him but the family say I am very much like him.
So there couldn’t have been any souvenirs from the war, like swords?
No, he was posted out to Singapore, was taken prisoner and that’s the last the family heard of him.
Tell me some more about this Japanese soldier you “saw”
I started to see him more and more and he became quite frightening. He always seemed to be following me with his eyes and he kept partially drawing his sword. You know what it’s like when you start to become obsessed with something, you can’t get it out of your mind. I saw him outside the house, sitting on the bus behind me, he was even in the cafe where I had my lunch. And he became stronger - I mean he was clearer and sharper than any of the others.
So talk about the day it happened
I had gone for a walk in the park and the park seemed to change. It was hot and the trees and bushes looked different. Suddenly it was as though I
was in a giant bubble. Inside the bubble it was jungle but I could see the park and all the normal things outside. I found myself on my knees and my hands were tied behind my back. The Japanese soldier was shouting at me but I couldn’t
Jap Soldier 2
understand what he was saying. There were men wearing rags standing around and then he drew his sword and raised it above his head. I knew he was going to chop my head off and I was terrified. I heard him shout something in Japanese and as the sword started to come down I threw myself sideways and crashed into his legs. I felt a blow on the side of my head and everything went black.
I started to feel things and felt sure I was either dying or even dead but when I opened my eyes I was lying on the grass and I could see someone near me who was covered in blood. There were lots of screams and people were trying to sit me up. When I sat up I could see that the man covered in blood was sort of Japanese looking but I couldn’t be sure he was the man who had stood over me. Thinking about it afterwards, I guess that as he fell on his sword he caught me on the head with the sword hilt.
The ambulance came and police started asking me questions. I was very shocked and didn’t really know what was real and what wasn’t. I found myself telling them about the Japanese soldier but they must have thought I was rambling.
Tell me about what happened after that
I was taken to hospital so I had time to think about what I would say when the police questioned me. I was in a dreadful state and they said I was suffering from severe shock. I decided I would say I just didn’t know what had happened, I hadn’t seen anyone and could only think I had been attacked from behind and couldn’t imagine why anyone would attack me. As I had been unconscious when the ambulance arrived, they assumed that we had both been attacked and I had been the lucky one..
The police were very good and very sympathetic. They questioned me for a long time but I just avoided the “seeing” thing and stuck to my plea of ignorance..
Have you been able to make sense of what happened?
Naturally, I have thought of nothing else. I can only think that the soldier crossed over into my world somehow. I begin to think it must be to do with my grandfather in the prisoner of war camp but that really didn’t help.
At the inquest it was decided that an unknown Japanese man had been killed by persons unknown and that the same person or persons were responsible for the attack on me. They still haven’t found out who the Japanese man was but they seem to think he was some sort of illegal immigrant
Whilst I don’t understand this business of “seeing” - it is quite outside anything I have ever heard of before - I cannot find any signs of mental illness but, obviously, you have gone through a very traumatic experience. I will prescribe some drugs for you which might help you to get over the shock. I will also leave you my address and telephone number and if there is anything else I can do, please get in touch.

Some months later, Robert wrote to the psychiatrist as follows.

Seeing Letter

Peter Openshaw’s hand shook as he read the letter.
That morning, before he had opened his mail, he had read the news item which told of the body of Robert English being found in Carrington Park. He had been beheaded and his hands were bound behind his back. The police had little to go on as there appeared to be no motive, there were no witnesses and no weapon had been found.

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