As with childhood memories, so other memories come to mind. Here I refer to ghost stories. Years ago I had a collection of books on the subject. I would sit up in bed reading, my hair standing on end. Before going to sleep I would check whether anything was lurking in the wardrobe or under the bed !
Nobody would believe about 150 years ago that one could speak to people across the world in a matter of minutes. Nor that one could fly through the sky and reach distant lands in a few hours. Far less that man would land on the moon. Not to mention computers. Similarly, there may be many as yet undiscovered mysteries. Such as some kind of electric current that exists in the atmosphere. This ‘current’ could convey terrors, or great emotions, or particular events unexpectedly. Incidentally, here I recount a true story that took place some years ago. It’s about what a young plumber saw in a cellar in an ancient house in York, UK.
In the cellar
The owner of a very old house decided to dig deep into the foundations. Here the young plumber found himself alone in the cellar, hacking into a wall to install central heating. There were no windows. The only lighting was a lamp that he had brought with him. The first thing he heard was a sound he thought was a car horn. However, he was too deep underground and it was held too long for it to be that.
Walking through the wall
Then a man walked through the wall. There was nothing misty about him; he was as solid and normal as anyone the plumber had passed in the street. There was also a second man above him on a horse, blowing a horn. The plumber could also hear sounds of movement as they passed across the cellar. Furthermore, they were followed in irregular formation by some twenty men. He had been on a ladder as they came in and had fallen off in fright. Thus he was watching from the floor as they walked into the opposite wall. Nobody lingered, nobody took any notice of him. The whole thing was over in seconds.
Just another ghost story ?
Here two features do not tally. The first was that the men seemed to be walking in the floor, since he couldn’t see below their knees. Subsequent excavation has shown that the Via Decumana lies under the house about two feet below cellar level. The street was linked to the legionary headquarters of a Roman fort in the vicinity. The other feature was the plumber’s description of their clothes. It did not occur to him that they could be Roman soldiers. He knew from Hollywood films that these should be wearing gleaming armour and shields. These men wore no armour and the one shield he saw was flat and round. They were very small men and scruffy. Even the horse was an unkempt cart-horse. That is, these could have been soldiers of the late fourth century, when the Roman Empire was falling apart.
Shocked to the core
These were, however, not things a young plumber, with no interest in history, could possibly have known. An hour later the house owner found him. He was still sitting on the cellar floor. And was in such a state of terror he was sent home. He never went back to his job and later joined the police. Not only, he told a few people about what he had seen because he was afraid they would laugh. Until years later in a television interview. Following the discovery of the Roman road the base of a Roman column was also found.
His greatest fear had, indeed, been that one of them might turn and look at him. Only not one did. Asked if he had any reflection to make he said he had, just the one. He wished it had never happened to him.
All over the world there have been mysterious sightings. Indeed, almost every country has stories to tell. One of the most reported is the Gettysburg Battlefield in the US. This was the site of the biggest battle of the Civil War in1863. Many reports of hearing the shouts and clash of bayonets have been told. Several houses in the area which were used as field hospitals are also said to be haunted. Another strange sighting was at Versailles in France, when some tourists suddenly time-travelled to an eighteenth century garden party. To conclude, in summary, as Shakespeare wrote in ‘Hamlet’, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.