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Friday, June 5, 2009

The Ghost Rider!


Okay, I wasn’t going to blog about this today. I was going to say “Please join me later for my official launch at the Word Wenches Blog when the fabulous Anne Gracie will crack a bottle of champagne over my head and push me down the slipway to become an official wench.” But then something happened to me this morning and I am so spooked by it, paranormal fans, that I have to share this! So here’s a true story for ghost busters and ghost lovers alike!

This morning I took Monty, my black Labrador, for a walk along the Ridgeway. It’s one of our favourite walks, an ancient chalk trackway up on the Downs. It’s a route used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers and it feels very, very old. (Thought I would get a bit of history in here - after all this is "a passion for history" blog!) Anyway, you can almost feel the years of history pressing down on you as you walk along the Ridgeway. “Our” stretch of the track passes Waylands Smith, one of the most impressive and atmospheric Neolithic long barrows in the country. We didn’t meet anyone at all on our walk this morning; this isn’t unusual up there and actually I enjoy it, just me and the dog and the birdsong. We saw lots of wildlife – hares on the track and in the fields, loping off with their long stride, the black tips of their ears standing tall above the grass, and deer grazing at the side of the path looking at us curiously as we passed.

We walked back through the small wood that borders Waylands Smithy and as I was walking I thought I heard the sound of a horse’s hooves faintly on the Ridgeway track. Monty heard them too. He stopped sniffing about amongst the trees and raised his head to listen. They were very faint and then they stopped and I thought I had imagined them. I couldn’t see anyone through the trees and I carried on walking on the path that runs parallel to the main track. Then I heard them again, louder this time. A few hoof beats rang out and then stopped. It happened again. I looked round to put Monty on his lead as he gets nervous around horses. And still I couldn’t see anyone at all either in the woods or on the Ridgeway.

We carried on walking and the hoof beats continued to echo parallel to us on the path. After a couple of minutes I was so spooked by this that I decided to go out of the wood and onto the Ridgeway so that I could see this mysterious horseman or woman who was apparently travelling along beside us. We came out onto the path directly opposite Waylands Smith. Nothing. No one. Silence.

I looked at Monty. Monty looked at me. Actually, Monty looked a bit spooked too. His ears were up and he was looking around. And then we heard hoofbeats behind us on the track and turned round and there was no one there. They faded away as though someone was riding away from us and then they were gone. Monty stood watching and then swished his tail and turned away. I couldn't help but wonder what he could see. And I resisted the impulse to run all the way back to the car!

It was only as I was driving home and trying to rationalise the whole thing in my head that I remembered that Wayland, the Celtic god, was a blacksmith and the legend goes that if you leave a silver coin – and your horse – at Waylands Smithy to this day, he will re-shoe it for you!

Throughout my life I have had strage encounters with "the unexplained." There was our haunted house in Somerset and the ghost of the cavalier. There was my even more weird time travelling experience when I landed up in Tudor England and there was my dh's encounter with a Victorian maid in a hotel in Bristol! I like to think I'm a fairly rational person but I'm also quite timorous when it comes to the paranormal and frankly, these things scare me. I don't go looking for them and when they happen I try to explain them away. But now my ghost rider is right up there with my other spooky experiences. Perhaps I should be writing paranormal romance rather than Regency romance...

11 comments:

CC_Authors said...

Excellent tale of the unexplained! I have had many ghostly encounters as well. The dead DO go on. Their presence is all around us.

Alison said...

That's fascinating! I would be spooked to, but maybe you should use it as inspiration...

michellewillingham said...

Yikes! I would have been running. I think what makes it spookier is that the dog heard it too; you know it wasn't just you.

I want to hear the story of the Victorian maid! Eek.

Nicola Cornick said...

Thanks, everyone - yes, it was pretty scary! Maybe when I've calmed down I might think of a way to incorporate it into a book, Alison! And CC I think you're right. There is definitely something out there.

I thought it was interesting that Monty heard it too, Michelle. At least I know I'm not mad! When we lived in the haunted house the cat would quite often look up as though she was watching someone cross the room. That always gave me goosebumps.

As for the Victorian maid thing, well my poor dh gets a lot of stick about seeing that! He is "sceptical man" - he trained as a scientist and he hates stuff that can't be proved. But we were staying in the bridal suite of an old hotel in Bristol and he woke up in the middle of the night and saw a maid in what he called "upstairs downstairs uniform" standing at the bottom of the bed. Then she walked away - straight through the wall! In the morning we discovered there had once been a doorway there and that a maid had died in a fire at the hotel in the late Victorian period. What a room to put newly-weds in!

Kate Hardy said...

How fascinating, Nicola. Spooky, but fascinating (and you MUST use it!)

Not surprising that Monty heard it - the cottage where I grew up was haunted, and the dogs used to refuse to go into certain bits of the garden. If you threw a ball and it landed in one of those spots, they'd make big circles round it and look very sorry for themselves until you fetched it.

Amanda McCabe said...

Eeek!! Just thinking about phantom hoofbeats gives me the shivers, Nicola. I do think animals are especially sensitive to such things--when I was a kid my grandparents lived in an older, reputedly haunted house. I never saw anything odd myself, but their dachshunds had a room they would never go in (and they were usually very brave dogs, LOL!)

kate tremayne said...

Hope your nerves have calmed down by now Nicola. I would have been quaking in my boots and certainly would have run back to the car probably in the manic manner of Capt Jack Sparrow.
As writers I believe we have an extra sense and certain places definitely resonate with us. Several times I have written scenes about a place when a specific incident or character sneaks in which I thought was my imagination. When I have later checked some historical facts I have not previously read I have discovered a similar incident did acually happen.

This would make a great scene in a novel. Could it be that it was given to you for a reason!!!!

Nicola Cornick said...

It is interesting how sensitive animals seem to be to atmosphere isn't it. Intrigued by the tales of the dogs, Kate H and Amanda! I wonder what they could see or feel in those places? If only they could tell us...

Love the idea of you running for the car in the style of Jack Sparrow, Kate T! It gave me goosebumps to read about you including incidents in your writing that you later found to be real. Seriously spooky! But then it's true we writers are very tuned in, I think. There are countless historical places that resonate for me.

Jan Jones said...

Oo-er, Nicola. I have no doubt that was a real ghost of one of old Nayland's customers (mind you, he could shift a bit if he managed to shoe the horse in that short space of time).

I often feel the aura - and occasionally the weight or brush of fur - of previous cats who should be happily chasing after-life mice by now. Sometimes I think they don't realise there's a distinction between the worlds.

I reckon that horse was telling you that you have to include the incident in a novel.

Carol Townend said...

Nicola,
That is an amazing story, particularly as Monty also heard the hoofbeats. Some inexplicable things have happened to me too, but hoofbeats? Never! Not yet, anyway ;)

Nicola Cornick said...

Do tell us more, Carol! I'm always open to being spooked by other people's stories. And it makes me realise how many curious incidents do go on. Jan, I love the idea of the ghostly brush of fur!