I'm not one to get easily spooked and tend to dismiss stories of hauntings and ghost sightings as thrilling imaginative stories. Don't get me wrong, I love listening to them, I shudder in horror in all the right places and make sure the lights are all on when I get home - but in 'real life', I say to myself, these things don't happen. And honestly, I don't believe they do.
And yet, I do believe in a sixth sense. Have you ever gone past a house and shivered? Ever get introduced to a person and know that there was something 'not right' about them? Ever feel your neck prickle while walking alone at night and glance constantly behind, sure that someone was following? When I was younger I used to get these feelings all the time, though I dismissed it as "mother's fear" - the fear and borderline paranoia your mother instills in you to make sure you keep yourself safe. But I wonder now whether it was actually my sixth sense at work.
Some things just freak you out for no reason. The first time I remember experiencing this was when I was about seven. The house behind ours had a huge gaping hole in the wall, and was empty. For a long time, the hole in the house gave me nightmares. My seven-year-old self knew there was something wrong about it. One boring evening, a gang of us neighbourhood kids stood solemnly before the hole and, predictably, dared each other to go in an explore. Now, I was petrified, but I was curious. I volunteered - to go in second! We crept into the hole and emerged into a furnished room. Cobwebs everywhere. A journal was lying on the table,a pencil dropped over the open spine holding the ink-blotted pages open. It looked as though someone had just up and left, leaving everything behind. Spiders and ants had taken over. It was the spookiest place I'd ever been in. Mostly, though, I was relieved that my sense of uneasiness and fear everytime I looked at the house had been confirmed. Something had happened here, something urgent or bad enough to make the person leave everything behind. Murder, my childish mind whispered, not knowing exactly what that meant but knowing it was something aweful that happened in TV shows.
The next anecdote is a little more gruesome. A friend of mine had moved to a new house in a far-flung remote suburb of London. I trudged there after work in winter, when it's dark at 4pm, prepared to spend the night. It was about 7pm, pitch black, the train station deserted. I walked down cold, deserted streets trying to find her road on my London map. Suddenly, I was overcome by a feeling of horror, petrified by fear. I hurried to my friend's house, and spent all night feeling a deep unease. Three other friends and I spent the night camped out in the spare bedroom, and everyone fell asleep except me. I could hear a small group of teenagers hanging around outside. I was stiff and petrified all night, much more than merited by the sounds of half-drunk, amorous teenagers. I was never so glad to leave anywhere as I was to leave that house the next morning.
Two days later I read in the paper that a horrific rape had happened in that suburb near the train station that night - almost the same time I'd been walking through it.
I used to berate myself for my overactive imagination but after this incident, I finally learned to believe in my sixth sense. And to trust it.
Anyone else believe?