Magazine article The Spectator

Have You Heard a Convincing Ghost Story?

Magazine article The Spectator

Have You Heard a Convincing Ghost Story?

Article excerpt

A Spectator survey

Anthony Horowitz


I have never really believed in ghosts, but I actually had a personal experience which I still find hard to explain. I was walking beside the river Kwai in Thailand with my wife. We had been told that a steam train travelled across the famous bridge once a week as a memorial to the POWs who had died -- and we were keen to photograph it.

So we were shocked when, quite suddenly, we heard it approaching, an hour earlier than had been expected. We both heard it quite clearly; the heavy panting of the locomotive, the rattle of the wheels. Very quickly, we ran up the slope, annoyed with ourselves. The engine got closer and closer.

But when we reached the top, there was no train there. In fact, we were told, the train wasn't coming at all that day. The track was empty. I have never seen a ghost but I am quite convinced that we heard one, and neither of us have ever forgotten it.

Prue Leith

Cook and TV presenter

My first husband, the writer Rayne Kruger, was friendly with Lord Armstrong, who owned Bamburgh Castle. In the 1950s, when Rayne was young and struggling, Lord Armstrong would lend him the castle keep as a bolthole in which to get on with his writing. He and his then wife had a cat called Gato. Every night when they sat in the sitting room, Northumbrian wind howling outside and waves crashing below, the cat, sleeping in front of the fire, would suddenly wake. At exactly the same time each evening, he'd stand up, back arched, hair on end, and his eyes would follow what Rayne swore must have been a cat-ghost, slowly walking round three sides of the room and then vanishing through the wall. It had to be a cat-ghost, he said, because Gato's eyes followed his progress at skirting level, not human level. And only Gato could see him.

Tom Holland


This time last year, in a review for The Spectator of two books on extraterrestrial life, I mentioned how, as a child, the highlight of the summer holidays was when my cousin Simon came to stay. Our great shared passion was mysteries: not only flying saucers, but everything from the Loch Ness Monster to Atlantis as well. Naturally, ghosts figured high on the list of our obsessions. We knew all the classic tales of hauntings: from a spectre in chains reported by Pliny the Younger to have roamed a house in Athens, to Borley Rectory. Nothing, though, gave us quite as delicious a shudder of dread as a photograph of an Ipswich man sitting in a car, taken back in 1951 by his wife after a visit to her mother's grave -- for there, sitting in the back seat, was her mother. Every night, when we were supposed to be asleep, Simon and I would dare each other to look at it by torchlight; every night, we would manage at best a couple of seconds before dropping the book with a scream. Even now -- possessed as I am of a much better understanding of how cameras in the 1950s might sometimes produce accidental double-exposures -- I find that the photograph (reproduced here) can still give me the occasional shiver.

Nicky Haslam

Interior designer

It was the mid-afternoon of a summer in Venice in the late 1950s. The artist Michael Wishart and I had just returned from the lido and were lying on our beds, reading, in a first-floor room in the Gritti hotel.

Something -- a change in atmosphere maybe -- made us both look up, and we saw a figure, seemingly a man wearing a dark cloak-like garment and a large hat, move silently, unhurriedly, from the door, past the end of our beds, and through the wall with a window giving on to a narrow canal. With one voice we said: 'Someone's (not "something", note) just walked through the room', and going to the window, we saw the masonry foundations of a bridge from precisely the spot the figure had disappeared into, across to the building opposite. …

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