Ghost story

I saw a ghost once.

This might sound odd coming, as it does, from a devout sceptic (or a terrible sceptic, as a close friend recently put it—as if being sceptical was something to be ashamed of). I usually have no time for mumbo-jumbo such as ghosts, spirits, the afterlife, homeopathy, wind power or papal infallibility; but, on this occasion, I saw it with my own eyes: a 100%, real-death ghost! It startled the crap out of me.

I had known about the ghost since I was a kid. The White Lady, they call her. She haunts the ancient humpback bridge over the stream which formed the picturesque Dibbinsdale valley, close to where I grew up. Local legend has it that, many years ago, a novice nun had a tragic love affair with a monk from a nearby monastery. She ended up drowning herself in the stream. People say, if you pass through Dibbinsdale on a dark, winter's night, you can see her ghost standing on the bridge. Pure nonsense, of course—until you actually see it.

I was seventeen years old when I saw the ghost. It was December 1982, and I had just passed my driving test. This meant I got to give Carolyn a lift in my dad's old Triumph to a local church where she had recently become a bell-ringer. Don't ask me why Carolyn had suddenly decided to take up bell-ringing—it's just the sort of thing she does—but I was glad she had, because I got to spend an hour watching her swing around on the end of a rope, and… well, unlike Carolyn, why don't I leave the rest to the imagination?

Anyway, our route home from the church took us through Dibbinsdale. Even without the ghost, it's a spooky place to drive through after dark, especially in December: the leafless trees cast eery shadows in the beams of your car's headlights. Not that I was worrying about shadows, you understand; I was wondering how it would look if a committed atheist were suddenly to take up bell-ringing.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, I rounded the sharp right-hand bend, then swung hard-left over the bridge. And then I saw her: the White Lady began to materialise directly in front of me. I think I might have gasped (not for the first time that evening), but that was all I had time to do before my car ploughed through the still-not-quite-corporeal form and headed up the other side of the valley.

"Did you see that?" I asked, trying to hide my alarm.

"Did I see what?" asked Carolyn.

"The ghost!"

"Don't be silly, Richard!"

And then I realised what I had really seen. Fortunately, it wasn't too late to save face:

"…Yeah, but you can see where the ghost story comes from: a dark, winter night; the cold air sinks to the bottom of the valley, turning the moisture in the air above the stream to mist; the beam from your headlights shoots into the air as you cross the humpback bridge and suddenly illuminates the mist—is it any wonder people think they've seen a ghost?"

"Only if they're totally stupid, though."

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.

One comment

  1. The exact same thing happened to my friend, come around the bend and drove through her, she told me the story exactly as you've told it here to me years ago

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