Cases where ghosts interact with the living are uncommon – but in very rare cases they have been known to converse with witnesses.
By Richard Holland
Flicking through W H Salter’s scarce little book on Ghosts and Apparitions (1938), I found a rare case, reported to the SPR, of an apparition speaking to a witness. Interaction between ghosts and living people is unusual enough but in this case ghost and witness were reported as having a short, lucid conversation.
Unfortunately, names and location have been suppressed. But the experiencer – a caretaker at a church where the Rector had died a year previously – was personally interviewed by Salter’s wife, then Hon Research Officer of the SPR. The incident took place at 4pm in August or September 1915. The caretaker told Mrs Salter that she saw the deceased Rector:
‘sitting on the children’s seats in the middle aisle opposite the door. He was wearing a long white robe. He got up when she came in and spoke to her in a very quiet voice, and she recognized him at once. He told her he was glad she had the church work to do, and told her not to tell anyone that she had seen him. He then passed her and went out of the church turning down the path towards his grave.’
Salter adds: ‘She told no one except her daughter. She had had no similar experiences before, and told her story simply and straightforwardly, without any attempt to make it sensational.
A few years later, the late Rector was seen again in the church, by the wife of the new Rector, who had heard nothing about the earlier encounter. Her experience was noted in the Parish Book by her husband:
‘Sept 6th, 1919. At about 6pm Mrs M went down to the Church to see to the altar vases. When she entered the door she saw Canon H [the late Rector] standing between the Rectory and the Grange Pews. He was wearing a surplice and stole. She was about to speak to him when he held up his right hand as if to prevent her speaking. He then disappeared. She did not feel at all frightened.’
It is interesting that although no speech occurred on this occasion, the ghost was clearly aware of the witness’s presence. It is hard to se any explanation for such an encounter other than that of a consciousness surviving physical death, an explanation I usually shy away from.
This is not the first time I have heard of deceased clergymen being seen by members of their flock. About 20 years ago I was told of a vicar who had died six months previously being spotted by several members of the congregation apparently enjoying the Sunday morning service at a church near Wrexham. He was sitting on the edge of a pew at the front of the church for some minutes before fading away. I spoke to one of the witnesses personally. She told me the witnesses had been sitting in different parts of the church and it was only several days later, after one had the courage to speak up about what she had seen, that the others admitted that they too had seen their beloved vicar.
[SOURCE: W H Salter, Ghost and Apparitions, 1938].
© Richard Holland 2009