How I Became Interested in Ghosts

Orphanage on Melville Place, off Myrtle Street, in Victorian times

When I was just a kid, I lived with my family off Myrtle Street, on Melville Place. At our home, my mother saw a ghost in the early hours of the morning, and on the following day I overheard her whispering about her encounter with the phantom. Out the corner of her eye she had seen a fleeting figure wearing some contrasting black and white garments as it moved through the hallway. My mother assumed it was my oldest sister sneaking in at 1a.m. after being out late with her boyfriend, but upon checking my sister's room and finding her soundly asleep in bed in her nightclothes, my mother realised the figure she's seen crossing the hall had been someone else.
Upon the following day my mum was up late, working in the kitchen, and she retired around two in the morning. She got into bed, and my father was laying beside her deeply asleep, and the only light shining into the room was the faint rays of a sodium lamp in the street outside. Mother settled back, closed her eyes, and suddenly, a strange noise invaded the silence. The faint swishing sound of fabric rustling - and padding footsteps - and these noises were coming nearer.
Mother opened her eyes and instinctively turned right to the source of the sound - and she saw something that stunned her and made her numb with shock. A Victorian or Edwardian maid, wearing a white cap, white apron, and black uniform came through the walls in the corner of the room. The maid held a large platter with a dome upon it, and she walked through the bottom of the bed - and through my mother's legs - as she headed diagonally across the bedroom towards the opposite corner. As she reached the corner, mother could see that the white straps of her apron formed a cross. The maid walked into the corner walls, and as she did, my mum heard the echoing sound of children cheering and tin or pewter plates being banged on a table perhaps. As soon as the ghost went completely into the wall, the sounds ceased abruptly. My mum sat up in bed, trying to take in what she had just seen and heard, then she shook my father awake. My Dad had a terrible fear of the supernatural. When he caught my sister dabbling in black magic when she was 14, he literally burned her books on witchcraft and almost summoned a priest. Well, my father awoke that morning and when he heard his wife describe the Victorian maid, he ducked under the blankets and said she was seeing things.

Player's No.6

My Mother got up, and smoked her way through about ten Player's No6 cigarettes that morning as she pondered upon what she saw. I remember how our border-collie dog Kim used to tilt her head at things only she could see in our home, and how my dad would become uneasy and say to the animal 'Stop It!'
On many occasions I had also had the very eerie sensation of being watched whilst in our home, and the sensation became so intense, goosepimples would raise up on my forearm, and on one occasion I actually ran out of the place. One of my sisters also had strange recurring dreams of an old-fashioned building with children running about screaming, and a fire raging in the background, whereas on several occasions, my oldest sister would talk in fluent Welsh in her sleep, which really freaked out my parents.
A few days after the encounter with the ghostly maid, my mother's friend, Evelyn, who lived next door, announced that she and her husband were moving. She told my mum that she was moving because her home was haunted, and my mother - who had told no one outside the family about the ghost she had seen - was naturally curious at Evelyn's statement. Evelyn said that, a few days before, she had gone into the nursery room of her home, and she had seen 'ragged-looking kids looking like something out of Oliver Twist' standing around her little child. Evelyn cried out in surprise - and the boys recoiled, and some stepped back - into the walls, so only their faces were visible in the wallpaper. Evelyn scooped up her son and ran out the place in terror. My mother realised that the ghost she had seen had walked into the corner of the bedroom, and on the other side of that wall was Evelyn's nursery. She recalled the cheering kids, but still said nothing to her neighbour.
Well, no one even thought of investigating the ghostly maid, but I was like a young Sherlock Holmes. I loved mysteries, especially supernatural ones. I went to my local library (in Kensington) and found an old map of Edge Hill as it appeared in Victorian times, and there it was - right on the very spot where our home stood - an orphanage. It made sense now. I should have known by a simple clue I had overlooked, for one of the streets close by to our home was Orphan Street. Later on, I obtained a detailed map of the orphanage, and discovered that the kitchen in that long vanished building had occupied part of the same space as the kitchen in our twentieth century home. This little discovery set a child upon a quest to seek ghosts. I would go to the library and look for anything on the subject of the supernatural, but could never find any books on local hauntings and Liverpool mysteries. The Haunted Liverpool books were my attempt at writing the type of books I had looked for as a kid. I am older now, but not jaded. At heart I am still that kid who lived on Myrtle Street, and have never lost that beautiful sense of wonder at the mysteries of time and space. I know that what we see is only a small part of an amazing universe that is mostly hidden from our limited senses, and if some of us could try to get back to the open-mindedness we once had as children, this world would be such a better place and we would discover so much about the cosmos and our own inner nature.

Tom Slemen