The Unseen

by Tom Slemen

Having spent many years looking into ghosts and other aspects of the paranormal, it has long been clear to me that some people are very psychic, whilst others are practically blind to the existence of phantoms and the psychic world. Why is this so? What makes a person psychic? Do they have to belong to a certain blood group? Is it something in the diet? All of these factors and many more have been taken into account in an effort to build up a ‘typical’ picture of a psychic person, but without any success. I have heard people say that vegetarians are more likely to be psychic, yet there are many meat-eating peoples of the world who are legendary mediums, such as the Eskimos, who are traditionally carnivores. I have heard certain ‘psychic instructors’ advise people to take up Buddhism or to live in isolation in the country and meditate to develop their psychic skills, but have been dazzled by the mediumship of a mother-of-five children living on a busy council estate. It seems then, that no one knows why certain people are psychic any more than we can know why certain individuals can become great artists and songwriters. It really does seem to be a God-given talent. You could spend hundreds of thousands of pounds – millions even – on a musical student’s education still fail to produce another John Lennon or Paul McCartney – both of whom could not write or read music when they created their most famous songs. I have heard most of the theories which try to explain what makes a person psychic. Gipsies, Celts and Basques are said to have a ‘psychic streak’ in their blood, which is predominantly Rhesus negative. I don’t see what blood has to do with the mysterious talents of clairvoyancy, telepathy, precognition etc. Nor do I see the relevance of a person’s bodily shape as regards to their psychic abilities, but the American psychologist William H Sheldon (1898-1977) paved the way for such thinking when he classified the human into three basic types, called the Endomorph, Mesomorph and Ectomorph. A number of French researchers took the theories of Sheldon even further into the realms of nonsense and claimed that certain people of a particular shape made better psychics than other types. Then we come to another trendy concept in the paranormal world that was once used to explain everything from UFO sightings to premonitions: Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. This harks back to the 1960s when an anthropologist named Adrian Boshier went to live among primitive tribes in South Africa. Boshier was an epileptic, and the people of the tribe regarded such a mental condition as a sacred disease, so the anthropologist was made a junior witch doctor. Some of the great saints and mystics were said to have been epileptics, but even more psychics and clairvoyants have not been epileptics.
The following story illustrates the way in which two people – one of them psychic - perceived the same reality in very different ways.
In 1966, a 22-storey tower block called St George’s Heights was built on Netherfield Road in Everton. It was demolished several years ago. The views from the upper storeys were truly breathtaking on all sides of St George’s Heights, with spectacular vistas of the Mersey and the Wirral peninsula to the west, and panoramic horizons of the rural suburbs chequered in shades of green to the east. In 1970, two close friends in their early twenties, named Carol and Claire, moved into a maisonette flat in Everton, and the view from their new home was dominated by the imposing presence of St George’s Heights, which stood a few hundred yards away. One Friday night the girls were changing their clothes to go out to the Wooky Hollow nightclub. Carol put on a Maxi skirt and a sequined velvet bodice, and Claire donned a pair of ‘hot pants’ and squeezed into a risqué bandeau top. The radio was playing a catchy Clodagh Rogers pop song called Goodnight Midnight and Carol was miming to the song as she gazed in the mirror of a dresser, applying mascara – when she noticed something. Among the gallery of illuminated yellow squares in the silhouette of St George’s Heights, there was one particular window on the eleventh floor with the figure of a man within it. This solitary figure was always at that window whenever the girls had their curtains open in the evening, and Carol, who had perfect eyesight, had said the man seemed to be looking through a pair of binoculars.
‘There’s the peeping Tom again,’ Carol said through gritted teeth, gazing past her reflection in the window at the myriad lit windows of the tower block.
‘Where?’ Claire gazed out the window and Carol pointed. ‘Don’t point, he’ll know!’ said Claire, and then she went to the light switch and plunged the room into darkness.
‘There, next to that window with the red curtains,’ Carol pointed at the monolithic building, ‘see him now?’
‘Yes. How do you know he’s looking at us? He’s just like a black spot.’ Claire squinted at the distant silhouetted figure.
‘I’ve got better eyesight than you,’ replied Carol. ‘He’s watching us, and he looks through something like binoculars. Probably a dirty old man.’
‘Ah well, we should let him have an eyeful one night and do a strip-tease,’ Claire suggested, jokingly, and switched the light back on.
Carol and Claire were soon ready for a night out and went to the club.
A few days later the girls were watching television one evening, when Carol once again drew her flatmate’s attention to the watcher in St George’s Heights. On this occasion, Claire had to go to her mother’s home in Tuebrook to borrow money, and when she visited her, she sneaked into her father’s room and took his old pair of binoculars. Her dad used them for bird-watching. Upon her return to the flat, she saw the suspected voyeur was still at his window. She turned off the lights and trained the binoculars upon him. Claire thumbed the wheel on the field glasses and the mysterious onlooker swum into focus. He looked dark-haired and podgy faced, although it was hard to tell what age he was. He was not gazing through binoculars, but staring into the eyepiece of a large telescope of some sort. He shook his head and moved away from the eyepiece, perhaps because he could see nothing now that the girls were in a darkened room.
‘Let me see, come on!’ Carol impatiently urged her friend to pass the binoculars.
‘Here, look at the thing he’s been watching us with,’ Claire said, handing the binoculars to Carol.
As Carol took her turn to have a look at the peeping Tom, Claire went and switched the light on.
Startled, Carol turned around and scowled. ‘Turn it off!’ she shrieked.
‘No, let him see we are watching him. See what he does,’ replied Claire, heading towards the window with a supercilious grin on her face.
Carol took another look through the binoculars. She was so angry at Claire switching on the light, her hands shook with anger, but when she’d steadied herself by resting the binoculars against the window frame, she saw that the man was back at his telescope. He recoiled away from the eyepiece when he saw that he was the one being watched now. He turned to face Carol, and she could just make out his worried expression. He darted away from the window and then the light went out in his room. ‘You shouldn’t have turned the light on Claire,’ said Carol, ‘he might be some crackpot. He might come and visit us now.’
‘Oh shut up, that’s not funny,’ Claire said, her stomach turning over at Carol’s words.
Carol switched off the light and told her friend not to switch it on this time, and she looked at the window of the creepy voyeur with the binoculars. He was still there at the window, but no longer looking through the telescope. His face was a pale oval with the dim orange-red light of a glowing cigarette tip in it. After a few minutes he moved from the window. The light in his room went on, and he reappeared – putting on a coat.
‘He’s going out,’ Carol turned with a worried expression and looked at Claire.
Claire knew exactly what she was thinking. Was he going to pay a visit?
A little over five minutes later, the girls were sitting in the dark, looking through the window at the deserted street below. A man, aged about forty, came slowly walking along the street, gazing up at each window he passed. It was him; the telescope man.
Claire retreated from the window, but Carol stayed put.
The man stopped at the window where the girls were watching him from the darkened room and stood there for a few moments.
‘Get away from the window,’ Claire whispered to Carol, and her friend shuffled away a few feet but knocked against the curtain.
‘Hello.’ The man’s voice said weakly in the street below. He’s seen the curtain move.
‘He’s seen you now you stupid cow,’ Claire grimaced at her clumsy friend.
‘Why are we hiding for anyway?’ said Carol, ‘He can’t get in and if he tries anything we’ll call the police.’
‘Even though we don’t have a phone,’ Claire said, sarcastically.
‘I’d scream this place down.’ Carol reassured her.
Something hit the window with a click, and it bounced off the window ledge outside.
‘He’s throwing stones up, cheeky sod!’ Carol sounded furious.
‘Just keep away from the window, he looks away with the mixer,’ Claire urged her with a tremble in her voice.
Another stone hit the windowpane with a loud crack. A much larger stone than before.
‘That’s it,’ Carol opened the window and unleashed a string of four-letter expletives to the stranger. Throughout it all he tried to speak and shook his head.
‘Look, I know you must think I’m some perverted peeping Tom, but I wasn’t looking at you and your friend in the way you think I was,’ the man said in a soft, well-spoken voice.
‘Well what the hell were you looking at us for?’ Carol shouted down at him as Claire tried to drag her from the window.
‘I was looking at the ghosts.’ Was the strange reply.
Carol turned to Claire with a mystified expression, then turned to look back at the odd man, and with a false laugh, she asked: ‘You what?’
After a short pause the visitor said, ‘I know this sounds ridiculous, but I can see ghosts. I’m psychic.’
The girls at the window above said nothing.
The man continued, ‘And I noticed two men – two ghosts – in your flat. At first I thought they were your partners, but when I saw them disappear and walk through the walls of your flat, I realised what they were.’
Carol swore at the man, called him a nutter, and warned him to go away, as she was going to call the police. She closed the window, turned on the light, and after a few minutes she peeped through a gap in the curtains. The man had gone.
That night, Carol lay in her single bed, unable to sleep. A strand of light from the lamppost in the street illuminated half of Claire’s face as she lay there in the other bed, and Carol could see her friend’s long eyelashes occasionally blinking. She was still awake too, and probably thinking about what the crank has said about the ghosts.
‘Be funny if he had seen something,’ Claire suddenly said.
‘Oh don’t say that.’ Carol turned and looked at the faint green luminous fingers of the clock, It was almost 2.40 am.
‘I’m just kidding,’ said Claire. ‘We’ve lived here now for nearly a year and we’ve never seen any ghosts have we?’
‘No,’ said Carol. Then she remembered something. One evening at around 11 o’clock, a few months ago, she had been drifting off to sleep in her bed when she thought she felt the mattress move. It had actually jolted, but she hadn’t been sure if she had been dreaming. Then Carol’s mind became her biggest enemy as she lay there in the dark, because she suddenly recalled another strange incident. She shared the memory with her best friend. ‘Claire?’
‘What?’ her friend asked with a gentle yawn.
‘Do you remember, about a fortnight ago, when I had insomnia and palpitations?’ Carol asked.
‘Yeah,’ Claire gazed at the ceiling.
‘I could have sworn I heard someone make a noise, like a sigh, in this room,’ said Carol.
‘Oh, thanks for that,’ Claire said, looking over at her, ‘That’s a nice thing to tell me at this time in the morning.’
The girls somehow managed to get to sleep, and they vowed never to talk about ghosts or the supernatural again, and they rarely saw the peeping Tom at his window in St George’s Heights after his visit that night.
Months later, on Halloween, Carol and Claire invited an old school-friend named Donna over to their flat, because she had quite a reputation of being a good Tarot card reader. Donna had been bullied at school because she claimed she saw things no one else could. She had a nervous breakdown when she was fifteen, and the Donna Carol and Claire had known at school was not the same Donna who had emerged on the other side of that breakdown. She lost a lot of her friends after undergoing that drastic personality change. Donna said very little when she arrived at the flat, and as she read the Tarot cards, Carol and Claire could hardly hear her interpretations, as she spoke so low. Just an hour after Donna had arrived at the flat, she said she had to go, and left in a very nervous state. Two days later, a letter arrived at the flat, and when Claire read it, she was lone in the flat, and she felt shivers run down her spine. The letter was from Donna, and in the missive the girl said, ‘please leave that flat. There are two evil spirits with you. As I was reading your cards, one of them realised I could see him, so I had to pretend I couldn’t see him, but he knew I could, and he said if I told you two about him he’d kill me and keep me as his slave in the afterlife. One of the spirits is from a long time ago, from the 1940s I think. He was killed in a house that stood on the place where your flat is. A bomb fell on the house and killed him. The other spirit is of a man who was very evil when he was alive. He died after he drank something he’d put poison in. He had intended to poison a girl with the drink but drank it himself by accident. He puts his hands inside of your body at night as you sleep to try and stop your heart.’
Claire suddenly sensed something ice-cold behind her. The iciness spread over her left shoulder, as if something cold was reading that letter from behind her. Claire suddenly ran out the living room, through the hallway, and seized the doorknob of the front door – but she couldn’t open it. The coldness came towards her from down the hall like an arctic blast. Claire looked down at the bolt on the door, and saw it was off. So what was stopping the door from opening? She said two words – ‘Jesus Christ’ – and that door suddenly budged. Claire pulled it open and ran down the stairs, panting, ‘Oh God,’ over and over until she was in the street. She walked in a daze to her mother’s home in Tuebrook and telephoned Carol, who was at work at a shop on Leece Street. She told Carol about Donna’s letter and the icy cold thing she had felt on her back and neck, then informed her friend that she was now living at her mum’s home and had no plans to return to the maisonette. Carol sent her two brothers to the flat to get her and Claire’s belongings and the two girls went to live at another flat in the Dingle. To this day they both shudder whenever they think about the time they cohabited with two evil spirits.

© Tom Slemen 2006.