(When the unexplained is the status quo)
If you were to ask me if I believed in the supernatural, then like any normal person, I would answer, No, of course not. It’s all a load of old nonsense. However, over the years, that load of old nonsense has presented me with some rather compelling arguments for its existence. During the 90s, I was particularly in tune with the great cosmic unknown, and discovered that said unknown had a particularly quirky sense of humour.
It was just small things at first, small enough that any given incident could individually be put down to coincidence, or a mild mental lapse. As a pattern though, the incidents were so frequent it was hard to deny that something out of the ordinary was definitely happening, to the extent that I quickly just accepted them as how things were and barely gave them a second thought.
One example would be the morning phone calls. I was the chief system manager for a small firm of debt collectors—lovely chaps—and a coworker and myself would alternate early shifts on a weekly basis. One of us would go in two hours earlier than everyone else to take care of the basic system maintenance tasks. I was the expert, but my coworker was sufficiently competent to be trusted, safe in the knowledge that if he ran into any problems, he could call me and I’d give him instructions over the phone. All in all, there were about 10 likely scenarios that might give him trouble, and I knew how to resolve them all quickly. He would run into one a couple of times a month, sometimes more, and that’s when I would expect a call. The thing was, on every single occasion, I had woken up moments before the phone started ringing, knowing he was about to call, and knew exactly what the problem was as if the call had already happened.
One could make the argument that my brain was picking up the sudden radio wave activity in the same way that a phone about to ring causes speakers to make a rhythmic drumming sound, but to my knowledge, they’re not so good with the specifics of the call’s content: the call that hasn’t actually happened yet.
When it was my turn to take the early shifts, I found myself in a dark office for at least two hours alone, and much stranger oddities happened on a near daily basis. I would go to photocopy something and the copier would tell me it was out of paper. No problem: I get out a fresh pack, put it in the tray, close it up and try again. Out of paper, it says. I check the tray and it’s empty, and there’s a fresh pack of paper sitting on the table. Sure, I guess I just imagined feeding it into the machine, because my fantasies really were that limited.
Other times, I would switch the copier on, pop to the bathroom because it took a minute to warm up, and when I come back it’s switched itself off again. And unplugged itself from the wall. The music coming from that self same wall was always welcome: some kind of orchestral composition I couldn’t identify and nobody else could hear. That could have been my imagination too, I guess, but I don’t think I’m that good at writing orchestral works; they were very professionally arranged!
On two occasions, a coworker phoned in sick, and I’d pass the message on to the boss when he arrived. And then the coworker would phone in to tell the boss directly that they were sick. The boss would say to them that he got their message, and then his face drops. Oh! he’d say. They’d only made the one call.
Then there was the incident with my bike. At the time, I didn’t yet have a full license so I was limited to riding around on a beat-up old GT100. One day it was parked outside a friend’s house when we popped out to get a drink from the local shop. When we returned, I looked at it and thought, There’s something stuffed in the spark plug cap. The cap was properly secured, and there was nothing visible, but I knew something was in there. I popped the cap off and, sure enough, somebody had wedged a folded up piece of newspaper in there, presumably as a prank, because if I’d tried to start the bike up it wouldn’t have fired, and that would have been the first thing I checked—after all, nothing says prank like being mildly inconvenienced for 10 seconds. On no other occasion had I felt compelled to check inside the cap for foreign objects. Who knows, maybe the prankster saw something that made them think, I should stuff something in that spark plug cap. Maybe I saw it too and it made me think the same thing. Who knows?
All this time, unexplained events were regularly giving me teasing little hints at their presence, just a small movement out the corner of my eye that could individually all be dismissed as nothing. Then one day, one walked right up to me and introduced themselves with a tip of the hat. It couldn’t have made its presence more obvious if I had called into the darkness, Is anybody there? and the darkness responded, No.
I had moved away from London and for a couple of years, such incidents had pretty much stopped. That is, until one fateful Sunday when my roommate had headed out early to get a boat to Amsterdam for a wedding, to return early Monday afternoon. I had the whole place to myself, and after getting done everything that I needed to do, I settled in for the evening for a few movies and, perhaps, more than a few beers.
About twenty minutes in, I suddenly became aware that somebody else was in the flat. I quickly dismissed it, as I figured I’d probably just subconsciously heard a noise from a creaking wall: British houses are very chatty when it’s quiet. I returned my attention to the movie and no sooner had I relaxed did that same awareness hit me like a shovel marked ‘Boo!’ Somebody else was in my flat!
I didn’t know how they could be, but they were there. I had a look around and checked every room, every place that somebody could hide, and found nothing. The front door was locked and all the windows were shut. I even checked the loft. Nobody else was in there, but as soon as I tried to return to the movie, that same overwhelming sense of dread returned and I couldn’t talk myself down from it. It was as if my brain had slipped up and forgotten to register in my internal space map that my roommate was out for the day.
It was terrifying and going to bed didn’t help. I spent the entire night waking up, trembling with fear of the invisible intruder, and dreaming that I was waking up to the sound of footsteps and doors opening.
Next morning, I eventually woke up after a restless night and the presence had gone. I figured something must have tripped a persistent paranoid mental process I’d never heard of before, but whatever it was had clearly resolved itself, so I gave it no further thought.
Later that day, I got a call from Jack. He tells me there’s somebody he wants me to meet, if I’m free the next day. I was, so I headed into London and we walked together to a house. He rings the doorbell and shortly after a woman answers. He says to her, This is Seth, who I was telling you about. She replies, We’ve met. Me and Jack exchanged puzzled glances, and she goes on to explain to me that Jack had been telling her about me on Sunday, so she thought she’d go and check me out.
Jack adds, by way of supplemental explanation, that she astral projects. Suddenly it all made sense. So that was you in my house? I blustered, and she nodded her head with a proud beam. I was bloody terrified! Do me a favour and don’t do that again! I said in no uncertain terms. She seemed genuinely surprised I was aware of her presence, because people usually were not. Two decades later, I still can’t explain that. I hadn’t mentioned my paranoid experience to anybody at the time, and especially not to Jack, because he was exactly the sort of person that would use such information to pull off exactly that sort of prank.
Since moving away from England, these events more or less stopped, but occasionally they’d resurface, giving little hints of their presence, just to be safe. There was a fun incident in October 2001, where a friend sent me an email with a news link—this was before social media. Turned out that George Harrison (one of the Beatles, apparently) had died of throat cancer. Oh well, I thought. I was never a fan, although I knew their names.
Then, at the end of November, I’m browsing the news and I see an article saying that George Harrison had died of throat cancer the night before. Must be an old article, I thought, but I checked the date and it was current. So I tried to find the original article I’d read and it was nowhere to be found. I also checked my mail history from a month earlier. Nothing. It was as if it never happened. It took some time before I was even willing to entertain that he had in fact died the night before, not a month earlier, and something I had known for an entire month I had not in fact known at all. This still perplexes me to this day.
Another fun one is more recently when dropping my daughter off at school in the mornings. Most days I’ll run into the same parents, which isn’t strange at all, until I noticed the pattern: on the way there, I would pass one parent sans child along a particular short stretch of road; two other parents would arrive while I was offloading little’n; a fourth I would pass with her two kids on the way home along a slightly different short stretch of road. Every morning for months it was that exact pattern, never deviating, and it was predictive! For fun, I tried switching things up a bit: I’d leave a few minutes earlier, or a few minutes later than normal, and they’d all adjust their timing to compensate. This went on for months, and didn’t stop until I explained it to the Mrs, and decided to video it for proof.
Just earlier today, I was sat at my computer looking at a translation request. I’d gotten part way through and suddenly felt my ability to work would be dramatically improved if I had a hot cup of tea and a biscuit by my side. So I popped into the kitchen to make one, and when I came back, I looked over the work I’d done so far, and apparently I must have carried on working while not sitting there because it was now finished. Some of the sentences were long and would have required considerable thought to get through. Also, I recognised the writing style—there was no question I had done the work, moments earlier, simultaneously sitting at my workspace and standing in the kitchen, it would seem.
Honestly, I don’t know if these incidents are indicative of a genuine supernatural presence, or a declining mental state. What I do know though, is that whatever it is seems to be having a great deal of fun with it, at my expense.
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