One of the issues I have had for many years is insomnia, of the variety that involves taking a long time to fall asleep. Although it’s not as bad as it used to be, it was long enough last night for me to think about and preplan writing this post.
Firstly, it is important to realize the relevance of the “paranormal” experiences that I am writing about. These are my earliest memories, and the events took place in a house where I lived when I was between one and three years old. They are key to my perception of the supernatural, and the memories of the events as well as the feelings those events evoked in my young mind, leading to nightmares for years afterwards, had a profound affect on me and are the basis for my interest in all things supernatural, such as ghosts, psychokinesis (and while we are here, check out this nonsense new age tutorial on how to develop telekinesis), poltergeists, the occult, and so on. Ultimately this is what led to my interest in horror books and later movies.
Recently, I even wrote one of my earliest memories from that house as a “horror scene”, right here on this blog. It was my first attempt at writing anything of the sort, and since I am not and never will be a descriptive writer with flamboyant use of language, I had to cheat a little to make the story interesting… Thus I wrote the story in the first person, from the point of view of a three-year-old child. (I don’t know how well it actually worked; although several people liked the post – nobody commented.)
Here’s the house as it is today. (It still looks the same.) Just to spice up this post with a pretty preview image in Facebook.
Before I examine my memories of the events there, I have to admit up front that there are things that happened there that I can not explain:
- Objects that moved by themselves. This includes my toy box from my linked post, and the bathroom light, which switched off by itself. The light was left on for me, because I would wake up and need the toilet in the middle of the night, but could not reach the light-switch, and I was afraid of the dark.
- Another object that moved by itself, although this is not something I remember. (Hence I list it separately.) My mother used to make jam and one day, she removed a jar from the fridge… As she took it out it dropped, as if pulled from her hand, hit the floor, and then flew across the room to the far wall. On this day there were electricians working in the house, who heard her scream and came to look, only to look at her suspiciously… She believed they must have come to the conclusion that she picked up the partially broken jar after dropping it, and threw it across the room.
- Dirt that came back. There were places in the house that were filthy, and you could clean them, but after returning there later, the filth would have returned as though it had never been cleaned.
I can not and will not even try to “debunk” any of the above, except in the case of the first one, which may be related to my other memories. The most disturbing experiences for me were the other things that I remember… And in my linked post, where I tried writing the memory of one night as fiction, I did refer to one of the things that I saw there.
The most common experience for me there, which happened almost every night, was what I at the time named the “Huggu Puggu”. That was my childish name for the entity, which appeared as a black book on the wall above my head, and would drop down to hit me on the head, then shoot back onto the wall, accompanied by a hideously cruel laugh in a man’s voice. I described it as baritone in my story version of that memory, for lack of a better word. Every time it happened, I would run to call my mother, who would put me back to bed, and assure me that there was nothing there. But the scariest part of all to me was that even as she walked back down the passage to her room, it would already be back on the wall, as if to taunt me.
The “hauntings” were so severe, I developed a paranoid fear of sleeping with my head on the pillow… that is, I associated my head on the pillow with being woken by a blow to the head, and it took months, after moving from that house, before I could overcome that fear.
I also remember, my night-light, which was an ornate wooden ornament with a light-bulb and shade, would sometimes, in the middle of the night, have a small snake draped around it. The toy box opening by itself only ever happened once, shortly before we moved from that house, but that was a very disturbing event indeed.
What I’ve written about is the same as I have been telling people for many years now. Although my parents didn’t believe me at first, other things happened to them and they eventually did come to believe me and take me seriously, and came to believe that the house was haunted.
But there’s a catch…
I don’t remember any of that anymore.
I now can only remember remembering those events. I remember discussing it as a child with my late aunt Mercia, who believed in all things paranormal. Somewhere along the way, I became indoctrinated into Roman Catholicism, and although demonic possession is not part and parcel of your average Sunday Mass, there are many Christians who do believe in such things, and my young indoctrinated mind was given an answer: Satan, demons, ghosts… Evil! These are all artifacts of the religiously indoctrinated mind and the way it perceives and explains what it can not understand.
Somewhere along the way, my memories of memories got all mixed up with preconceptions of the supernatural and the paranormal, preconceptions not based on what I actually experienced anymore, but external factors like the faith of others that was hammered into my innocent child mind.
Steven Novella has written an enlightening post about false memories. The gist is that when our brains recollect our memories, they assemble them from bits and pieces of information that have been stored. Not only are those stored fragments fallible, the process of actually assembling the memories can change them. It is our nature to put them together so that they form a pleasantly flowing narrative. What this means is that my memories of memories, with all the external factors influencing them, form a narrative that can not be trusted.
It turns out that when I stayed in that house, I was precisely at an age where vivid and scary dreams are common. There’s actually one memory of a memory that stands out as particularly dreamlike… I recall that on one occasion, when the black object moved down, I was awake, and got up in bed, in a push-up position, resting on my hands. Then instead of it hitting me on the head, it stopped short, levitating in the air, and as it returned to the wall, a wind blew my pyjama-top right up… In retrospect that seems more like a dream than reality, and if that was a dream, all my experiences there could have been dreams.
Admittedly, there were things going on in that house that we could not explain, but fanciful leaps to demons and poltergeists are leaps that can only be made by people whose beliefs are already that way inclined. I didn’t go running to mommy to tell her that somebody had come back from the dead to clap me on the head… I told her that the Huggu Puggu, a childish made-up word, was in my room. Somehow I, an over imaginative three-year-old, was able to convince them that something was amiss in that house, but at the end of the day, that’s all there really is to the paranormal – there are things we don’t know – and any explanation of these things is no better than the thinking of an over-imaginative child (with a lot of religious baggage).
To summarize, I do not believe any explanations for anybody’s “paranormal” experiences are any different to mine. There are no stories about the paranormal that are any more compelling than mine, despite what you might think. If only others could keep an open mind, and open means consider all possibilities, not only the fanciful ones that you would like to believe (unlike the writer of that telekinesis tutorial who encourages you not to be skeptical). If you have experienced the paranormal, examine your memories of it a little more closely, taking your beliefs, your culture and whatever preconceptions you may have into account. You might be surprised at what you find.