The lin­ger­ing spirit of an ar­chi­tect

Gulf News - - The Views - Christina Cur­ran

As part of my work this week I’ve been writ­ing about an old church in Eng­land that has been con­verted into apart­ments and which is be­lieved to have been haunted. It was built in the early 19th cen­tury and held in­nu­mer­able cer­e­monies to cel­e­brate and also to com­mis­er­ate and has seen count­less sce­nar­ios of life within its ma­jes­tic stone walls.

For years, one staff mem­ber who works in the build­ing with the res­i­dents has claimed to have seen a spirit in the form of a man linger near the cir­cu­lar win­dow above the arched en­trance to the church. But ev­ery time she has gone to the spot where it stands, it has van­ished. The same fig­ure was seen by the woman for eight years. A fig­ment of her imag­i­na­tion? Or a hu­man spirit with a long­ing for life?

As we ap­proach this eerie time of year when the au­tumn nights take hold of our senses and our imag­i­na­tions run wild, it seems ap­pro­pri­ate to delve into the world of ghosts and ghouls that could be re­sid­ing near any of us right now. Hal­loween is in the air and all around us, and I’m not sim­ply talk­ing about the ad­ver­tise­ments for dec­o­ra­tions and cos­tumes, I’m talk­ing about the height­ened sense of spir­i­tu­al­ity that fills us as we face the ex­tended pe­ri­ods of dark­ness and the un­known that lies be­yond.

Peo­ple have al­ways had a strange re­la­tion­ship with ideas of the af­ter­life and the pos­si­bil­ity of the hu­man spirit lin­ger­ing in some form af­ter they are meant to leave the earth for­ever.

We’re in­tro­duced to ideas of an af­ter­life usu­ally through reli­gion and per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence when we lose some­one we love, whether this is a fam­ily mem­ber, a beloved pet or a cher­ished toy. As chil­dren we try to un­der­stand the loss of some­thing so vi­brant with life that is now gone, bring­ing new con­cepts such as ‘for­ever’ and ‘death’ to the fore­front of our young lives.

We’ve de­vel­oped so many dif­fer­ent be­lief sys­tems and sto­ries to ex­plain what hap­pens af­ter our lives have ended. Some are beau­ti­ful, giv­ing com­fort and re­lief to those who have been touched by loss. Oth­ers are ter­ri­fy­ing, and urge us to live our lives in a cer­tain way to avoid the hor­ror that could await.

Death hov­ers over each of us ev­ery minute of ev­ery day, and seems closer to us at this time of year, be­cause of the dark­ness and the down­ward spi­ral to­wards a freez­ing win­ter. It’s easy for our imag­i­na­tions to wan­der, but that’s not to dis­par­age those who be­lieve they see spir­its and shad­owy forms that rep­re­sent some­thing that once had life.

Science can’t ex­plain ev­ery­thing

Pop­u­lar cul­ture is rife with sto­ries of the af­ter­life too and it’s easy to be swayed by such sto­ries, espe­cially at this time of year. And who are any of us to dis­pel such be­liefs and sto­ries? Yes, science can ex­plain many things, but not ev­ery­thing, and we have yet to fully dis­cover the path­ways of the mind and body in the sec­onds lead­ing up to and im­me­di­ately af­ter our death.

The woman who saw the ghost ev­ery day for eight years in the old con­verted church truly be­lieved it was a spirit and later dis­cov­ered its iden­tity. It was be­lieved to have been an ar­chi­tect who had worked on the con­ver­sion and died dur­ing the con­struc­tion — in the ac­tual build­ing.

When she learned of this, the next day she spoke to it at the spot where it lin­gered each morn­ing. She told the spirit that his work had made many peo­ple happy and that he should be proud of what he achieved. The fol­low­ing day, on her way into work, look­ing up at the cir­cu­lar win­dow, the spirit wasn’t to be seen, and hasn’t been seen since. A case of cir­cum­stance or a man who fi­nally found ful­fil­ment? It’s up to you.

Happy Hal­loween, ev­ery­one.

■ Christina Cur­ran is free­lance jour­nal­ist based in North­ern Ire­land.

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