I had my first confrontation with a ghost in the 1940’s. My family were staying with friends in the village of Narborough, near King’s Lynn, Norfolk, after evacuating from our London flat because of the bombing. We often visited Narborough Hall, the owner of which had been a friend of my late father and we knew him well. A year later he married my mother and our family moved into his elegant manor.
That the Hall was haunted there was no doubt. In the 400 years since it had been built, several murders and suicides were known to have occurred. From time to time guests reported having experienced odd feelings they imagined to be evil emanations. It did not worry my stepfather when bedclothes were mysteriously pulled off him in the old panelled room in which he slept. He simply told us that “Ghosts are just as entitled to live here as we are. After all, they were here first.”
I could not feel the same. I had to change my bedroom when I had felt an odd presence there one night.
Cat-like feet had landed on my bed but we had no cat and the door was closed. I put my head under the blankets in a lather of fright while the feet or hands crept up towards my head till I felt I was choking. Then a gurgling sound and the feeling passed. “I forget the whole story but someone or other got strangled in that room,” said my stepfather when I told him about it.
I moved into another bedroom but now something else seemed to be systematically trying to oust me. I was frequently awakened by strange feelings. Although putting on the bedside light seemed to send away whatever it was that was causing the feelings, they kept recurring. Sometimes I was so frightened that I could not even put out my hand and turn on the light. The bedroom door would rattle for hours and the windows thump although there was no wind to make them move. And on one occasion ‘something’ came into the room, no definable shape or even cold breath of air, but the feeling of fear and horror they aroused threatened to engulf me. Overwrought imagination?
My stepfather calmed me down next day. “Remember,” he said, “they won’t hurt you. The trouble is they are unhappy ghosts looking for friendship and comfort after becoming a victim of some murderous individual in earlier days. Why don’t you try and make friends with them?”
And that has now been my policy if I ever sense a ghost around.
Born in London in 1924, my upbringing and education by governesses and select schools were probably typical for certain families of that period which followed the end of the First World War. When war broke out again in 1939 I left school without having passed my exams and lived for a while in Narborough helping out in the apple orchards. In 1942 I joined WAAFs (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) as a motor transport driver. After training, I was based first at RAF Marham in Norfolk, and in 1944 was posted to RAF Bourn where I drove aircrew of a Mosquito Squadron to and from their kites when on ops. I was demobbed in 1946, a year after VE Day and I returned to Narborough, taking weekly trips to London for singing lessons. Using the name Rose Ash I had a stint on the stage as a chorus girl in the touring company of the musical comedy Annie Get Your Gun. I became third understudy for the part of Annie Oakley and when the star, Barbara Shotter, suddenly became ill on the opening night at the Liverpool Empire Theatre, played the part as the other understudies were also ill.
I loved my stage days but decided I wanted to see more of the world and joined a group travelling to India on a rickety old bus. From there I intended flying over to Australia. Unfortunately, I picked up some nasty complaint en route and had to return to England to recover. Fit again, I became a Ten Pound Pom and, in 1958, I sailed away from Tilbury Docks on the Orient Liner ‘Orontes.’ For two years I hitch-hiked in Australia ending up in Darwin from where I intended flying back to England to start off again in another direction. However, as a last fling, I went on a Safari and met one of the crocodile hunters, called Tom, who worked for the camp.
I married him and we set up our own very primitive ventures for travellers to the area. No bitumen anywhere-just rough tracks on which wild buffaloes were likely to hinder one’s journey. We progressed over the years until the bitumen and civilisation came to the area and we retired to a now modern Darwin city. Sadly, Tom took ill and died shortly after and, with a sudden hankering for the education I had missed out in my childhood, I applied to the newly opened Northern Territory University(later to become Charles Darwin University) and was accepted on probation. Amazingly I went through all the stages of Bachelor of Arts ending with my doctorate in 2008. After so many adventures in my life, I decided to write my autobiography called An English Rose in Kakadu which was published. At which point I felt a hankering to return to my family in England.
I now live in a beautiful Retirement Home called Cavendish Court in a new town called Cambourne built on the edge of the wartime airfield RAF Bourn, where I had been stationed. My days are always full, going through old papers, playing on my keyboard, writing short stories or poems and enjoying visits from the family or walking(with my stroller) around the garden with its birds singing merrily or through the nearby woods. But suddenly the world has been hit by the corona virus and life for everyone is on the verge of chaos and collapse.