“Sometimes you don’t have to go very far to have an adventure….”
I wasn’t really expecting anything of Portsmouth – it was just a place I had to come for work.
So ’twas much to my surprise to discover a rich history and culture of music and arts here, just below the surface. Whether I would have discovered it through simply staying in hotels I guess I will never know, as that isn’t what I did. Rather, I chose to use one of these new services which allows you to stay in the houses of real people with a spare room to let.
‘Twas equally to my surprise to find myself at one home here where I came across this fellow above, drawn by a local artist called Greg Valentine. Now, whether it is something Greg channelled when he drew this – or something inherent in the history of the place – but I just got a feeling the other night that there was a pirate in the place. Literally!
At first I thought someone was playing a prank on me by taking a pair of my socks, which was among the clothes I know I put away when I arrived, and putting them smack bang in the middle of the bed when I came back to my room later.
Greg and his wife, Phaedra, have two young kids – and so it would have been a good trick for one of them to play. But both of the kids had gone to bed several hours before, and so were upstairs fast asleep at the time. What’s more, his wife was out and Greg himself was in the front of the house – and so in no way able to sneak past me to play the prank.
So, somewhat bemused, I went back into the front room to chat to Greg about it – and it was then I saw the picture above, with the eyes which follow you around the room. It prompted me to remark:
“Greg, has anyone ever asked you whether you have a ghost?”
Greg’s reply was in the negative, but then happened to remark that his son – Nathan – had happened to see a man in a hat walk past the bathroom door when he was 3 (he’s now 8 years old).
The thing was: I was only being facetious – or was I?
Later that night, September 22nd, the temperature fell significantly from the last few warm days of summer we’d had in 2014 – and I even felt like I was beginning to freeze at one point that night, huddled in my little bed.
What’s more, it was probably a coincidence, but on several occasions I thought I felt someone blow in my ear – as if they were trying to keep me awake, or tell me something….
Then I heard it: the sound of heavy breathing, or so it seemed to me….
Now when I was a kid, my father used to tell scarey stories like this to myself and my 4 older siblings – and we’d never believe him. Although it would sometimes make us too scared to go to sleep, or give us nightmares. Much to our mother’s chagrin, as it is hard enough having 5 kids without having one or two of them half scared out of their wits late at night.
Now it may be something of a coincidence, but this 22nd September past was the 10th anniversary of my father’s passing from this world into the next.
Not totally convinced, given his own imbuing of us all with an interest in the sciences (as he was a science teacher himself – despite his penchant for ghost stories), I decided to check out about history of pirates and soldiers in Portsmouth – and with the possibility of ruling out any coincidence of this ghost being one or other.
Not only does it turn out there’s a great history of pirates and smugglers as well as soldiers and warriors of all sorts here, but it turns out that Portsmouth is reputedly even founded by a pirate according to Winston Churchill, or by “an Anglo-Saxon warrior” – according to other accounts.
So both what I felt, and what young Nathan might have seen, could well possibly have been a real emanation of a pirate, soldier or warrior who might have lived here on the site of this house at some time.
So perhaps this all but forgotten memory of my Dad – or the universe – is trying to tell me something with this little tale?
As Sherlock Holmes would say:
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”
And it turns out Sherlock Holmes’ creator – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – lived in Portsmouth too, and played goalkeeper for the local football club. So what are the chances? Life is strange, but could truth be stranger than fiction?
Maybe there is a pirate ghost here in this house – and one with a tale to tell!