Reason to Believe Episode 2: can a newly-built house be haunted?

Episode Two – can a newly-built house be haunted?

12th November 1984, moving day.

When I saw my dad’s car approaching I thought he’d come along to help. I waved at him through the window and waited for him to come inside. The look on his face froze the smile on my own and my cheerful greeting caught in my throat.

I really have no memory of his words, maybe I didn’t even hear them through the buzzing in my ears, but he’d come to tell me that Stephen had died.

The removal firm had just started carrying in our furniture and boxes so I left my husband to deal with things and went with Dad to Stephen’s house.

I was asked if I wanted to see him before the funeral director came. I did not. I really didn’t. I’d never seen a dead person before. But something propelled me up the stairs and into his bedroom and although the curtains were drawn, there was enough light seeping through the gaps round the edges.

His eyes weren’t quite closed, blue irises, silvery and paler than in life, were just visible beneath the lids. I kissed his cold cheek and whispered my goodbyes.

In the close huddle of family and friends we got through the awful next few hours together. The shiny black hearse arrived and left swiftly with its burden. People came and went. The kettle boiled endlessly for cups of tea. Some of it got drunk, much of it was left to grow cold.

Eventually it was time to separate, time for everyone to go home.

The next ordeal would be the funeral, the cremation, the wake.

Stephen was gone and all too soon only memories of him would remain.

At the wake, it was a tight crush in every room downstairs; there were so many people I hardly knew. I caught snippets of conversations, heard a group of his friends sharing stories about him and laughing. Their laughter jarred me – how could there be happiness at such a time?

The days that followed are hazy in my memory. I organised things in my new home. Cooked meals. Dealt with the chores. I went to work.

Within a short time, my husband insisted that everything return to ‘normal’. But what is normal when you are heartbroken? When you are grieving beyond anything you could ever have imagined, nothing seems right with the world.

The days and weeks passed. A brand new house has its settling down issues, and we had a few to deal with: a cupboard that wouldn’t close and small cracks appearing above a door. A leaking tap. Then we started to have electrical problems.

st clements closeLights flickered on the landing. The television changed channels unbidden. When that happened we would scowl at the remote control sitting on the coffee table, raise our eyebrows at each other and shake our heads.

The electrics were checked and no problems were found.

Then, one evening, I was ironing on the upstairs landing. My husband had gone out ten minutes earlier, but suddenly there he was at the bottom of the stairs. “Have you forgotten something?” I called.

He started up the stairs, peering at me. But it wasn’t my husband.

My heart leapt into my mouth. An intruder! But as I thought this, the figure just faded away to nothing. I almost passed out, but luckily had the presence of mind to put the iron down before I collapsed to the floor.

What was going on? Was I so grief-stricken I was hallucinating?

Then a week or so later, my husband was already in bed, and when I entered from the bathroom, I was in time to witness a small china pot fly from the window sill to the centre of the bed. And I mean fly! Its contents, mainly safety pins and small buttons along with a lock of my hair, were scattered all over the duvet.

Had it been a gust of wind? No, the windows were closed. Could the cat have knocked it off? No, she was nowhere to be seen.

And besides, our later experimentations with the pot showed that even a hard shove would not have been able to propel it the distance from window sill to bed.

Incredibly, my husband dismissed it as just one of those things, but I knew something very strange was happening.

I just didn’t know what.

Next Episode: 1985, entry into a new world


J Merrill Forrest is the author of two novels, Flight of the Kingfisher and The Waiting Gate and a collection of poetry, Natural Alchemy. All are available from the usual sources, including Amazon, in paperback or e-book formats.

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Reason to Believe Episode 1: a devastating diagnosis


In 1982 my brother was diagnosed with cancer. Stephen had been suffering leg and back pain for months, but X-rays, physio and pain killing drugs had provided neither answers nor relief. He was sent for CT scans. Then for exploratory surgery. A tumour was found in his thigh and he almost lost his leg on the operating table, but on further investigation the surgeon found the cancer had spread to my brother’s pelvis and spine. He was stitched up and the family was told the incomprehensible prognosis that he had just months to live.

When I heard the news I was numb. How could my big brother be dying, for heaven’s sake? He was only 28 years old. Married, with two young children. My mind whirled with disbelief. At home I wandered aimlessly around trying to make sense of it.

And a very strange thing happened. I had a vision. It was not a dream, nor was it like a dream. It was like having a short film projected directly into my mind. I couldn’t stop it. I had to stand still and let it run.

I was at a crematorium. Bewildered and horrified that I was seeing a vision of my brother’s funeral – making the awful prognosis true – I looked around to see who else was there. I saw my mum and dad, my aunts and uncles, my cousins – this was indeed a family funeral. Surely it had to be Stephen’s?

But wait, there was more…

I glanced over my shoulder and there was my brother! My gaze swung back to the flower-bedecked coffin. Who did it contain? Frantically, I scanned the faces in the room to identify who was missing, but the vision dissipated and I was none the wiser. What I was certain of though, was that I would be attending a family funeral soon, and it wouldn’t be Stephen’s. I was left dizzy and shaken by such a powerful revelation, but I spoke of it to no-one.

Stephen embarked on a rigorous course of radiotherapy and chemo, some of it experimental as his particular cancer was rare, particularly in adults. He wasn’t willing to accept his prognosis without a fight. He had indelible black marks drawn on his skin, crosses and arrows as targets for the radiotherapy. The chemo was dreadful, making him so sick and very quickly stripping him of his thick, curly hair. He lost weight and vitality. He told me that he’d been complaining to a nurse at the hospital about how awful he was feeling, but then had been humbled by walking through the children’s cancer ward. After that he endured it all and I never heard him complain again, except to say he didn’t know which would take him first, the disease or the treatment.

During this time my maternal grandmother, a life-long smoker, died from lung cancer. How it must have hurt my mum to go through that, knowing at the same time that her son was dying.

Another blow to the family came when my other grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Now both my parents were going through the same heartache, but having divorced six years earlier, they could not comfort each other.

I felt helpless. Simply helpless.

Gran passed away in April 1983, and her funeral service was held at the crematorium. My brother was seated behind me, and I realised with a jolt that everything was just as it had been in my vision two years earlier.

Why had I been given that vision? Was it designed to teach me something? Would I experience such a thing again?

My life was about to undergo a profound change.

Next Episode: can a newly-built house be haunted?


J Merrill Forrest is the author of two novels, Flight of the Kingfisher and The Waiting Gate and a collection of poetry, Natural Alchemy. All are available from the usual sources, including Amazon, in paperback or e-book formats.

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Reason to Believe: introduction

Reason to Believe is a blog series in which I tell my own story of coming to believe that there is an Afterlife. To go to the first episode click here: Episode 1, a devastating diagnosis

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The theme that forms the basis of my novels, indeed most of my writing, is the continuance of life after death. I was a sceptic until events following the death of my brother, Stephen, in 1984 changed the direction of my life. He was 30 years old, I was 27. Following mysterious happenings in my home that just couldn’t be explained, I began my journey into the realm of the paranormal. Through psychic mediums I made contact with Stephen in ways that utterly convinced me it was him, communicating with me from the Other Side. When I reached the exact age he had been when he passed away, I knew I had to make some big changes in my life. Some of them seemed impossible, but Stephen had given me reason to believe that you can do anything you set your mind to. In the following years I got divorced and met and married the love of my life, I went to university and achieved a BA in English and a Masters in Creative Writing. I wrote three novels. This blog is about what happened from the time of my brother’s cancer diagnosis to the present day.