Growing up, most influences come from the family and the people we interact with, friends, teachers, neighbours and those we see on the television. The late great Carl Sagan was an indirect inspiration. That is I kept hearing his words growing up, without realising who he was. As I came through into adolescence every boy dreams of going into space, I would read books, scan the newspapers for space and technology news to the bemusement of many others at school. While also paying increasing attention to books of archaeology. National Geographic, Readers Digest, Osbourne books and the like.
One particular book called Mystic Places Mysteries of the unknown published by Readers Digest in 1988 which my mother brought stands out in my memory. Must have read that book a thousand times. Vivid images of the mysteries of Stonehenge, Mary Celeste, the flying Dutchman, close encounters – indeed a picture was an artists impression of a silver-suited humanoid figure with large eyes looking through the car window at a terrified elderly couple haunted me for years, Mystic Places was my first encounter with what is known as the Ancient Alien theory. Including a detailed graphic of the sarcophagus lid from Palenque in central America, which took many years to excavate the earth which filled a single staircase going into the pyramid. The lid depicts what appears to be a figure, sat inside of a flying apparatus, his hands and feet manipulating instruments and complete with fiery exhaust.
At primary school where I attended Highlees Primary in Peterborough, in Year 4 (I was 8-9) my teacher was a wonderful middle-aged well spoken woman called Mrs Green and the adjacent classroom run by Mrs Jewitt would get together on a Friday afternoon. Bringing together the students and tell us a mystery and allow active discussion with the students. Stories such as the Bermuda Triangle, Mary Celeste, the U.S.S. Aldridge, Life on other planets and what it would be like, the pyramids of the Giza plateau. I am ever grateful for this time, can be certain that in todays education allows not room for critical thinking and open discussion of topics considered fringe – despite their place in the psyche, embedded into history and their yearning to be talked about.
As a child, prior to the discovery of books, the first source of an unusual encounter was from my mother, she would tell me of a vivid spectral visit she would experience regularly when she was around 12. My mother is the eldest of 4 children of Madge and Stanley Lander. My grandfather Stanley was in the forces as a young man, a chauffeur and driver to top brass. With the family growing up, he resigned during the late 60s. They moved to Turves, a village of only 16 houses of the time either side of a B road leading out of Peterborough towards Cambridge. They had made a swap with one of my Granddads friends in the Army, whose father was seeking a move. As his wife had recently passed away and the house too big, but perfect for Madge, Stanley and the 4 children. An ideal swap. Without going into a lot of detail. My mother would tell me, that during the night her door would open and being a light sleeper she would wake up to ask who it was, thinking it was her mother. This happened frequently. She also began to notice jewellery would disappear from her jewellery box on the mirrored dresser. One particular night, she woke up to find an elderly lady sitting on the bed. Mum said the lady said, “Don’t worry, I’m just doing the cleaning, just having a rest”. Mum described her vividly, was very keen to state she was as real as anyone else, and had touched her. She wore her grey hair in a bun, a polar jumper, a pinafore apron and a pair of checked slippers with fluffy pompoms on them. Upon telling the family in the morning, she was laughed at and no one believed her. It was noticed a handprint was left on the mirror of the dresser. Jewellery box open, and a number of jewellery were missing a St Christopher necklace, a mother of pearl necklace and a charm bracelet. No-ones hand matched up to the print and no-one would own up to the jewellery.
Stanleys friends father Albert Palmer, whom the house was owned by previously would come over for Sunday dinner every week. The topic came up at the dinner table. When asked to describe the elderly lady, the friend was unanimous that it was a perfect description of his late wife. The following weekend, Albert came over again – bringing with him something quite unexpected. In Mrs Palmer Jewellery box, it was discovered to be the missing items from my mothers jewellery box. Whether the visits were the result of an over active imagination of a 12 year old girl, a dream which the brothers, her mum and dad had neatly labelled the encounters under. Jewellery somehow was transported from a house in Whittlesey to a residence in Grantham, which is around 30 miles away.
Suitably programmed to be looking into the curious from a young age. However the story of the spectral elderly lady was a huge impression, it’s not necessarily in the way you may imagine. My first question once I had heard the story when around 6, was regarding the jewellery. “How did the jewellery leave the “house?” My mind as immature as it was at the time devoid of the greater wide view of the world, was looking at the solid object and considering how it passes through the walls of a house. In my mind, I was seeing the image of the jewellery passing through the walls and across the landscape. Was it teleported? The handprint on the mirror, how and why did a ghost leave something well… physical.
It is the questions of the hows and whys does it happen, that are the most interesting. Which these are questions that run through my mind, when someone tells of an occurrence. Take for an example of the 8 common phenomena of a phantom hitchhiker. Why would an apparition appear at the side of a road? Then there’s the physical impression they have, they physically interact with the door, the car light when the door is open is “on” the person this means the photons were being reflected off something physical, how did they have mass as they sat down in the car, have a “solid” appearance, then a short way down the road they disappear from the seat.
Often I’m asked “How do i become a investigator?”, “What do I have to do to become a researcher?” of which the answer is, build your knowledge base. How can one give structured sound advice, if one does not know the information surrounding the questions being asked.
In the last couple of years, we’ve somewhat stepped away from active investigations. But have become more an observer and trying to gain insight into the actions of alleged investigators. For instance, why are they using “x” piece of equipment? What data do they hope to gather? Of the data gathered during an investigation whether, video, audio, photographic, device data and recorded information how is this analysed? Is it available for review by external professionals? What are the groups intentions for the recorded data. Why is where we are today with Projects like Project WIRGOOT aiming to survey how groups conduct investigations, and what is done with the information gathered.
Giving presentations and talks around the county. Focusing as well on other aspects of the unexplained, rather than just ghosts, because there is more to the paranormal than just ghostbusting.