It was Friday the 29th. October, 1965. The evening was quite cool as we headed out of autumn and into another winter. But, as I sat by the warm fire of our home in Mason Street, Reading, Berks. (U.K.), my mind was on other things.
My wife was in hospital and had given birth to our first child on the previous Sunday. We’d become the proud parents of Denise, a baby daughter.
Fathers, in those days, were kept as far away from the mother and baby as was possible while they were in hospital and I was looking forward to the following afternoon, when I could bring them both home.
On top of this, it would be our first wedding anniversary on the day after that, so my weekend promised to be very full.
As I sat alone that Friday evening, wondering what it would be like to have our own baby to look after (no giving this one back!), there was a knock at the front door and I went out into the cold, dark hallway to answer it. The caller was my very good friend, Peter.
As mentioned in the previous story (see 'The Moel Eilio Experience'), Peter Geary was a fine friend to have. We’d been on a few adventures up in the hills together and we got on well as firm mates. I had no car at the time but, in exchange for driving lessons, Peter, who owned a car and was trying to get his license, helped us out if we needed a bit of transport. Being the obliging friend that he was, Pete put himself and his car at our disposal should we need to be taken up to the hospital when my wife went into labour. With this in mind, we rigged up a couple of old field-telephones between our two houses.
These telephones had to be connected by a cable and we asked for permission to temporarily sling the cable along the wall of the house between our two homes. The owner of the house refused to give us that permission (although, he was a friendly enough chap), but Pete wasn’t going to be beaten. He waited until the chap had gone out, told me to go upstairs, lean out of our bedroom window and throw the cable down to him. This done, Pete went up into his bedroom and I threw the other end of the cable up to him. It was easy enough (we lived in terraced houses) to pull the cable tight between us, from each window, and run it along the guttering so that it was hidden from view.
For a while, we had great fun with those `phones, using them at the slightest excuse. A small crank handle had to be turned fast enough to generate a current that caused a bell to ring in the other `phone, and I recall that our bell always seemed to be ringing. Sadly for Pete and all his efforts, my wife went into hospital in the daytime and we took the cable down the next night without having used it for the original purpose.
Pete put a lot into trying to please his parents and friends. The telephones and use of his car were only two of the many things that he did for me. He was very easy-going and would never have knowingly upset anyone.
But, owing to the events that unfolded that Friday evening, coupled with my fear and confusion, I became angry with Pete for the first and only time. It hadn’t really been his fault, but I blamed him for exposing me to something that I wasn’t ready for at the time.
As related in the previous story 'The Moel Eilio Experience', Pete and I had already shared the one weird experience, up on the summit of Moel Eilio, a small mountain in North Wales. We had been on quite a few adventure trips together and knew each other's natures fairly well. We were both happy-go-lucky, but as safe as possible, and we laughed loud when things went wrong and we survived the incidents. An example of this occurred on another one of our earlier trips up to North Wales.
Pete, who had only just begun learning to drive at the time and was using the trip to gain experience, failed to take a sharp bend. We shot off the road, smashed through a wooden fence and finished up with both front wheels actually dangling over a cliff edge. With help from other motorists, we were soon out of that fix. We had realised that, if we’d been travelling a few miles an hour faster, or had there been no fence to help slow us down a bit, we would have both plunged into a deep gorge and probably been killed. But we laughed it off, pulled the fenders away from the front wheels, and went our merry way. Even spending the next day having the car’s front end straightened and repaired, instead of being able to go up into the hills, didn’t dampen our spirits. That was our natures, we took everything in our stride, and I felt safe in my friendship with Pete. Except for that one night.
Hopefully having established our natures and friendship, here is the story of the events that caused my fear, confusion, and anger.
On the Friday afternoon, Pete’s parents had caught the bus out to visit some friends in the nearby village of Burghfield. As I was at work and Pete couldn’t get in touch with me, it had been agreed that, if I was free to accompany Pete as his ‘driving instructor’ that evening, we would go and bring them home. Otherwise, they would catch the last bus back, knowing that I couldn’t make it. Of course, when I answered the door to his knock and he asked if I’d go out to Burghfield with him, I readily agreed and shortly we were on our way.
Although it was a cold evening, the moon was casting quite a bright light over the land and the low mist out in the fields glowed like silver lakes as we passed. Half an hour later, we had arrived at Burghfield and were sitting down to a welcome cup of tea.
While we were drinking our tea and chatting, Pete asked his parents how they had spent the evening with their friends. Mr. Geary answered, as if it was quite the normal thing, that they had been “Saving the lost spirits of the dead”. Although I had been brought up to respect other people’s beliefs and be good-mannered, I inwardly laughed and scoffed at this statement. But, as they talked about the subject, my curiosity got the better of me and I was soon asking to be told what it was all about.
Apparently, so they explained, some people die with deep feelings of guilt on their conscience, caused for example, by a murder or some atrocity that the dead person may have committed while living his or her earthly life. Due to this terrible sense of guilt, the person cannot go on into the next world until the guilty feelings have been removed. Mr. Geary went on to tell me that these unfortunate ‘spirits’ become trapped and lost in a ‘nether region’ between this life and the next, searching for someone who will forgive them for whatever it was that had caused their guilt.
Pete’s parents and their friends had been ‘getting in touch’ with some of these spirits, hearing their stories and ‘forgiving’ them. I was also told that, sometimes these lost spirits slip back into our earthly plane and are seen by the living. This, they explained, is how we see ghosts.
Seeing that I wasn’t convinced, they played a tape recording, supposedly of Mr. Geary going into a trance, under the guidance of his friend (who I shall call ‘Ben’ from now on), and being ‘taken over’ by one of these spirits, who told his story and was forgiven by Ben. I heard a lot of moaning and groaning but I still wasn’t convinced. Then I was asked if I’d like to see an actual demonstration. Although I was still inwardly scoffing, my curiosity was aroused and I agreed to their suggestion. I was asked keep quiet and to sit over in a corner, where I could watch Mr. Geary.
Mr. Geary was sitting in an armchair near the middle of the room. I had never considered him to be an overly well-educated man. In fact, if I told the truth, he came across (to me at least) as a simple, hard-working father who just wanted to be mainly left alone with his family. Nevertheless, he was a wonderful and honest person who had earned the respect of his many friends, including myself. I just never thought that he would have been capable of acting out the events of that evening. I’m sure that his honesty wouldn’t have allowed him to dabble in anything under-handed, which makes what happened next all the more amazing to me. Even after thirty years and a lot of weird and wonderful experiences, I still wonder about the events of that evening at Burghfield and of an incident that happened when I arrived home.
There were no dimmed lights, there was no swinging watch in front of Mr. Geary’s face, no “Is there anybody there?” And the room was lit as normal. Ben was sitting just in front of Mr. Geary and quietly saying something like “We are waiting here to help any spirit needing forgiveness on the other side.” (I can’t recall the exact words he used now, but they were along similar lines). The two ladies and Pete were sitting behind Mr. Geary’s seat. Mr. Geary just sat there, with his eyes shut, while Ben gently tried to coax an unfortunate spirit to answer. I, of course, didn't really know what to expect and began to treat it all as a game. The ‘rude awakening’ wasn’t long in coming.
As I sat in the corner, idly watching these proceedings, I was suddenly shocked to notice that Mr. Geary’s facial features seemed to be changing. As I looked in pure amazement, his eyes became larger as if almost bulging out, his nose flattened out a bit, his nostrils grew in size, and his lips swelled up to twice their normal thickness. He was writhing a bit, as if he couldn't get comfortable. Ben was still talking quietly, the ladies and Pete were watching as if they did this sort of thing every day, and I was feeling more than apprehensive. I’d never before seen anybody’s facial features change so much that I couldn’t recognise them, as happened with Mr. Geary’s face that night. But, there was more to come!
Mr. Geary’s mouth was moving, as if he was trying to say some words but they wouldn’t come out. He began to struggle a bit, as if something was trying to get out from inside him. I relaxed a touch and went back to thinking that it was all a game and that, somehow Mr. Geary had managed to change his face just to make it look all the more convincing to me.
Then he stopped moving and sat quite still. His mouth opened and he uttered the deepest groan that I have ever heard, as if the sound had come from the lowest soles of his boots. Again I was shocked into amazement and, even to this day, I’m positive that he couldn’t have got his voice that low, in so clear a tone, without it sounding rough and gravelly.
All at once, in that same deep tone, Mr. Geary (was it still Mr. Geary?) started to talk in a language that I couldn't understand. Ben appeared not to understand either, for he asked the ‘spirit’ to talk in ‘our language’ from then on. After a bit of hesitation, the voice spoke again. In that same deep tone, though not very clear, I heard the words “Help me! Please.”.
I glanced at the switched-off tape recorder (it was a large reel-to-reel tape recorder, there were no small cassette players around in those days), then looked all around Mr. Geary’s armchair for hidden wires, but I couldn’t see any. Nobody had moved out of the room, nor gone near any of the cupboards, where I thought that they might have secretly turned on another tape recorder. There seemed to be no explanation as to where this voice was coming from, except from Mr. Geary’s own mouth.
Then there was the facial change. Even if there were a hidden recorder, how had he managed to change his face so that I hardly recognised him? It had happened right before my eyes so there was no disputing it. I didn’t like the situation at all.
Ben told the spirit the names of the people in the room, explaining that there was himself, his wife, Mrs. Geary, her son, Peter, and a friend, Dave. (apparently, as I recall, Mr. Geary wasn’t there as far as the spirit was concerned, because the spirit had taken Mr. Geary’s body as his own and, looking at us through Mr. Geary’s eyes, the spirit would have only seen five people in the room, other than ‘himself’. I saw Mr. Geary’s eyes actually open and look at each of us at this point). The spirit seemed happy with the expectant group who were waiting for his story and, through the medium of Mr. Geary (as had been explained to me earlier), he told us of the earthly wrong-doings he had committed, that were causing him such grievous torments in that lost world of nowhere.
During his 'earthly life', so the spirit said, he had been a Zulu warrior and had fought in a terrible war (could he have been one of the Bantu tribe of the Zulus, who had fought against the British in the Zulu War of 1879?). While helping to fight this war, the spirit went on to tell us, he had committed such atrocities as raping women then killing them. He had slayed young children in front of their parents, then killed the parents after raping the wife, often leaving whole families, from the youngest baby to the oldest grandparent, in a blood-bath of death. He had slaughtered all unarmed and wounded persons that he found in his path. And he had committed other such atrocious acts that I cannot (or would rather not) recall now.
Needless to say, I was stunned by what I had heard. It was inconceivable to me that a mild-mannered, quiet, shy person, such as Mr. Geary, could think up those horrible stories, let alone try to impress (or fool) his son’s best friend with them. I was shocked, a bit bewildered and more than frightened with the fact that I might really be involved with something that I didn’t want to get into. It was turning out to be far too convincing for my liking.
The spirit said that he was extremely sorry for what he’d done, and begged for Ben’s forgiveness so that he could go on over to the ‘other side’ and rest in eternal peace. With no more ado, Ben told the spirit that he was forgiven. There was a long, sighing “Thank you!” in that same deep tone of voice, I watched Mr. Geary’s face change back to normal, as he seemed to relax, and then Ben told me that the spirit had gone on over to ‘the other side’.
Even before Ben could say anything else, Mr. Geary began to groan again and, quickly turning his attention back to Mr. Geary, Ben said that another ‘spirit’ was coming through.
I’ll never forget this second spirit’s 'earthly' name (unlike I’ve forgotten the first spirit’s name). It was ‘Ulricht’. I don’t know if I’ve spelt the name right but, it sounded like Oolrick. Mr. Geary’s face, I noticed, had barely changed this time, and although the voice had began in a foreign tongue, it had quickly changed to English and had sounded almost as if Mr. Geary was speaking normally but with a foreign accent.
This new spirit said that he had been a German soldier in the Second World War, and was forced to fight against the Russians by his German leaders. As he’d advanced into Russia with his comrades, he had committed terrible atrocities. He confessed to raping many women. He had killed many wounded and defenseless persons. He had helped to slaughter a whole village of people. And (this really made me feel sick) had slashed pregnant women’s stomachs open, slaughtering the foetus, that was being carried by each mother, before killing the mother and any family. He also confessed to killing live women for bayonet practice, having them held down on table-tops, etc. with legs spread apart, and using their vaginas as a bullseye ('How?' I had wondered, 'Could a human being even so much as think of doing such shocking things, let alone, to actually carry such terribly sickening deeds through?' These confessions had gone far beyond the realms of what I had thought a human being was capable of.). Other atrocities committed by the spirit during his ‘earthly life’ were brought up, but I’d had enough and didn’t want to hear any more.
Although the rest of the evening was lost to me, Ben forgave this second (and last for that night) spirit, and the exhausted Mr. Geary was allowed to become himself once again. I cannot recall saying goodnight to Mr. Geary’s friends, or the ride home. I was in a bit of a shocked daze and had gradually become furious with Pete, Mr. Geary, and Ben, for blatantly exposing me, somehow, to their play-acting and such horrific ‘stories’. I didn't want to believe any of the things that I had heard that night, nor accept that it was possible to get in touch with the dead. I muttered a hurried “Goodnight.” and walked along to my gate as Pete and his parents went into their home.
At that time, I’d already had some weird experiences regarding ‘ghosts’ and the ‘Supernatural’ (see previous stories). These experiences had occurred in a normal way and, at the most, had just given me a fright. But that night had been different. If everything I’d seen and heard had been real, it confirmed that there actually was a ‘Purgatory’ (I'd learned all about Purgatory (or ‘Limbo’?) during my younger church-going days). I didn’t want to believe my own eyes and ears and I’d looked for excuses that would disprove it all and expose Mr. Geary and his friends as fakes.
The first excuse I’d thought of was the fact that they hadn’t gone through the (traditional?) routine of dimmed lights, a swinging watch, and the “Is there anybody there?” part. That was my only concept of getting in touch with the dead at that time. Then, there were those horrific stories. I tried to tell myself that no human being would commit such bestial acts, it had all been lies. And lastly, there was the all too easy forgiveness. If, I had thought to myself, these monstrous crimes against others had really been committed, how could Ben forgive those spirits so easily after hearing of all the horror they had inflicted? He didn’t seem to even consider the enormity of each crime, the number of crimes per spirit, nor the time that each spirit had spent in that nether region. Ben had given no penance to do, nor did he say that any of the spirits hadn’t suffered enough. It had all been too easy.
And yet, There was the facial change that I’d clearly seen, the very deep voice, and the facial change back to normal again.
Already the incident had begun to take on a ‘dream-like’ atmosphere as we had travelled back to Reading, and I was wondering if I’d imagined seeing those changes and hearing that deep voice. I tried to cover it up by telling myself that those folk were either play-acting, lying, or trying to make a fool of me. As I had walked along to my gate, I’d written off the evening’s events as a complete farce. I promised myself that I’d have a few strong words with Pete in the morning.
I reached my front gate, put out my hand to lift the latch and looked up at my house at the same time. Within an instant, I was filled with a feeling of pure terror. My feet seemed to have become stuck to the pavement, my outstretched hand had stopped, as if frozen, just before touching the latch and my eyes were staring at the front of my house. For some reason, I could not go through the gate and into the house.
The bright moonlight was shining directly onto the front of the house, its silvery light showing every detail of the small garden, the steps up to the front door and the window frames. But, the windows and door were as black as the ace of spades. It was just as if there was a ‘nothingness’ behind the silvery facade of my home that went on forever. And I knew that I wasn’t imagining it either, it was real. I don’t know how, but I felt that in some way I was being shown proof of what I had witnessed earlier. Full of the utmost fear, I turned, raced back along the pavement (I was nearly twenty three years old at the time!) and banged on Pete’s door.
When I’d explained to Pete what had happened, he just laughed and said that it served me right for being such a disbeliever of other people’s powers and talents. Taking my door key, he walked along to my home where he opened the door and turned some lights on inside. Then he said goodnight again and, still chuckling to himself, walked back to his own home.
Pete’s unconcerned manner, and the way that he’d just walked up to the house and opened the door, had relaxed me a bit. I now became furious with myself for imagining such stupid things and making myself look such a fool. With this fury smouldering inside me, I glanced into the living room, to ensure that the fire I’d left earlier was still safe, then began to walk up the stairs towards the bedroom.
I’d just reached the half-way point up those stairs when, to my further horror, every light went out and the house was plunged into blackness again. I couldn’t see a thing, it was just as if I were blind. In sheer terror, I turned and half-fell, half-ran back down the stairs and along the hallway. I fought with the front door lock, got the door open, raced down the steps, jumped the gate and took off up the road, not stopping until I reached my mum’s home in the Oxford Road nearby. I spent the rest of the night, sitting in her front room with the light on, feeling scared and confused, and realising that there must be something in what I’d seen that night after all.
As soon as it was light enough I went back down to my home. I felt a lot better now that the night was past and I had accepted, more or less, what I’d witnessed at Ben’s home. The front door of my house was still open and the lights were blazing merrily. It was all very confusing! But, in the light of a new day, I was happy again, and my house was back to normal. Soon, I had a nice fire going, had ensured that everything was tidy and was straining at the bit to go up and get my little family.
Over the next few weeks, I was far too busy to give the above events any further thought, other than to discuss them with my family and Pete, then to slot the whole incident into my memory bank. Now, with so many similar experiences being reported from all around the world and a few more ‘spiritual’ experiences of my own, I have no doubt that there wasn’t any play-acting or lies that night. I saw the real thing and I hope that it helped to make me a better person.
In three week’s time, as I type these words up on my computer, I will be fifty one years old. During those fifty one years (apart from the usual ups-and-downs of these modern days), I’ve never had to go to war, I’ve never killed anyone, I've never committed any atrocities, and I have tried to live a decent and helpful life. But, I must admit that I often think of those two ‘spirits’, and I know that their plight helped me to appreciate my life a lot more.
Were those two men just ordinary humans, such as I, before they went to war? Would those men have lived a decent, helpful life if they had been left alone to live a wonderful life such as I have? How would I have behaved in their wars, flushed with victory over my enemies and under peer-pressure from my comrades and my leaders? (I have heard since that, during the Second World War, the Russian soldiers were ordered to rape all German woman as they advanced into Germany, as a retaliation for what the German soldiers had done to their woman, although I don’t know how true this is. Even so, I shudder to think what the poor women, on both sides, must have gone through!).
Would I have acted in the same way? I know that I’m not a cruel, insensitive person, but, as I’ve never experienced what those two spirits went through, and while I’m in my safe environment, I must not judge them, even if I don’t agree with what they did.
Maybe Ben had already realised this fact, and that was why he could so readily forgive those two spirits, trusting in the Lord to sort the problem out ‘on the other side’.
I just thank my Lord that I have never been put to the test, such as so many other human beings have been forced to do under the leadership or threat of land- and power-grabbing nations.
At the time of this incident, I had thought that the British were the ‘goodies’ of the world. This notion had been instilled into my mind ever since I could remember. The British, as a civilized nation, didn't commit atrocities. I would learn, when I began to travel about the world a bit, that the British had been just as bad as any other nation when it came to getting their own way (one example being the wiping-out of almost every Aboriginal on the island of Tasmania, and, as I know that this is fact, I’m not very proud of my ancestry).
Two curious things have come to my notice as I’ve typed up this article, and I feel that they are worth pointing out.
The first is that, if the Zulu had committed his crimes during the Zulu War against the British in 1879, and he had been killed in that war, he could have served as many as 85 years of punishment, in that nether region of lost souls, for his crimes.
If the German soldier had committed his crimes (of which he had confessed to far more crimes than the Zulu had) during the Second World War, and he was killed in that war, he could have been in that nether region of lost souls for as little as 20 years, for the greater number of crimes.
It seems to me that, even after death, the white man gets the better deal!
Knowing that we must have some kind of deterrent, even in war, to try and protect each other against such atrocities, I wonder if people like Ben and Mr. Geary took those differences into account. Or do they forgive all spirits, knowing that the spirits will have to face a judgement ‘on the other side’?
The other curious thing that has come to my notice tonight is, that it’s Friday, the 29th. October. 1993. Exactly twenty eight years to the day from the above events.
Next story - The Mansion of Mystery.
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