,One of Ben’s birthday surprises yesterday was a ghost tour of Sheffield. It was a complete surprise for Ben, up until the very moment, and even then it continued to be a surprise, for reasons which I’ll get to soon. The man running the tour went by the name Mr Dreadful. Ben’s girlfriend Elsa had organised the whole thing. She’d been told to meet Mr Dreadful against the wall by the town hall. These seemed like rather vague instructions. She didn’t have his phone number either, or any idea what Mr Dreadful looked like. Nor had he given her any description of what he would be wearing. Elsa seemed pretty confident however that we would easily locate him.
We led a clueless Ben down various roads until we reached the town hall. And then Elsa spied him, head bent against the wind, standing by the wall. Elsa linked arms with Ben, still none the wiser as to what this was all about, and walked towards Mr Dreadful. Except, it wasn’t Mr Dreadful. It was a drunken homeless man. I’m not sure who was the most confused by what was going on, the drunken homeless guy, who was trying to understand the question, “are you Mr Dreadful?” or Ben, who was wondering why his girlfriend had arranged a chat with an alcoholic tramp for his birthday. Assuming that Elsa knew what she was doing, seemingly perfectly confident, we had all followed behind, and were now standing around the poor perplexed man. I had no idea that there was anything wrong, and assumed that by this point Ben would be starting to realise what his surprise was. And so, I affected a spooky voice, and said to Ben, “Ben, meet Mr Dreadful!” Ben’s dad, who also hadn’t registered that there was anything amiss, joined in with an evil sinister laugh. We’d all been to the pub before hand and so were feeling rather merry. Sean was a few steps behind and joined us a couple of seconds later. He also had no idea that we had accosted the wrong person, and so he enthusiastically shook the stunned man by the hand and said, also adopting a sinister voice, “Mr Dreadful I assume.” But he, like all of us, had assumed wrong.
We apologised to the man, who was much too drunk to comprehend our explanation, guiltily all handed him coins, and walked away to meet the real Mr Dreadful, who was standing just a few metres away.
I’d like to think that this ordeal was so strange that it caused the homeless man to make the decision to go sober, helping him get his life together. Perhaps he thought that if he kept on drinking like he was then one day he might be as bad as us.
We then said hello to the real Mr Dreadful, although we’d sobered up a bit too much to do any of the evil laughter and sinister voices which we’d treated the homeless man to just a few seconds earlier. Before he started the tour we needed to pay him. Upon doing this, he produced a black top hat out of a carrier bag, placed it on his head and led us down the street. Why couldn’t he have stuck the black top hat on beforehand? Now it was clearly obvious that he was Mr Dreadful, and wearing the top hat would have saved us from the awkward altercation earlier. Or maybe the homeless man isn’t really a drunk living on the streets, but is actually Mr Dreadful’s friend and partner in crime. Maybe they have a scam whereby Mr Dreadful’s friend waits by the wall, and when people approach him assuming him to be Mr Dreadful, he pretends to be drunk and says he’s just a man living on the streets. The people naturally feel guilty for this mistake and so hand over money, at which point the real Mr Dreadful appears out of the shadows, and claims even more of their money. Perhaps I am the first person to have blogged about this, and this blog will therefore be Mr Dreadful’s undoing, as I start to receive comments from readers who have also been duped by this scam.
Whether Mr Dreadful is a con artist or not, I did enjoy his ghost tour. I think I enjoyed it the most out of everyone. I think the others expected that it would be more theatrical and that he’d properly act out the stories and draw you in with his way with words and style of delivery. I suppose it was more like a series of anecdotes, rather than crafted, well-delivered tales. But I enjoyed the fact that it was more conversational and anecdotal. I got the impression that Mr Dreadful considered the stories to have some factual merit, if not exactly true, then certainly accurate to the point of what he had been told and what he had discovered. I think he’d gone into the various places he was recounting stories about, and talked to people who worked in the various buildings about whether they had witnessed any ghostly activities. I was more interested in hearing people’s actual accounts of things they’d purported to have witnessed, as opposed to hearing something that was more polished, crafted and acted.
Obviously just because people say they saw these things it doesn’t mean they definitely did, but it’s still interesting to note that there were multiple versions of the same story that had been recounted to him by different people. I am not willing to merely believe that there are ghosts or that there is life after death on the basis of these kinds of stories, but I am not so ardently sceptical as to dismiss the possibility of such things. There are lots of ghost stories and it’s obvious that some of them are fabricated and untrue. It’s also obvious that many people’s spooky encounters have a rational, none paranormal explanation. But that doesn’t mean that every single story is bogus, or that everything can be rationalised. I think there are some people who immediately dismiss these kinds of stories as ridiculous, and they qualify this by saying that they believe in science or that it’s irrational. But most of these people who I’ve heard say this kind of thing haven’t got an amazing knowledge of science. And even science doesn’t really understand most of our universe. I mean, the big bang, black holes, dark matter, the nature of consciousness, infinite multiverses, gravity … What’s that all about then.
“So you don’t believe in things you haven’t seen? so surely if you’re being rational then you don’t believe in gravity?”
“What? Well that’s ridiculous, of course I believe in gravity.”
“But you can’t see it? But you still believe it?”
“I don’t have to see it to know it exists.
“Fair enough, well, can you explain it then? Can you explain what it is? How it is? Where it is?”
I’m not being anti-science here. My beef isn’t with science. Rather my issue is with those people who say that things aren’t scientific or that they are irrational as an expedient way of immediately dismissing something that they don’t understand, especially given that most of these people I’m referring to haven’t really got the faintest idea about science anyway. So surely it’s best to be open-minded and quizzical, just as we should when trying to understand gravity, time, or any other weird phenomena.
Does time exist? Einstein didn’t think so, nor do most scientists apparently, yet we live our lives on the premise that it does. The fabric on which we build Our entire lives upon is completely irrational.
I’ve spoken to friends who are convinced that ghosts do not exist and that it’s all silly nonsense, yet refuse to do a Ouija board because they say that we shouldn’t mess with things we don’t understand. I thought we were being open-minded. “Yes but, I know someone who tried it and weird stuff happened.”
So I think that I’m more interested in uncovering anecdotal accounts of strange phenomena and investigating it, rather than just listening to a man tell stories in a spooky dramatic voice, while we all laugh and look down our noses at the kind of people who actually believe in this shit. I think most of us are sceptical about this kind of stuff because it’s more socially acceptable and fashionable than taking an interest in such things. The world is a fascinating place, and we should take more of an interest in it, but we spend our lives drinking crap, eating crap, listening to crap and watching crap, and believing it to be rational. We should all embrace science more, and we should maybe take an interest in at least disecting some of the paranormal stories rather than just immediately leaping to the conclusion that they are all rubbish. There are probably people reading this who think that the idea of ghosts is stupid and childish, yet believe in God and the words of some ancient book.
I hope that this has sort of made sense. I kind of know what I’m trying to say about this subject, but it’s such a big one, and I don’t feel as if I’ve really conveyed my thoughts about it very well. Feel free to pick it apart, reassemble it and tell me in the comments section what you think I’m trying to say. If it sounds impressive then I might just steal your words, claim them as my own and put them in this blog to make me sound more intelligent. Suddenly stories about my kettle don’t seem so bad, do they?