Waiting …

I am a born sceptic.  Give me the merest hint of the supernatural and I will go seeking the rational – like father, like son.  This does not stop me enjoying a good ghost story and the hairs on the back of my neck will raise just as easily as the next man.  Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others, is such a good story and so well produced that a part of me wants to believe it is true.  The plot twist which references post-mortem photography, images of deceased loved ones which were a normal part of American and European culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, provides a real-world reference which only serves to enhance the story’s plausibility.

I am reading Dan Boothby’s Island of Dreams which contains this remarkable passage from the artist Tom Watson, demonstrating that scientific explanation can be just as wondrous as the imagined:

Hendersen’s Bridge, built in the nineteenth century from the stone remains of croft dwellings and meeting houses on the Hebridean island of Raasay, has for generations been reputed to emit the sounds of human voices and dogs barking; a ghostly bridge. Science has proved, however, that the high iron-ore content in the stones of the bridge structure has, by way of a natural magnetic recording, trapped these sounds within, with no sense of time.  When atmospheric conditions are favourable, these sounds are released, causing this strange phenomenon to occur.

022-Great grandfather and Uncles-wordpress

The photograph shows my great grandfather, on the right, posing with his two brothers. I like to think their voices are somewhere trapped in stone, waiting for the right atmospheric conditions, waiting to be heard again.


  1. Lignum Draco · July 22, 2016

    Trapped in stone. A scary proposition.

  2. Sue · July 22, 2016

    Hmmm..I must look up Amenebar’s film…

    • northumbrianlight · July 22, 2016

      Well worth a watch Sue – it even has a cameo role by, of all people, Eric Sykes – I always liked him as a kid but it’s not the same without Hattie 🙂

      • Sue · July 22, 2016

        I must find it!

  3. socialbridge · July 22, 2016

    Hendersen’s Bridge sounds like my kind of place!

  4. kirkistan · July 22, 2016

    What a haunting story.

  5. sustainabilitea · July 22, 2016

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could hear the voices of our ancestors? (Or maybe not, you never know!) 🙂


  6. LaVagabonde · July 22, 2016

    I remember those macabre photos from The Others. So creepy, yet fascinating. As is the story about the bridge. I usually don’t believe anything unless I experience it for myself, but having had some unwanted encounters with spirits, I can say that there is still so much we don’t know about the universe. I hope that there will always be mystery. What a boring place the world would be without it. May your great grandfather’s voice appear from the stones one day. 👻

    • northumbrianlight · July 23, 2016

      It seems such an odd subject for photography but that is from the perspective of modern sensibilities – in the 19th century it probably didn’t seem odd at all – how the world spins and changes. We definitely need mystery in our lives which is why I want these things to be true – I will keep listening for Fred’s voice 😉

  7. Cate Franklyn · July 22, 2016

    You have the best family photos! I also love the Others and can kinda believe it too. My all time favorite and in my opinion the scariest ghost movie is the 1963 version of The Haunting with Julie Harris and Claire Bloom. I’ve seen it I can’t tell you how many times and it still makes my hair stand on end. The bit about the stones blows my mind!

    • northumbrianlight · July 23, 2016

      My grandparents were hoarders of papers and images – I am very lucky to have a fairly extensive family archive, mostly on the maternal side. I will try to find a copy of The Haunting – thanks for the tip Cate – a bit of a fright does us good now and then 😉

  8. Su Leslie · July 22, 2016

    I do love the notion of voices trapped in stone, waiting for the right conditions to be heard. But like Janet I’m not sure I’d want to hear the voices of my ancestors. It might spoil my image of them.

    • northumbrianlight · July 23, 2016

      I am not sure I would understand my great grandfather and great uncles – they were Hampshire born and bred and I suspect strongly accented. I can still hear my grandmother’s voice – she used words and phrases which owed little to modern English 😉

      • Su Leslie · July 24, 2016

        I get that. All my ancestors were Scots and I’ve been away “down under” so long I’m not sure I’d understand all that much they were saying. My gran used to speak Fife Scots, although she had a “posh” voice for visitors, which meant she used more English words and spoke more slowly. My parents did much the same when we first came to NZ. And I did the reverse when I moved to England; changing vowel sounds particularly because people struggled with my Kiwi accent.

      • northumbrianlight · July 24, 2016

        You want to try living with a Geordie, Su – it’s not just the accent, I have had to learn an entirely new vocabulary which is neither English nor Gaelic 🙂

  9. Photobooth Journal · July 23, 2016

    I am also a sceptic and find modern scientific discoveries a lot more magical, intriguing and sometimes as frightening as any spiritual encounters some insist on believing. The natural world and human nature are way more interesting than ghostly voices or apparitions. Having said that I also love a good scary story and will look for the film Cate Franklyn mentioned. The science behind the voices in the stone sounds dubious, doesn’t it?! Do you believe it?

    The photo of your great grandfather with his brothers is wonderful! I have a treasure trove of family photos and paper items, also from my mother’s side. It is a joy but also a burden to own. Not sure who will take it on after I go, but thankfully, that should be a good while away, I hope!

    • northumbrianlight · July 23, 2016

      I would love to believe it – it is such a wonderful notion with such fantastic possibilities. However, I don’t understand how you can trap sound on a magnetic material without a write/read head – you can stand in front of a magnetic tape and shout at it all day but nothing is going to get recorded. However, the story-telling part of me will undoubtedly use this one day 😉

      A family archive is precious and one way we help to preserve images and memories is through blogging but, I do wonder how permanent this medium might be in the long term – no more than stone recordings I fear.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment – all the best, R

      • Photobooth Journal · July 24, 2016

        I love the idea of shouting at magnetic tape to record the sound! Yes, use it in a story!

        I also fret about how permanent this blogging record will be. I know some universities are singling out certain bloggers to be archived on a regular basis, but outside of being on that special list, I don’t know whether any of it will survive that long.

  10. Tish Farrell · July 24, 2016

    What a truly astonishing and wonderful phenomenon, Robin. And you’re right, it is better than ghosts, tho The Others is an excellently chilling film. With my archaeologist’s hat on (a bit threadbare), I’m wondering if this effect has been discovered elsewhere, or might be the reason why certain stones were chosen for monuments in the prehistoric past. You’ve sent my brain down all sorts of paths now! Happy Sunday.

    • northumbrianlight · July 24, 2016

      Being the ‘born sceptic’ I am not entirely convinced by this ‘scientific’ explanation either but I do so want it to be true – it certainly gets the imagination running – Happy Sunday too, Tish.

      • Tish Farrell · July 24, 2016

        No, the ‘scientific’ explanation could be just as wacky, but I’ve remembered something vaguely about the San bushmen of the Kalahari creating strange gongs out of stones placed in particular ways which has me thinking about resonance of some kind – sound and/or magnetic. Also with the placement of standing stones etc.

      • northumbrianlight · July 24, 2016

        I like the sound of that, Tish (pun intended ;-)) – I look forward to a post on the subject.

  11. restlessjo · July 25, 2016

    Bizarre! I’d jump a mile high if I walked across that bridge and it talked at me 🙂 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · July 26, 2016

      Me too, Jo – but then I would attribute it to the demon drink – which, of course, could explain the entire phenomena 🙂

  12. meticulousmick · July 30, 2016

    Great post Robin – looks like you come from good stock 🎩

    • northumbrianlight · July 30, 2016

      Thanks John, good to hear from you. They must have been reasonable stock to survive – they all seem to be puffing on either a pipe or cigars 😉

  13. Leya · August 12, 2016

    What interesting thoughts…made for stories!

  14. Pingback: Sconser | northumbrian : light
  15. Pingback: Kielder Viaduct | northumbrian : light

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s