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.
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.