“Do you believe in ghosts, sir?” asked a student.
“No,” I said, “Einstein’s theories say they can’t exist.”
“Who is Einstein, sir?”
“A man who said past, present and future happen all at once.”
“I believe in ghosts. sir, and the paranormal.”
I might have told the class the sill story of the night I almost believed in ghosts.
One Saturday evening in Dublin, I walked across the road from the rectory to the church to leave things in the vestry for the next morning. There was the sound of music on the evening breeze – Amazing Grace drifting though the air amongst the sounds of passing traffic. Getting closer, the organ music seemed to be coming from inside, which was strange because the building was in complete darkness.
A strong pinch of the left arm was in order and a pondering whether ghosts played Amazing Grace, don’t they always prefer something much more melodramatic?
Opening the vestry door, which is adjacent to the organ pump, there was some reassurance in the fact that the electric pump was turned on. Ghosts didn’t need electricity, did they? I keyed the code into the pad of the alarm system that protected the vestry and I listened.
The music stopped.
I stepped outside and the church was still in darkness. I stepped back inside and the music resumed. Weird.
What would I do?
I decided that I needed to get to the switchboard for the church lights, but it was at the west door, at the far end of the church. I would then then throw all the switches. I went back to the vestry door and reset the alarm, the music stopped again.
Whoever was inside must have heard the sound of the alarm setting. There was a rustle of movement audible from behind the door where the organ pump is set.
Which way now? I pulled the vestry door closed and set off around the church, going around the east end and the south transept to give myself a clear view of the west door. There was no light at all from within the church.
I walked slowly to the west door, the outer iron gate that covered the door was pulled to. As I reached the door, it opened and a figure inside jumped back with fright.
One of the congregation had been practicing for an occasion at which he was playing. He had a headband flashlight he used for work and he had found this sufficient to see to play the organ. He had been in the midst of Amazing Grace when he became convinced that there was an intruder in the vestry and that he had better investigate.
I suppose if it had been a BBC sitcom, one or the other of us would have been hit with a frying pan. I am glad he wasn’t playing the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, I would have turned for home, never solved the mystery and believed in ghosts.