[Introduction: Wolf von Witting is the editor of the fanzine CounterClock, full of information about Europe’s science fiction fandom, its history and future.]
By Wolf von Witting: A phenomenon reported to me on this day, prompted me to write this account. My interest in this subject grew gradually. Over twenty years ago, as I was emptying the washing machine I pulled out a dry and dirty sock among the wet, clean laundry. For a moment I stood dumbfounded with sock in hand. I tried to grasp what I had just experienced and how to explain it. It is not exactly the kind of thing which merits an article by itself.
This thought also crossed my mind while I still held the sock.
I assumed that the sock must have been on top of the machine. I didn’t see it. When I opened the hatch, it must have fallen down and bounced on the hatch into the machine. I didn’t see that either. But it is the only rational explanation and a fully satisfactory one.
Since then I have observed a number of phenomena I have been unable to explain. And some occurrences which have been resolved. There was a painting which slid down the wall. It happened in the next room, but I was facing the door and saw when it fell. It slid straight down along the wall and positioned itself between the furniture supporting our TV and the wall. My fiancé stood with her back to the open door. She only heard it fall. At first, none of us expected it to be strange at all. I went to pick up the painting and looked at its back. No, the wire it had been hanging on was intact. So, the nail must be… No! The nail was still in the wall. What the…?!
This mystery was solved after 12 years. I told a colleague about it and he said that maybe the painting wasn’t hanging on the wire to begin with, but on the frame itself. First chance I had to examine the painting again, I turned it around and scrutinized its backpiece. Yup, my colleague’s theory held up well. There was even a mark from the hook.
If memory serves, it was in 2002, I saw a rare phenomenon called a moonbow. I only descibed what I saw. I didn’t know what it was and very few on this planet have ever seen one. I had to wait nine years before I found out what it was.
Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.
His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it.
He had his suspicions but didn’t pursue the matter at the time. The conundrum was solved after nine months as his family of two was moving to another apartment. When they pulled away the oven from the wall, the pancake was found standing upright between the stove and the workbench next to it. It had turned green. The pancake had come down exactly in the narrow opening between stove and workbench, like a coin dropping down a slot and not left the slightest trace.
This story was told to me, as I began to investigate “paranormal experiences”. I phrased myself as follows: “Have you ever experienced anything you can’t explain? If so, then please describe the event. Eerie coincidences were among the least remarkable events I was told.
But it puzzled me, that some mature people and elderly had seen one, two or more strange things, while others had seen none. Ever. And they were not inclined to believe in any such occurrences either. My supposition was that people who consciously or subconsciously fear the unknown, immediately suppress a weird, unusual occurrence because their rational mind can’t explain it. Almost instantly after, they don’t remember anything weird happened.
Location, south Sweden, farmland. Number of observers: 1 – A man was in his youth chopping wood in a woodshed. Suddenly he felt the axe being pulled out of his hands from behind. There was no one there. He held his hands over his head and ran out of the shed, afraid the axe would come back down somehow. It started to get dark and he didn’t return to the shed until the next day. The chopped logs were gathered and piled, but the axe was never found.
Location, north-east Italy, small town. Number of observers 2 – A few days ago, two women were out walking, in the middle of the day. Ahead of them was a beautiful white cloud in the clear blue sky. Suddenly the cloud pulsated. It looked big, then small, then big again, small again, big again. While they were looking at it. Both saw it. It was as if the cloud suddenly twice moved into the distance. The observation took less than a minute and the transition was instant, not gradual.
I can speculate, but I don’t know for certain what weird tricks the atmosphere can play on the eyes.
A possible explanation should not raise additional questions or be attributed to gods, demons or aliens. There are plenty of inexplicable phenomena and none of them are evidence of visitors from outer space or supernatural beings. Not that I wish to exclude any such possibility exists. I just find it reasonable to look for less spectacular explanations first. It doesn’t make it boring. And we are not crazy.
Location, Stockholm, railway station. Observer 1 – As we arrived in town, I had to urgently visit the bathroom. I rushed into the station and towards the emergency exit for male employees. As I was in reach of the door, the door itself conveniently swung open and I could release the pressure on my bladder shortly after. As I turned around I stopped at the door. It was not an automatic door. There was no device to move it. The door was hanging on regular hinges. There was nothing to cause it to move by itself. But it did. I swear it did! I have never been able to explain it. The easiest explanation, is that I was hallucinating it. It was only me there, so no one else could have observed it.
Location, south Sweden, farmland. Observers 3 (one of them being the axe man). The attic in the main house was a spooky place. The walls appeared to be glowing in the dark. Sometimes it was heard a sound as if someone was trying to tune in a channel on the radio and sometimes in the night, footsteps were heard from the attic. They told a neighbor about this and he just laughed. “Tear down the wallpaper, he said. You will find your explanation.” They did so.
It turned out this very old wallpaper contained a type of glue with phosphorus in it. This explained the glowing. Under a wooden beam they found a porcelain cup hanging with two metal wires going into it. When a gush of wind moved the cup, the wires created this eerie sound of someone turning the dial on an old radio.
One day they had a guest who had a trained police dog with him. The steps were heard again from above and the dog went to the stairway leading up to the attic and stood there growling. The owner had never seen his dog behave this way before. He went up the stairs and into the attic. He found nothing. The footsteps were never explained.
Even when a story doesn’t have an explanation. This is not evidence for the existence of a ghost. We don’t know what it was and nobody is mad to believe it happened. It happened. We only tell the story. We’re not trying to explain it, because we can’t. Somebody else may be able to.
Finally the weirdest of them all.
Location, Stockholm city. Observers 3+ – A former colleague of mine was out walking with his sister and parents. In a park, over a distance he saw his brother. His parents and sister saw him too, but only my colleague went over to talk to him.
His brother asked if he wanted to join him to visit… (I forgot what it was) “We’re on our way home,” he answered. “I’m with them,” he said and gestured to his parents and sister.
They went home directly. As they came home, his brother just comes out of the shower and he swears he had been at home all of the time. My colleague didn’t know what to make of it. But he had since then been wondering what had happened, had he gone with the man he thought was his brother.