Thursday 31 October 2013

The KAIRA ghost...

The 31st of October is celebrated in some parts of the world as All Hallows' Eve. It is of Celtic origin and finds it roots in the end-of-summer festivals of Samhain (Ireland), Calan Gaeaf (Wales), Kalan Goañv (Brittany) and Kalan Gwav (Cornwall). It was a time that marked the start of the dark-half of the month and the time that the spirits, dark elves and ghosts would re-enter the world. Folk would be fearful and make offerings to placate the beings from the otherworld.

These days, the commercialisation of Halloween has ruined any sense of wonder or mystery associated with this special time of the year. However, notwithstanding, we have a ghost tale for you to mark the occasion.

And it is a true story...

The KAIRA ghost

It is said that every observatory has a ghost. For anyone who has ever worked at one of these places, especially at night, it takes little imagination to realise the isolation, shadows and strange noises of the telescopes will play on the mind of anyone working there. A strange set of surroundings, in a remote place and, inevitably, with a complete lack of sleep will let the mind play tricks. Nasty tricks. Tricks that awake a primal fear that lies in us all... even the most hardened of scientists.

It is also said that anyone who has never seen or heard an unexplained phenomenon is unobservant. Certainly things can later be explained, but sooner or later, if you are aware of your surroundings, there will be an occasion where something catches your attention and reaches into the core of your psyche. Reaches deep. Very deep.

I have been working at telescopes now for *cough* years, and I have now seen two ghosts. The first took me completely by surprise and totally freaked me out. Even now as I type this I can feel my skin crawl. *shudder* But that was a long time ago.

Today's story is from this year. And it is from KAIRA.

At KAIRA we jokingly talk about the Uhrikivi stone. A stone that requires a blood sacrifice to be appeased. It started as a bit of a joke (having sliced myself open a few too many times during cable works), but with every visit there always seemed to be a nick or scratch or something. One drop. Just one.

So it was late one evening when the site was dark that this tale begins. The sun was long gone and the sky was dark, although perhaps not completely. The site itself was in darkness and I was making my way back from western edge of the High-Band Antenna (HBA) array. I had been checking the anchor lines on the covers and some had needed to be adjusted. In doing so, and in the gloom, I had accidentally run my hand along the timber snow barrier along one of the tiles. It was tile H78... but that is not important now...

... and, yes, there was a drop of blood.

I started thinking to myself about the Uhrikivi stone and wondering what the ancient folk must of thought in days long past. Perhaps I made a mistake. Maybe I let my imagination run a little too far.

However, I put the thoughts out of my mind, carried on with the checks, up along the south western edge of the HBA array and then turned the corner. For a moment, I lost my breathe. There, in the darkness, were two glowing eyes staring at me...

... red eyes.

Red glowing eyes in the direction of the RF-container, or maybe it was the site barracks, I'm not sure.

I stopped abruptly and stared into the darkness.

Deep red eyes. Blood red eyes. Burning in the night like glowing embers. Then they moved, wavered a bit and then blinked shut. The inky blackness returned.

I could feel a lump in my throat and became acutely aware of my surroundings. Everything was silent. I peered into the gloom by I couldn't see anything. No movement, no glowing eyes. I must have stood there for a minute or so, although it seemed like an hour. Then, just as I had calmed myself down and decided it was nothing,...

... the screaming started.

At first it was distant. I was not sure if it was my imagination or if it was real. I was starting to feel quite spooked and I tried to convince myself that it was the wind in the trees, or perhaps through the framesets of the HBA...

... but no.

The screaming stopped. I waited. Then, just as I was about to dismiss it, it started again. Nearer this time. It sounded like a child, the sort of crying not when they are upset or hungry or anything like that. It was more like a shriek. Shrieks of...

... pain.

By now I was convinced that it was real. Definitely real. This was not my imagination, but something physical and distinct. Of course, you might just think I am making this up. I can assure you that I am not. And, after the moment of terror passed, I even had the wits about me to get out my mobile telephone and for a moment, a brief moment, make a faint and noisy recording of the haunting sounds that I heard in the darkness on that bleak, lonely evening.

There are no images. But you can recreate the experience for yourself. Simply close your eyes. Feel the darkness and listen.

In the cold light of day, there is a good explanation for what I saw and heard. When surrounded by our familiar modern world we laugh at these primitive superstitions and silly beliefs. However at that moment, in that place, I felt a connection with what no doubt many ancestors would have felt in centuries long gone by, when the world was a wilder place and we were still but a small part of a more daunting and more unexplained universe. Uncertainty...

... fear.


  1. I received the following comment via e-mail, and have posted it here to share with everyone.


    Perhaps it is not the uncertainty, but the certainty of our own fragile existance on this small planet that fears us the most, at a deeper level in the oldest and most primitive part or our brain, and therefore almost unreachable, only resembled by the sound of an animal being killed in the night.


  2. Yes, I believe that's a wounded fox's scream.
    This is a bit of an older post, but I recently watched a video including most of the noises foxes make.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.