JASON HOLLIS wonders whether paranormal sounds are more usual than sightings

What does a ghost look like?

Ask anyone to draw one and you will get a variety of images; monks in hooded robes, ladies in long gowns, wraiths in burial shrouds.

Some might look happy, others sad, some might be carrying chains (a childhood memory of Dickens’ Jacob Marley) while others might be carrying their own severed heads.

However, while there are plenty of reported sightings of ghosts, you are just as likely to hear one, without seeing it.

Of course, it should be noted that a large proportion of sounds initially taken to have a supernatural origin can be explained in perfectly rational terms; expanding or contracting woodwork, trapped air in water pipes, passing traffic, noises from a neighbouring property, etc., and such probable causes should always be investigated before making claims of the supernatural.

However, here are a couple of interesting cases that, in my opinion stand up to scrutiny.
The manager of Salisbury House, a three-storey Jacobean manor house in Bury Street, Enfield, was in his first floor office one morning and alone in the house, which is used as an arts centre.
He was awaiting the arrival of a student who wanted to collect some equipment he had left in the house the night before and, as he sat catching up on some paperwork, he heard footsteps ascending the wooden staircase to the first floor. The student must have arrived.

He heard the student go past his office door and continue up to the floor above. Suddenly, from the room above him came the sound of furniture being moved around. There was no reason for the student to be doing this and the manager went upstairs to ask what he was doing. However, there was nobody upstairs and it then occurred to the manager that no one could enter the building without him letting them in. The student’s arrival shortly after only served to underline this.

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Are ghosts more likely to be seen than heard?

Another incident happened to the caretaker at Myddelton House, a nineteenth-century family home, also in Enfield, now the headquarters of the Lea Valley Parks Authority.

It was early evening on his first day on the job. Most of the office staff had left for the day and his manager was showing him around the house and giving him instructions for his daily duties. As he was led along the top floor corridor a cheery female voice said “Hello!” very close behind him. Assuming that a member of staff was introducing themselves to him, he turned around to greet the woman only to find the corridor behind him empty. Both he and his manager looked in the rooms either side of the corridor but they too were empty, in fact they were the only two people on the entire floor.

Nobody had mentioned to him that the house might be haunted and the thought had never occurred to him until that moment. He has remained convinced ever since.

The sounds of disembodied footsteps on a wooden staircase can usually be dismissed as being caused by natural movement within the structure, caused by temperature fluctuations. However, I don’t think this is a satisfactory explanation at Salisbury House, where the manager would have been well accustomed to the customary creaks and knocks of the timber-framed building and would know the difference between those sounds and the sound of someone climbing the staircase.

With the Myddelton House incident, it is difficult to offer any rational explanation. Other equally bemusing incidents have occurred in both buildings but I believe these two incidents are truly remarkable.


JAY HOLLIS is a paranormal researcher, amateur historian and musician. He was born in the London Borough of Enfield and lived there for over 30 years before moving to Hertfordshire where he now lives with his wife and children. His lifelong interest in the supernatural led him to write about Enfield’s ghosts and Haunted Enfield, his first book, brings together for the first time all of the stories, legends and documented evidence of the supernatural from around the Borough into one volume.


Jay Hollis
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