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Sandy Phillips: The Narrow Doorway

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BANG! The house shook and parts of the ceiling fell onto my bed where I was fast asleep. Windows imploded and sent splinters of glass spraying around the now dark room. I cried because I didn’t know what was happening. My mother stuffed my arms into a warm coat, saying that it was alright but we had to go. She picked me up and ran into the night. As she went past the public house across the road to our flat, she saw her friend lying decapitated and with all her limbs detached. She pressed my head into her shoulder so that this terrible vision was blocked. I clearly remember this though at the time of course I did not know why. As she ran with me, the noise of a Doodle Bug hummed above us and then stopped. These bombs were supposed to fall once the engine had stopped. My mother tried to find cover under the arch of a large door. An angel must have been looking down on us right then because it started up again and moved off, only to fall some distance away from us.

We were both saved that night in more ways than one. My mother told me years later that she used to pop over to the pub each night to get some cigarettes and have a quick word with her friend who served behind the bar. However, this particular night, she told me, a voice kept saying in her ear not to go, “There’s a lot of ironing to be done.” This was repeated a few times and so she didn’t go. It was while she was ironing that the bomb fell onto the pub. We both owe our lives to spirit.

I was six years old when I saw my first ghost. It wasn’t anything spectacular like a transparent vision with a ghastly wail or drooling face; indeed I wasn’t even aware that it was a ghost at all. The fact that it wasn’t even human didn’t bother me because horses in those days were quite run of the mill. It just stood there in a brilliant white aura, swishing its long tail.

I was coming home from Sunday School accompanied by my cousin who never stopped talking and I had just sort of cut off. We walked into Alwyne Square where my mother and I lived with an old aunt, having just returned to London from Devizes where we had been evacuated. The Square had only one way in and out and in the centre was an oval shaped green area with overgrown grass and beautiful mature trees. The horse stood by some ruins with its back to us. As we entered, it turned and looked at us as if wondering who was making all the noise. I remarked on the beauty of the horse before me, cutting in on my cousin’s babble. Marie looked and saw nothing so she asked me where it was, and turned to look behind her. “There, just by the ruins,” I told her, turning to point to where it was standing. However, to my amazement, it had disappeared. She couldn’t see any horse and denied that there was anything. It couldn’t have escaped because of the layout of the area, for there were bombed houses on one side and the remaining houses on the other. We ran home to tell my mother, who listened very carefully. She said to come and show her exactly where I saw it. We all walked outside with Marie constantly repeating that she didn’t see a horse. I showed my mother the location and all she said was that it was strange.

She did, however, believe me and it wasn’t until years later that she told me what had occurred previously. The day before I saw the horse, my mother had met an old gentleman over by the bombed ruins. They had been chatting about the old days generally and he told her that he had once lived in the house that was now a bombed ruin, opposite to where we lived, and that he had once possessed a beautiful white horse and trap to convey him around town. My mother had not talked to me about this chance meeting, in fact she had never mentioned the spirit world at all to me.