Anyone who’s read my blog or website for a while has probably noticed that I’m fascinated by ghosties and ghoulies and all things supernatural. I’ve never knowingly seen a ghost but I believe they exist, and I believe that animals are sensitive to them. When I moved to this old cottage a few months ago I took great comfort in the fact that neither Piglet nor Puss-Puss showed any sign of nervousness, and the three of us have slept happily together in the dark attic ever since.
Over the years I’ve done a fair bit of walking alone in darkness in isolated places, when I’ve been keeping to a schedule and have had to reach Place X by the end of the day in order to be able to complete a walk by a particular date. I’ve learned to just take a deep breath, remain calm and press on. It occurred to me not long after acquiring Piglet, though, that on such occasions she might be able to function as a sort of mobile ghost (or nutter) detector. It was a comforting thought, and I’ve had an interesting time over the last three years walking her through graveyards and spooky-looking places, wondering whether she might stop and bark at something that I was unable to see. She’s never done anything of the sort, though, until earlier this evening…
In our village there’s a little walk that Piglet and I sometimes take if we want a short stroll before we get into our pyjamas. Approached from this side it takes us up a short hill, and then along a dark, ancient passage. The ground to the left of the passage drops to the river, and to the right is sparsely wooded hillside. Both sides are bounded by a mixture of old railings and stone walls. At the other end of the passage–a distance of no more than a couple of hundred yards–is a bridge, and after crossing the bridge we generally turn left and descend along a narrow, winding road past a couple of cottages and some allotments to the village, and make our way back home. The whole thing takes no more than 10 minutes, or possibly 15 if Piglet finds a lot of interesting things to sniff at in the undergrowth. I’m told that in the distant past villagers used the passage as a short-cut to the mill at which many of them worked.
This evening Piglet and I made our way as usual through the village, and climbed the little hill. We arrived at the passage and I entered it, passing an old bollard which blocks entry to any person daft enough to try to take a car up there. I was listening to an audiobook, and so I wasn’t aware that Piglet wasn’t following until a tug on her extending lead alerted me to the fact that she’d stopped moving. I imagined she’d just stopped to sniff at something, but when I turned round I saw that she was standing next to the wall at the entrance to the passage looking over at me. I pulled, but she braced her legs against the ground and refused to move forward. I was very surprised, as I’d been out all afternoon with friends and I’d expected Piglet to be desperate for a walk. I pulled a little harder, but Piglet refused to be budged. As far as I could see there was nothing there that could have spooked her. I was wearing a head torch, because the ground along the passage is quite uneven and can be hazardous in the dark. I switched the torch on and peered into the gloom, but there was nothing to be seen.
I didn’t want to drag Piglet along, and so I turned round and we went back down the hill. Piglet was immediately happy again, and dashed along ahead of me. I was very curious about what had caused her to stop, though, and so I decided that we’d approach the passage from the other direction in order to see what would happen. We walked through the village, turned right after the bottom bridge and began to make our way up the road that leads to the upper bridge and the passage. Piglet was still rushing on ahead, but by then I was a little spooked myself. It wasn’t late, but it was very dark. I switched the torch on again but it made virtually no impression on the inky blackness. Everywhere seemed much quieter than usual, and as we grew closer to the bridge I felt my cunning plan grow less appealing by the second. Eventually I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and wimped out. Piglet and I turned round again, and set off for home.
A few minutes later we once again passed the road that leads up the little hill to the start of the passage, and I decided to try it again. There are street lights in that part of the village, and so I wasn’t as frightened as I had been when passing the dark and shadowy allotments a few minutes earlier. Once again Piglet trotted happily up the hill behind me, but again she stopped as she approached the bollard and refused to go any further, despite a couple of tugs on her lead. I gave up at that point, and we went home.
I’d love to know why it was that Piglet refused to enter the passage this evening. I realise there may well have been an entirely rational explanation, but I’m hard-pressed to see what it might have been. We’ve walked that passage by day and by night, both alone and accompanied by friends, and Piglet has never shown even the slightest hesitation. In fact, she’s never shown any hesitation anywhere, ever, until this evening. Could some animal have left a scent that disturbed her? Possibly, but if she’s capable of being disturbed by animal scents then it seems odd that it’s never happened before: she’s out and about in the woods and fields every day. I dunno…
I do know, though, that an elderly woman who lives in the village told me that she regularly walked her dog through the churchyard, until her husband died. Her husband was buried in the churchyard, and from that date onwards the dog adamantly refused to go in. Piglet and I walked through the churchyard on our way through the village this evening, and all Piglet was interested in there was the possibility of rabbits.