Saturday 15 January 2011

The Ghost of Nurses Past

On winter nights on a very old ward ice would form on the inside of the windows. There were 3 of us to 30 patients during these shifts and we kept warm by keeping patients warm, walking backwards and forwards with blankets and hot drinks. Getting off the ward was a relief when we could retreat to the office and stretch out over a heater or go to the canteen. The staff nurse took her break and my colleague and I watched her head canteen-wards. Half an hour later we were slightly peevish that rather than come straight back onto the ward she’d gone into the office, we’d heard the familiar sound of nurses shoes – shoes that clacked rather than rubber soled clogs – echoing up the long corridor, heard the door open and close. A few minutes later the staff nurse returned from the canteen – we’d heard her shoes come up the corridor too – and so we assumed someone else was in the office. There was no one.

 I distinctly remember being amazed that I wasn’t freaked right out, but instead was aware of a sense of connection, of lineage. For 70 years nurses had been clacking up and down the corridor, entering and leaving that office and whether it was The Ghost of Nurses Past or a repeating memory didn’t matter: something strange had happened, we couldn’t explain it and none of us felt frightened. We’d experienced what today would be called Shared Personal Gnosis (SPG) a supernatural event sensed independently by two or more people. After a moment of wide-eyed silence we accepted that it was likely that this had been a ghost, just as we might accept any other fact, and got on with work. This acceptance was as much part of the experience as hearing noises and finding an empty office.

A greater part of this acceptance was probably due to the demands of nursing – there wasn’t time to discuss it or to generate the fear and excitement that often goes with talking about ghosts - and there was also something about the way in which we simply agreed that ghosts exist and we’d just witnessed one. To this day I can't rationalise it.

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