Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are some ghost stories that you have experienced firsthand? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
I will start this story by saying I am a skeptic. I don’t believe anything I haven’t seen a scientific explanation for and I even thought hypnotism was a scam until I got to know a hypnotist and saw it work for real. I typically rationalise anything which cannot be explained by referring to nebulous explanations based on chance reflections of parallel universes. However, even though the episode I am about to relate happened over 25 years ago, it is still very clear in my memory.
I was 18 at the time and I had recently acquired a full driving licence. I had borrowed my father’s car and taken a few friends to a pub out in the countryside for a couple of quiet drinks on a Sunday night. After the pub closed – which it did at 10:30 PM in those days – we drove to a nearby town in search of a snack. We all had school the next day and most of us were completely sober, including me, obviously!
Being fairly late on a Sunday, the town was deserted and the only place open was McDonald’s. They were also about to close, so we got some burgers and sat down in the window. There weren’t really any other customers in there and the staff were starting their final sweep round ready to make a sharp exit as soon as it got to 11 PM. We only had just sat down when an elderly woman appeared at the table next to us. She was neither smart nor scruffy – she did not look homeless, but her clothes seemed somewhat old and worn. She immediately engaged us all in conversation, which started off innocent and friendly, but rapidly became quite personal.
The woman seemed to know an awful lot about us, even though none of us had ever seen her before and we didn’t really know anyone in this town. She was alert and animated and spoke quickly, singling out people from the group in turn and discussing specific details of their lives she had no possible way of knowing. Early in the exchange, she turned to me and said “Of course, your grandfather was an engineer wasn’t he?” He was an engineer, but he died in 1951 and had never lived in the area, so she could not have known him.
My friends were laughing along with her at first, but went quiet one by one as she delivered more and more details that could not be determined by simple cold-reading or written off as Barnum statements. Unlike a fairground fortune-teller, her statements were very specific and she dominated the conversation in a way that someone mining for information would not. She spontaneously started speaking in French to one of my female friends who understood the language, and then veered off into another language, which could have been Latin. She started to re-assure people about very specific concerns they had but had not discussed and offered advice, making occasional references to various deceased relatives.
By this time, my female friends were visibly upset and my male friends, who had had a couple of beers, were dumbstruck. The woman stood and announced that she must go, as she was disturbing us. She headed for the door and, as it was now late and the staff were looking like they they wanted to go home, we stood up and followed her out of the restaurant.
And here is the punchline. I was no more than a few paces behind her as she went though the first of the two doors leading onto the street. The exit was on the corner of the building and opened onto the intersection of two shopping streets. There were no other doorways, alleyways, or streets that could conceal anyone near the exit, but when I got outside the woman had disappeared. All there was was two completely empty streets – no cars, no pedestrians, just shops closed for the night. Every time I have been back to that spot since I have stood there and wondered where she could have gone.
We had a 15 minute journey home in the car and there were floods of tears – everyone was hysterical. I guess you had to be there, but it was scary in a deeply unsettling way.