Archive for May 13th, 2009

Ghost behind the wall

May 13, 2009

“I’d love to know what you think of this photo. It was taken, by my uncle, many years ago in Highfield, Southampton, where we used to live. That’s me in the foreground but in the background, close to the shrub, you’ll see a face peering over the wall.

The only people in the garden that day were my parents, my uncle and me. The house itself was described by everyone as having an atmosphere; my uncle sums it up best with his description from a biography he wrote about his father, my grandfather:

“Mayfield’ was a barn of a place chiefly now remembered by me for the chill on winter’s mornings and its spookiness. The Highfield district of Southampton had been built up in the late Victorian and Edwardian years, the names of the roads gave the game away, Khartoum, Omdurman, Nile and so on recalling the British in the Sudan and Egypt…the house had been occupied by the army during the war, the lower half of the passage walls and doors were painted an tasteful chocolate brown (for gloom ‘Mayfield’ was in a class of it’s own)…

It is over fifty years ago, but I still see the Bechstein concert grand piano in the lounge bay window, the lounge and dining room were one large room as my parents preferred to keep the wooden dividing doors open.   ‘Mayfield’ was a ‘spooky’ house, many years later when dad was semi retired and working in Cape Town I never liked staying there on my own. There was a tale told about the house that it was unlucky for women. Both Mrs, Wills and my mother died in the house at very young ages and later my sister and Lynette who also had stayed there both died very young of identical cancer.”

My uncle has had a lifelong interest in photography and when this picture was developed – along with another photo taken on the same afternoon showing the same face – he still recalls the impact that seeing this little face had on my parents. My mother asked him never to show it to me and he only did so many years after she had died. I think it is absolutely extraordinary. We have had it enlarged and, if anything, it looks even more obviously a head – but using measurements gauged by the bricks and the pipe, our best estimate is that the head is tiny – only a few inches high.”