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About A Week: Ghosts On The Net?

Some folk believe that ghosts and demons haunt the Internet, as Peter Hinchliffe reveals.

There was a "ghost" in David Bennett's new computer. A "ghostly" letter.

When he got the computer home and switched it on, a private letter to "Dear Aunt Madge" appeared on the screen.

"The family reunion is only six months away," said the letter writer. "Things are really getting busy. Won't it be great to get everyone together again? Ramona is flying in from London. Al's making the trip from Boston.

"Have you decided what to wear yet? I found the cutest peach chiffon in the store the other day but it didn't fit quite right. I've arranged everything with the caterers. Barbecue it is! We'll be having pork 'n' beans, chicken, potato salad, homemade ice-cream and watermelon ..."

The letter, written by someone who signed herself as R, then sprang its surprise. "Anyway," R wrote casually, presumably hoping she had now got Dear Aunt Madge in the right frame of mind "I was wondering if you would take care of the flower arrangements? "You could work with a florist there in Mapleton and they could send the order to the florist right here in Mayberry . . ."

David, a retired head teacher who lives in Kirkheaton, was intrigued. "I took a copy of the letter," he says "but I didn't pursue the matter. I find myself wondering whether Aunt Madge was persuaded to take care of the flowers. Did R find something to wear? Was the reunion a success?"

No telling how the letter got into the computer. Perhaps it was entered by an employee in the testing room of the factory where it was made.

There's obviously a simple explanation for the mystery correspondence.

But it is amazing how much traffic on the electronic superhighway involves the supernatural.

It's almost as if the Net came into being so that we can tell one another ghost stories. Web sites feature hundreds of accounts of odd happenings and creepy events. New stories are added every day. One site alone presents more than 2,000 curious tales.

There's a story about a haunted lift in an office block in sunny Arizona.

A lonely road in New South Wales, Australia, is allegedly haunted by a strange-looking old man who rides a push bike.

Brian in Indiana reports seeing two weird creatures appear from a foggy field. One was a little gnome-like creature wearing a cap. It had a full beard and long hair and was running on all-fours like a dog.

Someone living in a new house in Texas reports seeing a strange little boy running through his living room. The
boy glows transparently.

Time now to report my own "ghostly" encounter. This occurred more than 40 years ago. I was riding a Lambretta scooter along a country lane around midnight. It was cold and clear. The moon was bright.

I'd been to the pictures with a girl friend. Having dropped her off at Staincliffe I was on my way home to Whitley. I was half-a-mile from the village. There was no other traffic on the road.

Suddenly I heard a voice. Someone speaking just three or four inches away from my ear.

"B . . . . cold tonight," said the voice.

I immediately recognised that it was Neville, the lad who lived across the road from me. So shocked was I that I steered the bike into the side of the road. The bike toppled. I went with it.

"What did you do that for?" Neville demanded. He was sprawled on the grass beside me.

While riding through Dewsbury I had halted at traffic lights. Neville got onto the pillion seat without me realising that he had done so.

He didn't speak until we were almost home.

Usually you don't have to search too intensively to find a logical explanation for a so-called ghostly occurrence. Yet millions seem to have an in-built need to believe in things that go bump, or swear in your ear, in the night.

An American pastor, the Rev Jim Peasboro, published a book titled The Devil in the Machine. He suggests that modern personal computers have so much thinking power that they could be possessed by demons.

He claims that one in ten of the computers in America could be inhabited by an evil spirit.

Oh dear, oh dear. So much for the Internet being the pathway to 21st Century enlightenment.

I still chuckle at the memory of being "haunted" by Neville though. And I wouldn't mind being "haunted" by a correspondent such as R. It's always fascinating to read other folk's mail.


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