I might believe it, too, if I didn’t know just how buggy these new vehicles are. For whatever reason, the scene lights come on spontaneously, the doors lock and unlock independently, the interior lights cut out, and – most embarrassingly – the bull horn sounds on its own, when you’re waiting in traffic, or maybe waving an elderly pedestrian to cross.
I suppose if there were any place that should be haunted, it’s an ambulance. But there’s something so utilitarian about them, so ruthlessly lit up, that along with all those other liminal places – the operating theatre, the resus room, the mortuary – they all feel about as free of earth-bound spirits as they are of pets. I wouldn’t take a nap in the back of an ambulance, but that’s not because of the things that have happened there, more the long gaps between each deep clean.
Apart from this haunted ambulance, and that episode when two paramedics were called to an exorcism and a sofa flew at them across the room, there’s The Story of The Haunted Standby Point.
It’s a lonely place to the east of the city, a bleak little parking area between a stretch of woodland and an ancient pond. Apparently two ghosts favour this spot – a woman who was killed in a motorcycle accident and a woman who drowned herself in the pond. I’ve not seen either, but apparently The Ghostly Motorcyclist lies by the side of the road and then disappears when anyone stops to help, and The Drowned Woman rises up from the tangled shore of the pond with her arms raised out Scooby-Doo style. It’s tempting to think maybe the motorcyclist was killed swerving to avoid The Drowned Woman, but there’s no way of knowing, except to say that The Drowned Woman is wearing a voluminous Victorian dress, and The Ghostly Motorcyclist helmet and jeans, so the one obviously predates the other. On the other hand, maybe the only connection is that the standby point is in some kind of geographical/spiritual anomaly, some little kink of gravity that encourages the retention or production of ghosts. It certainly feels ghost-friendly, especially in the early hours, with a mist hanging over the surface of the pond, and crows rawking overhead. There’ve been so many sightings now that no-one will go there. Control have given up trying to enforce it, and removed it from the list.
Whether it’s true or not, it’s a satisfying kind of victory that at least one roadside standby point has gone. And even more satisfying that the reason is so extraordinary. It’s given me hope I could start a rumour about another standby point we hate.
The ambulance trust hires the lobby of a charity in a tiny terraced office in an old part of town. We get sent there at night if there’s no work, which these days is pretty rare. It can be creepy on your own in that building, especially when the robotic door closures take so long to work. If you use the toilets deep in the building, and then come back into the lobby to sit down, it’s a full five minutes before the inner doors slam shut. It wouldn’t take much to conjure up a restless spirit, whose torment these past hundred years or more has been to wander around an empty building at night randomly slamming doors.
Taking a practical view (which I have to do whenever I freak myself out with these things), surely there can’t be many spots that haven’t experienced a death of one sort or another. If a ghost was created every time there was a death, there’d scarcely be time to scream before you turned round, drew breath and screamed again. Ghosts would be everywhere, and they’d have to work a lot harder to get our attention.
Maybe they are everywhere, but only certain sensitives can see them, like Derek Acorah, or our dog, Buzz, who’ll suddenly bark for no reason, as if something’s snuck in the room while you were dozing off and vulnerable.
Anyway, the point is, never, ever leave your keys in this truck. Which is probably good advice, ghost or no ghost.
And don’t do standby at night.