The true story of a strange happening
Throughout my life I’ve had a number of odd encounters, going right back to childhood. Supernatural happenings in the truest sense of the word, strange events which cannot be explained by our current understanding of natural laws. Some were vague, some may possibly have been misconceptions, confirmation bias or simply the mind playing tricks.
But this event fits none of those descriptions. It was clear, it was real, it was supernatural in the most banal sense. And it happened. I don’t really expect anybody but my loved ones to believe me and I recognise that me saying "hey honestly, I’m honest" won’t carry much weight with you.
So I will ask merely that you suspend your disbelief for a moment, as I tell you the tale of the most mundanely mysterious thing that ever befell me.
Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve: Max Planck
When I was in my teens I had a friend called Caroline, whom I loved in that easy, unexamined and innocent way of teenage girls. I wasn’t romantically drawn to her (I like men and always have) but I thought she was beautiful. She reminded me of a Botticelli angel.
I knew about Botticelli because Caroline came from a family of artistic types and sometimes she would read sections from her big book of art history to me. I often openly and wistfully dreamed of having half her talent. But I wasn’t envious of her. She was genial, genuinely kind and had a generous heart, and she appreciated my odd little ways and darkling sense of humour. An innocent age through the long lens of the Pollyanna Principle, all too soon devoured by ferocious, unforgiving Time.
Unfortunately, Caroline got pregnant at 18 and married an utter oxygen thief called Mark. One of the few things that seemed to occasionally make him happy was going out. Which he did on his own fairly regularly. She was desperate to join him on some of his jaunts so sometimes, despite having an active social life, romantic entanglements and the ever looming pervasive requirement of work, I would babysit for her, because even with two kids and a horror for a husband, I wanted to spend a little time around her, and make her smile.
So it came to pass that one dark weekend night, somewhere in the late 80s, I was all alone in Caroline’s living room, watching, if memory serves, the Golden Girls. Her two little boys slept the sleep of innocent cherubs in the room across the hall. All was calm. The living room door was closed, no windows ajar. The flat itself was several floors up, not close to any trains, planes or suchlike. In fact it was hard even getting a bus to Darnley back then, and getting home at night near impossible, so when I babysat I would stay over and spend breakfast hanging out with my friend.
The TV, a weighty object constructed long before the days of Smart anything, sat at that time on a stand to the left of the living room. It was about four feet from where I was comfortably ensconced on the couch, munching on something tooth rottingly delicious and snickering happily to myself. Behind the television was a unit standing against the wall of the living room. The living room wall it sat against was not adjacent to any outside walls or neighbour’s homes. The shelving was designed for ornaments, knick-knacks and so on. At the bottom of the unit, on a wide base over the top of two deep drawers was a record player. Yep, an actual record player from ye olden days. The base where the turntable sat stuck out a good six inches further than the other shelves.
As I sat there absorbed in the show, it happened. With no fanfare, no ghostly moan, no ectoplasmic offering, no hint of frosty air or breath upon my neck or eerie foreshadowing of doom, out of nowhere and accompanied by silence save chattering and bursts of laughter from the idiot box, an unclear shape sped to the floor behind the television set. Bemused, I went to investigate. What I saw ruined the night for me completely.
Caroline wasn’t by any means wealthy. Early pregnancy had seen to that. She had only a few nice things and displayed them proudly. One of those things was a crystal bowl, of the sort people give you for an engagement gift or that you might inherit from your gran. Lying on the carpet, in front of the turntable, was that heavy crystal bowl. Broken cleanly into two pieces.
I just stood there for a moment. I recall looking around me. I recall going to check on the boys, both sleeping soundly still. I returned to the scene of the crime and picked up the two halves of the bowl and placed the pieces together. They fitted perfectly. No chinks, or raggedy edges. You could see quite clearly the spot where the bowl had been sitting, a few shelves up from the turntable.
The record player, despite being directly in the path of this crystal missile, remained placidly unscathed. The bowl had not met the plastic cover on its strange descent. I’d have heard it. The turntable cover would have been smashed or at least cracked. The bowl would have bounced instead of just whooshing downwards silently. But upon the cover there was not a scratch. If by some extremely unlikely happenstance the bowl had been balanced ready to fall from the shelf, it would have tumbled onto the turntable. But it didn't.
The record player was perfectly intact. The bowl had apparently somehow levitated about 6 inches out from the shelf whereon it sat, then dropped like a stone, dividing into two perfect halves.
I spent the rest of the night going around and around the conversation I would have to have with Caroline in my mind. How in God's name was I going to explain this to them? I didn’t really care what her ghastly husband thought, but I cared immensely what she believed. But how could she possibly believe this ridiculous tale? I thought very seriously about lying and saying I had dropped the bowl myself, just offering to pay for another one and taking the blame for something I hadn’t done.
In the end, I couldn’t do it. I was all aflutter upon her return. I led with something like “I know you won’t believe me. I wouldn’t believe me either. But something weird happened.” To her credit, I never saw a flicker of doubt in her eyes as the story unfolded, nor did she ever give me any reason to believe she disbelieved me. She knew me, after all. A great relief ran through me.
And that’s it. That’s all there is. To this day I have no explanation at all for what happened to the crystal bowl at Caroline’s house. I haven’t seen lovely Caroline now for more than 25 years, I did hear she finally had her fill of Mark’s bullying, cheating abuse and left him many years ago, and a friend directed me to a photo of her on Facebook a few years back, a picture of she and her two boys. The same sweet boys I was watching over that strange night, long ago and oh so far away, I saw their mother in their mouths and eyes.
I don’t know why what happened happened. I have nothing to offer, no resolution to the story. It’s a mystery that I have pondered occasionally through all the years between then and now. I know I didn’t do it. I know it happened just as I described to you here today.
And I know that in the only photograph I have seen of her in decades, Caroline still looks like a Botticelli angel.
I'd love to hear your weird and wonderful experiences, do feel free to share.
As always, wishing you fair winds, and a following sea. Alison Tennent, Queensland, Australia, April 2021
Copyright Alison Tennent 2021, all rights reserved. Scottish by birth, upbringing and bloodline, Australian by citizenship. If you’re reading this anywhere but Medium or The Garrulous Glaswegian, this work may have been plagiarized.