Can we really go one step beyond?

TVTimes speaks to stars about supernatural experiences, inspired by Granada’s series One Step Beyond

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 7 October 1962

YOU can’t always boil it down to imagination, nerves, or even indigestion!…

And people who have once had a sensation of the supernatural say they can never forget it — whether it is a premonition of future events, a hallucination, or that sense of having lived through a situation before.

Many viewers will give second thoughts to such experiences as a result of Granada’s Wednesday One Step Beyond, which dramatises outstanding and bizarre cases of psychic phenomena.

The first episode in this new series follows a young couple driving to their honeymoon hotel. All should be blissful — and is until the bride describes the landscape around the place they will be staying — a landscape she has never seen before.

The bride asks her husband to stop the car at a point overlooking the ocean. Then suddenly she speeds away, marooning her bewildered husband. What was the significance of the girl’s vision?

Another chilling episode tells of a young woman who unaccountably has a preview of the future at a party. She predicts a dangerous train trip for a sceptical guest. But when the guest boards the train his scepticism peels off as he goes one step beyond the realm of human understanding.

To find out if such strange phenomenon really do exist I asked a group of celebrities to tell me any of their real-life experiences which had taken them that extra “step beyond” explainable happenings.

Coronation Street star Pat Phoenix is someone who says she has fairly recent evidence of psychic phenomena. Since she recently moved into a Georgian house in Sale, Cheshire, she has discovered “a rather cosy sort of ghost.”

“I first began hearing a sound as if someone were getting out of bed on the floor above me, at about 10.30 each evening. Then later, when I was alone, I looked through the glass door leading to the hall and saw a small beige-coloured figure with white hair, holding what seemed like a candle.

“At first I thought it was imagination; but it happened again, so I invited some of my more sceptical friends to come and see for themselves.

“Sure enough, around 10.30 they saw her — it seems to be an old lady — crossing the hall to go upstairs carrying either a candle or a bowl of soup. One of my friends rushed out but couldn’t find anything.”

Another star who says she has always been sensitive to the supernatural is 1961 TV Actress of the Year Ruth Dunning.

“I often have premonitions,” she told me, “though not as many as I used to have when I was younger. Sometimes they’re dreams, and at other times its a spur-of-the-moment instinct of something that is going to happen.

“Thank goodness my experiences in this line have all been pleasant. For instance, I knew I was going to marry my husband when I first met him, at a party. And shortly before I received it I had a MOST uncanny premonition that I was going to win my award — though I hardly dared to believe it. And at that time the panel had not even begun to consider the short list.”

Actor Bill (“Snudge”) Fraser tells of perhaps the only case Forces’ history when a billet had to be evacuated because it was listed as ’haunted’.

But this was no Army Game — it actually happened when Bill was a corporal in the Army during the last war.

“We had to spend a time in Bradford,” said Bill, “and six of the men and myself were billeted in a big old empty house. For three nights we couldn’t sleep because of the noise of footsteps, banging, wood-chopping and tapping.

“But although the place was thoroughly searched, they couldn’t find any natural explanation of the noise. So we were moved out and the place was listed as ‘haunted’.”

Newscaster Huw Thomas said he had frequently had that “I’ve-been-here before” feeling.

“I know that many people have this sort of psychic experience,” he said, “but I still find it quite frightening at times.”

Huw is fervently hoping that his premonitions don’t extend to the dream world. He keeps having a dream in which he completely mislays some of his news sheets and has to carry out a frenzied and unsuccessful search on camera — with no one to lend a helping hand!

It wasn’t a dream, but a very vivid form of hallucination, which Bob Monkhouse recalls as his sinister experience. It happened in 1946 when he was working as a cartoon film animator at Cookham, Berkshire.

He and eight other young cartoonists were invited to spend Halloween at an old mansion.

“I was sleeping near the top of the stairs on the first landing,” said Bob, “and most of the others were on the top floor. At about two in the morning I woke up to a most amazing sensation.

“There was an almost blue, electric atmosphere about the room. We found later we’d all had a similar sensation.

“Suddenly, I heard the grandfather clock at the top of the stairs begin to make a noise as though rocking to and fro. The rocking became slower and the movement more ponderous, until finally, after a long pause, I heard it fall over.

“There was a smashing, slithering, sliding and jangling sound as it slipped down the stairs and into the hall, where there was another sound of splintering glass on the wooden parquet floor.

“Everyone in the house had heard it and rushed out to look at the damage.

“But the clock was still standing in its place.”

Of course, Bob couldn’t resist rounding off his psychic experiences with a spinetickling special:

“It was Walpurgis Night.

“I awoke with a jerk — who was sharing rooms with me. Tumbling from my white lips came the story of my dream, in which I saw two head hunters. They were watching Jayne Mansfield make a movie in Africa.

“Ten years later, to the very year, that dream was far from my thoughts as I sidled in through the exit door of my local cinema. There, on the screen was Jayne Mansfield in an African jungle film. And who do you think was in the background? The two head hunters? No, it was Tab Hunter and Ian Hunter.”

Stories of the supernatural have always given rise to a great deal of scepticism. And one man who has a number of doubts about it all is former Fleet Street journalist the Marquess of Donegall.

“I have investigated quite a few stories of the supernatural in my time, and each one turned out to be a fake of some sort.”

Compere-host Hughie Green also has his doubts as to the existence of some so-called psychic phenomena.

“The feeling a person gets that he has done something or been somewhere before is nearly always explained by the fact that the person is tired at that time. Because of this, part of the brain is thinking a step ahead of the other — so that when the thought registers in the other part of his brain, he has what he calls a psychic sensation.”

There are possibly similar explanations for all the other psychic phenomena that surround us. But maybe it’s safer to leave them one step beyond us.

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