Monday 13 November 2023

Slipping Into The Past

Ever had the feeling time was playing tricks on you? 

Perhaps you have visited somewhere for the first time - only to find you knew your way around because somehow, somewhere in the deepest recesses of your brain you had the distinct impression you had been there before. Or maybe, even stranger, you have suddenly had a sense of being out of time in some way. As if everything had taken a step backwards...maybe more than a step. Perhaps, in common with a surprising number of people, you have seemed to pass through a portal in time, back ten, twenty, a hundred years, or more. Maybe it was only fleeting and, even though you were aware of it happening, your mind still cannot process it and you have the hardest time believing you didn't somehow have a bizarre waking dream.

Then you discover you were not alone in experiencing that timeslip. They have gone through the same thing. Exactly the same thing. It is as if, in that particular place, forces come together to create a door to the past and, when conditions are right, it slides open.

So what causes these apparent timeslips? 

It seems a lot depends on how you view that whole dimension. In history, we talk about timelines, assuming time is linear. What is past, stays in the past. The present is where we are now and the future is an unknown country. Yet many eminent scientists, from Einstein to Professor Brian Cox, challenge the finite nature of time and suggest it may be a lot more flexible than we were led to believe at school.

Certainly, an extraordinary number of accounts from seemingly perfectly sane people attest to some very strange experiences that defy conventional explanation.  Some may have involved a trigger factor – such as being keenly interested in historical aspects of a particular place. 
Here's an example:

 In Leeds Castle, Kent, Alice Pollock was exploring Henry VIII’s rooms, touching objects and trying, mentally, to project herself back in time to experience events in that room from an earlier age. For a while nothing happened. Then, suddenly, the room changed. Instead of a modern comfortable space, it became cold and bare. Logs burned on the fire, the carpet had vanished. She saw a tall woman, dressed in an old-fashioned long white dress, walking up and down the length of the room. The woman appeared to be unaware of her visitor and seemed to be concentrating hard on something.

Then, as quickly as it had happened, the room changed back to its original state.

Alice conducted research and discovered that the room had been part of a suite used to imprison Queen Joan of Navarre, Henry V’s stepmother, whose husband had accused her of witchcraft.

Did Alice touch some object that resonated with this era? Did she just will herself into some kind of hallucination? Or did her enthusiasm set of a trigger of some kind, allowing her to glimpse a snapshot of a time long past.

Joan Forman, author of a number of books on ghosts, mysteries and the supernatural, wrote of a Warder at the Tower of London who had an extraordinary experience when he was on duty in the Byward Tower. One night he saw five or six Beefeaters seated around a log fire, smoking pipes. They appeared to be from a much earlier era and the whole room had transformed. Unnerved, the warder left the room, but returned moments later whereupon it had reverted to its original state. There was no sign of the Beefeaters.

Forman wrote of many other experiences, and then had one of her own. At Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, she paused to admire the surroundings. Suddenly she saw four children playing outside. She watched them, especially captivated by the oldest girl, who had blonde hair, wore a high Dutch hat and a long green-grey silk dress with a white collar. Clearly not of this era. She was certain she was watching them with some kind of inner vision, rather than with her physical sight. Believing that the little girl might actually have existed, she searched the ancestral portraits until she found her. She succeeded and found herself looking at a portrait of Lady Grace Manners who died in the 1640s.

Through her own experience and those she documented, Joan Forman became convinced that the theory of a trigger factor, instigating the ‘timeslip’ was true. She had been caught up with the atmosphere of the place, had let her mind drift for a second or two and allowed the past to slip into the present.

Whatever the truth of the many well-documented occurrences of apparent timeslips, they simply won’t go away and accounts are found from all over the world. With scientists telling us that bending time is indeed possible, who knows?

In my latest novel - The After-Death of Caroline Rand - Alli Sinclair is staying in an ancient historic house for the weekend when she experiences a timeslip. Hers takes her back to 1968 - to Laurel Canyon and the start of a whole chain of events that bind her inextricably to the house and the fate of a woman she has never met...

At a weekend house party at ancient Canonbury Manor, Alli is caught between fantasy and reality, past and present, in the life of Caroline Rand, a famous singer from the late Sixties, who reportedly killed herself in that house. Alli soon learns that evil infests the once-holy building. A sinister cabal controls it, as it has for centuries. Before long, her fate will be sealed, and she will learn about her role in the after-death of Caroline Rand.

It begins with a chilling greeting: "Welcome to The Columbine, Miss Sinclair. You are expected."

 The After-Death of Caroline Rand is available here:

and all good bookshops - in the high street or online

And - while you're reading (or contemplating reading) why not listen to this playlist to put you in the mood:

and - with the year drawing rapidly to a close - read about my three favourite books I have enjoyed this year, over at

Flame Tree Press