Deja vu phenomena are paranormal experiences, since there is no quantifiable way to analyze or explain them, and they certainly exist alongside of the ordinary. As far as the paranormal is concerned, we have to either accept that what seems to have happened, did happen … or we don’t. This is, I think, just as true for the first-person experience, as it is for the reader or listener who is trying to make sense of someone else’s uncanny tale. Some folks are so disturbed by something occurring that they cannot easily explain, that they end up telling themselves that it never happened. For others, those random paranormal ocurrences become the high points, standing out from a business-as-usual lifetime, like sunny mountaintops above an ocean of featureless fog.
I have had two vivid deja vu experiences, and they both occurred on one single day, in the west of England. I had arranged to meet a new friend on a particular day, in a small town called Bewdley. On the morning of the day before the meeting date, I found myself only about ten miles away from Bewdley. It hardly seemed worth either hitching or figuring out public transportation — since I had a very good map, I was young and energetic, and anyway, I had a day to fill up somehow. My backpack was small and light, so I decided I would just walk there.
Well that year was one of the hottest that Great Britain had seen in a long, long time. There were massive thunderstorms every few days, and the rest of the time the land sweltered humidly. I found myself walking along a desolate, treeless roadside, ascending a relatively gradual, but also relatively endless hill. I really was running out of the will to continue, and if I hadn’t been alone, I would have told my companions to “Leave me here, go on and save yourselves.” But right at that time, I noticed some sort of building just up at the crest of the hill. I decided well, okay, I could make it that far, and whatever kind of building it was — even if it was someone’s home — I was going to stop there and find some shade and sit for a while, and try to get something to drink.
To both my relief and delight, the place turned out to be a pub. And I arrived there just about the middle of lunchtime, which according to a sign outside, seemed to mean that there would actually be food inside. It was a quaint, authentically old-looking building too, which was something of a plus, since like most Americans, I am fascinated by the kind of cultural history that reaches back more than a couple of centuries. Gratefully reaching the front door, I stepped into a dark space, a sort of vestibule or foyer. There were two large rooms leading off on either side of this small space, and a very ancient -looking door directly facing me, opposite the front door. It had a mullioned window in it. Curious, I walked over to see if I could see through the old, ripply glass.
Just as I came within touching distance of that door, I had the first deja vu of the day. Just as fast as a finger-snap, I could see, hear, feel, and smell another time and place. I knew that there should be a stable on the other side of that old door — I could smell the animals and the manure. Moreover, I knew that the room to my left (which was now the main room of the pub) was a sort of off-duty room full of men — guards, yeomen, and retainers of the manor house (which this pub turned out to have originally been). The absolute ambiance of a distant century completely saturated my senses for just one instant. My consciousness was there. Then, it was here again.
The mystical moment being over, my body had a number of more materila concerns, involving thirst, hunger, and the need to find a loo. So I proceeded into the bar, and quietly had the plowman’s lunch (like everyone else) and something soft to drink (unlike everyone else). Then I turned my attention to the building itself, which had of c ourse piqued my curiosity. It was, indeed, a very old manor-house, and as I recall, had been the home of Dick Whittington’s grandfather (and, I think, even was built by that gentleman) so it dated to at least the very early Fourteenth Century. And in the Sixteenth, it was the house where Lady Jane Grey grew up. An interesting detail, since I have had (particularly in childhood) a rather morbid fascination with the subject of public decapitation … he kind of fascination in which, horrifying as one finds the whole idea, one cannot possibly look away, or stop reading. And Lady Jane Grey has always stood out in my imagination as a particularly tragic victim, of both destiny and political expediency.
Well, that was an interesting little interlude in my day-long hike, but after a lunch break, I had to get back on the road. By about dinner time I found myself arriving in Bewdley. This was a small town which was apparently founded in the Sixteenth Century, with its main industry being that of rope-making. It was built alongside a river, and had an actual High Street — the main thoroughfare, which paralleled the river, and was located far enough up the rather steep side of the river-front, that it would presumably escape any reasonable degree flooding on the river’s part. Having gotten some directions to a decent hotel which was to be found on that High Street, I first trudged up a steeply-inclined street leading away from the river. then I turned left onto High Street, and within a few paces, encountered my second deja vu.
Once again, in a flash as brief as a camera shutter’s opening and closing, I found myself amidst a long-past version of the place. In that brief window-view, there were half-timbered, overhanging houses lining the street-sides. And the street, which lacked sidewalks. was far busier than in the present era. I got the sounds and scents again, too. Scents, in particular — in this flashback version of the main street, there was a deep gutter — an open sewer, really — running straight down its center, which was dirt, not pavement. And then, as brief as the other one, the vision disappeared, leaving behind one more vivid memory.
I never have had one moment’s doubt in all the years since, that I somehow saw a real glimpse of an earlier moment, straight out of the timelines of those two locations — the manor house and the high street. And since both places felt so familiar — I was so sure I knew what would be in parts of them that I could not actually see — I have always supposed that both were my own memories, lingering from some past lifetime, in some dusty corner of my soul, and shaken loose by this direct physical contact with places that I had known once before.
Perhaps a really good medium might be able to cast some additional light on these two experiences. However, for me, the why and wherefore is of very little interest, compared to the mere fact of having had those two moments of wonder. I do think that every type of paranormal encounter is an opportunity to experience true wonder. And what would life on Earth be, without a sense of wonder? Hardly worth living, I think. So, my very sincere compliments to the Paranormal side of the world, for its endless creativity and lack of boringness, and long may it thrive. I hope that everyone reading this, has had plenty of the Paranormal in their own lives, and has, likewise, embraced the wonder.