Throughout history there have been many recorded examples of individuals with apparently fantastical abilities. The following is just a small selection:
In the 1880s, one Annie May Abbot tours North America. Known as the ‘Georgia Magnet’, this innocuous young woman is capable of making small objects completely immovable, simply by resting a finger on them.
In Saratov, Russia, in the 1920s, a factory worker named Leonid Tenkaev is allegedly capable of generating an internal magnetic field that allows as much as 20 kilograms of ferrous metal to be stuck to his body.
In the 1980s, Chicago bellhop Ted Serios is witnessed ‘throwing’ mental images onto blank Polaroid film, creating a series of blurred images showing scenes from the recent past.
But serious, objective research into these kinds of abilities is often clouded by sensationalism and claims of fraudulent behaviour. Possibly due to the nature of these individuals and the phenomena that surrounds them, no recorded example of any lengthy and detailed analysis into the nature of their ‘extraordinary talents’ seems to exist.
I used to believe that a chance to speak with such an individual would be a fine thing indeed.
But expectation and reality are seldom the same thing.
A few weeks ago I was asked to visit a person currently being detained at her Majesty’s pleasure at HM Prison Foston Hall, near Derbyshire.
One Nigella Shah.
Although wiry and slight of frame, Ms Shah has the appearance and mannerisms of a featherweight boxer. She is also a career criminal, half way through a ten year sentence for actual bodily harm and impersonating a government official.
Her crimes are not the reason I have been summoned to Foston Hall, but the curious phenomena that sporadically occurs in her presence.
On more than one occasion, in her small and enclosed cell no bigger than eight square metres, various strange effects have been witnessed. One guard describes checking up on Ms Shah one night and seeing the bed levitating above the floor. Ms Shah was tucked up and asleep inside it at the time.
Another guard recalls all the contents of Ms Shah’s cell being found strewn across the dining hall, some hundred metres away. The door to Ms Shah’s room was found locked. She claimed no knowledge of how this event may have occurred.
In fact, the door to her cell has been found unlocked on several occasions. She has never tried to leave the room, let alone escape.
I meet with Ms Shah twice, both times in the recreation area. To save us from being bothered by the other inmates and their guests, these meetings take place outside of normal visiting hours.
I find Ms Shah to be a confident and intelligent individual, although prone to lengthy outbursts of quite intense verbal abuse. Throughout the interview she cracks her knuckles repeatedly and rarely breaks eye contact.
The following is an excerpt from our conversation on the 4th of April 2007, specifically the part involving our discussion of the unusual events that have occurred in her presence. A full transcript can be found logged in the archives of the Psychical Research and Investigation Society.
Dr Gotobed: Are you aware of the reports of ‘unusual activity’ that seem to be following you?
Nigella Shah: Ah, a believer. I’ve spoken to a few like you before. Of course I’m aware of them; I’d be an idiot if I wasn’t. You know what they used to call me at school, Doctor? ‘Spooky Shah’.
DrG: When did they begin?
NS: When I was about eleven, twelve maybe. That’s the first time it was clear to me. My Mum told me that she once, back when I was a baby, she once left me alone in my room. Only for a minute or so. When she came back my toy box was open and everything inside it was laid out on the floor in a circle. I was fast asleep in my crib at the time.
That first time though, that was at school. The teacher, this sad old fucker called Dixon or Dickless or some shit, he was yelling at me after class. And this whole row of desks behind him, they just flipped. Scared the silly old sod half to death that did.
But that all sounds like some Carrie level shit, doesn’t it? My Mum got some daft old biddy to come ‘round to try and ‘cleanse my aura’.
DrG: And how did that work out?
NS: [she chuckles again] Well, she left in tears, put it that way. Said I was the ‘Devil’s child’. Told my Mum to send me to a convent. I told her to bollocks.
This first interview then devolves into a combination of tall tales, obviously taken from classic horror films, followed by some rather creative name calling littered with expletives. After several minutes of this, I opt to terminate the session.
As I am leaving, Ms Shah asks me for the time. I check my watch. Somehow, it has stopped dead on midnight.
I clearly recall checking it when the interview began, just shy of 4pm.
Our second interview takes place two weeks later, on the 18th of April 2007. As I enter the prison I ask the warden if they have experienced any electrical trouble since Ms Shah’s incarceration. He replies that they have not, but he then goes on to ask me with a wry smile if I’ve noticed the lack of clocks in the building.
I must confess, I had not.
Ms Shah seems in a much less confrontational mood this time around, although she still insists on cracking her knuckles and staring intently at me.
The following is an excerpt from this second session. Once again, a full transcript can be located in the archives.
DrG: So you are aware of these things happening.
NS: Sometimes I am. Other times, no. Sometimes I have, like a dream, just before. It feels like I’m going into myself, like tunnel vision. And there’s black around the edges. Like, furry black.
DrG: Do you have any control over them?
NS: I never used to, not when I was a kid. But as I got older, it seemed like if I concentrated, I could make little things happen. Not always, but sometimes.
DrG: Can you give me an example?
NS: [she smiles] When my door unlocks, sometimes that’s me.
DrG: You have a key?
NS: Not an actual one. Not like one you can hold, if you know what I mean? [she taps her head]
DrG: But why do that?
NS: For shits and grins, I guess. It’s fun to fuck with the screws.
DrG: There is an organisation that you could be a lot of help to. If you assist them, let them run some tests on you, sorry, with you, they might be able to look at reducing your sentence?
NS: Oh fuck you, you stuck up piece of shit.
Ms Shah then launches into a lengthy and violent diatribe questioning my sexuality. I draw this session to a close.
This time, as I go to leave, Ms Shah calls out to me. I turn back, and see her pointing to the ceiling and grinning.
A spot of water falls on my shoulder. Not two seconds later, it begins to rain heavily inside the visitor’s centre.
This shower continues for several minutes.
After this interview, I spoke at length with the maintenance staff of Foston Hall. There were no leaks in the pipework of the building, and no rain has fallen for the past fortnight.
They were at a loss to explain the sudden deluge that occurred inside the prison that day.
So does Ms Shah possess certain ‘abilities’, abilities that allow her to manipulate and manifest matter? And is she in control of these abilities?
Sadly, without further investigation, it is impossible to say for sure one way or the other. Ms Shah has proven unwilling to cooperate further. Indeed, she refuses to see myself or anyone else from the PRIS.
Her case does bring to mind a similar series of events that surrounded an American gentleman named Don Decker. He too was allegedly capable of manifesting rainfall indoors, and he also declined to be tested by investigators. Similar low-level telekinetic activity has followed him for years. He is currently incarcerated for arson, a crime he denies.
I have asked the staff to inform me of any further unusual events that may occur at Foston Hall, but I fear they already have enough on their plates with the day to day running of the prison.
We can only hope that perhaps one day, Ms Shah will have a change of heart. I, for one, will not being holding my breath.
Dr Thomas Gotobed
The mysterious PRIS crops up again! I tried them a second time, hoping that they might have the full transcripts that the good doctor refers to. Like last time, the chap I spoke to said that they had no record of any such documents. He also went to great pains to reiterate that their records were ‘patchy in places’ – C.R.