I have never seen a ghost. It’s a shame; I have spent a large part of my working life reading and writing about ghosts, phantoms, spectres, spirits, ghouls, revenants. But they elude me; I know they are down there, in the crypt, perhaps fully armoured like Hamlet’s father (if it really was Hamlet’s father), perhaps sheeted as in M.R. James, the strange hopping creature pursuing us over beach and breakwater and rearing up in the spare hotel-room bed. Or perhaps they are here with us all the time and we don’t recognise them. Think, for example, of a huge, opulent chamber; in it there are a few scattered forms – some are reclining, some clearly asleep, but some are all too full of a spirited, malign life. Many of them remind us of people we once knew to be alive; they bear their form, they sometimes seem to speak in their tongues. Although they are not habitually wearing the scarlet robes of destruction, we know they have them ready to hand for when the ghastly celebrations occur. Yet it seems to me I know this place, where the already dead, the half-dead and those so laden with earthly honours that they can never surface from their somnolence gather and speak only to each other in strange, discredited tongues. Ah, I have it. It’s the House of Lords.

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