The first time I met the ghost of Austin Osman Spare was in the Summer of 1988, not long before my eighteenth birthday. I was boarding at my grandmother’s, in her witchy town cottage. As friends, relatives, and readers of Accidental Antichrist will know, she was a ‘spiritualist medium’, which Spare might have frowned on, and also a hereditary East Anglian witch, which he would have respected. Not that I knew either of these things at the time. Although I had recently acquired a badly photocopied collection of his written works, accompanied by some vaguely discernible illustrations, I had yet to learn much about him. Nowhere in the collected works did it say anything about his connection to Essex witchcraft.
One day during the summer I broke into a terrifying fever, my stomach a swelling ball of poison, and passed out. My grandmother rang round every doctor in Colchester before she finally got through to one who did not fob her off.
Watching from the ruins of a monastery stronghold, a glassless stone crossed window arch overlooking a lush grassy valley, where naked witches circled in a Sabbat Dance, skinshifting into animal forms and back again. It is neither night nor day. Austin Spare is there beside me, having appeared suddenly to my left, smiling. He wears a velvet jacket and cravat, his hair wild and curly, as he did at around my own age, when alive. He wouldn’t have been out of place on a Saturday night at The Three Cups, or playing guitar in our local goth band. He tells me secret things known only by those neither living or dead.
A fever dream. I had passed into unconsciousness from the pain. I’m not stupid or crazy. I’m not making an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary proof. Not yet.
I returned to consciousness in hospital, post-operation. The dream had been so very real it confused me that I had gone from talking with Austin Spare to this strange and frightening place. I was in a ward where people were dying. I learned that a surgeon had cut me open, hurriedly pulled out my intestines, removing my appendix just seconds before it exploded. If my insides hadn’t been in a pile next to my unconscious almost flatlining body I would have died a truly horrible death. I wasn’t out of trouble yet, and had attained an infection, causing a different agony that kept me awake, crying to the nurses for stronger painkillers.
All my friends came to visit, and my arch-goth girlfriends pulled round the blinds. Perhaps it was my joy at seeing them all again that helped me recover in record time – so quickly it raised the doctor’s eyebrows.
By the time I left the hospital, I had been in the same room as three men had passed to.. wherever it is they were off to.