This is an account of the one and only experience I have ever had with the supernatural.
In the summer of 2005, while I was working in Europe, I took a vacation to tour part of France, and I visited the World War I battlefield at Verdun, staying in an inexpensive hotel that was located in a very old building, probably one that was originally built before war, and was rebuilt in the 20’s after the war. I was in a room on the top (3rd) floor, a small spare room with old fashioned furnishing. The hotel was located a short distance from the city center and the riverwalk, and the window of my room looked toward the east - in the direction of the battlefield.
I arrived early in the afternoon and spent the first day looking at the town, browsing a couple museums and memorials, and relaxing in cafes along the river. The second day I spent on a guided tour of the battlefield, which included several of the old forts, portions of the trench lines and the huge memorial with the ossuary underneath. I was especially touched by the sight of thousands and thousands of bones from soldiers scattered about in the ossuary.
That second night, I had an experience that I will never forget. I had gone to bed early, because I had a morning train to catch. The room was narrow and log, with the head of the bed near the door to the hall, and the door to the bathroom at the foot of the bed. Past the bathroom door was a small table and one chair, and then the window I have described. Lying in bed on my back with my head on the pillow, I could look right at the window.
After I had been asleep for an hour or so, I happened to wake up. It was sometime around midnight, perhaps shortly after twelve. It was one of those occasions where you wake up but it takes you a few moments to realize you are awake. I lay looking at the ceiling for a minute or so, wondering what had woke me up. Then I shifted my eyes toward the window and I saw a figure standing at the window. It looked like a man wearing a kepi similar to the ones the French police officers wear and with a military tunic. I could make out the shoulder, the head, the torso, but nothing below that because it was only a silhouette in front of the window, and the part below the waste was out of the line of the town lights from outside. It looked as if it were a man leaning his hands on the table and staring out the window in the direction of the battlefield.
Now, it took me several seconds before I actually realized what I was seeing - the figure was there when I first looked toward the window, but my brain didn’t recognize it as a human-like form for a few seconds. Then it was sort of a startling moment when I recognized the figure of a person at the window.
I thought I was seeing things at first, so I raised up on my elbows to get a better view. This better look made me certain I was seeing something, not imagining it. I just stared at it for I’m not sure how long, maybe a minute, maybe 2 or 3 minutes. I was never at any time frightened, but I did have an odd sense that I was experiencing something out of the ordinary. It was clear to me that I was not looking at a flesh and blood man. I really couldn’t make up my mind if it was shadow from something outside that was taking the shape of a person, or if I was seeing some sort of manifestation. I felt it,as much as I saw it. The room was chilled - like cellar or a basement, and as unusually quiet, as if something were muting the usual noises from outside. It’s hard to explain it, but the feeling was as if I was enclosed in some sort of bubble or envelope that separated me from the rest of the world.
I became more and more convinced that it was not a trick shadow from the moon or a street lamp, but that I was actually looking and a silhouette of a man with his back to me, leaning on the table and looking out the window toward the old battlefield.
After a minute or two, I finally decided I should turn on the light, which I could easily reach from the bed. I had to look away from the figure at the window to find the light switch, and turned the light on and looked at the window to see nothing at all there.
I got up and I walked over the window. It was closed, but still yet that part of the room felt cooler than the rest, especially the floor on my bare feet. I looked around for a couple minutes, opened up the window to see if there was something out there that would have cast a shadow that resembled a person, but I couldn’t find anything in my line of sight.
I went back to the bed and turned the light off and stared at the window to see if the shadow or silhouette came back, but it did not. I lay awake for an hour or more trying to figure out what I had seen. I never saw the shadow again, and the only thing I noticed after going back to bed was that the room started warming up again, even though the coolest part of the night was still to come.
That’s it. I may or may not have seen a ghost that night. I am inclined to think that I did, because if it were a shadow of some object outside, it would have come back when I turned the light out again. And the chill in the room slowly subsided after the silhouette was gone. But I guess I’ll never know for sure.