Wed, Nov 16, 2022 6:00 AM

Living with the dead


Tessa Jaine

Ever since he was a young child, Matt Trayling has been able to sense spirits. He talks to Paula Hulburt about his gift and how he’s helped others explore the supernatural.

Photos: Sarah Brown

The moonlight peeked through the curtains, casting its glow into the upstairs bedroom of the family’s detached home in High Wycombe in the UK. Covers cast aside as he sought sleep, five-year-old Matt tried to ignore the whispered voice calling his name. Flipping his pillow over, he scrunched his eyes shut tight and rested his cheek against the cool cotton hoping for peace as the voice finally drifted away.

Matt Trayling

Forty years on and thousands of kilometres from his boyhood bedroom, Matt explains how he has always been able to hear spirits. Growing up, he got used to them calling his name, seeking attention, searching for recognition. As he’s grown up, the ability to hear spirits has lessened - now he sees them instead. Far from being unsettled or scared by the unusual phenomenon, Matt is grateful for the chance to explore different dimensions.

“I’ve always been able to sense spirits. I wasn’t fully aware what it was when I was very young. They were always very calm, very friendly in tone, they didn’t want to shock me, I think.

“Around ten years old I started to be able to see and smell them [spirits]. Most of the time they just seem like normal people and then will fade away.

“They’re not aware I’m there, most of the time I’m not scared, I’m so used to it. Matt explains with a shy smile, “except when I wake up in the night and see one in the bedroom, especially if it’s one I haven’t seen before.”

A former amateur boxer and now working as a marine technician, Matt started the Marlborough Paranormal Chat Group in 2020. The private group is a place for people to share thoughts, feelings and recount supernatural experiences. His original idea was to see if there were enough people interested to hold regular meetings in person, but the popularity of the online group quickly grew. With almost 1000 members, it proved even more popular than Matt envisaged.

“I’d been talking to a couple of people about what they’d experienced and I enjoyed our conversations and thought, in my wisdom, that it’d be good to have a group of people to meet up once a month and talk about this stuff with people who have similar beliefs.

“The response was phenomenal so we couldn’t all meet up in person, hence the online group. Even my experiences are nothing compared to other people in the group.”

Another important part of the group that naturally evolved over time was helping people, particularly children, when all other avenues had been exhausted. “There have been at least two instances where parents were at their wits end and put it out to the group, asking could it be something else? We’ve been able to help and, in fact, have had some good successes.

“There are people in the group who can help with this kind of thing, particularly for parents who don’t understand the spirits, if they have a child acting up it could be worth exploring.”

But, Matt says, there was a time in his life when he tried to ignore the ghosts that he saw frequently. “My mum passed six days before I turned 21 years old. At that time, I didn’t want to know about the spirit world, I didn’t want to talk to my mum, I wasn’t ready.

“I know now that it’s something I can’t control, although I’d like to. I can’t summon a spirit, it’s always on their terms. Even when they talked to me, they never answered any questions. When I stopped hearing them as much, it was then that I started seeing them.

“These are earth bound spirits who may have unfinished business or need help to pass on. Many are just going about parts of their old daily lives. The one’s I’ve seen don’t seem to know I’m there.

“If you see a ghost walk through a wall, it’s because they don’t know it’s there, it wasn’t there when they were alive.”

Matt leans forward slightly as he recounts a recent encounter at home in Blenheim. His tone is matter of fact; he could be chatting about the weather. To him these eery encounters are part of life, or more precisely, death.

A whisp of a wedding dress, an arm moving in dance in fluted sleeves as a woman flitted across the doorway, her long hair swinging out behind. Matt explains how the unknown woman seemed to pirouette past and disappear.

“I couldn’t see her face as her hair had kind of swished around. I was watching TV and she seemed so real that I stood up and moved forward, but there was no one there.”

Matt says his spirit guide, a former nun he believes is called Sister Rosemary, has been with him through dark times in his life. “I first found out about her when I was about 10 years old and went to a medium. It wasn’t until 2011 that I heard her, she sang to me, it sounded like a lullaby but in a language I couldn’t understand.

“I believe now that she’s from medieval times and possibly speaking Latin. I was living alone at this point; my wife had just left me, and I was in an unhappy place. I heard this singing and just burst into tears to know I wasn’t really alone. It probably only went on for about 20 seconds, but it felt like longer.”

While Matt says he hasn’t seen any family members, he knows they are sometimes with him. With a wry grin he explains how his nose was damaged when he was boxing. But an encounter at work left him in no doubt that his grandad was close by, he says.

“I was at work in the compressor shed and I walked in, the smell was exactly like my grandad’s shed, it was unmistakable. My sense of smell is not good, but it was clear as day and I believe he [my grandad] was there. A wave of emotion hit me. I’m a retired boxer and I was at work; it takes a lot to make me cry but I did. I honestly felt he was there.”

While it is mostly people he sees or senses, animal spirits are not an unusual phenomenon either. Stepping carefully over the cat sleeping in the doorway, Matt recounts how he stopped suddenly in confusion. Curled up in a tight inky comma, the family’s cat he thought he has just seen twitched as she slumbered in the lounge. Turning quickly back, the cat in the doorway had disappeared.

He believes it was the spirit of the family’s second cat that had gone missing, which is comforting, Matt says. “We used to have two black cats and we still do; one is real and the other is a spirit.”

Matt knows there are people who don’t believe in ghosts, it is one of the main reasons the online group is monitored so closely. It is important, he says, that members feel safe and can share their experiences without fear of being judged.

“The paranormal is a huge subject; absolutely massive. My focus is on spirits, but others believe in heaven and hell. I try not to be drawn into religious talk as it can be quite contentious. “I’ve been amazed how civil the group is. There have been a few trolls, but very few.”

Matt says he is careful who he shares his beliefs with. At work, he will only bring the matter up if he thinks someone is receptive. He is supported by his partner who has experienced paranormal activity herself, but on a lesser scale. As he gets older though, his paranormal experiences are lessening, he says, but usually start in similar ways.

“It’s a feeling of not being alone, a more loving feeling or the atmosphere changes, it’s very subtle but I’ve learnt to recognise it.”

The Marlborough Paranormal Chat group can be found on Facebook. Joining is by request only.

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