This article is available free for reproduction accompanied with a mandatory credit as follows: Marley's Ghosts, 10.00 pm, Wednesday 30 September, on Gold.
As a big, new TV comedy about ghosts launches on Gold this week, never has the fascination with the paranormal been so high.
Jennifer Saunders, Miley Cyrus, Paul McCartney, Sting, Roger Moore and Robbie Williams are just a few of the A-list celebrities who have not only admitted they believe in ghosts, but they have also had encounters with them.
"When I moved out (of Ringo Starr's old house in Los Angeles), the removal men wouldn't go in because of the old lady sitting in the chair," admits Robbie. "Ringo's son, Zak Starkey, said: 'I hear you're in my old place'. "He asked if I'd seen the children in the garden and the old lady. I never saw the kids but the old lady certainly kept cropping up."
Former James Bond Roger Moore was also left shaken and stirred one night when he awoke with the feeling that someone was in the room. He recalls,
"Lying there, with the light of the moon coming through the window, I saw a misty substance floating across the bed. I was rigid with fright. "When it disappeared, I looked at my watch and saw that it was precisely 2am. The next night, at the same time, the same thing happened.
"Our home help told me to leave a bible opened at the 23rd psalm on my bedside table. Reluctantly, I agreed to do that and try one more night. It worked and I never had the experience again".
And such is Jennifer Saunders' big belief in ghosts that she reckons she was even haunted by her late grandmother. The Absolutely Fabulous star explains, "I don't believe in God and I'm not superstitious but I do believe in ghosts. It could have all been in my head but when I was younger I thought I saw ghosts quite frequently. Or at least there were strange happenings. I'd wake up and feel a bit funny, open my eyes and I could see shapes. It got really scary. When I was at college I was living in a flat in London where there were lots of knockings at the windows and strange noises."
"For ages I thought it was an annoying bird in the tree outside but there was no tree and absolutely nothing outside my window. Then one day, my mother gave me a photograph of my grandmother in a little lacy dress, being pushed in a swing by her father.
"The back of the photograph said "15 Steeles Road" which was the address I was living at. And I thought "Ooh, that's weird".'
Even the Royals are said to have seen creepy apparitions. The Queen has reported seeing the ghost of John Brown in a corridor and feeling his presence.
Brown is one of the most popular ghosts of Balmoral Castle and has been seen by others walking around the castle. He is said to be always wearing his kilt.
Another royal residence, Windsor, is perhaps the most haunted of all the monarch's palaces, with as many as 25 ghosts reported. The ghost of Elizabeth I has been seen by several members of the royal family, including the Queen.
Meanwhile Hollywood actress Michelle Williams admits she thinks she has seen the ghost of her ex-partner and father of her daughter, Heath Ledger. Michelle claims that just three months after Heath's death, she woke up to furniture being moved at 3 a.m. before seeing a shadowy figure that looked like Heath.
As for the TV queen of ghost hunting, Yvette Fielding, and she is adamant that what she sees when she visits haunted places around Britain is definitely not put on for the TV cameras because the presenter is such a big believer in ghosts. "I didn't experience paranormal activity until I was 31," she explains. "I was staying at my mum's house when I awoke during the night to see the ghost of a man in a soldier's uniform at the foot of my bed. I screamed and ran to my mum's bedroom where I spent the remainder of the night. I was petrified! I did some research and apparently a soldier from World War II sadly committed suicide by jumping in front of a train very near to where my mum lives. It was after that eerie encounter, that I found myself increasingly drawn to the supernatural.
"(I have had experiences with famous ghosts.) Oliver Cromwell communicated with me via an ouija board. That was certainly an evening to remember. We double-checked afterwards and all the information he gave us was historically correct! I work alongside my husband, Karl, and he has also been the recipient of some amorous advances from ghosts! A few years ago, we performed a séance in a castle. We ended up getting in touch with the spirit of the lady of the house and she took a shine to Karl. She told us via an ouija board, 'Karl is MINE!' I was very quick to put my foot down. Hands off my man!"
But with research suggesting that more than 1,000 sightings of ghosts have been reported in the last quarter of century, it's clear the stars' confessions are becoming more and more common. Indeed, encounters with devils, demons and evil spirits are as widespread today, as they were in medieval times, say researchers. And ghost hunters looking for the most activity should visit Yorkshire, which has been named Britain's most ghoulish county with 74 sightings.
These include a hideous shadow-like hellhound with no discernible facial features, which collided with a car between Northallerton and Leeming Bar on the A684. A sea-going water demon has also been reported off Filey Bay in Yorkshire. Witnesses claimed to have seen a ghostly creature with a long neck, a vast serpentine body and glowing eyes.
Cumbria, on the other hand, is the most cursed county. There have been seven reported cursings in the district, including one involving reappearing skulls in Calgarth Hall. There have been 23 reports of poltergeists (ghosts who interact with the world - mainly turning things on and off or hiding things) in Essex and Sussex. Twelve years ago, a couple, who moved into a house in Sussex, reported an entity that turns on the radio and taps, and groans when discussed.
Environmental manifestations are where the landscape changes - for instance, if somebody sees a house that doesn't exist. And there have been plenty on the Isle of Wight. One legendary tale involves an ongoing house party in a house that doesn't exist on the island near Knighton Gorges. As the story goes, a manor house has been seen in the area with a party in full flow, visible through the windows. But the house was demolished many years previously. A large black knight on horseback is still also reportedly spotted once a year. As for famous legends and it's down in Cornwall concerning stones and King Arthur that will resonate with many. At Bossiney Mound at midnight on 20th June each year, King Arthur's table is said to surface from the mound, briefly waiting for the men to sit at it once more.
For many, spotting ghosts happen when they are asleep. But why does this occur? According to US researchers, it's caused by sleep paralysis, which can happen to a terrifying 40 per cent of people at some point in their lives.
They believe sleep paralysis takes place when a person wakes up during a stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM), in which they are usually dreaming. REM lasts for around five to 15 minutes and is repeated roughly every 90 minutes throughout the night. In sleep paralysis, the person begins to wake up and may sometimes even be able to partially open their eyes, but find themselves unable to move. The paralysis only lasts for a few seconds or minutes but can be terrifying because the victim may experience vivid hallucinations.
Adrian Williams, professor of sleep medicine and consultant at the London Sleep Centre and Guys and St Thomas' Hospital, says, "As the person has partially woken up the hallucinations can feel very real. They often involve hearing, or seeing ghosts or other menacing figures. Some sufferers even feel they are being touched, sat on, or pulled off the bed."
But among those who experience sleep paralysis, a small group of people can also feel as though there is a demonic figure in the room, pressing down on their chest. Scientists at University of California, San Diego, say that one explanation is that there's a disturbance in the brain region that holds a neural map of the 'self.'
"Perhaps, in part of the brain, there's a genetically hardwired image of the body - a template," Baland Jalal, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego reveals.
And the appearance of a ghost or demon could result when the brain tries to project the person's own body image onto a hallucinated figure, he goes on to add. Yet whether ghosts really exist or not, even the most cynical person cannot dismiss people's very own real-life stories or their fascination in trying to find one. Companies across Britain who run ghost-spotting events at spooky halls have reported sell-out events. And with the number of paranormal websites on a massive increase, its clear UKTV's ghost comedy, Marley's Ghosts, has hit the right chord.
Starring Sarah Alexander, John Hannah, Jo Joyner and Nicholas Burns, it tells the story of a woman who can talk to the dead, which includes her husband, lover and vicar in an amusing meange-a-quatre. "I really hope it'll make people laugh," says Sarah Alexander. "You need the audience to buy into the idea that these three ghosts come and live with Marley. It has to be real. As with all comedy, you have to play it truthfully."
But if Sting's story about his face-to-face encounter is anything to go by, then the new comedy will hopefully become a big hit. The former Police singer says he once encountered a ghost, which wandered into his room at the dead of night. Says the famous star, "I would never have said I believe in ghosts, until I saw one - and I've seen a ghost with my own eyes. I was in bed one night, in a very old house I used to live in. And I woke at three in the morning, bolt upright, looked into the corner and thought I saw Trudie standing there with our child in her arms, staring at me. I then reached next to me...and there was Trudie."
Marley's Ghosts begins on Gold on Wednesday 30th September at 10pm.