IF you’ve had an experience with the paranormal then you aren’t alone. New research suggests that ghost sightings in Britain are becoming more and more frequent.

Leading psychologist and paranormal investigator Professor Richard Wiseman has revealed that a quarter of British adults (more than 11 million people) claim to have experienced a ghost, which represents an astonishing leap from 7 per cent of the population in the fifties.

Prof Wiseman, who doesn’t believe in ghouls, ascribes the growing number of reported apparitions and bumps in the night to programmes like Most Haunted.

“Because there have been a lot of ghost shows on TV, people may just be more likely to attribute certain experiences, like hearing creaky floorboards, to ghosts,” he says.

“These shows are feeding off the perception that these things actually exist and not looking at the psychological perspective.”

Television may well have been a catalyst for so called sightings, but people have been reporting ghosts since the Middle Ages – long before the advent of electricity, let alone shows like Most Haunted.

Folklore has it that Dorset and the New Forest are a hotbed of paranormal activity. The ghost of a German bomber pilot called Heinz is believed to haunt a shoe shop in Parkstone where his plane crashed during the Second World War.

“We often hear strange noises coming from upstairs when there’s nobody there,” says Paula Dack-Stainer, the great-granddaughter of Tom Stainer, who founded the business in 1912.

“I went in the stockroom one day and a couple of tins of shoe polish suddenly flew past my head.

“I ran downstairs and told the girls what had happened and they laughed and said: ‘That’ll be Heinz.’”

The ghost of an Irish wolfhound has long been reported to haunt Badbury Rings and over in Abbotsbury the spirits of Roman centurions have been seen wandering around the hills.

Rupert Matthews, author of the supernatural, dedicated part of his book, Haunted Hampshire to the New Forest, where the ghost of Florence Nightingale (who’s buried in East Wellow on the edge of the forest) is said to haunt.

While researching his book he spoke to eyewitnesses who had seen spectral monks in the churchyard at Breamore and a suited horse rider in Burley, galloping past the tree where he was hanged in 1759.

Such tales had always seemed a bit tall to me, until I saw a ghost in 2003.

It was at the home of my then girlfriend, whose family lived in the village of Belbroughton, West Midlands.

My family and I had been invited around for a barbecue, but as night fell we moved inside where it was warmer.

We were sat around chatting and as I listened to the conversation, in the corner of my eye, I saw something move in the window.

I looked over and there was a young boy dressed in rags, smiling sinisterly and looking straight at me.

He was an ethereal figure, almost translucent and as I clocked him he slowly started walking past the windows, maintaining eye contact with me as he did so. I froze.

Gradually he disappeared from view; it was as though he had walked down a set of stairs to the basement below.

I stood up to see where he’d gone, the conversation in the room stopped and there was a lot of commotion as people asked me what was wrong.

For the only time in my life, I was speechless. My mum said the colour drained from me.

My girlfriend’s dad went out the French doors to check if there was anyone there but he saw nothing and the security lights immediately came on, confirming that what I saw wasn’t a fellow being.