Following his wife's death six years ago, David Stannard has become accustomed to spending quiet evenings alone at his home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.
So it came as a surprise to the 73-year-old when he looked up from his television one evening to discover he was sharing his living room with two RAF pilots and a schoolboy.
'The pilots were standing next to the TV, watching it as if they were in the wings of a theatre,' he says.
‘The little boy was in a grey, Fifties-style school uniform. He just stood there in the hearth looking puzzled. He was 18 inches high at most.’
Mr Stannard’s guests never said a word and vanished after 15 minutes. That night, he says, the walls of his house, which had always been white, looked as though they had been redecorated in patterned wallpaper with a brickwork effect.
The next morning he was caught off-guard again when he found a fair-haired girl standing on his sofa. She also appeared to be from the Fifties, but was life-size, wearing a short skirt and pink cardigan, with chubby knees, white ankle socks and ribbons in her hair.
‘I watched her for a while,’ he says. ‘She didn’t move much. Then she was gone.’
It would be easy to dismiss Mr Stannard’s story as the bizarre imaginings of an elderly mind. Fortunately, he knew he wasn’t losing his mind; neither was his house haunted.
A few weeks earlier he had been registered blind, though he was still able to watch television if he sat at a certain angle. He’d been warned that as his eyesight deteriorated, he might experience visual hallucinations in the form of Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS).
‘I was lucky enough to know what it was,’ he says, ‘otherwise I would have thought I was going bonkers.’
An estimated 100,000 people in the UK have CBS, but many won’t realise it because the condition remains something of a mystery.
The real number is probably higher because sufferers are often too ashamed to talk about what they have seen for fear of being considered crazy.
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