Monthly Archives: October 2015

It’s the Witching Hour : Story Number Eleven

Number 11

“E pur si muove” : “And yet it moves” (Galileo Galilei)

When my father, Fred, died in hospital at the age of eighty, his wristwatch was found to have stopped at 11.04. I went round to his house a couple of days later to check everything was all right, and I found that the old brown wooden clock in the sitting room, which had been a wedding present some fifty or more years earlier, had also stopped at that very same time of 11.04. This is like his sitting room clock, but the time is wrong:

big clock

 

Towards the end of his life, Fred had been both blind and bed ridden and his house had become very neglected. During the period after Fred’s death, both my wife and I spent a lot of time cleaning and redecorating all the different rooms.

As we did this, day after day, on more than one occasion, we both smelt what we thought was my mother Jean’s perfume. It was as if she were watching over us in approval as we dusted and hoovered. I suppose that if that were the case, then it should not have been too surprising, given that Jean was a typical 1950s housewife, always cleaning and re-cleaning, and immensely house proud.

At this time, my brother, Ken, who had always been so firmly convinced that the house was haunted, refused to go into the empty property on his own. He had always had the idea that spirits, whether good or bad, are pushed into the background by human activity, but that when potentially haunted houses are empty, then the ghosts will begin to claim them back as their own. Ken certainly believed in the story of the little man who had lived there in the 1940s.

Similar feelings were expressed by my daughter Lauren. As I mentioned above, during that period immediately after Fred’s death, my wife and I were readying Fred’s house to be put on the market. We were spending all of our time cleaning, painting and decorating.  Meanwhile, Lauren sat upstairs in the smaller of the two bedrooms revising for her imminent GCSE examinations. She spent all of her time sitting with her back to the wall, scared stiff as she worked. She felt that there was somebody else in the room with her, but that they really did not like her being there. These disquieting feelings only came when she was on her own. As soon as anybody came into the room to see her, all her fears disappeared.

It is easy to dismiss ideas like these out of hand, but it is a little like the difference between walking through a graveyard at three o’clock on a sunlit afternoon:

sunny graveyard

as opposed to three o’clock in the cold, dark depths of a winter’s night:

graveyard_zps723fe69f

With this idea in mind, on the very last evening before the contracts were exchanged and Fred’s house passed out of my possession forever, I decided to do an all-night vigil in an effort to experience something ghostly.

To cut a potentially long story short, I saw or heard absolutely nothing. But, at the same time, though, I was, throughout the entire night, so scared that I never did manage to switch the lights out. I really was very frightened. And, just like Lauren, I too spent all my time sitting with my back to a wall.  Read into that what you will.

There were other strange happenings as well as the stopping of the wristwatch and the old wooden clock. We were experiencing them, I suspect, because we were clearing out Fred’s house after his death. It is very frequently said, for example, that building work, and many other types of physical change such as painting or wallpapering, are extremely good for provoking a strong reaction from any ghosts that may be present.

One day, I had been cleaning and painting the living room. This was the downstairs room where Fred had spent the last two, painful, years of his life, except for his stays in hospital. He had a bed, an armchair, a commode and a television, so he was self-contained in a sad, forlorn sort of way.

That particular day, we had reached lunchtime, and my wife and daughter were outside in Fred’s old summerhouse, finishing off their fish and chips from Renée’s Fish Bar. For some reason I now forget, I was alone. Suddenly, I had the strangest feeling that Fred was there in the room with me. I called out to him,

“Are you there, Dad? It’s me, your son, John. If you are there, give me a sign.”

Straightaway, the curtains in the window looking out towards the garage and the concrete drive where Fred had parked his cars for so many years, began to shake and move. Then they stopped. I waited a few seconds and then called out for a second time.

“Is that you, Dad? If you are there, then make the curtains move again.”

Without delay, the curtains again began to move. I went outside, and called in my daughter, Lauren. I told her to come into the living room and just to stand still and watch, and not to say a word. I called out to Fred for a third time,

“Are you there, Dad? This is your granddaughter, Lauren. If you are still there, give her a sign. Make the curtains move like you did for me.”

Immediately, again the curtains began to move, and then stopped. I turned to Lauren, and asked her if they had actually moved, and that it was not just a coincidence. She replied that she had seen the curtains, and that, yes, they had moved, and that apparently, it had been in response to my request.

So, for a fourth, and final time, I called out loudly,

“Are you still there, Dad? If you are, make the curtains move again.”

And sure enough, they did. I have no explanation for these events other than the supernatural.

There was no window open. No door was open. The central heating radiators underneath the window were switched on throughout the entire episode, but this would not explain the fact that the curtains actually came to a fairly abrupt stop on four separate occasions. Neither was it my imagination or wishful thinking. That was one of the reasons why I asked Lauren to come in and be a witness to events. And to this day, she maintains, Galileo-like, that, yes, the curtains did move.

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Not surprisingly, perhaps, for quite a while afterwards, Fred was to appear in my dreams. There was one that stood out among the rest.

This dream took place on a huge luxurious ocean liner, standing around a grand piano which stood at the meeting point of several long and wide corridors:

fingersccccccccccccccccccc

Fred was standing there, listening to the pianist who was tinkling away at the ivories in rather desultory fashion. I was talking to Fred, and was trying to trap him into giving me details about the afterlife.

“Where do you live now then, Dad?”, I asked.

“You know that already.”, he said with a slight smile.

“And where you will you go tonight ?”, I asked. “Where will you sleep after we’ve left ?

He did not offer any reply.

“Well, Dad, will I be able to come and see you sometime?”

“Of course you will come and see me…..one day,” he replied, with a strange, wry look, and then walked off for ever down one of the corridors.

I have had no real contact with Fred since, but deep down, I am sure that this will not be the end of the story.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, My Garden, My House, Personal

Hallowe’en Tales : Numbers Nine and Ten

Number 9

He’s back! The Return of the Phantom Passenger of the No 90 Bus

This is another version of the story about the No 90 bus and the ghost of the cyclist. Clearly, this ghost story is a strong tradition which has persisted for many years on this western side of the Nottingham conurbation. I found this version of the story about five years ago, in a forum about ghosts in Nottinghamshire. I kept the website address at the time, but I can’t find it any more, and I presume the forum is now defunct.

On this map, the orange arrow in the centre points to Arnold Lane. I suspect that the young man who needed the loo went into the tiny wood to the north of the road, having parked his car pointing down what is  actually a very unpleasantly steep road:

at long last

The old man would have been pushing his bike up the hill:

I came home one night in the early hours of the morning from the White Post pub in a friend’s car, turned down Arnold Lane towards Gedling, just down the hill, the friend stopped the car as he needed the loo went round the back of the car. As I sat looking down the hill, I could see an old man pushing a pushbike up the hill on the other side of the road. Then suddenly, he just vanished into thin air.

I thought I had just imagined it but when the friend got back in the car, he asked me “Did you see that?” and I asked him “What?”” as we might have seen different things. He said “The old man. He just disappeared”.

I know some people might say, “Well, there’s a path off the road up there, he could have gone along that, but at the point he disappeared  there was just a very thick hedge. I was not really frightened but I was a bit shocked to see this. My Dad later told me a story of an old man who had come from the pit late one night was going home on his pushbike to Arnold and was hit by a car and killed. That’s why the path at the back of the hedge was put into make it less dangerous.”

To complete the Geography lesson, the open land to the east of Chase Farm is what is left of Gedling Colliery, the coal mine where the old man is supposed to have worked.

Number 10

The Killer Bus

I know two more ripping yarns about buses, both of them told to me by a birdwatching friend, Phil, who had worked initially for Liverpool City Transport and then for Nottingham. One story involves the supernatural, the other, a bus driver who was exceptionally lucky not to become a member of the supernatural.
The lucky bus driver occurred when Phil worked in Liverpool in the early 1960s. There was a good two or three inches of icy snow already on the ground, and an absolutely impenetrable “smog”:

smog

“Smog” was a speciality of the era, and it was a dangerous combination of natural fog, perhaps where the warmer sea met the frozen land, and the thick smoke which came from the tens of thousands of houses heated by coal fires and a good few coal fired power stations around any city in the country:

bus in smnog

That day in Liverpool, therefore, the weather conditions combined to produce a bizarre situation, whereby the bus driver could not see where he was going, even at walking pace, but at the same time, he left tyre tracks in the snow which let pedestrians see exactly where the bus had been. Imagine, therefore, the pedestrians’ shock to see that an unknown Liverpool bus, full of scores of workers on their way home from the shipyards, but completely lost in the whiteout conditions, had been driven for more than eighty yards along the edge of the docks. leaving tyre tracks just a couple of inches from the twenty foot drop into the icy waters of the Mersey. The lucky driver had finally turned right to safety rather than left to a watery doom:

Dock_in_Port_of_Liverpool_1
Phil told me a second story, a supernatural tale, all of which had taken place in the Bus Depot in Sherwood, the very same suburb of Nottingham where I live:

bus depot

Apparently, the bus in question had some mechanical problem and it was being mended. It was jacked up on strong supports while repairs were carried out.

Only the strong supports gave way, the bus skewed to the left and the mechanic underneath was crushed to death.

A few days later, the repairs to the bus were completed without any further problems. The bus was parked away on one side of the garage while a driver and conductor could be found to take it away on its afternoon route. The two duly arrived just after one o’clock, The conductress stood at the back of the bus while the driver went to get into his cab and warm up the bus engine.

Except that before he could even unlock the door to get into his cab, the bus handbrake must have come off, and the bus rolled backwards. The surface was steep enough for the vehicle to pick up a fair speed, and the unfortunate bus conductress was pinned against the wall of the building. She died in hospital just a few days later.

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Trade Unions were a lot stronger in those days, and when the shop steward said that his members were adamant that they would not work with this bus, the management had to pay attention to their demands, The decision was taken to dismantle the bus and use all of its parts as spares.

For a long time afterwards, all the drivers and conductors in the depot at Sherwood had the belief that if any serious accident occurred then it must be a bus which had been given, perhaps, the engine of the killer bus, or maybe its rear wheels and axle. And while this belief went on for a good few years, it was ultimately unprovable because no record was ever kept of which parts went into which bus.

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Hallowe’en Tales : Numbers Seven and Eight

Number Seven

The Sea Serpent

On October 25th 1988, I went over to the Isles of Scilly to birdwatch. I crossed over from Cornwall on the ferry, the Scillonian:

scillonia on scillis xxxxxxxxxx

For two or three hours during the crossing, I remained on deck with my binoculars, eagerly scanning the storm tossed waves for seabirds.

At one point, I noticed what I took to be the head of a Grey Seal, which broke the surface perhaps fifty or a hundred metres away from the boat. This is a Grey Seal which I photographed in the harbour at St.Ives in Cornwall:

P1460520

This head, way out in the Atlantic Ocean, was very similar, dark in colour, and I could see a forehead, two eye sockets, and an obvious snout. I didn’t really think a great deal about it, other than the fact that, for a seal, it was certainly a very long way from land, at least fifteen miles. It remained there, presumably watching the boat, for perhaps two or three minutes. Then, suddenly, a Gannet flew directly above it. A Gannet is a very large bird with a wingspan of some six or seven feet:

wikikikik Northern_Gannetzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I then realised from a simple comparison of sizes that the head must be at least a metre and a half, if not two metres, across. And that means it cannot have been a seal !

 Number Eight

The Ghost on the No 90 Bus

Some thirty or more years ago, we used to live in a large house in a new estate on top of a hill right at the very northern edge of the City of Nottingham. From our top bedroom window, we could see the distant cooling towers of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, out towards the East Midlands Airport, absolutely miles away. If it had been built then, we would have easily been able to see the Control Tower on the Airport. To go into Nottingham was a little bit of a bore, though, because there was only the Number 90 bus, which ploughed, every hour, a long and very eccentric furrow from one side of the city to the other, from where we lived on the northern edge, to the furthest bus terminal of Edwalton, beyond even the foetid swamp that is West Bridgford:

DKY-496_lr

The Number 90 bus, strangely enough, had a very strong ghost story attached to it. People told me all about it on several occasions, almost as soon as I mentioned what bus I had to catch to get home and just how long the journey was.

3135590sssss

Funnily enough, the story concerned the very same bus stop on Mansfield Road which we used to use:

bus stop

Anyway, the first occasion the ghost appeared was quite a long time ago, in the 1950s perhaps, or in the 1960s. It was certainly in the era of the bus conductor, who used to go round the bus, issuing tickets and taking the money.

Just imagine to yourself. The time  is around seven or eight o’clock in the evening, and the bus is absolutely deserted. Not a single passenger. The conductor is standing up near the driver’s compartment, talking to him to pass the time. Suddenly, they both notice an old man who is standing at the Mansfield Road bus stop, waiting to go towards the city. The bus stops and the old man gets on. The evening is fine and dry, but the old man is absolutely drenched, with rainwater dripping off him. He looks quite battered, with little rips here and there in his clothing, which is, strangely for the weather at the time, a heavy winter topcoat over an equally heavy winter suit.

The old man says nothing as he gets on. He goes upstairs and the driver and conductor notice he is wearing his bike clips, a simple aid to cycling that is, by now, almost decades out of date.

The driver and conductor finish their conversation. The driver sets off down the road, and the conductor begins the shaky climb up the stairs. He wonders why this special kind of idiot had to go upstairs on a completely empty bus and make the tired conductor follow him.

He gets to the top of the stairs and has a good, surprised look round. The top deck of the bus is completely empty. The old man just isn’t there. He isn’t in the two rows of seats at the front of the bus. The conductor then walks slowly back past all the other rows of seats. The old man isn’t there either, neither is he hiding behind any of the seats in a ludicrous attempt to avoid paying his fare.

Puzzled, the conductor goes back down again, pushes his cap back on his head, and expresses his astonishment to the driver.

Back at the canteen, they tell their tale over a cup of tea and a couple of cigarettes. They are not the first crew to meet “The Phantom Passenger of the Number 90 bus.”

He is, or rather was, an old man of sixty or so:

old_man_on_bike_by_claeva

One winter’s night, he was riding his bicycle home to Arnold, when a hit-and-run driver killed him as he rode carefully and slowly around the Leapool Roundabout. It happened so swiftly that the old man does not realise, even now, that he is no longer alive. Wrapped up against the winter in his heavy suit and heavy topcoat, he still has his bike clips on. His bicycle, to him too valuable to leave behind, is too badly damaged to ride back home. And so, he must walk through the winter rain and sleet the two miles to the nearest bus stop to get back home to his wife and family. On this map, the orange arrow marks the bus stop where the wet old man would get on the No 90 bus. To the north is the Leapool Roundabout. Follow the green road until you come to the obvious roundabout:

map

I don’t know now if the Number 90 still runs or not. I hope it does. No ghost should fade away at the whim of the Nottingham City Transport.

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Filed under Cornwall, Cryptozoology, History, Nottingham, Personal, Science, Twitching, Wildlife and Nature

Hallowe’en Tales : Numbers Five and Six

Number Five

The UFO

It was perhaps in the first half of 1959, a spring and summer of bright white clouds, bright blue skies and bright warm days. I was in the first year at Junior School, in Miss Cartwright’s class. I must have been seven years old. It was the morning of a late spring or early summer’s day, and we had just finished morning playtime, with little bottles of milk and the excitement of straws.

Before each class went back into their classroom, the teachers used to make the whole school line up, in an orderly fashion. Once everybody was quiet and behaving themselves, the classes could start to go in. We members of Class 6 were patiently awaiting our turn, when we all became aware of what even we, as small children, could immediately identify as an unidentified flying object. It was moving silently toward the south west, and was to all intents and purposes, like a grey, or perhaps metallic silver Zeppelin airship:

zeppelin

It was not like any of these obviously fabricated modern UFOs:

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Under the main section of the craft, which was like a short, stubby cigar in shape, there was some kind of gondola, which was of the same colour, and had a number of conspicuous round portholes in the side. There must have been at least four of them.

I have not found any exact match for the UFO we all saw, but these two are both close. There weren’t any lights on the ends, though, and both drawings lack the gondola, which carried the portholes:

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The UFO was only a few hundred feet up, at perhaps the same height that we used to see the Vickers Viscounts and Canadair Argonauts from Burnaston Airport flying over:

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There were of course, no airships in 1959. I myself was a keen plane spotter, and in any case, at the time I watched it, I was sure that this was no plane. I still know the boy who was in front of me in the queue. I see him from time to time even now, fifty five years later. He too has no way of explaining away one of our most vivid childhood memories, despite having grown wise with a wrinkled face and long white hair.

Number Six

Mad Bill

Over the years, my friend Stuart Taylor was to tell me many stories about the ghosts which either he, his mother or his father had either seen or heard. At the time I believed him implicitly, although as we have drifted apart, and I have heard more about him from other sources, I have begun perhaps to doubt the veracity of much of what he told me. I find it difficult to explain away, however, the story of Mad Bill.

Near to Nottingham, at Netherfield, the main railway line to Grantham runs over the River Trent, and over the frequently flooded water meadows alongside it. The railway line crosses the river on a long, cast iron viaduct, which was constructed around 1850. The orange arrow points towards the viaduct:

land orth of

Popular legend among the railway workers said that in the depths of the night, as they worked on the track near the ageing viaduct, men would occasionally hear what was known as “Mad Bill”.

“Mad Bill” was a strange ghostly manifestation, and consisted of what sounds like somebody throwing down, very loudly and very angrily, a huge old empty oil drum. There is then a delay while Mad Bill apparently walks across to pick the oil drum up again, before throwing it down, and then beginning the process all over again. Nobody has ever seen anything, and it all sounds rather ridiculous, although as Stuart pointed out, these things can seem a little more serious when you’re all alone on the viaduct in the pitch dark at three o’clock in the morning, going back to retrieve a hammer or a shovel you’ve left behind.

“Mad Bill” always occurred on the isolated farmland to the north of the viaduct, which is still indicated by an orange arrow:

viaduct

“Mad Bill” could also be heard on the lonely fields to the south:

land to th south

One winter’s day, I was out bird watching with Stuart, on a gravel pit, next to the viaduct. It was around three o’clock in the afternoon, when suddenly every single bird took to the sky in blind panic. That is usually a sign that a raptor is about, and we scanned the heavens eagerly with our binoculars, in the hope of finding a Peregrine, or some other bird of prey.

We didn’t see one of course. But we did hear something, over on the far side of the river, on the deserted and inaccessible water meadows. It sounded just like some muscle bound idiot smashing a very large and empty oil drum onto the ground. It was still daylight, and we were able to check the area. There was nobody there, and as far as we could see, we were the only people for miles around.

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Hallowe’en Tales : Numbers Three and Four

Number Three

Haunted Malham Tarn

In about 1978, despite the fact that I was a teacher of French, I accompanied a couple of Geography teachers on a field trip from our school in Nottingham, to stay at Malham Tarn Field Centre in North Yorkshire:

malham-cove-02xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

We used to work late into the evening, and then, between ten and eleven o’clock, usually retired to one of our staff rooms for a few whiskies, and a little R & R. After that, we would all go to bed.

One night, though, I found myself awakened around two or three o’clock in the morning, by what I can only describe as the feeling that there was some kind of evil presence in the room. As I looked out over my feet, beyond the end of the bed, it seemed to be down in the left hand corner, below the window, in the darkness in front of the wardrobe doors. I could see nothing at all, and could not reach the light to put it on, but I was certain of my fear, and the fact that I was not the only person in the room. Indeed, I was so scared that I remembered my experience of horror films, and used some of the remedies I had seen there. I imagined myself cocooned in a pale blue light, and, despite my status as a lapsed Christian, did not hesitate to repeat to myself, again and again, until I eventually fell asleep, ” In the name of Jesus Christ, I defy thee Satan.”
The following day, I asked questions about whether the building, a converted seventeenth century barn, was haunted or not:

Malham_tarn_house

From my colleagues, I could only get very non-committal answers, which clearly hinted that they knew a lot more than they were prepared to reveal. Eventually, I was told that there was indeed supposed to be a ghost in the place. On one occasion, just after midnight, it had walked into and out of walls, a party piece which had totally terrified a group of Sixth Form Girls, who had packed up and left, even though it was in the middle of the night and still dark.

Number Four

The Beast of Glen Etive

In the middle 1970s, I used to go regularly to Scotland with my friend Bill.  Normally, we would do a clockwise circuit around the whole country, camping each year in the same places. On the second day, we normally stayed at Glen Etive, a long and steep sided valley which runs off Glencoe, just to the south of Fort William:

glen-etive

This particular summer, in early August, if I remember correctly, we had again stopped in this dramatic glen, siting our tent and car just a few metres to the side of the single track road that ran the length of the glen. In those days, before the place was a film set, it was very isolated indeed. A single track road led for four or five miles down the valley to its very end, which was just a tiny wooden jetty large enough for a rowing boat. Nobody was camping anywhere near to us, and later in the holiday, when we followed the single track road down from our campsite to the wooden jetty and back, we met nobody in the ten or twelve miles we covered. No cell phones back then. This was genuine wilderness, where the orange arrow marks our orange tent:

etive

As darkness fell, Bill and I were both sitting in the car, looking across the road, and the flat floor of the valley, over towards the precipitous cliffs on the far side. After a couple of cigarettes, Bill announced that he was going to take the toilet roll, and go off to do what a man has to do. He took with him the torch, and his cigarettes and matches.

At first, I could still see him as he walked away toward a huge well-used pile of granite rocks, some two or three hundred metres in the distance. After a few minutes, though,   he was swallowed up by the darkness.

I was rather surprised that he did not switch on the torch, and looked in vain for the glowing end of his cigarette in what was by now total darkness.

After about fifteen minutes or so, I noticed a light well over to the left of where Bill had gone, and was a little worried that he had perhaps got disorientated in the darkness, and that he might fall over, and injure himself.

I began flashing the car headlights steadily to give him a reference point, and was then surprised to see a second light come on, and make its way at some speed towards the car. This, of course was Bill, who had been considerably frightened by the very loud roaring noises he had heard while out among the rocks:

red_deer_stag_

It was for this reason that he had not switched his torch on. He thought that if he did, he might well attract whatever was making the noise. Inside the car, three hundred yards away, for some reason, I had not heard the roaring, perhaps because I was listening to music on the car cassette player. Strangely enough, Bill had not seen the second light, which by now had disappeared.

During the next few hours, though, we both heard the roaring clearly:

red-deers-in-

It was difficult to describe exactly, but at times it was a deep, loud bellowing, and at others it sounded like an almighty crash. I remember thinking that if a giant baby had dropped a full sized battleship into his bath, then that was the noise it would have made.
We were both frightened, and I slept with the carving knife under my pillow. On the other hand, the noise was always fairly distant, and, although alone, and many miles from the nearest house, we were never scared enough to pack up the tent, and drive off into the night.

Later, we tried to investigate the origin of the lights and the noises. We climbed up into the area which we thought they had come from, but with no success. We found nothing to explain either the bellowing or the isolated light which had been at least as large as a torch. Neither did there appear to be any difference between this section of the valley and any other.

Whenever the idea of “bellowing” or “roaring” appears in this article, the animal depicted in the photograph is a Red Deer stag. And yes, in the rutting season, Red Deer stags do roar and bellow. Set against this though, is the fact that the events described here did not really occur during the rutting season, which occurs from October to November. Likewise, the roaring is most frequently heard in the late evening and then during the early dawn. We heard it, though, when night had really begun. It was certainly pitch black, dark enough to need torches for safety reasons.

Forty years later, I would still describe the noise as “a full sized battleship dropped into a bath”. Strange! Very strange!!

Incidentally, this is the mountain which stands at the head of the glen. It is called “Buachaille Etive Mòr” and, statistically, it is much more dangerous than the Eiger:

monitain

 

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Hallowe’en Tales : Numbers One and Two

Today I begin a series of articles which will lead up to Hallowe’en.

A zombie’s dozen of ghostly tales.

They are all within my experience. That is to say, they may have happened to somebody else, but that somebody else then told me their tale directly, man to man.

The vast majority of these ripping yarns, though, actually happened to me.

Number One

The Vampire

Over forty years ago, when I was a student, my friend Nick and I used to visit the Horse and Groom pub in King Street in Cambridge, on a far too regular basis:

horse gr

One freezing cold foggy dark November night, we went over to our favourite drinking hole where we consumed perhaps a couple of pints, which was a far from an excessive amount for us. We then decided to return to college a little earlier than normal, to finish our evening in perhaps, rather more luxurious surroundings. It was still cold outside, and the fog was perhaps even thicker, as we walked back along a wide asphalt path which crossed the park. The wide asphalt path is designated by the narrow orange arrow:

paths over praj

The path was absolutely straight and lit by a number of old Victorian street lights. They created pools of light perhaps eight or ten feet wide but, as the lights were about ten or twelve yards apart,  there was still a lot of darkness there, not helped by the thickening fog:

lampos

As we got out into the very middle of the park, we gradually became aware of the crisp click-clack-click noise of approaching footsteps, and the tip-tap-tip of a cane on the hard surface of the path. At first, we were unable to see anyone, but suddenly the stranger stepped out of the darkness into the pool of bright light provided by the street lamp.
He was in full evening dress, with dark hair. He carried a cane, and, most striking of all, he was wearing a sweeping black cloak. It was lined with what appeared to be bright red silk:

vampire

We watched open mouthed as he strode purposefully past us, and then back out into the darkness. The noise of his footsteps, and the tapping of his cane gradually became fainter and fainter until they finally disappeared into the darkness:

trees-and-streetlamp

Number Two

The Time Travellers

I have always had a lot of trouble sleeping. In summer, I seemed always to wake up around four o’clo0ck and then find it impossible to get back to sleep again. That was one of the main reasons I started marking GCSE Papers every June and July. It was fairly well paid, and it always seemed a good way to make some money at a time when, in all probability, I would have been lying awake anyway.

In the late 1980s, therefore, I took to s1eeping on my own in the front bedroom. This seemed a good way to get a full night’s sleep before I got up at ten to five to brew some coffee and make a start on the vast piles of cassette tapes, all containing GCSE French Oral Examinations. At the time, our daughter was just two or three years old, and the last thing  wanted was to interrupt my slumbers between ten o’clock and five o’clock the next morning.

One brilliantly bright sunlit summer’s morning, I woke up even earlier than normal, at around four o’clock. It was already well past dawn, and I was lying with my face towards the bright bay window:

window

The bedroom door was directly behind me, and as I gradually became more and more awake, I had the strongest feeling that somebody was standing behind me in the doorway, looking at me. The strongest feeling.

Somehow, I knew that I was going to have to pluck up courage to turn over and have  zaa look to see if there was, in actual fact, anybody there. Slowly, slowly I was acquiring the courage to turn around.

Suddenly, I heard a child’s high pitched voice say, “There’s one in here, and he’s still asleep”. From the landing outside the bedroom came a female adult’s reply, “Come away, you’ll waken him.”

Then there was silence:

curtainszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I turned over to look towards the bedroom door. There was nobody. I got up and had a look around all the rooms in the house. Nobody.

Then, just for a moment, I had the strangest feeling that I had just taken part in a Year 10 Social History class visit from the 25th Century. Walking around in what to them was the distant past. Our distant descendants in our house.

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Filed under History, Personal

The Nottinghamshire UFO flap of July 1967

I have already mentioned in a previous article, the wonderfully titled “A Werewolf in Cambridgeshire. Run away!!” that I had received “Haunted Skies Volume One” by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway as a Christmas present in 2013.

The following year, for Christmas 2014, I was lucky enough to be given Volumes 2-6, which covered the history of British UFOs from 1960-1977. And I have read the lot! It has taken me until April 2015, but I have, more or less, made it. I now sit eagerly at home awaiting the arrival of the last four volumes in the series, which I ordered last Sunday. These will complete the full set.

The ten volumes are an absolute tour de force and a total labour of love which will become a modern classic. If anything, the books have become better and better as the volumes have gone by. I would urge you strongly to have a look at the two authors’ pages on Amazon, if you find this topic at all interesting.
When a number of UFOs are sighted in a particular locality over a fairly short period of time, this is known as a “flap”. Over the years, around the world, there have been more flaps than you could shake a little green man at. In 1967, there was one in Nottingham.

It started, perhaps, on February 13, 1967 in Radford, an area of mainly Victorian terraced houses a very short distance to the north west of the city centre. Look for the orange arrow, near the “O” of Nottingham:

mapof radford

It was ten minutes to nine in the evening and Frank Earp and Gerald Montague were hard at it on their allotment. It must have been almost totally dark, dark enough, at least, to see a diamond shaped object motionless in the night sky. It had a red light underneath and suddenly changed shape before flying off at fantastic speed. This. hopefully, is similar to what Frank and Gerald saw:

dimond redlight zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Five months later, on July 2nd 1967, reports came in of a bright light with three prongs, motionless in the sky over Knighton Park in nearby Leicester, only 28 miles away from the “Queen of the Midlands”.
The main highlight of the Nottingham Flap came three days later during the evening of Wednesday, July 5th 1967.  An absolutely classic flying saucer was seen by a very large number of witnesses. It was motionless over the Clifton Estate, just above the horizon.

classic_flying_saucer_Clifton Estate is to the south west of the city centre. For the most part, Clifton is a council estate built from 1952 onwards, largely to rehouse the slum areas of the Meadows where, as late as the mid-sixties, barefooted children were by no means unusual. At one time Clifton was the largest council estate in Europe. Look for the orange arrow:

nap of clifton

Eventually, that balmy summer’s evening, somebody called the police, possibly for the protection of any little green men that might emerge from their spacecraft. By now, well in excess of a hundred would-be ufologists were eagerly awaiting developments on the rising ground near to the local Fairham Comprehensive School:

bars gate

If my memory serves me well, this was a very large all boys’ school, which has now been closed down:

far school

Years later, an old boys’ reunion got a little out of hand:burning school

When they eventually arrived at the UFO landing site, the boys in blue, of course, did not see any UFOs and told the locals that they were the hapless victims of an optical illusion. Mrs Marjorie Cowdell, however, would have none of it. She insisted to the Fighters of Crime that she had seen a flying saucer “swim” down to the ground.

This was big enough news that a host of reporters were sent to investigate by the national press (in actual fact, the Daily Sketch, which has now, alas, gone exactly the same way as Fairham Comprehensive School).

Here is the story, which appeared in this most intellectual of red top tabloids (presumably the reason it folded) on Thursday, July 6th, 1967:

100 SAY WE SAW A FLYING SAUCER LAND

More than 100 people claimed yesterday that they saw a flying saucer land.
They were “spotting” on high ground near Fairham Comprehensive School in Clifton, Nottingham.
Housewives rushed from their homes when it was reported that a flying saucer about 30 feet in diameter had come down. Many people said that the object was disk shaped and silvery.
Police searched the area but found no trace of anything having landed. A spokesman said, “It must have been an optical illusion caused by sunlight and a cloud of dust.”

Mrs Marjorie Cowdell of High Bank, Clifton said, “I don’t care what the police say. I saw a flying saucer swoop to the ground.”

The stream, almost a flood, of “Close Encounters of the First Kind” continued, this time at Wellow, near Ollerton, some twenty miles to the north of Nottingham. On Saturday, July 8, 1967, schoolteacher Bernard Day and his wife, from Newark-on-Trent, were driving along just after nine o’clock in the evening. Suddenly they saw, according to the Nottingham Evening Post, what looked like:

braxzil top

“A child’s top, spinning in the night sky, from one side to an upright position, for over forty minutes, surrounded by bright light. I fetched Police Constable E.Holmes, from Welland Police Station, who had a look through binoculars and said, “I wouldn’t even be able to guess its identity. I’ll have to inform Inspector R. Street. He will make some enquiries.”

What was presumably the same incident is featured on a rather interesting website I found. No exact details are given, but it would seem to be the same series of events. It reads:

“July 1967. 2110 hours. Saturday. Location – Nottingham, Nottinghamshire. A member of the public, teacher Mr Doy, reported seeing a UFO over a local school and a PC HOLMES attended the school  and confirmed the object in the sky. He then reported the sighting to his duty officer, Inspector R .Street.

PC HOLMES stated that the object was a bright light spinning on its own axis in a stationary position above the school. The police could not offer any explanation for the UFO.

UFO CLASSIFICATION – NL (NOCTURNAL LIGHT).

On Duty sighting. 1 Officer.”

I’m not entirely satisfied with a policeman called R. Street and what about PC Holmes? Surely all of his mates must have called him Sherlock?

Whatever the case, the Nottingham Roswell Saga went on. On Monday, July 10th, only four days later, a bright white triangle was seen over Radcliffe-on-Trent at half past eight in the morning:

amsterdam 28 oct 2013

Radcliffe-on-Trent is to the east of the city, a mere two or three miles away from the very centre. Look for the orange arrow:

map of radclff on trent

Interestingly, the locations of all three sightings are visible on this map. The orange arrow points to Radcliffe-on-Trent and Clifton is in the bottom left of the map. Radford is below the big, black N-O of Nottingham.

The very final case I can find comes from Newark-on-Trent (just over twenty two miles from Nottingham). It was August 10th and around 10:15 in the late evening. For some unknown reason, Dave Robinson was taking a stroll with his girlfriend in what must have been almost pitch black woodland at Stapleford Woods. Look for the orange arrow:

stapleford map

The two young lovers had just reached a clearing at the edge of the woods when the young lady noticed two lights in the sky. They were possibly round, possibly oval, and yellow in colour, resembling paper. Some six feet and five feet across respectively, they were motionless over a line of trees around half a mile in the distance. I managed to find these likely contenders on the Internet:

After the event, William Blythe of Mansfield interviewed them. Let Dave take up the story:

“Within minutes they disappeared, replaced by a flashing red light, which moved to our right, climbing up and over some trees. Five minutes later we saw the lights again in the sky, now on our right, coming towards us, about a quarter of a mile away.

My curiosity aroused, I drove slowly towards the lights, losing sight of them as I drove around the bend. When I reached the spot where I had seen them, I flashed my headlights and this craft appeared over the trees. Astonished, I stopped the car and listened. Still no sound.

We watched the craft with amazement, as it hovered 20 feet away from us at about the same height off the ground, allowing us to see it had a curved bottom and top, with three squared windows, spilling orange light, and a brilliant light projecting downwards from the top.

As it moved overhead, I became frightened and drove away, fearing what
was going to happen next.”

And that’s it. This was quite impressive by the standards of the middle 1960s, especially when compared to nowadays, when 84% of all programmes on Satellite TV are devoted to aliens, UFOs and government cover ups. If you find this topic of any interest, don’t forget the “Haunted Skies” books by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway. They really are worth a look.  This is the edition which set me off on the trail of the Nottingham Flap and Mrs Marjorie Cowdell:

hauntyed skies 3 zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Next time there will be a host of Internet sites to look at when I try to track down the UFO that crashed just south of Mansfield. That was a very, very, brave thing to do!

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Filed under History, Humour, Literature, Nottingham, Science