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:
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:
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:
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 !
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:
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.
Funnily enough, the story concerned the very same bus stop on Mansfield Road which we used to use:
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:
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:
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.
16 responses to “Hallowe’en Tales : Numbers Seven and Eight”
There is a joke in here somewhere, but I’m having trouble finding it. Ghosts and public transport – my brain is failing me. If the bus has been cancelled then maybe he still stands at the bus stop waiting for a bus to arrive. How sad would that be.
I suppose he would just stand at the bus stop and wait there for eternity. According to the “rules”, he is one of those ghosts who is unaware he is dead, because of the unexpected suddenness of his death, at the hands of a hit-and-run driver. Presumably he would just wait and wait until a bus turned up there. I once saw a medium on TV visit the Somme battlefield, and she said that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of young men still walking around, unaware that they were dead, and not understanding what was going on. Very sad, and just emphasising the waste.
Absolutely. If these are to be believed then there must be a huge number of dead wandering aimlessly. Not just war dead either, like your ‘bus stop man’, those who were victims of similar events or crimes.
Somebody should get him the Knight Bus from Harry Potter
I agree, the man wanted to so get home to his wife – the # 90 has to to continue!
After all, it isn’t right to leave a ghost up in the air like that!!
Sometimes ghosts seem to be living in a different world of the past, so that they can still sit on a bus that isn’t actually there any more. A friend of mine and his father visited Warwick Castle many years ago and saw what appeared to be the spectre of an Elizabethan woman. She walked across the lawn but only the top half of her body was visible, the hips and legs being apparently below the level of the grass. A tourist guide explained that there used to be a sunken path across that piece of grass hundreds of years ago and she was still walking along it, three feet below the modern surface.
As far as I know, it still does. Whether by spectral request, I do not know!
I always thought a Gannet was an anti-submarine aircraft. Hahaha
It is, but it’s named after a sea bird.
We were nearly neighbours John, I never realised – we lived in Redhill adjacent to the Mansfield Road up until 1990. Mr & Mrs Padwick weren’t far away either, of course. Fond memories of the 57 bus that predated the 90 and ran *directly* into town!
Strangely enough the ghostly man you describe sounds a lot like an old chap who lived on our street. He was a mysterious figure to us children and the fact that he looked a bit gaunt and creepy and lived in a large house on his own led us to conclude that he was a child catcher! He died in the late 80s but not in a road accident as far as I know.
It’s interesting that you can ascribe a living person as the possible origin of the ghost. He was well known apparently to the staff of Nottingham City Transport, but I think that he was always portrayed with tiny details added or removed so it’s difficult to be completely exact about him. My daughter went to the PNEU, now Lovell House, where there was a strong haunting by a former caretaker. Doors would open in front of a whole class who were working away and the teacher would say it was the wind, even on the calmest of days. My daughter said that it happened quite frequently and that lots of the kids knew who it was but weren’t frightened by him, as you might have expected.
I first remember hearing this tale being told when I was a child early 1960s my family living near Redhill Cemetery on Mansfield Road. The story went then that it was a Trent bus, number 63 which travelled between Mansfield and Huntingdon Street Bus Station in Nottingham. A later evening double-decker heading towards Mansfield up the ‘Ramper’ with the figure boarding the bus near Redhill Cemetery.
Above poster mentioned the NCT 57 bus, this ran as late as the 1970s. Prior to that it had apparently been a number 4 service apparently. The number 90 was replaced by the present 87 some years ago.
Many thanks for expanding my version of the story. It was told to me by a birdwatching friend of mine, who happened to be a bus driver. He said that the ghost was known about by all of the various bus crews based at Sherwood although he did not say if any of them actually saw the phantom in question. He also told me about the killer bus which was also well known at the Sherwood depot. I’m sorry to say that I cannot remember if I have featured this story in a blog post yet.