The Old Man and the Dark House

Dark House 1

Sneinton is a suburb of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Despite heavy bombing in the Second World War, and two large phases of redevelopment in both the 1930’s and 50’s, much of the terraced and semi-terraced housing built during Victorian times still stands to this day.

One of these houses, known locally as the ‘Dark House’, and set only slightly back from the main thoroughfare of Sneinton Dale, has a troubling history; a history that came to a rather grisly end in the autumn of 1982 with the deaths of two men and the mental and physical scarring of a third.

The so called ‘Dark House’ is a three storey building nestled in a row of similarly-sized dwellings. From the street, there is nothing untoward to suggest what happened inside. Although no one was ever charged with any crime, the event left a rather curious stain on a certain section of the local community.

The provenance of the house is itself a mystery. All that can be gleaned from local records is that the house was purchased in 1922, with cash, by a gentleman going by the name of Nathaniel Defoe.

Initially I was confident that this is a pseudonym, but after my investigation I am not so sure.

The individual in question does, however, appear to have been a well known character locally.

SneintonMap

6th June 2014

The Lord Nelson pub is a 500 year old building, with low ceilings built for men of smaller stature and meaner temperament. Many landlords have taken custody of it throughout the years.

I meet Alison Dewitt in the smallest room of the pub, known as the Common Room. She is in her late seventies now, but back in 1982, she and her now deceased husband were the publicans of this enduring establishment.

A kindly woman with a warm smile, she buys me a pint and we sit down to chat about the so-called ‘Dark House’ and it’s enigmatic occupant.

“We all called him ‘the Captain’. I don’t think any of us ever knew his real name. We, I mean my husband and I, we took over the Nelson in, when was it, ’68? He was a regular, popped in two or three times a week. Gladys, she’d been coming in for nearly forty years, and she used to say that the Captain was old even when she was young. None of us knew exactly where he was from.” 

“He used to dress like he’d just stepped out of a Dickens’ novel. Long coat, tall hat, big leather boots, that sort of thing. And he had a huge white beard and these piercing, bright green eyes. He used to walk with a stick that had a big chunk of shiny black rock on the handle.”

“He seemed a decent enough sort. Polite. He’d have a few ales and sit right there by the fire. Most times he’d just chat with one or two of the other regulars, but from time to time he’d regale some of the locals with stories about his time in the Navy. Sometimes World War One, sometimes World War Two, but occasionally he’d talk about surviving a shipwreck off the Cape of Good Hope.” 

“Everyone just assumed he was bullshitting, but I like to think I’m quite a good judge of character. You, Doctor Gotobed, I can tell you’re an honest sort, duckeh. It’s in your face. But when the Captain spoke about those times, out on the sea all those years ago, he had a kind of haunted look about him. Like he had actually seen them.”

“And that wasn’t the only thing that seemed off about him.”

I buy us another round and ask her to elaborate.

“Well for a start, he’d always pay for his drinks with large notes, and his wallet was always stuffed with them. No one ever knew where all his money came from. He had a ring on every finger, each one with a different stone set in it, and he carried this large pocket watch on a gold chain. I saw him open it once, and I tell you, it wasn’t a clock face inside it, it was these weird symbols.”

I ask her if she can recreate these symbols for me. I will attach a copy of her drawing to this file.

“But that wasn’t the weirdest thing, oh no.”

“One evening, a local troublemaker came in, all beered up. He was a loud so-and-so, always throwing his weight around, intimidating people. Dobbo, his name was.”

“That night I guess Dobbo took a disliking to the Captain, for some reason only he would have known. He was a big man, Dobbo, all muscle and neck. He sat down opposite the Captain and started goading him, trying to get a rise out of him, calling him a nonce. The old man just ignored him and carried on with his pint.”

“And then this knucklehead stood up and leant over, yelling in the Captain’s face.” 

“I’ve never known the atmosphere in a place change so quickly.”

“The Captain fixed Dobbo with his eyes and the whole pub went silent. Dobbo just… stopped. Dead still, like he was frozen, the whole time the Captain was just staring at him.”

“I swear, that’s the only time it was ever that quiet on a Friday night. You could’ve heard a pin drop in the garden.”

“They were right there, the Captain glaring, and then a dark patch appeared on Dobbo’s jeans, right on the crotch. And it started to spread.” 

“He’d pissed himself.”

I ask what happened next.

“Dobbo ran out and never came back. The Captain returned to his pint. And we all went about Friday night as normal.”

“I never saw anyone try anything like that with the Captain again.”  

 Symbol Watch

This is but one of many stories I hear about the old man known as ‘the Captain’.

He was spotted one still summer’s night up at nearby Green’s Windmill, seemingly moving its giant blades with only the wave of a hand.

Another local tale has him stalking the streets of Sneinton early one morning with a horse’s skull tucked underneath one arm and an enormous black hound traipsing beside him.

There are also rumours of him meandering through nearby Colwick Woods, conversing animatedly with the trees and wildlife, and a shrill howling was heard emanating from the Dark House one cold All Hallows’ Eve.

But these are mere anecdotes, half remembered and told second or third-hand, and must accordingly be taken with a pinch of salt.

The night of the 30th of October 1982 however is different. It is a matter of record that something occurred on that fateful evening, and to get anything even approaching an answer, we must go to the only remaining eyewitness.

Kevin Shields.

Rampton

1st September 2014

Rampton Secure Hospital is a large and sprawling complex, home to four hundred-odd inmates detained under the Mental Health Act of 1983. It has housed some of Britain’s most notorious criminals.

Despite the National Health Service’s best efforts, it is difficult to fight the feeling that a shadow of foreboding lingers over the site.

One of its lesser known residents is one Kevin Shields, a 55 year old individual with multiple convictions for armed robbery and assault. He was incarcerated at Rampton a little over 30 years ago, due to the onset of complex and violent hallucinations linked to a severe cause of post-traumatic stress disorder.

He also has no eyes.

It has taken many months of phone calls and the redeeming of several ‘favours’, but finally I am granted a private audience with Mr Shields.

Our meeting takes place in a secure room, empty save for two chairs and a table, which the blind man’s hands are cuffed to. The two burly orderlies posted outside assure me that Mr Shields is sedated, but lucid.

I am advised, in their words, not to ‘wind him up’.

I assure them I seek only the truth, a statement which elicits much mirth from the pair.

The following is an extract from a transcription of my conversation with Mr Shields, chiefly the part concerning the events of that night at the end of October in 1982:

KS: Me and my brothers, Tommy and Roger, we’d come down from Newcastle to hide out. We’d botched a robbery a few nights previous, and didn’t want the cops to find us. Rog had a friend in Nott’m, so we were gonna crash on his floor for a few nights, ‘til the heat was off.

We’d gone to the pub for a jar or two. Rog wasn’t too keen. He said we should lay low, but Tommy said he was going crazy sat in that house. He was always the gobby one.

Then the old man came in.

We watched him go to the bar and get a pint. He paid for it with a twenty, and his wallet was chock-full with notes. Tommy reckoned there must’ve have been at least two grand in there.

And that was it.

From that point on, we were fucked.

DrG: Why do you believe you were ‘fucked’.

KS: I could see the cogs turning in Tommy’s head. A muscle in his cheek would always twitch when he was thinking. And it was tweaking real bad.

DrG: What did you believe he was thinking?

KS: He’d already made up his mind. He said that if that old man had a wallet that full of cash, and all those rings, imagine what he’d have at home?

We tried to talk him out of it, but his there was no point. 

So we came up with a plan. 

We were gonna follow the old man home, find out where he lived then come back later and do his place over proper good. Make up for all that money we’d lost out on from the botch job up North.

We waited ‘til he left then went after him. We watched which house he went in then we were off back to Rog’s mate’s gaff to borrow a crowbar.

We gave it an hour or so and then we went to the house. We jimmy’d the door open and went in.

It was dark, but I could see the walls were… were dark red, and the floor was bare wood. There were these… these giant markings drawn all over the place. I said to Rog that I didn’t think this was a good idea. That we should just leave and forget all about it.

Tommy told us to stop being pussies.

If only we’d left it there. My brothers would still be alive and I wouldn’t be in here, like this.

We got to the living room. I remember there were candles everywhere. And there was the old man, but younger, and he was just… just sat there in a chair, like he’d been waiting for us.

DrG: I’m sorry, he was younger?

KS: Yeah. And he had this look on his face… a look I’d never seen on anyone before.

He banged this stick on the floor and said a word I didn’t understand… and that was that.

We were fucked. 

The devils came. And there was so much… so much… blood. 

They killed my brothers, a hundred times over. Again and again and again, right in front of me.

I can still see them now. 

It’s all I can see. 

Kevin Shields was found in Colwick Woods at the base of a large oak tree by a local man out for a morning jog.

His eyeballs had been gouged from their sockets.

If it were not for the actions of a pair of dedicated paramedics, he would have died that morning from a combination of blood loss and shock.

Seven days later, on the 6th of November, the lifeless bodies of Tommy and Roger Shields were found washed up on the banks of the River Trent near Lady Bay Bridge. The cadavers were mutilated to the extent where they could only be identified by dental records.

The exact cause of death could not be conclusively discerned for either man.

Now the Dark House stands empty, its windows and doors boarded shut under heavy iron plates.

The Captain made one more appearance at the Lord Nelson two nights later, and was never seen again.

The deeds to the Dark House are still in the name of Nathaniel Defoe.

No one was ever charged in connection with the deaths of Tommy and Roger Shields, or the disfigurement of their brother, Kevin. But that fact did not stop the local rumour mill from turning at a frantic pace.

Nelson 1

If the tales of the residents of Sneinton are to be taken as the truth, alongside the testimonies of Alison Dewitt and Kevin Shields, it is not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that the mysterious Nathaniel Defoe, owner of the Dark House, was in possession of some hitherto unknown and mysterious power.

Indeed, he may still be.

Without sitting down and speaking with the man known locally as ‘the Captain’, one can only speculate as to the source of this power.

cospatrick

There is an interesting coda to this story. Remembering the words of Alison Dewitt, I looked up a list of ships wrecked off the Cape of Good Hope before the Great War. The most recent one I could find was the Cospatrick, a frigate that caught fire off the Atlantic coast in 1874 carrying 477 souls.

One lifeboat was recovered, and the five men on-board only survived by drinking the blood and eating the livers of their dead companions. All but one died shortly after their rescue.

The identity of this sole survivor?

A young British sailor by the name of Nathaniel Defoe.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

 

 

‘What News of Blackburn Rovers?’

Cat2

The following is an old British folk-tale, the earliest written account of which can be found in the short novel Beware the Cat written by one Gulielmus Baldwin in early 1553. The version I recount was told to me by my grandmother, when I was but a very small boy.

‘One dark but temperate evening, a weary traveller named Paul eventually arrived at his homestead in Aldwick. Hanging up his hat and greatcoat and removing his boots, the exhausted man took his seat by the fireplace.

“Why, whatever has happened?” asked his wife, who’d been awaiting his return for some time. “You’re the colour of death.”

“It was the queerest thing, dearest. I was on my way home when I heard a shrill voice a-calling?”

“A voice?”

“Yes. I looked around and there was naught but a cat coming towards me?”  

“A cat?”

“Yes, just like ol’ Jon-boy here.”

Jon-boy awoke from his slumber by the fire and raised an eyebrow at the mention of his name.

“Then to whom did the voice belong?” enquired Paul’s wife.

“It belonged to the cat. It told me to tell Johnathan of Aldwick that Arthur of York has passed away. But I don’t know of any ‘Jonathan of Aldwick’, do you?”

At that news, the previously languid Jon-boy leapt in the air and declared, in a shrill voice, “Arthur is dead! Then I am the King of the Cats!”

And with that ol’ Jon boy shot under the door and was never seen again.’ 

Coffe&Paper

Tales of talking animals abound throughout the myths and legends of all cultures, but if you were to speak to an individual now who claimed to have conversed with a cat, you would be well within your rights to question that person’s sanity.

I have met such a person.

In May of 1995 I found myself in the Spanish coastal town  of Valencia. I had been sent to investigate local accounts of a satanic cult active in this area. When this turned out to be nothing more than a group of local teenagers dressing in black and listening to some very silly music in a cave upon the beach, I decided to find a cafeteria in which to sit and write up my report.

I ordered a coffee and was soon joined by a young gentleman who, noting that I spoke English, seated himself at my table. We got to chatting and it transpired that this fellow was also an Englishman, a professional footballer no less, who had been sent here by his club to recover from an injury in the warmer Mediterranean climes.

This footballer became rather animated when the conversation turned to my work, and he recounted to me a rather strange event that had happened to him about a week previous, at another cafeteria in a small village a little further up the coast.

These are his words:

“I’d sat down for a cup of tea and some breakfast. I went there ‘coz they actually had proper British tea. Hard to find on the continent, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

“I’d got a hold of a copy of the Daily Mirror from the day before and was reading up on the football scores on the back pages. I might be out of the game for a bit but I like to keep up with the results, as you do.”

“Anyway, I’m sat there with the paper and this little black cat starts rubbing itself up against my legs. I’m more of a dog person myself, but he seemed happy, purring away, so I let him get on with it.”

“After he’d been doing this for a bit I thought I’d give him a little rub behind the ears. I bent down to stroke him, and this cat looks at me, and I’m not fucking kidding, he says to me ‘what news of Blackburn Rovers?’”

“I was absolutely dumbstruck.”

“He asked again, ‘what news of Blackburn Rovers?’”

“I guess I was too taken aback and I didn’t want to appear rude, so I told him that Rovers had lost by a goal to Liverpool yet had still won the Championship. With that, the cat smiled  and sauntered off, leaving me there with my jaw swinging like a barn door in a breeze.”

“The owner came out with another cup of tea for me, and she must’ve seen the look on my face. I told her what had just happened and she replies with ‘not to worry, that’s just Alfonso. He likes to keep up with the  fútbol’.

“Apparently he asked a French kid a month before how Saint-Étienne were getting on in Ligue One!” 

Cat1

The footballer asked me not to reveal his name*, no doubt for fear of ridicule on his return to England. He did tell me the location of the cafeteria in question, however when I arrived there an hour or so later the place was closed for the siesta.

Unfortunately I had a plane to catch and could not linger, but I do intend to return when the opportunity presents itself.

How I would relish the chance to meet Alfonso and discuss the merits of playing two up-front with this eloquent feline.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

* I would love it, absolutely love it if I could find out the name of this footballer! Does anyone have any ideas? – C.R. 

 

 

An Encounter on the Midland Mainline

Tucked away in the case I found a journal, which appears to have more reports in it, although these are written up in a different style from the rest of the files. At first I thought Dr Gotobed was just jotting down fiction based on his experiences, but the fact they are accompanied by what appears to be corroborating evidence has made me think again. I’ll try and include a few more of these, if for no reason other than they seem to reveal something of the good doctor’s character – C.R.

Train Station3

14th November 2002

Midland Mainline Train, 21.15 to Derby

“Do you know why you are here?” I ask, looking up from the thin file on my lap and towards the reflection of the young man sat next to me in the window opposite. The description on the yellowed pages is disturbingly accurate, right down to the bloodshot eyes and the gash across the forehead. The kid is in his early twenties, and dressed a little out of date for the time, in slightly flared jeans and a bright yellow sports top. He carries it well, all except for the fleck of deep red across his breast and left shoulder. I’m in a black suit and a white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck. I look like I should be advising him about his future career options. Or on my way home from a funeral.

“Because I fucked up,” replies the kid.

I look down at the file, then back at the reflection opposite.

“Why would you say that?” I ask.

The kid looks down at his feet, revealing a slick dark liquid dashed across his scalp, then back at the window, meeting my gaze in the reflection.

Neon streaks by the window and mixes with spots of rain as the train rocks slightly to take a turn. The carriage lights flicker.

“I… I don’t want to talk about it. Things… they changed. Got too much.”

The only other person in the carriage is an elderly lady sitting several rows away. She turns and looks at me with a slightly concerned expression on her wrinkled face, then gets up and leaves the carriage.

“You need to move on from this,” I say to the window.

“I know.”

“Tell me how I can help.”

In the reflection, the kid looks away.

The door at the end of the carriage clunks, and I see the old lady whispering conspiratorially in a conductor’s ear. The door clicks and opens and the conductor steps in and moves towards me.

I glance back at the window and see the kid’s eyes begin to blacken with rage.

The carriage rocks and the lights dim, before returning to full strength.

“Stay calm,” I whisper, my eyes fixed on the reflection.

The lights flicker repeatedly, more violently this time. A slight breeze begins to coil around the floor.

“Stay calm,” I repeat.

“Excuse me, sir,” says the conductor, gruffly, a skinny bald man in a polyester uniform. “Who are you talking to?”

I look up at the conductor, then to my right at the empty seat next to me. The conductor raises an eyebrow, before following my gaze as I look ahead, to the window. As he does, he catches the reflection of the kid, his bloodshot eyes ablaze with anger and the gaping wound across his head. The conductor gasps and drops his hand-held ticket machine.

The train jolts violently and the lights dim again, deeper, and for longer this time. The breeze turns into a gust and blows through the carriage, lifting the flotsam and jetsam of the day’s commute across the floor and the hairs on my neck up and away from my skin. Somewhere along the length of the carriage, a pane of acrylic glass cracks. When the lights come back on, the reflection of the kid is gone.

There is an moment of awkward silence as the conductor gawps at the window, now empty except for the occasional trackside light flickering by. His face has turned an ashen colour not normally seen on the living.

“I’m Doctor Gotobed,” I say. “Your bosses should have told you I would be here.”

“I’m… I’m sorry, Doctor,” stutters the conductor, picking up his equipment. “We were expecting you earlier.”

“Looks like I’m going to be here for a while.” I turn back to the file on my lap. “I’d appreciate it if you’d keep this carriage clear for the next hour or so.”

The conductor leaves, and the train rumbles on.

Eight stops later, it reaches its destination, and then turns back. I’m still on-board, in exactly the same seat. I run my fingers through my hair and sigh. This is taking far too long, and I definitely don’t want to go around again and spend the night in Derby.

The lights flicker intermittently for a few seconds.

I look up at the window. The kid is back, bloodshot eyes calm now. We sit in silence for a while. “Do you…” I begin to ask, eventually. “Sorry, did you see a light?”

“At first. But I have to stay. I can’t go there. I’ll stay here. With the shadows. Until she knows.”

“Who knows?”

“My girl.”

“Knows what?”

A single tear rolls down the kid’s cheek and mixes with the blood that’s dripping down from his scalp.

“That I love… that I loved her. I didn’t want to go like this. I’m so sorry.” A sniff, and the kid continues. “Can you tell her for me?”

The lights flicker once more.

“Of course. Tell me more about her and I’ll find her. Tell me exactly what you want to say, and I’ll be back here next month. I don’t expect you to be.”

The train rumbles on, and the kid tells me about his girl.

Train Station2

Back in Nottingham, the train groans to a halt. I pick up the file and step off, heading through the high ceilinged Victorian building, its grand archways a testimony to the architectural skills of men long since buried.

“Doctor Gotobed! Doctor Gotobed!” A gruff voice shouts along the platform, and the tall, skinny and bald shape of the conductor jogs towards me. “Excuse me, Doctor. But was that the… the…” I can tell he can’t bring himself to say ‘ghost’. He settles on: “What was that?”

Succinct.

Tucking the file under my left arm, I reach into my jacket for a cigarette. “A request for help,” I reply, lighting the cigarette as I turn towards the marble steps that lead to the exit.

“Doctor Gotobed?”

“Yes?”

“There’s no smoking in the station I’m afraid,” replies the man in the polyester uniform, all back to business.

I flick the cigarette onto the tracks and head up the steps, out onto the street and into the wet November night.

The rain falls like heartache.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Journal1

Tucked away in these pages of the journal is a clipping from the Nottingham Evening Post, dated November the 16th, 1996. It details the death of a 22 year old man who fell in front of a train two nights previous. I don’t feel too comfortable sharing his name here. 

The train was the 21.15 Midland Mainline from Nottingham to Derby. 

There is also another clipping, this one taken from the February 2001 official newsletter of the Psychical Research and Investigation Society. It’s a report of ‘low-level psychokinetic activity alongside the appearance of a full-bodied apparition’ on the same train route. 

These two documents are what make me think this story of Dr Gotobed’s is more than just fiction. 

Either way, typing this up has left me a little drained emotionally. I’m putting the journal back in the case and placing the whole lot back in the cupboard. I need some beers and to think about something else for a while – C.R. 

An Iron Man on Merseyside

Statue1.1BW

Crosby Beach is a stretch of the Merseyside coastline just to the north of Liverpool. It starts at the Seaforth Dock and carries on all the way through Waterloo, where it separates the Irish Sea from the marina.

It is also home to a group of solid metal figures, figures that face outward, towards the ocean.

These figures form an art installation named Another Place. Created by Sir Anthony Gormley and first exhibited in Cuxhaven in Germany, the statues found their way to Crosby Beach in 2005, where they currently reside. Consisting of one hundred sculptures of the artist’s own body cast in iron, they gaze across the sea, alternately revealed and submerged by the ebb and flow of the tide, rigid against the power of nature.

At least for the most part.

Two weeks ago, I was asked to investigate a trio of curious encounters that occurred nearby.

 Map Crosby

15th November 2011

My first stop is the Volunteer Canteen, where I meet one Timothy Weber, a conservationist currently studying the effects of the increased tourist footfall at the site on local bird-feeding areas, due to the installation.

Over a rather delicious seafood lunch, Mr Weber relates his experience, which occurred approximately four weeks prior:

“The statues caused quite a stir when they first arrived. I mean, come on, it’s essentially just a load of naked metal men sticking out from the sand like a bunch of sore thumbs, but the council seem to like ‘em. And the tourist pound must be good for the area, so I assume they’re staying.”

It is easy to surmise that Mr Weber is not a fan of Sir Anthony’s work.

“Well, on my first day, I decided to tag the statues, so I could map their locations. I had a fresh pack of these snazzy little magnetic strips I was slapping on their shoulders.”

“Now these are supposed to be packs of a hundred, but I got to the last statue, and I was one short. Nothing too odd there, as you can imagine. I just assumed I’d dropped one or the pack was one short. I came back the next day to finish up at low tide, but I couldn’t for the life of me find a statue without a tag.”

“Now, you’d think it was the last one I’d been too. Nope. So I just wrote it off as someone screwing with me. Dumbass kids, no doubt.”

“Funny thing is, it happened again a few days later; I found a statue without a tag. I checked my map, checked my tags, but I just could not find the extra figure.”

“Now, Dr Gotobed, I’m not an idiot, I’m a scientist. And I’m thorough. I pride myself on that. But there I was, with a hundred tags, a hundred spots on a map, and one hundred and one statues.”

“It’s like I was having some kind of mental block. And it kept happening over the next couple of days. Not every time, but enough to start messing with my head…”

“…now you promise me this won’t end up in the papers or anything like that?”

He looks a little sheepish as I reassure him it will not.

“I saw one of them move. It reached up and brushed something off of its shoulder.”

“I’m not insane.”

I ask whether simple fatigue may be to blame for all this, but Mr Weber assures me it is not, and while he comes across as a fairly cynical individual, it is quite clear that he is a man who holds his professional reputation in high regard. 

PubBW16th November 2011

My next contact is one Alisha Walker, a barmaid at the Royal Oak Public House. A genial young woman, she is midway through her shift when we meet. Fortunately it seems to be a slow afternoon and she has time to tell me her tale:

“It was Friday night, about a month ago, and it was drizzling. That really shitty kind of rain that you just kinda walk into and you’re literally soaked, you know? It was near closing time, and I went outside to get the glasses in that the smokers always leave lying around. I went into the garden, trying to be quick, and it was just sat there, at one of the picnic tables.”

What was sat there?

“It was a metal man, exactly like one of those statues on the beach. Boy, did it freak me out.”

What did you do?

“I just stared at it. What was I s’posed to do? Then it just vanished into thin air. Literally there one second and then ‘poof!’, gone.”  

“I must have shrieked and I dropped the tray of empties in my hand. Sue, the landlady, she came out to see what the commotion was.”

“Do you know what pisses me off the most? Those broken glasses came out of my wage packet.”

Ms Walker goes to great length to impress upon me that she was sober that night. The landlady of the Royal Oak confirmed finding her member of staff outside, soaked to the bone, shattered glass by her feet.

If Ms Walker’s story is made up, I would have hoped for something a lot more sensational. Her rather matter-of-fact attitude toward what she saw, I believe, lends her tale an air of credence.

TwirlSymbol

17th November 2011

My final witness is one Bella Turnbull, a veterinarian by trade and a keen amateur photographer in her spare time. We sit at her kitchen table, where, surrounded by hundreds of framed examples of her photographic work, we share a pot of tea. She seems somewhat embarrassed by what she repeatedly calls ‘that weird afternoon’, so we make small talk for a while. After some gentle coaxing, she finally agrees to share her experience:

“I’d popped down to the beach that day, after an early tea. It was grey and cloudy, but the sky had this lovely kind of swirly quality about it. It looked amazing.”

She hands me a photo she took that day, and she is correct about the sky.

“I’d been there for about an hour, getting shots of the statues. I was trying to frame them in such a way that the sunset behind them really bought them to life.”

She shifts a little uncomfortably in her seat.

“It’s not the first time I’d been down there, and I know how fast the tide can come in. I must’ve just lost track of time, as the waves were starting to swirl up around my feet. I thought I’d hang around for a little longer; it was too good a chance to pass up. It’s not every day the sky looks like that.”

“But next thing I knew, I was stuck. I couldn’t lift my wellies out of the sand, and the water was beginning to come over the tops of them. I began to panic as I couldn’t pull my feet free.” 

“All I could think about was that poor family who lost their kids a few years ago. I think I started screaming…”

She trails off. I give her a moment to compose herself before I ask what happened next.

“I haven’t really told anyone about this, apart from the other lady*, and now you. Please don’t think I’m bonkers.” 

I assure her that I am not in the business of judging people’s sanity.

“Well… an arm grabbed me from behind, around my waist and picked me up, and… someone… picked me up and tossed me over their shoulder. But they felt cold. Not like cold skin, but like metal, and rough. Like rust. I realised… I realised…” 

“…I don’t know what I realised.” 

Ms Turnbull recalls blacking out. She regained consciousness further in to shore, by the side of a nearby pathway. Her camera was around her neck but her wellington boots were gone.

There was no sign of whoever or whatever had saved her from the tide ‘that weird afternoon’.

Statue BW2

Taken individually, these accounts can easily be dismissed as the aforementioned fatigue, hallucination, or the result of a sudden increase in adrenaline. But all three of these events occurred within the time-frame of a single week, and the trio of witness, to me, all seem highly credible.

No further incidents involving the statues of Another Place have since been reported.

Whatever chose to make Crosby Beach its temporary home did not seem malevolent, and I am unable to explain why it decided to take the form of an iron mannequin. The installation itself does not appear to have any kind of hidden history behind it, and I struggle to believe that Sir Anthony Gormley was dabbling in the more, shall we say, ‘esoteric’ arts during its creation. I can only conclude that some outside agency had chosen to use Crosby Beach and its associated artwork as a form of camouflage, though to what end, I can only speculate.

Before I left Merseyside, I elected to take a stroll along the beach front with the intention of counting the statues, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

I got up to ninety nine before the incoming tide defeated me.

I could not locate the final figure.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* There are more mentions of this ‘other lady’ in the files I have read so far, but this is the earliest reference of her that I’ve found. At first I thought she might be Dr Gotobed’s boss, but now I’ve read a few more, I’m not so sure. I’ll do my best to highlight any further appearances she makes. Maybe her identity is a clue to the good doctor’s current whereabouts?  – C.R.