‘Rookie’s Luck’

Diner

A couple of months ago I was invited over to Oklahoma in the United States to assist in an investigation into an alleged haunted house. The investigation itself transpired to be a fruitless task, and our efforts ended prematurely and with an unsatisfying whimper.

Finding myself with some spare time on my hands before my flight home I elected to rent a car and take a drive around the state, taking in us much of the local geography as I could. In the late evening I found myself in the town of Gage in Ellis County, where I stopped at a small restaurant (of the type which our American friends rather quaintly call a ‘Mom & Pop diner’) to partake in a spot of dinner before I travelled on to my motel for the night.

Whilst at the diner, I got to talking with a member of the local law enforcement, one Sergeant Jason Bradley. A thoroughly pleasant individual, I found him to be good company, and our conversation soon turned to our respective vocations. Once Sergeant Bradley found out what I did for a living, he asked me if I would be interested in hearing his recollection of an event that occurred to him some time ago.

The officer’s story was so compelling, it more than made up for the wasted days I had just spent at the alleged ‘haunted house’.

Here is his tale:

‘Now you see, Doctor Gotobed, I’m from a big family. Heck, everyone is from a big family out this way. I’m the youngest of eight, and my Dad left home when I was young. So the job of man of the house fell on the shoulders of my oldest brother, Wayne.

‘Wayne was a big guy, bigger than me, but he was also the gentlest man you could ever meet. Real kind too. He literally once gave a homeless guy the jacket off his back just so the guy didn’t have to sleep in the cold.

‘That’s the kind of person he was. He could place a hand on your shoulder and tell you it would all be okay, and you’d believe him. 

‘Anyway, Wayne joined the army when I was about twelve, just to get a scholarship. There’s no way he would’ve been able to go to college otherwise. Then, guess what? Yep, Saddam fucking Hussein. Suddenly we’re at war with Iraq.

‘So out he goes to the desert. To fight for a reason that even to this day doesn’t really make any sense to me. But he was a good guy, and a good American.

‘He’s out on patrol one day,  and he tells his CO he’s going to take a deuce. And what do you know? My poor brother treads on an IED. That’s an Improvised Explosive Device. A land mine to you and me.

‘Now, those things are nasty. They’re designed to injure, not kill, so that more bodies are taken up helping the wounded. But not Wayne. The one he treads on blows him to bits. They told us that at least it was quick.

‘Me, my Mom and my brothers, we’re all cut up to bits when we get the news.

‘His coffin comes home and we’re told not to open it, it’ll be too horrifying, they say. 

‘I don’t think my Mom ever got over that.

‘I still miss that guy. You don’t get many like him anymore. He’s the reason I became a cop. He always said that if you can do the right thing, you should.

‘Anywho, fast forward ten years or so, and I’ve just got my badge, out on my first patrol in the big city. It’s late night and my partner and I, we spot this big pimp pistol-whipping one of his girls. Really going to town on her, whacking her over and over again. 

‘I jump out the cruiser. This guy spots me and turns to run. And then it’s on. He’s weaving through all these little alleyways and I’m chasing him with my gun drawn.

‘The pimp rounds a corner, out of my sight. And just as I get to the spot he vanished, I hear my brother’s voice.

‘Wayne’s voice. 

‘He says ‘it’s gonna be alright, Jay. Don’t be scared’.

‘It’s like he’s right next to me, running alongside, speaking in my ear. 

‘I take the corner and the pimp is standing off to one side, his gun levelled right at my temple.

‘He pulls the trigger once. Click. Nothing. And then again. Click. Nothing. It’s a revolver .32, so I can even hear the chamber turning as he tries to shoot.

‘I pause for a split second. Not even that, just the shortest moment. Next thing you know I’m whacking this scumbag with the butt of my gun and restraining him.

‘To this day I don’t know why I didn’t shoot that son of a bitch.

‘My partner turns up and we bundle the perp into the back of the cruiser. I unload his gun, and there are two bullets with strike marks against both of them.

‘I tell my partner about the pimp pulling the trigger. He just laughs and calls it ‘rookie’s luck’. 

‘I didn’t mention hearing my brother’s voice.

‘But that’s not the end of it, no siree. Once we get back to the station, I show the gun to one of the lab techs. He reloads the struck bullets and fires them into the test tank.’ 

Sergeant Bradley makes the shape of a gun with his hand and points it a downwards angle.

‘They both go off. Bam! Bam!’ 

A few of the other diners glance over. The Sergeant waves them away with a smile.

‘Now I’m a simple man, Doctor, and my job means I can’t afford to be daydreaming about stuff. But if there are angels, I’d like to think that Wayne was the kind of guy to make the grade. 

‘I think he was watching over me that night. 

‘I never heard his voice again. But I reckon he’s still got my back.’  

Bullets

In my opinion, Sergeant Bradley makes for a very credible individual, and he told me his story without prompting. Whilst it is indeed possible that his tale was no more than a fabrication designed to humour a tourist such as myself, I find this difficult to believe.

Someone in his position has no need to invent such a tale. Indeed, he confided in me that he had not shared it with anyone else, out of a desire to maintain his credibility as a police officer.

This is not the first time I have heard an account like this. In my experience, stories of this nature involving members of the emergency services seem to be relatively more commonplace than similar accounts concerning members of the public.

Either way, I am grateful to Sergeant Bradley for ensuring my trip over the Atlantic was not entirely wasted.

I wish him all the best for the future.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

‘Extraordinary Talents’ at Foston Hall

RainSymbol

Throughout history there have been many recorded examples of individuals with apparently fantastical abilities. The following is just a small selection:

In the 1880s, one Annie May Abbot tours North America. Known as the ‘Georgia Magnet’, this innocuous young woman is capable of making small objects completely immovable, simply by resting a finger on them.

In Saratov, Russia, in the 1920s, a factory worker named Leonid Tenkaev is allegedly capable of generating an internal magnetic field that allows as much as 20 kilograms of ferrous metal to be stuck to his body.

In the 1980s, Chicago bellhop Ted Serios is witnessed ‘throwing’ mental images onto blank Polaroid film, creating a series of blurred images showing scenes from the recent past.

But serious, objective research into these kinds of abilities is often clouded by sensationalism and claims of fraudulent behaviour. Possibly due to the nature of these individuals and the phenomena that surrounds them, no recorded example of any lengthy and detailed analysis into the nature of their ‘extraordinary talents’ seems to exist.

I used to believe that a chance to speak with such an individual would be a fine thing indeed.

But expectation and reality are seldom the same thing.

Prison1

A few weeks ago I was asked to visit a person currently being detained at her Majesty’s pleasure at HM Prison Foston Hall, near Derbyshire.

One Nigella Shah.

Although wiry and slight of frame, Ms Shah has the appearance and mannerisms of a featherweight boxer. She is also a career criminal, half way through a ten year sentence for actual bodily harm and impersonating a government official.

Her crimes are not the reason I have been summoned to Foston Hall, but the curious phenomena that sporadically occurs in her presence.

On more than one occasion, in her small and enclosed cell no bigger than eight square metres, various strange effects have been witnessed. One guard describes checking up on Ms Shah one night and seeing the bed levitating above the floor. Ms Shah was tucked up and asleep inside it at the time.

Another guard recalls all the contents of Ms Shah’s cell being found strewn across the dining hall, some hundred metres away. The door to Ms Shah’s room was found locked. She claimed no knowledge of how this event may have occurred.

In fact, the door to her cell has been found unlocked on several occasions. She has never tried to leave the room, let alone escape.

Lock

I meet with Ms Shah twice, both times in the recreation area. To save us from being bothered by the other inmates and their guests, these meetings take place outside of normal visiting hours.

I find Ms Shah to be a confident and intelligent individual, although prone to lengthy outbursts of quite intense verbal abuse. Throughout the interview she cracks her knuckles repeatedly and rarely breaks eye contact.

The following is an excerpt from our conversation on the 4th of April 2007, specifically the part involving our discussion of the unusual events that have occurred in her presence. A full transcript can be found logged in the archives of the Psychical Research and Investigation Society.

Dr Gotobed: Are you aware of the reports of ‘unusual activity’ that seem to be following you?

Nigella Shah: Ah, a believer. I’ve spoken to a few like you before. Of course I’m aware of them; I’d be an idiot if I wasn’t. You know what they used to call me at school, Doctor? ‘Spooky Shah’.

DrG: When did they begin?

NS: When I was about eleven, twelve maybe. That’s the first time it was clear to me. My Mum told me that she once, back when I was a baby, she once left me alone in my room. Only for a minute or so. When she came back my toy box was open and everything inside it was laid out on the floor in a circle. I was tucked up my crib at the time.

That first time though, that was at school. The teacher, this sad old fucker called Dixon or Dickless or some shit, he was yelling at me after class. And this whole row of desks behind him, they just flipped. Scared the silly old sod half to death that did.

[she chuckles]

But that all sounds like some Carrie level shit, doesn’t it? My Mum got some daft old biddy to come ‘round to try and ‘cleanse my aura’.

DrG: And how did that work out?

NS: [she chuckles again] Well, she left in tears, put it that way. Said I was the ‘Devil’s child’. Told my Mum to send me to a convent. I told her to bollocks. 

This first interview then devolves into a combination of tall tales, obviously taken from classic horror films, followed by some rather creative name calling littered with expletives. After several minutes of this, I opt to terminate the session.

As I am leaving, Ms Shah asks me for the time. I check my watch. Somehow, it has stopped dead on midnight.

I clearly recall checking it when the interview began, just shy of 4pm.

#

Our second interview takes place two weeks later, on the 18th of April 2007. As I enter the prison I ask the warden if they have experienced any electrical trouble since Ms Shah’s incarceration. He replies that they have not, but he then goes on to ask me with a wry smile if I’ve noticed the lack of clocks in the building.

I must confess, I had not.

#

Ms Shah seems in a much less confrontational mood this time around, although she still insists on cracking her knuckles and staring intently at me.

The following is an excerpt from this second session. Once again, a full transcript can be located in the archives.

DrG: So you are aware of these things happening.

NS: Sometimes I am. Other times, no. Sometimes I have, like a dream, just before. It feels like I’m going into myself, like tunnel vision. And there’s black around the edges.  Like, furry black.

DrG: Do you have any control over them?

NS: I never used to, not when I was a kid. But as I got older, it seemed like if I concentrated, I could make little things happen. Not always, but sometimes.

DrG: Can you give me an example?

NS: [she smiles] When my door unlocks, sometimes that’s me.

DrG: You have a key?

NS: Not an actual one. Not like one you can hold, if you know what I mean? [she taps her head]

DrG: But why do that?

NS: For shits and grins, I guess. It’s fun to fuck with the screws.

DrG: There is an organisation that you could be a lot of help to. If you assist them, let them run some tests on you, sorry, with you, they might be able to look at reducing your sentence? 

NS: Oh fuck you, you stuck up piece of shit.

Ms Shah then launches into a long and violent diatribe questioning my sexuality. I draw this session to a close.

This time, as I go to leave, Ms Shah calls out to me. I turn back, and see her pointing to the ceiling and grinning.

A spot of water falls on my shoulder. Not two seconds later, it begins to rain heavily inside the visitor’s centre.

This shower continues for several minutes.

After this interview, I spoke at length with the maintenance staff of Foston Hall. There were no leaks in the pipework of the building, and no rain has fallen for the past fortnight.

They were at a loss to explain the sudden deluge that occurred that day.

Rain

So does Ms Shah possess certain ‘abilities’, abilities that allow her to manipulate and manifest matter? And is she in control of these abilities?

Sadly, without further investigation, it is impossible to say for sure one way or the other. Ms Shah has proven unwilling to cooperate further. Indeed, she refuses to see myself or anyone else from the PRIS.

Her case does bring to mind a similar series of events that surrounded an American gentleman named Don Decker. He too was allegedly capable of manifesting rainfall indoors, and he also declined to be tested by investigators. Similar low-level telekinetic activity has followed him for years. He is currently incarcerated for arson, a crime he denies.

I have asked the staff to inform me of any further unusual events that may occur at Foston Hall, but I fear they already have enough on their plates with the day to day running of the prison.

We can only hope that perhaps one day, Ms Shah will have a change of heart. I, for one, will not being holding my breath.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

The mysterious PRIS crops up again! I tried them a second time, hoping that they might have the full transcripts that the good doctor refers to. Like last time, the chap I spoke to said that they had no record of any such documents. He also went to great pains to reiterate that their records were ‘patchy in places’ – C.R. 

‘Merrily Ticking Away…’

1940 Gremlins Poster

1922, and Michael Taylor, a British pilot testing the new Mitsubishi 1MF fighter aircraft, crashes his aeroplane into the Pacific Ocean. Upon rescue, he reports that the accident was caused by a group of small grey creatures, each no larger than a cat, that followed him aboard his craft and set about wreaking havoc with the flight controls. His story spreads all the way back to the United Kingdom, and soon other British pilots begin to complain of being plagued by these tiny, goblin-like creatures.

They are soon known amongst the Royal Air Force as ‘gremlins’, and these gremlins are blamed for everything from communication dropouts to engine seizures, electrical failures to bad landings.

At the height of the Battle of Britain in 1940, the British Air Ministry even goes so far as to issue a service manual detailing various methods to deter these bothersome creatures.

All this is now believed to be no more than an attempt to maintain moral amongst the pilots and engineers of the RAF. Indeed, what better way to avoid the loss of confidence that comes from playing the blame game than by shifting the fault onto some imagined, mythical entity.

But, as ever, I have come to find that even the most fantastic of myths more often than not carries a grain of truth.

HomeBW

December 2nd 2003

Sarah Bussey immediately strikes me as cheerful woman, with a warm and motherly demeanour. Currently a local child minder, she was employed as a nurse in the early ’90s at the Arcadia Care Home in Middlesex, a retirement and assisted living facility on the outskirts of the county.

She kindly agrees to meet me on her morning off and we share breakfast at a small café in Lady Bay, Nottingham, where she currently lives and works.

Over a pot of tea and several rounds of toast she tells me her story, specifically her interactions with one David Shipley, a retired World War 2 pilot, whom she met in her first month of working at the Arcadia.

The following are her words.

‘I’d not been there too long when they bought David in. He was a lovely old guy, but that nasty so-and-so dementia was creeping in. It’s a horrid disease. It cleans away your memories and changes your personality. That’s why I left that job in the end. It’s difficult to keep seeing something so terrible happen over and over again.

‘Still, David was prone to long periods of lucidity when he was utterly charming and captivating. I could tell he was a ladies man when he was younger.’

She winks at me over her mug of tea.

‘He would regal the staff and other residents with tales of his exploits in the Second World War. He made them sound so thrilling. He was a natural storyteller.

‘Oddly enough, when he came in he brought this metronome with him, and he would always have it nearby; on the coffee table or the windowsill, just within reach.

‘It used to annoy some of the other nurses, that constant tick-tock, tick-tock, but I didn’t mind it. I asked him about it one day. You know, like why he had it, what it was for.

‘He told me that one time, when he was up in the sky battling the Luftwaffe, he spotted these little grey creatures out on the body of his ‘plane. He said they were nibbling away at the engine and the electrics, trying to make him crash.

‘‘Gremlins’, he called them. ‘Bloody gremlins’.

‘I couldn’t help but think of those little green critters from that pair of movies from the ’80s. I was very small when I saw those films. They shit me up as a kid, I’m not embarrassed to say!

‘Anyway, I asked him what he did about them, these ‘gremlins’.

‘He said that word back on the base what that you had to distract them somehow. Apparently they were an acknowledged thing!

‘So he’s struggling in his chair, trying to pilot this fighter plane and wrestle a hankie or something out of his pocket to wave at them. But it’s no good. So he starts tapping on the glass of the cockpit.

‘He said that the little blighters looked up at him, but then just carried on.

‘So he gets this idea: he starts tapping rhythmically on the perspex, first one spot, then the other, and he reckons this sort of, ‘hypnotises’ them. They stop trying to trash his plane and start watching his hand and nodding their heads in time with his tapping.

‘Somehow he manages to survive the dogfight and land in one piece, even taking some of the ‘blasted Hun’, as he used to call them, out of the sky on the way. When he got out of the plane there was no sign of these so-called ‘gremlins’.

‘And from that day on he says he’s always had a metronome with him, to recreate that tapping. Always on the go, just in case the little bleeders decide to come back and mess with him again.

‘I relayed this to the other nurses, and we all agreed that we’d humour the old boy. We weren’t monsters. We weren’t in the business of making our clients lives miserable just for the sake of it.

‘Eventually, his illness got the better of him, only a few months after he’d come to us.

‘When his family came to take his belongings I asked if we could keep the metronome.

‘I’ll be honest with you, me and some of the other staff had kind of a soft spot for the old fellow, and most of the other residents seemed to find the sound comforting. Like I said, we weren’t monsters.

‘And so it sat by the window of the rec room, just merrily ticking away.

‘And there it stayed. Until Miss Marham started with us.’

Ms Bussey goes on to tell me that Ms Marham was ‘parachuted in’ as a new supervisor, with the remit to cut costs wherever possible. ‘A right old dragon,’ in Ms Bussey’s words.

It seems this new supervisor took umbrage with the small metronomic device that sat in the recreation room, ticking away to the comfort of the residents.

Against the protests of the rest of the staff, Ms Marham stopped Mr Shipley’s metronome and threw the device away.

Ms Bussey continues.

‘Now, we’d never had any kind of technical problems at all up until then. Sure we had the odd fuse blown and that, but nothing major. But the night that silly old bitch threw David’s tick-tock machine away, all Hell seemed to break loose.

‘Everything that could go wrong did.

‘We had alarms tripping for no reason, lights blowing out left, right and centre; even the bloody coffee machine went on the fritz. Over the next few days we must’ve had every local electrician, technician, even a bloody surveyor out. Not one of them could work out what was going on.

‘Then one day one of the residents, this lovely old dear took me to one side. She said that she’d seen ‘them’ at night, chewing on the cables.

‘I asked who she meant by ‘them’.

‘‘David’s gremlins’ she replied.

Ms Bussey went to a local music shop later that day and purchased another metronome. She placed it in the recreation room and set it in motion.

The electrical problems the home had been experiencing ceased that night.

Ms Marham, the ill-tempered supervisor, did not remove this new machine.

BoB2

As is so often the case, Ms Bussey’s story is merely anecdotal, and I will confess I have not had the time to dig deeply for corroborating evidence for what occurred at the Arcadia Care Home, if it even occurred at all. But Ms Bussey seems sincere, and genuine. As far as I can tell, she has nothing to gain from inventing this little tale.

I will also add here that Ms Bussey never claimed to see these creatures herself.

So, did Mr Shipley, the intrepid character who soared through the skies during World War 2, somehow carry these gremlins with him? Was his belief in them so strong he was somehow able to subconsciously ‘will’ them into existence? And was this belief strong enough to ‘rub off’ onto the other residents? Or were they actual, corporeal creatures, physically capable of causing such turmoil at the care home?

Perhaps all this is nothing more than an amalgamation of folk tales and coincidence, misremeberings and circumstance, happening to collide at just the right time.

I do, however, find it interesting that the same problems that the Ministry of Air took semi-seriously in 1940s should manifest so similarly some 50 years later. Indeed, legends of mischievous entities can be traced throughout history, from the trow of the Orkney and Shetland Islands to the Kobold of Germany.

It does seem that the universe, like these diminutive sprites, does possess a rather a perverse sense of humour when it comes to such things, after all.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

Oddly enough, acclaimed children’s author Roald Dahl wrote a short story called ‘The Gremlins’, based on a similar experience he had in the Second World War. I do find it a shame that the good doctor didn’t seem to have time to investigate this one further.

Oh, and I watched the first Gremlins film when I was young. It ‘shit me up’ too – C.R.