‘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.

The Curious Case of Lee Woodgate & Josiah Jeniker

Pentacle

Lee Woodgate was born in Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire in 1970. An only child, he grew up in an impoverished household deeply affected by the recession of the early 1980s. Due to these circumstances, the young boy missed out on many opportunities growing up. Resigned to focusing solely on his studies, he passed his GCSEs and ‘A’ levels with flying colours, and then went on to study English Literature at the University of Leicester. He left in 1993 with a first class degree. His tutors remember him as a hard-working student, blessed with a motivation that set him apart from his peers.

His parents beamed with pride at his graduation.

After university, Lee spent two years in the Philippines, teaching English as a foreign language. On his return, he settled back in Nottingham, renting a small flat in Burrows Court, Sneinton.

In 1995 he was interviewed for a teaching position at the local primary school. Easily the best candidate, he was offered the job and was due to start at the beginning of the next school year, on Tuesday the 5th of September.

He never arrived for his first day.

In fact, he would not be seen for the next ten years.

Flats1

6th June 2012

Lisa Jolley is a large, stocky woman with a firm handshake and an infectious smile. Indeed, she possesses the frame and mannerisms of a friendly nightclub bouncer, should such a thing exist. Currently employed as a chauffeur, in 1995 she was a newly promoted detective in the Nottinghamshire Constabulary, and eager to impress.

She agrees to meet me on a gloriously sunny afternoon at The King William, one of the area’s older pubs. We take a table on the terrace and, over a couple of pints of ale, we discuss the events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Lee Woodgate.

After some initial pleasantries, I enquire as to her general experiences of the paranormal. I have learnt over the years that members of the police force always have a tale or two to tell.

Ms Jolley chuckles quietly to herself and rolls a cigarette.

‘Oh man, we used to get weird shit like that all the time. I tell you, I could write a book out of these. Well, maybe not a book. More of a large pamphlet, but you get the idea.

‘It was normally just people off their tits on something, or off their meds. We once had a guy ring up and tell us that a giant, dirty foot turned up in his living room, demanding to be washed! That was my favourite one.’ 

She chuckles again.

‘But that isn’t why we’re here, is it Doc? You want to hear what I have to say about the Woodgate case.’

I tell her that is correct.

Mr Jolley puts her cigarette out and hefts a large selection of dog-eared, yellow files on to the table between us.

‘Well I guess we should start at the beginning, then.’

She opens the first file with a sigh, handing me a blown-up passport-style head shot. It shows a dashing, blue-eyed and blonde haired young man with a slightly crooked smile. On the back of the picture is the name ‘Lee Woodgate’.

‘Evidently Mr Woodgate had been gone for a few days before we were called in. His parents contacted us, saying they couldn’t get in touch with him, and he’d apparently failed to show for the first day of his new job.

‘He wasn’t answering his phone, so we went ‘round to his flat in Burrows Court.

‘Burrows Court. How I came to hate that place.’

Burrows Court was built in 1967. Sitting atop a hill and standing 21 stories high, the building dominants the skyline, a testimony to the folly that was British housing policies in the late 1960s. Originally intended to replace the low rise terraced housing that make up the majority of the suburb of Sneinton, it eventually became a hotbed of crime, home to squatters and drug dealers, as well as people just trying to get by. In 2005 the council sold it to a private investor, relocating all the tenants.

To this day it stands empty.

Ms Jolley continues:

‘When we got there we found the door unlocked. All of Mr Woodgate’s belongings seemed there; his passport, his clothes etc. There was even a half-eaten piece of toast on the kitchen counter, stone cold.

‘We couldn’t rule out suicide, but there was no note, and according to his parents, Mr Woodgate was quite happy with his lot in life. You know, excited for the future, what with his new job and all that.

‘My instincts told me that something else was going on here, so we decided to start knocking on doors to see if any of his neighbours knew anything.

‘We didn’t find anything useful, at least not until we checked the flat directly below Mr Woodgate’s. What we found in there was fucked up, to say the least.’

According to Ms Jolley’s report, the door to the flat beneath Mr Woodgate’s is unlocked and ajar. As the new detective and her partner enter, they are greeted by the smell of cooked meat.

In the centre of the main living area, someone has scratched a pentacle onto the floor. Inside this pentacle is the partially burnt body of a stag.

‘The only way I can describe is that it was like something had taken a set from a Hammer horror film and just dropped it slap bang in the middle of suburban Nottingham.’ 

She shows me a photo of the scene. It is indeed macabre.

‘Have you ever seen a stag up close, Doc? They’re huge. And this one had these weird burns all over it, burns that kind of looked like trees pressed on to the flesh. The vet we called in eventually told us that those marks only appear when something living is struck by lightning.  

‘Where did this animal come from? And how did it get up there? Like I said, this thing was enormous, a slab of pure muscle. One person alone couldn’t have got it into the lift, let alone dragged it all the way up the stairs. And how did it die? There hadn’t been a thunder storm in the area for at least a year.  

‘So now we have a dead animal and a second crime scene. A quick search of the second flat turned up a pair of Mr Woodgate’s slippers in the living room, tucked under the sofa.

‘So we also had a connection between the two locations.  

‘We did some digging and found out who owned this second flat, and began to look closely at him.’

Ms Jolley closes the first file and passes me the second. She rolls another cigarette, watching me as I scan through the document.

The second flat belonged to a thirty-two year old man named Josiah Jeniker. This individual was unemployed, and was known to frequent a local pub, the Lord Nelson, where he would regale student drinkers with card tricks and sleight of hand. He was often heard to refer to himself as a ‘weekend occultist’, and was known to drunkenly pontificate at length on his theories regarding ‘natural’ magic.

By that point, he had not been seen for at least a fortnight.

It is worth noting that Mr Jeniker had no dependents and no immediate family. Other than the regulars at the Nelson, there was no one to miss him when he vanished.

There is an accompanying photo in the file. It shows a short, skinny and dark-haired man with a thin beard and a widow’s peak.

He looks like he would struggle to lift a cat, let alone a fully grown stag.

‘We looked into the disappearance of both men as best we could, but you have to remember that the mid ’90s were a difficult time in Nottingham. Gun and knife crime were both on the up, plus we had the ever escalating turf war between rival gangs in St Anns and the Meadows. We didn’t really have either the time or the resources to investigate two missing people and a deer that had been burnt to a crisp.

‘I’ll level with you; the case got kicked into the long grass, so to speak.

‘I spoke to the family of Mr Woodgate on occasion, trying my best to reassure them that we were doing all that we could, even if that wasn’t exactly true. I told them that I’d be in touch if any new info came to light. Eventually they stopped calling.

‘It just became another case to add to the ever growing pile of unsolved cases.

‘Until the 12th of July 2005, when we received a very odd phone call.

‘It was a Mrs Singh, the last tenant left in the building. She said there was a dead man up on the roof of Burrows Court.’  

Flats2

I must interject here and add that on the night of the 12th of July 2005, multiple witnesses claim to see a series of curious blue flashes in the sky over Nottingham city and its surrounding suburbs. These flashes occur on and off for over an hour.

#

Ms Jolley goes on:

‘Because of that incident in ’95, Burrows Court seemed to become my ‘patch’. Normally we’d send a  couple of uniforms out first, but we were short staffed and none were available. So muggins here had to go.

‘As I said, Ms Singh was the last tenant left in the building. All the others had been relocated, but she was putting up a fight.

‘We’d had calls from her before, things like the neighbours playing their music too loud and youths loitering outside, the usual sort of thing. But she’d mentioned a dead body, and as soon as any talk of that kind gets started, we have to look into it.

‘Anyway, I get there, and Ms Singh answers her door. She seems agitated. Hopping from foot to foot, almost. I ask her about the body. She says she thinks it’s on the roof.

‘I calm her down and say that I’ll take a look. I must admit, I was sceptical. She reckons that she hasn’t seen it, but she knows it’s there when she closes her eyes.

‘She actually said that. ‘I know it’s there when I close my eyes’.

‘But I go up to the roof anyway. The door’s locked from this side but I managed to open it with a bit of shoulder. The place is being emptied anyway, so I figure ‘who cares’? At this point I’m just tired of all this crap.

‘I cannot impress upon you enough, Dr Gotobed, how much I wish they’d sent someone else that night.’

Ms Jolley goes on to tell me how she found yet another pentacle, again scratched into the floor. Inside this shape lay the still, naked body of a man, a man with blue eyes and blonde hair.

This man is Lee Woodgate.

He is dead.

An autopsy on this body reveals Mr Woodgate to have been in rude health at the time of his passing. The official cause of death is listed as unknown.

‘That poor bastard. What happened to him to end up here, all alone, locked up on the roof of that damn block of flats, ten years after anyone had last heard from him? 

‘That was the thing that made me realise that I didn’t want to be a copper anymore. I handed my notice in the next day.’

At this point, Ms Jolley steps away from the table to take a phone call. She returns a moment later and offers her apologies, but some urgent business has come up and she must leave.

She collects the files, leaving one with me.

‘Look over that and call me if you have any questions, Doc.’

She flashes that infectious smile as I shake her hand and thank her for her time.

Finishing my pint, I open this last file. In it there is only a handwritten note. It says: Rampton Secure Hospital, Room 117.

Sky

8th June 2012

Rampton Secure Hospital is a high security psychiatric hospital designed to hold those who have been detained under the criteria of ‘mental disorder’ as detailed in the Mental Health Act of 1983.

Although obvious attempts have been made to cheer the place up, I must confess that I find the site more than a little disturbing, to say the least.

I visit in the late afternoon, just as official visiting hours are coming to close. I am greeted at reception by a clearly overworked member of staff by the name of Doctor Mahmood.

As Dr Mahmood leads me through the labyrinthine corridors of the hospital, to the isolation wing, she tells me about the patient we are going to visit.

‘He walked into a Burger King a couple of weeks ago, completely naked and raving about… I don’t know, all manner of odd things. He threatened some customers then leapt over the counter and attacked a member of the staff.

‘The police arrested him and took his fingerprints. But there’s some discrepancy with his identity, so he’s ended up here.’

‘A discrepancy?’ I ask.

She doesn’t answer.

We reach a heavy door and Doctor Mahmood opens a small panel and motions for me to take a look inside.

Sat on a bed at the end of a padded cell is a short, skinny man with a full beard and dark hair in a widow’s peak. He sees me and raises his head, offering a nervous, crooked smile.

‘As you can see, Doctor Gotobed, the chap in there is clearly Josiah Jeniker. However, he claims to be someone different.

‘He says his name is Lee Woodgate.’

Bed

I was only able to speak to the occupant of room 117 once. He knew many obscure facts about the life of Lee Woodgate, facts I was able to corroborate with official records. His insistence that he was, in fact, Mr Woodgate at times bordered on aggressive.

He was unwilling or unable to answer any questions relating to the life of Josiah Jeniker.

Sadly, whoever it is in that cell refuses to speak with me again, or anyone else for that matter. He has since lapsed into a melancholic silence.

I decided against interviewing Mr Woodgate’s parents. I feel they have been through enough. They have never visited the man detained at Glenmore Psychiatric Hospital.

Asylum

There have been instances in the past of individuals receiving some massive head trauma and subsequently waking up able to speak a new language, having an altered personality or, in a couple of more extreme examples, claiming to be someone completely different entirely.

But these cases are rare and, due to their scarcity, seldom thoroughly researched.

Whatever happened in Burrows Court seems altogether different. Somehow the fates of Lee Woodgate and Josiah Jeniker appear to have become hopelessly entangled, and all that remains now appears to be the mind and memories of the would-be teacher trapped in the body of the ‘weekend occultist’.

And what of the mysterious lights seen on the nights preceding the discovery of the body on the roof of Burrow’s Court? Are they mere co-incidence, or are they somehow linked to the fate of these two individuals?

I fear that without the further co-operation of the gentleman that resides in room 117 of Rampton Secure Hospital, a satisfying resolution to this strange and unfortunate series of events will remain elusive.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

There seems to be quite a few similarities with this report and another I wrote up earlier. Once again, all the places are local to me, but I cannot find any mention of the individuals involved – C.R. 

A Tall Man on the Mountainside

The following letter was tucked away in the back of the good doctor’s journal, alongside an old Polaroid photo and a postcard of the Berber flag. The letter is written in this odd kind of cursive that seems to lean backwards, and is entirely different from Doctor Gotobed’s somewhat cramped scrawl – C.R. 

Berber_flag

Atlas Guest House

Imlil 42152

Morocco

 

June 12th 1990

Dearest Thomas,

As you know, I am deep in the Atlas Mountains with a view to climbing Mount Toubkal. I experienced something most unusual yesterday, and I thought it would be of interest to you.

My colleagues and I had just set out on the first leg of our trip, and I must say that I was surprised by the similarity of the mountainous terrain and climate out here with that of the Scottish Highlands.

The weather had been good for the first hour or so, although Abde (our guide) informed us that winds and rain were on their way. He was correct, and it did not take long for a thick mist to descend alongside this inclement weather, reducing visibility to a mere ten feet or so ahead. Still we continued. After all, one only needs to know (and continue knowing) that the next step is the correct one.

So our progress was slow, yet steady.

Then the peculiar thing occurred: as we were walking up the rock strewn path, I noted a shrill whistling coming through the mist before us.

It was a melody I recognised, but couldn’t place.

The whistling grew louder, and the sound was followed by a tall man striding out of the haze. When I say tall, I mean he was the tallest individual I have ever seen. Possibly 8 foot, possibly even more. He seemed to be wearing a black, shiny and almost skin-tight piece of clothing that appeared to be made from one piece, going all the way from his toes to his neck, and he held up a small brolly. At least it looked small in his hands. He had round, glassy eyes and, I must admit, I found myself a little repulsed by him, for reasons I could not put my finger on.

As he drew closer to us, this chap stopped and addressed our guide in what I assumed was Arabic, before carrying on his journey, nodding as he passed myself and my colleagues.

Once he was gone, I asked Adbe what it was that this man had said.

‘He says the rocks are loose up ahead. He advised we turn back,’ came Adbe’s reply.  

I asked him if that was what we would be doing.

The answer was a rather curt ‘No’.

We carried on, and I resolved not to pay the image of this strange, tall figure any more thought until after we had scaled the summit and were well on our return journey.

But that was not to be.

Not thirty minutes later, we crossed paths with the tall man again. Not that he came from behind us. No. Once again, his coming was preceded by the same whistled tune from the mist in front of us. Again he strode out of the fog clutching his umbrella. Again he spoke to our guide. Again he nodded as he passed the rest of us.

I asked Abde if that was the same man.

‘Yes. And his message was the same.’

‘Will we be turning back?’ I said.

‘No. We continue.’ 

And continue we did, for another hour or so in the blasting winds and their accompanying rain, until we reached a small clearing with some natural shelter, where we stopped for a quick break.

As we were making small talk, the kind of small talk that physically drained people make when they know that there is still much work to be done, a familiar shrill whistling cut through the air. We fell silent, each one of us looking around at the faces of the other members of the group.

Once again, the whistling grew louder, and then the figure appeared, again from the same direction. He did not stop this time; rather he just smiled at us as he walked by. I say smiled, but I’m positive that this gentleman had no teeth or gums, just lips and darkness behind them, but maybe it was just my eyes playing tricks on me.

We watched the figure disappear into the mist and back down the trail leading away from the mountain.

I looked to our guide, assuming he would say that we should just carry on. But Adbe looked terrified. He was already packing his stuff away.

‘Come. We are getting off the mountainside. We will come back in a few days.’

I asked him if his change of heart was down to the repeated appearance of the tall gentleman. He would not answer, and led us back down to our guest house in the village of Imlil without saying another word.

We ate our evening meal in silence and bedded down for the night, hoping to start afresh the next day, today.

I found out this morning that a terrible landslide occurred overnight and two other groups of hikers have gone missing. One of these was the group that had set out not twenty minutes before our own.

And Abde? He is nowhere to be seen.

Now, I have no explanation for any of this. I’m not saying it’s in anyway supernatural, or even if it falls under any of the other categories of ‘spooky things’ that you look into, but I thought it might interest you. It was also good to write down and commit to paper, even if it was just for my own sanity.

We are planning to have another go at the summit once we have found a new guide. Should we see this peculiar chap again, or indeed any other strange persons, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Wish Percy well for me, and tell her that I will be round for dinner with photographs and souvenirs once I get back to good old Blighty. I owe her a bottle of wine (or two)!

Lots of love,

Jane

Waterfall

Once again, I can’t corroborate any of this: landslides in the High Atlas Mountains are not recorded, and investigations into missing hikers from that part of the world seems pretty much non-existent, especially in the early ’90s. Yet more weirdness – C.R. 

‘Not Yet, Not Yet’

Lamp

If precognition is an individual experiencing a forewarning of things yet to pass, what of those times when the warning seems to come from an outside agency?

Many people believe in the idea that there is some greater force watching over us, a force that is capable of intervening with our lives. Indeed, unscrupulous individuals posing as mediums, psychics and soothsayers have had great success over the years in separating people from their money on the pretence of communicating with said force.

But modern examples of such supernatural intervention are few and far between.

But not unheard of.

PubEpping

8th May 2015

Robert Bilson is a tall, middle-aged gentleman, with a wide smile and hair the colour of snow. He is currently employed as an administrator for the NHS, but twenty years ago he worked for a different branch of the civil service.

We meet in the George & Dragon pub in Epping. After apologising profusely for his lateness, even though it was a mere ten minutes, we take a seat at a table in the old games room. Over a pint or two of real ale, Mr Bilson shares his memories of an event that occurred just over two decades ago.

‘I was working for the Revenue at the time, in their old offices in South Norwood. I think they used to be army barracks or something. They certainly felt like it. The building was pretty cramped, lots of interconnected rooms that always smelt like damp. We called it ‘the Labyrinth’.

‘I used to stay behind after everyone else had gone. I’d just been through a pretty bad break-up at the time, I’ll spare you the gory details, but I liked the peace and quiet. It let me get things done.

‘One night, I think it was a Tuesday, I was working away, typing up some records, when I noticed a sound. It was strange. Whenever I typed, I could hear the clacking of keys. Not just mine, but sort of ‘underneath’ mine, if that makes any sense. It sounded like it was coming from down the corridor, but I couldn’t get a handle on it, as it only seemed to happen when my fingers were on the keyboard.

‘I started thinking it was just an echo. But there was something different about that sound. Every few seconds there was a muffled ‘ding’ and then, like a sliding sound.

‘I recognised it. It’s the noise the carriage bell return on a typewriter makes.

‘I didn’t know anyone in the building who used one of those. But, like I said, it was an old office, and there were some eccentric types that worked there. I figured it was one of the older members of staff. People like what they like, I guess. Old habits and all that.

‘I carried on with my reports, maybe another hour or so, the muffled ding on the typewriter carrying on as well.

‘When I packed my things up, I realised I was going to have find whoever this other person was who was working late and let them know that they’d have to lock up.

‘I did a circuit of the whole building and could not find another soul. Perhaps they’d snuck out? I thought it was a little rude that they’d not said anything, but oh well.

‘As I went to the front door I passed one of the offices that were just off the main corridor. It was dimly lit, but I’m sure, absolutely sure, that I saw someone in there.  It was a guy in a pinstripe suit and a bowler hat. He had his back to me and he seemed to be on the phone.

‘I only caught a glimpse of him, because I was walking quite quickly and hadn’t expected to see anyone. I stepped back, did like a double take, but the room was empty.

‘I turned the light on, but nope. Not a soul to be seen. And the other weird thing? There was no phone in that room, not even a socket in the wall for one.’

These types of sighting are not uncommon. Indeed, there is an argument that certain buildings can retain a memory of the souls that dwell within them, and that an individual’s routine, if repeated often enough, can somehow leave an imprint on the very surroundings, an imprint that can be played back if certain conditions are met. But these imprints are just recordings; capable of being replayed, but incapable of interaction.

But what happened next in South Norwood argues against that idea in this instance.

Mr Bilson continues.

‘I’ll admit I was a little spooked, so I locked up and got out of there sharpish. I got in my car and drove out of the car park.

‘Now the end of the road that the office was on was known for being badly lit. A lamppost had been knocked down a few years ago and had never been replaced, and it was pretty dark that night.

‘As I slowed down at the end of the road, getting ready for the turn, I heard a voice, a male voice, clear as a bell. It sounded like it was right in my ear.

‘It said ‘not yet, not yet’. 

‘I froze. The car came to a dead stop and I just sat there, gripping the wheel.

‘Suddenly, in front of me, a big black van with no lights screamed past, tyres squealing, the lot.

‘I didn’t recognise the voice, and I had no idea where it came from. But I know this: if it hadn’t spoken, if I hadn’t stopped and had just carried on going, that van would’ve taken me out completely. I’d be dead.

‘I’ll tell you something else too. I don’t believe in ghosts, or angels or spirits. But something or someone saved my life that night.’ 

Mr Bilson says he worked late in that same building many nights after that. He never heard the clacking of the typewriter or saw the shade of the man in the pinstripe suit and bowler hat ever again.

But he was always sure to stop at the end of that particular road and double check it was clear, even after the broken streetlamp was finally replaced.

Stop

Is it possible that Mr Bilson somehow unknowingly picked up on the danger around him – the lack of light, the sound of the van approaching, even the vibration of the vehicle through the earth itself – and some part of his subconscious manifested the voice to warn him?

This is not unheard of, and the fact the words sounded directly in his ear rather than coming from somewhere else lends weight to this idea.

However, this theory does not explain the sound of the typewriter that Mr Bilson heard, nor the figure he briefly glimpsed in the dark office just before he left.

Mr Bilson did note that the building always had a damp smell, and it is not unknown for the spores of certain types of toxic mould to have psychoactive effects. Studies recently undertaken at Clarkson University in New York at least suggest this is possible, although it is interesting to note that I could find no record of any other incidents of this nature occurring in or around the premises.

Typewriter

Whoever the mysterious individual with the penchant for typewriters was, perhaps more than just his routine remained behind in the building. Perhaps part of his soul lingered there too, keeping an eye out for the staff that stayed behind after hours.

Whatever the explanation, something unusual occurred that dark night in South Norwood, and, whatever it was, it saved Mr Bilson’s life on that particularly gloomy evening.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

‘Stuff to Scare the New Guys With’

SymbolMedic

There is much debate in scientific and theological circles regarding the exact point in time that a collection of cells can be considered living, as well the exact point that the same collection of cells can be considered dead.

The moment of death has historically been a fluid concept. Indeed, there are many examples of those whose hearts have stopped beating or been declared brain dead being bought ‘back to life’ thanks to advances in modern medicine. As I write this, it is commonly accepted in the medical community that true death occurs the moment there is no chance of such a resurrection.

But what of the spirit, that intangible and unique life force that makes us who we are? Is it possible that this part of us can live on after this ‘true death’?

In my experience, the best place to begin searching for answers is in the testimonies of those who work at the boundary between life and death; the medical profession and the emergency services.

HMonitor

4th February 2012

Karen Sawyer is one such individual. Short, slight, and with a disarming smile, she currently works as a baker specialising in bespoke wedding cakes.

However, fifteen years ago, she was employed in an altogether more ‘challenging’ field.

These are her words, not mine.

We meet in a small boutique coffee shop in the London Borough of Hackney where, over several strong cups of Americano coffee, she shares her story.

As she speaks, it is impossible not to notice that her words suggest an inner steeliness at odds with her soft voice and somewhat gentle demeanour.

‘I was a call handler back then, and an emergency medical dispatcher. The trust I worked for smooshed both those roles into one. The night shifts were tough. The hardest parts were the long spells of doing nothing or dealing with mundane calls. Then, ‘Wham!’ You’d get these moments of incredibly high stress. I didn’t last long. Two years, maybe.

‘Some of the ‘old timers’, the people who’d worked there for ages, they all had the odd weird tale to tell or spooky story to share. But you took it all with a pinch of salt. They seemed like urban legends, you know? Just stuff to scare the new guys with, no more than that.

‘I only had one really strange thing happen to me, but crikey was it strange.

‘The shift started as normal, nothing unusual. Some mum rang up, worried about a rash her kid had. A drunk lad who’d snapped a finger, just the typical midweek stuff.  I remember getting up for a cup of coffee, then sitting back down when the call came in.

‘It was a young woman. She sounded… distant, tired. I could tell she’d taken something. She said her name was Tiffany.

‘Tiffany was asking for an ambulance. She said she’d taken a bunch of pills. She said she’d tried to kill herself, but she didn’t mean it. She was begging me for help.

‘I got her address and dispatched an ambulance out to her.

‘We’d been trained to keep people on the line, ‘til the paramedics arrived. She kept kind of dipping in and out on me. She’d go from loud and distraught to quiet and whimpering. She kept saying: ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake, a terrible mistake.’

‘I spoke to her for about five minutes, whilst the help was on its way. I tried to get more information out of her, specifically what the pills were that she’d taken. She said she didn’t know. So I asked her about her family. But she kept, kind of, coming and going is the only way I can describe it. Hysterical to sad. So sad.

‘I asked her if her front door was unlocked. I heard her put the phone down and then a clicking noise, which I assumed was the door being taken off the latch. 

‘Now this is before everyone had mobiles, so I guess she’d put the handset down somewhere near the receiver. 

‘She never came back on the line.’

Ms Sawyer wipes tears away from her eyes.

‘I heard the paramedics enter the building, and then some muffled voices talking. I disconnected and took a deep breath. I thought that I’d done all I could.

‘A couple of minutes later, one of the paramedics on the scene rang up. He was asking me who’d made the initial call.

‘I thought that was a bit odd. I told him it was Tiffany, the young woman.

‘He asked me if I was sure. Maybe someone else had made the call?

‘I was adamant. It was the young woman I’d spoken to. Not a relative, not a friend. No one else.

‘He just said okay and then hung up on me.’

She brushes strands of hair away from her face, composing herself.

‘Someone contacted the front desk, asking for the supervisor. I watched him take the call, all the time looking at me. He hung up and then waved me over.

‘He’d been talking to the paramedics on the scene. Apparently when they got into the place, Tiffany was dead in the hall. She was ice cold, showing signs of lividity and rigor mortis.

‘They estimated she’d been there, dead, for at least a day.’

LondonMono

According to Ms Sawyer, the recording of her phone conversation that night was reviewed at length, along with the logs of the paramedics.

All the timestamps pointed to Ms Sawyer conversing with the caller, a woman who had apparently committed suicide by an overdose of codeine, an opiate, an overdose which took her life some twenty four hours before she dialled 999.

This is not the first case of this nature experienced by a member of the emergency services that I have encountered. Indeed, the more of them I investigate, the more I am convinced that the spirit can sometimes linger behind, tied to this world for a short while, particularly after a traumatic death.

I suspect, in this instance, that the phone call Ms Sawyer answered was a final plea for help.

But without further, focused research, answers to the nature of the soul will continue to remain elusive. I must add that, once again, this is not the kind of incident that can be replicated under the conditions required to satisfy the scientific method.

Mannequin

A month after her experience, Ms Sawyer left her job as a call handler, stepping back from the edge. I cannot blame her.

If there were any justice in the world, those who toil at the apparently fluid border between life and death would be revered and rewarded accordingly.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

This was another one that was tough to type up. It’s always easier when it’s abstract concepts or historical accounts, not actual, living (or dying) people. I think I need a break from reading the good doctor’s notes for a bit. And a drink. A large one – C.R.