‘Little Tricks’ Beneath the Old Angel

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Located in the area known as the Lace Market, The Old Angel public house has stood for over 500 years, silently watching over Nottingham as it evolved from a small Anglo-Saxon settlement to the metropolitan city we see today.

The pub itself has a long and turbulent history, variously serving as a brothel, a meeting place for Luddites and Druids, and a live music venue for more ‘raucous’ acts. Recently taken over by new management and rechristened the Angel, it is currently quite an appealing prospect for the casual drinker.

In the winter of 2011 the pub was also chosen by a local student as the location for an investigation into the effects of fear, an investigation that came to a most unexpected conclusion.

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9th April 2015

I meet Cressida Smith in a quiet coffee shop a short walk up from Nottingham’s Market Square. Four years ago, she was studying psychology at Nottingham Trent University.

We share a pot of tea and I ask her to tell me about the night of the experiment. Confident and concise, she has the manner of someone who does not suffer fools gladly. However, the first sentence she speaks on the matter is one tinged with regret.

“Please bear in mind, Dr Gotobed, I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

I ask her to start from the beginning.

“The idea was a simple one; an experiment designed to investigate the power of suggestion, specifically if a sense of fear could be created by placing an unsuspecting subject into an environment they already believed was haunted. It was to be the topic of my dissertation, and I was very interested to see what would happen. I put a lot of work into it.” 

“The first point of business was to find a suitable location, one with enough history and a bit of a back story I could work with. I chose the Angel pub in Hockley. Even a cursory search on the internet will bring up stories of a murdered prostitute that apparently haunts the bar. Add to that the fact the building has two unused floors along with an entrance to the underground cave system that’s below the city.”

“I was also good friends with the landlord, Steve Wilson. I recruited him to lay it on thick with all kinds of stories of stuff that had happened to him since he’d moved in. Weird noises, objects going missing, doors closing on their own, all that spooky jazz.”

“All bullshit, of course. At least, I think it was.”

“The plan was to strap a heart monitor to the subject’s wrist to measure changes in their heart activity, and also to give them a small ticker device with which to click every time they believed they were in the presence of anything they considered ‘paranormal’. Oh, and a lapel microphone so they could narrate and record their feelings.”

“The landlord and I were to take the subject on a tour of the building, after hours of course. My plan was to hang back and take notes, whilst Steve would elucidate the history of the pub. Hamming it up a little, as you can imagine.” 

“Then the subject and I were to descend into the caves below the bar, ostensibly to hold a séance.”

“In actual fact, I’d recruited another person, a family friend with experience in theatrical special effects. He was going to rig up something special for me down in the cave, something suitably scary.”

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The individual in question was one Jonas Wang, a veteran of the stage with fifteen years’ experience in the audio-visual arts. A tall and wiry man, he speaks quickly and is obviously full of enthusiasm for his craft.

I meet Mr Wang in the bar of the Theatre Royal, where he is currently working on the installation of a touring rendition of Bram Stoker’s classic ‘Dracula’.

Over sandwiches and a bottle of wine, he tells me of his role in Ms Smith’s ‘investigation’.

“Yeah, Cressie’s father and I go way back, and when she asked me to give her hand I really had to say yes. But when she told me what it was for, I was initially a bit sceptical. I mean, is it even legal, scaring the crap out of someone?” 

“But when she explained it was for science, and gave me a few more details, I must admit, it definitely whetted my appetite. It was a challenge, to say the least.” 

“And I love a challenge.” 

He smiles widely.

“I spent about a week or so drawing up a plan and gathering various gadgets and ‘little tricks’. I got hold of a couple of mini speakers, the kind with wicked bass response. Real teeth rattlers, if you know what I mean. I also got a little smoke machine and some red LEDs, along with some fine fishing wire. That was so I could move some small, carefully placed objects around, if the situation called for it.”

“I spent a good few hours down in that cave the night before Cressie was going to do her experiment. I really went to town on this. Especially considering I wasn’t getting paid.”

“The idea was for me to sit, hidden away, in the adjoining cave, out of sight. I could trigger all my gear from there.”

“But would you believe it, but when the actual night came, I ended up stuck on the side of the A453 with a dead engine.”

“A recovery vehicle had told me it was on its way, so I called Cressie and told her I was running a little late.”

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Ms Smith continues:

“I put an ad up on the internet, on the University site, asking for volunteers. With a cash reward, of course.”

“I got about thirty applicants, which, after an extensive review, I managed to whittle down to just the one; a Mrs Regina Carr. She was a forty four year old housewife from nearby West Bridgford. Two kids, down to earth, smart. And crucially, she had no experience of the paranormal, but an interest in such things.” 

“She was perfect.” 

“I got her to sign the relevant paperwork and told her the date and time, keeping up the whole pretence, of course.” 

“At about eleven on the night of the experiment, just before Mrs Carr was due to arrive, I got a phone call from Jonas saying he was going to be about half an hour late. I could deal with that, I’d just make the tour around the pub last a little longer and he could get into position whilst we were upstairs. As I understood it, he was ready to go, anyway.”

“I must add, Dr Gotobed, Jonas hadn’t told me about any of the stuff he’d set up down there. I didn’t want my actions to pre-empt anything for the subject, subconsciously or otherwise.”

“Mrs Carr arrived and got comfortable in the now closed bar. Steve fetched her a cup of coffee and we made some small talk. I asked her to turn her phone off, so we got no distractions. I did the same. There was no word from Jonas, so I assumed he was on his way. One of the bar staff was due to let him in anyway.”

“After about twenty minutes we began the tour upstairs. I must confess, by torchlight, with all those boarded-up windows, the cramped corridors, the boarded up windows, and the faded graffiti, even I found the upper levels a little unnerving. And, my word, Steve can spin a tale. I had to keep prompting Mrs Carr to use her ticker and narrate how she was feeling.”

“The experiment was proving to be quite successful; it was quite obvious she was, let’s say, ‘unsettled’.” 

“It took us about twenty five minutes to cover the whole of the upstairs. I was pretty confident that Jonas was in place, and as we descended the stone steps into the caves I saw a figure step back in to the shadows. I remembering thinking that had to be him.”

“We sat down in the cave I’d assigned for the mock séance. I’d laid some rugs out on the floor and put a couple of tall candles out for effect. There was a large stone between us that had looked like it had been carved out of the earth.”

“I sat opposite the subject and told her I was going to someone the spirits using a traditional method I had been taught as a child. Truth be told, it was just a hotch–potch of things I’d read on Google.” 

“Mrs Carr had gone almost silent by that point, there was only the sound of the ticker in her hand. I reminded her again to narrate how she was feeling, and not to worry about talking over me.”

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The following is a transcript from the audio recorded by Mrs Carr from that night. They had been in the cave for ten minutes by this point, with Ms Smith performing her fake ritual.

Cressida Smith: Please remember to put into words how you feel, Mrs Carr.

Regina Carr: It’s very cold in her. But it’s not like actual cold. It’s weird. It feels like a breeze blowing just above the floor. What is that? 

[unintelligible murmuring from CS, part of her ‘séance’]

RC: I’m scared. Do you feel that?

CS: Feel what?

RC: Like we’re being watched. Oh my God this place is just… just wrong.

[a single click, followed by thirty or so seconds of silence]

RC: There! Look, can you see, there’s a shape in the corner. In the shadows. A woman looking at us. Oh my God, what does she want?

[the sound of wind blowing across the microphone]

[several clicks]

RC: Tell me you see that, Cressida. Tell me you feel that. Why is she looking at me like that? What does she want?

[more clicking]

RC: I don’t want to do this anymore. Seriously, I think we should stop now. Please can we stop?   

[the sound of stone scraping against stone]

[a third voice, female, moaning] 

[rapid clicking]

CS: Please remain seated, Mrs Carr.

RC: Oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God… 

[Several large banging sounds can be heard on the tape, followed by a single, much louder cracking noise]

RC: Fuck this. This is fucked up. You can keep your damn money.

CS: Mrs Carr, please remain seated. The experiment is almost-

RC: Oh my God, she’s coming this way. Who’s there? Who are you? What do you want-

[several screams, followed by three minutes of static] 

CS: [breathless] Experiment bought to an end at eleven fifty seven pm.

Ms Smith tells me that there was another presence down there with them in that cave. At the time, she thought it was one of Mr Wang’s ‘little tricks’.

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Mr Wang picks up the story:

“I never made it to the Angel that night. When the recovery vehicle got to me, he didn’t have the right parts to fix my car, so I had to wait for a tow truck. I tried to ring Cressie again, but her phone must’ve been switched off. I heard from her about an hour, an hour and a half later, when she called me and asked me where I’d gone. She was going on about what a good job I’d done.”

“But I hadn’t done anything. I’d been stood in the rain by the side of the ring road.”

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Mrs Carr fled the Angel that night, apparently almost taking the door off its hinges in her efforts to leave the building.

Ms Smith did her best to contact her in the following days, but found her efforts where in vain. She posted a cheque to Mrs Carr’s house, but it was returned, uncashed.

She goes on to say that she did see a figure down in the cave, and she did feel the breeze and hear the banging sounds, the last of which was apparently the stone in the centre of the cave cracking.

A large split can still be seen in that stone.

Ms Smith was initially under the impression that Jonas Wang had not only done his job, but performed substantially above and beyond what was expected of him.

It was only after she spoke to him later that night that she realised this was not the case.

Jonas Wang collected his equipment the next day, not wishing to linger inside the cave for any longer than was absolutely necessary.

All of his ‘little tricks’ were switched off and untouched.

Ms Smith never finished her degree.  She left Trent University the following week and went to work for her father.

She assures me that she has never spoken of the events of that winter night to anyone.

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The first explanation I reached for in this case was the effect of infrasound, a low frequency hum that can be created by the underground movement of water. It is inaudible to the human ear, but several papers (such as the one written by Vic Tandy in 1998*) suggest that these sound waves can elicit a curious effect on the brain, causing hallucinations and feelings of dread.

Considering the location of the caves beneath the Angel, one can speculate that infrasound was the cause of whatever Mrs Carr, and indeed Ms Smith, experienced that night.

However, this does not explain the splitting of the stone in that particular cave. Having spoken to the landlord of the building, the same Mr Wilson mentioned earlier, still in-situ at the Angel, it seems that the stone was intact before the experiment.

Time permitting, it is my recommendation that Ms Smith’s investigation is repeated.

I also recommend that a little more compassion is shown toward whomever is chosen as the subject.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Vic Tandy’s paper can be found here, and it’s certainly very interesting. I’d like to add that the Angel is a pub I am familiar with (they pull a mean pint!) and I have heard from the bar staff rumours about the night a woman saw a ghost in the caves and almost kicked the door down to get out – C.R. 

A Figure on Hack Green

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Military installations have a long history of supernatural activity, ranging from the shade of a dead pilot at the training facility HMS Daedulas who returned for one last photograph with his comrades in 1919, to the shadowy apparition of a suicidal marine that stalked the hallways of Forward Operating Base Ripley in Afghanistan in late 2005.

But sometimes the activity appears to bear little relevance to any event that actually took place at the location in question.

In September of 1940, the German air-force, the Luftwaffe, began their bombing campaign against Great Britain.

Following the flattening of Coventry in November of the same year, the British government began the creation of what came to be known as ‘starfish’ sites. Consisting of a series of lights and controlled fires designed to simulate burning cities, the purpose of these sites was to confuse the Luftwaffe in to dropping their ordnance over the countryside and away from their intended targets.

One such site was at Hack Green in Cheshire.

After the war was over, Hack Green was modernised and upgraded to become part of the British government’s air defence infrastructure. A radar station was added, alongside a rather substantial concrete bunker, built half into the earth. The site was then used to provide air traffic control to military planes that crossed into civil airspace.

With the advent of the Cold War, the Home Office took control of Hack Green, designating the newly reinforced bunker as a ‘Regional Government Headquarters’, just one example of a network of sites that would allow the government to continue to operate in the aftermath of a nuclear strike on the UK.

In 1992, with the end of the Cold War, Hack Green stood empty for a couple of years, before a private concern took over the site and opened it to the public as a museum, housing a large collection of military memorabilia.

It is rumoured, as most buildings with such history are, to be haunted by the usual apparitions of noisy service-men and women.

But it is not the usual apparitions that concern us today.

In early 2011, a most unusual shade began to make itself known.

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15th February 2011

Richard ‘Dicky’ Cole is an elderly man, but surprisingly sprightly for his age. Since the death of his wife five years ago, he spends his days on the fields of Cheshire, sweeping the muddy earth with his trusty metal detector.

He joins me for a pint in the nearby Barrel & Tap, and after some small talk he shares his experience of a fortnight ago.

“My kids don’t like me being out there in all weathers. ‘You’ll catch your death’, they always say. But it’s my life now. It’s what I do.” 

“The only thing I’ve ever found out there was an old Roman coin. I gave it to the local museum. Like a prat. An honest prat, at least. I wish I’d kept it now. That’s why I do it. That’s why I go out there in all weathers. I’d like something to hang on to, a little piece of history.” 

“Do you think that sounds odd?”

I assure him I do not.

“Well, I’ve been out on those fields for some months now, and it’s a big ol’ space. I was getting to the last part, the bit nearest the bunker. I’d left that until the end. There’s a lot of crap around there. Litter and the like.”

“That’s when things got weird.”

How so?

“Well my detector is normally silent. It’ll only beep when I sweep it over something metallic. But that day… that day it was just making weird noises in my headphones. Like the sound of a respirator or someone breathing heavily. There was also this kind of… chattering, I guess it was, like a voice. Unintelligible. Like it was far away.”

“I listened to it for a bit. Then I just gave up. Thought I’d go and get some fish and chips. I’ve not been back. I don’t have time for that.”

“I’m putting it down to sodding Japanese engineering. I’d dread to think there’s another reason for those sounds, whatever they were.”

Mr Cole kindly lent me his metal detector for an afternoon. I was unable to recreate the sounds he heard that day.

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17th February 2011

Alexa Lewis is a musician local to Cheshire. Twelve days ago she was out on the fields near Hack Green with a friend, there to take some promotional photos for her newest release.

She invites me to her flat for a pot of tea, and, in measured tones that suggest a cynicism quite advanced for her age, she relates her experience.

“I was out near the bunker with Sebastian. He’s a lad I met at college. He’s doing photography, and he said he’d do my shoot as a favour, as he’d be getting some shots for his portfolio as well. Between me and you, I reckon he was just trying to get into my pants.”

“I had my guitar with me, and we’d taken a few pictures already. Sebastian suggested I sit on the fence and get some shots with the bunker behind me. Something about horizontal lines, or some other bullshit.”

“I’ll level with you, Dr Gotobed. I was getting a bit of sick of the whole charade by that point.” 

“Sebastian said to say ‘cheese’, so I gave him my best smile. I was pretty confident that would be the one. I was quite keen go home.” 

“I asked him ‘how was that?’”

“He took another photo, then looked down at his camera and frowned.”

“I went over to him to see what was wrong. He said there was some kind of artefact on the photo.”

“Now, I have no idea what he meant by that, but apparently it was some kind of ‘digital mistake’. He showed me the first picture on the screen of his camera, and there was this odd kind of yellow ‘blob’ on there, behind me.” 

“Then he scrolled to the second picture, and there was the yellow shape but bigger. It was definitely a person, dressed in some kind of, I don’t know, like a… a radiation suit? It had a black plate of glass over its face. And it was reaching out for me, just over my shoulder.”

“I remember a chill running down my spine when I saw it.”

“Sebastian held up his camera to the bunker again and took another photo. This time the figure in yellow was right in front of us. And it was tall.”

“But there was no-one else anywhere near us.” 

“That’s it, we were done. We jumped in Sebastian’s car and drove off. I’ve not heard from him since. Which is a shame. I’d like to see those photos again.”

“Not the creepy ones, though. Just the others.”

Ms Lewis gave me the contact details for Sebastian. As of today, my phone calls and emails have gone unanswered.

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19th February 2011

Natasha Barker is a teaching assistant from Hounslow. Ten nights ago, she and her significant other, one Clive Bono had booked an evening ‘ghost walk’ at the Hack Green bunker.

I meet Ms Barker in a small café in west London, where she orders tea and cake for both of us and explains, in admirably animated fashion, how she doesn’t believe in ghosts, but the so-called ‘ghost walk’ seemed like it might be a fun idea.

“Clive’s always up for trying new things. We both decided to stop drinking a few years ago, so we’re always on the lookout for fun stuff to do that are a little, you know, ‘wacky’.”

“There was a small group of us outside the bunker waiting for the guide. He showed up about ten minutes later and stood in front of the door. It was cold, and we were all wanting to get started.”

“The guide, though, he’s got other ideas. He’s just standing in the doorway giving us the history of the place. It was interesting, but it would’ve been nicer to have been inside, in the warm!”

“Whilst the guide is jabbering away, and Clive’s doing his best to make me giggle, there comes this knock on the door behind the guide. A really, really loud knock. Like ‘clank clank clank’.” 

She raps her knuckles hard on the table between us.

“The guide turned around, and the door behind him opened. Now that door was made of metal, and it looked heavy. Like, really heavy.”

“Next thing we know, this tall figure dressed in a yellow, kinda, haz-mat suit was there. I couldn’t make out a face, the glass plate in the helmet was too dark. And there was this breathing. It sounded like Darth Vader.”

“It moved towards us, out of the bunker. The group split, and this giant guy in yellow walked between us, still making that breathing sound, and then it just ‘disappeared’. One moment there, the next, gone.”

She clicks her fingers and waves her hands in the air.

“We thought it was all part of the tour, so we turned back to the guide and the whole group started clapping. Clive was going up to the guide to ask him how they managed to make it look so real.”

“But the guide fainted.”

“We later found out that it was nothing to do with the tour at all.”

“Like I said, Doctor Gotobed, I don’t believe in ghosts, but that? That was spooky.” 

I contacted the management at Hack Green, seeking an interview with the guide from that night. A cordial young man at the museum confirmed that the guide in question did indeed lose consciousness that night and was taken to hospital.

He has since moved away and is unwilling to speak with me.

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According to official records, no deaths ever occurred at Hack Green during its operational days. It is also interesting to note that the radiation suits stored at the site were (once again, according to official records), never used for anything more than emergency drills. Those suits were also not fitted with the type of respiratory equipment that would make the kind of wheezing noises that were heard by Mr Cole and Ms Barker.

So what is the nature of this soul which appears so keen to reach out to the living?

This is a question I am unable to answer. All I can do is monitor the site and hope it tries again.

There is, however, a curious aside to all of this.

During my research I contacted an acquaintance of mine at the Ministry of Defence. She passed a file to me which, whilst heavily redacted, details an experiment named ‘Project Sunlit Uplands’ that took place at Hack Green.

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From the little information I can glean from this censored report, it appears this project had parallels with the now discredited ‘Philadelphia Experiment’* of 1943.

The date ‘Sunlit Uplands’ took place? 1993, when Hack Green was apparently empty.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

more information on The Philadelphia Experiment can found on Wikipedia here, but beware, it’s a whole new level of batshit. I managed to disappear down this particular internet rabbit hole for a good few days, don’t blame me if you do the same! – C.R. 

The Serpent in the Lake

Pal Rai Yuk

The Alutiiq are a group of Eskimo people native to the Southern coast of Alaska. Like all the indigenous inhabitants of this part of the world, the mythology and folklore of the Alutiiq is varied and complex, but only one of their legends concerns us today.

The Pâl-Raí-Yûk.

The Pâl-Raí-Yûk, also called the Tizheruk, is a long, serpentine creature that was rumoured to lurk in marshes and swamps, until it was hunted to near extinction. As the waters of Alaska cooled, those that remained are said to have moved outward and in to the warmer bays and lake areas.

In most descriptions the creature has long fins or spines upon its back, thick fur covering its body, and a pair of short horns on its head. It is often depicted as having six legs and three stomachs. Its length varies depending on the teller; some go so far as to venture that its head alone is seven feet long. Apparently it was such an efficient hunter, it could stalk a man on land and snatch him away without even a sound.

Depictions of this fearsome beast were painted on the bottom of kayaks to ward the creature off, and its likeness was also used on harpoons and other hunting tools as a symbol of strength.

To this day, the legend persists that it can be summoned by tapping on a pier or rapping on the bottom of a boat out on the water.

Modern sightings of the Pâl-Raí-Yûk are few and far between, and, unlike the Loch Ness Monster and its American cousin Champ, there exist no alleged photos or footage of the beast.

And yet, the legend persists.

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1st July 2001

Johnathan Fuchs is a ruddy-cheeked bear of a man, with the complexion of one who has spent most of his days out in the wilderness. He describes himself as a ‘man of leisure’, owing to the fact he inherited a large fortune as a child, and, by his own admission, he has never had to work a day in his life. He also cheerfully calls himself, in a thick Texan drawl, a ‘seeker of adventure’.

In March of 1964, he and a friend found themselves in a cabin on the south shore of Hasselborg Lake, Alaska.

I meet Mr Fuchs, oddly enough, in a grotty underground bar in Hamburg, and over a pint or two of strong German beer he recounts his tale.

“I was twenty five at the time, and my friend, Steve, he was, oh, let’s say twenty two. Yeah, that sounds about right. He was like me, a gentleman of independent means, a kindred spirit, and we’d been travelling around Alaska for about a week, more or less.”

“We’d chartered a small plane up to the lake, and we’d reserved a lovely picture of a cabin for a few days. The first day we hiked a trail in the forest, and we got back quite late. We had some dinner and cracked open a bottle of scotch.”

“The best scotch, of course.”

He grins over his beer.

“The next day we woke up with fuzzy heads, if you know what I mean, Doc? So we took the little boat that we’d rented along with the cabin out on to the lake to see if the fish were biting.”

“They weren’t, but it was still a nice day.”

“Now, Steve, he had this thing; he couldn’t sit still for longer than two minutes. He used to absent-mindedly tap his foot against things, and he was doing it that day on the side of the boat. It was a nervous twitch, I suppose.”

“You know, Doc, that’s the sort of thing that can start to get to a guy.”

“I told him to knock it off, and he did, but after half an hour or so he’d start again.”

“Three or four times this happened. Every time I asked him to stop, and every time he started again.”

“Anywho, after a few beers I decided to just let him get on with it.”

“We’d been out for a while, and we hadn’t caught a thing, so once the sun started to go down, we decided we’d give it another hour or thereabouts before we went back to the lodge.”

“Steve was still doing that damn tapping with his foot.”

“I’d stood up in the boat and was taking a whizz off the side, when I noticed that the tapping had stopped.”

“I heard Steve whisper my name, then again, but louder. I turned round to see what he wanted, and he was looking out over the lake, at this… ‘disturbance’ in the water.”

“Next I know, this… enormous… ‘thing’ reared itself up out of the blue.”

Thing? I ask him to elaborate.

“It was like a snake, but covered in fur, and with these stubby arms. Its head was about eight, nine feet above us, and I just knew that there had to be a lot more of it under the water.” 

“I think I might even have shit my pants at the sight of it. Damn thing looked like it had come straight out of Eskimo Hell itself.”

“Then it made this noise. Not like a roar, but more like a… a trumpet, sorta, booming sound, and then it just smashed down on to the boat, sending Steve and me both flying.”

“Luckily I had my life jacket on, and I’m a strong swimmer. Steve was too, so I thought he’d get back okay. But when I made it to the shore, there was no sign of him, or whatever that… that thing was. The lake was still, just bits of the boat floating about.”

“I got a torch from the lodge and spent the whole night looking for my friend, searching the banks, calling his name.”

Did you find him?

“No. I never saw Steve again.”

The next day, Mr Fuchs managed to make his way back to civilization and report what had happened to the authorities. A party was gathered together and returned to the lake the next day to search for his companion.

According to the lead ranger’s rather brief notes, the head of the party discovered what appeared to be a section of shed reptile skin at about noon. The piece of skin in question was far too large to belong to any of the local fauna.

At approximately four thirty p.m, a black mass was observed moving under the water and away from the shore by two members of the search party. It left a v-shaped wake as it went.  The pair could not identify this mass, although they concede it could possibly have been a large cutthroat trout.

At five p.m, the team took a short break to replenish their energies, resolving to continue looking for Mr Fuch’s missing colleague until nightfall.

However, the search was never resumed.

Just after 5.30pm that day, the Good Friday Earthquake struck.

All emergency services were immediately diverted.

A few days later, Mr Fuchs returned home to the United States. His friend was assumed lost in the earthquake, a fact that Mr Fuchs rather ashamedly tells me he did not dispute.

He assures me that, apart from the members of the Alaskan search party and a very expensive psychiatrist, he has never told anyone else of what happened that night on Lake Hasselborg.

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Leaving my personal opinions of Mr Fuchs’ behaviour to one side, is it possible that his companion fell victim to the Pâl-Raí-Yûk? The description would certainly seem to suggest so.

I could find no further reports of anything even vaguely similar showing itself in that particular area. But with Lake Hasselborg attracting more and more tourists every year, perhaps it is only a matter of time before the beast of Alutiiq legend rears its head once more.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Please forgive any misspellings on my behalf. I swear the good doctor’s handwriting gets worse the more of his files I read. And yes, he’s right, the guy mentioned in this file does seem to be a bit of a dick – C.R. 

He Who Has the Deer’s Antlers

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7th October 2015

Jemma Harding is an entertaining woman, with striking red hair and the enviable ability to spin an interesting tale out of the most mundane of events. She is a journalist, and twenty years ago she was the European correspondent for a major British broadsheet.

Several weeks ago a colleague of mine asked her to get in touch with me, to share an incident that occurred to her in 1996, in the South-West region of France.

We meet in a riverside wine bar in Stratford-upon-Avon, away from the seemingly endless throng of tourists.

It takes some coaxing and a glass or two of red wine to prise the following account from her.

“I was travelling down to Bayonne, to meet my family. It was my brother’s birthday and they have a little châteaux down there. I decided to drive there, rather than fly. I thought as I was going to be spending a lot of time with my siblings and their kids over the next few days, it might not be the best idea to travel with them. You know what families are like. I mean, I love them, but a whole week in each other’s pockets? No thanks.”

“I stopped over in Bordeaux to visit a friend before setting out on the final leg of my journey. I’d done this trip before, but I’d never travelled to Bayonne on this route, so most of it was new to me.”

“Eventually I found myself on this forest road, about two lanes wide, and I hadn’t seen another car for miles. There were trees everywhere, as far as I could see on either side, all these different greens. It was really quite stunning.”

“Then I came across something very odd.”

“There was a little car stopped in front, longways and kind of half off the road. It’s doors were open and there was luggage scattered across the dirt.”

“But that wasn’t the strangest thing.”

“I slowed down a little as I got closer, and I saw there was a couple, a man and a woman, laying in the road. They were both still and facing away from me.”

I ask what she did next.

“I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew that I should stop and see if they were okay, but there was something off about the whole thing. It just didn’t look right. Every fibre in my body was telling me to just get out of there.”

“I saw that if I went off the road a little I could get around them without hitting them.”

“I manoeuvred past them as best I could, with all these alarm bells ringing in my head, then they were behind me, and I picked up speed to get some distance between us.”

“I took a look in the rear-view mirror and the couple had got up, and about a dozen or so of these scruffy looking kids had emerged from the trees nearby. They were all glaring at me.”

“But in the middle of them, towering over them, was this massive cloaked figure. It must have been about eight foot tall, and it had this weird round mask on, and what looked like deer antlers on its head.”

“That was it. I slammed my foot down on the accelerator and I was out of there.”

“When I got to Bayonne I stopped at the local police station and told two officers what I’d witnessed.”

“They took notes and smirked, muttering something about ‘l’homme qui possède des bois de cerf’.

“My family didn’t like the idea of me driving all that way on my own anyway, so I didn’t tell them what I’d seen. In fact, I’ve never mentioned it to anyone except you, and the other woman.”

I asked Ms Harding if she could draw a picture of the cloaked figure, which I have attached to this file.

L’homme qui possède les bois de cerf’ roughly translates to ‘the man who has the deer’s antlers’.

Antlers1

Ms Harding’s story does sound remarkably like a similar tale that did the rounds on the internet recently*, except that particular story takes place on a dirt road in the United States.

There is no mention of the masked man in the cloak.

Considering Ms Harding is a journalist, a respected one at that, along with the obvious distress she displayed whilst recounting her story and the reaction of the local constabulary to her plight, I believe her account has more than a whiff of credibility.

And yet, the fact one tale resembles the other so closely was enough to sow seeds of doubt in my mind.

I elected not to pursue this case further, and, I must admit, I let it slip from my thoughts.

Until recently.

FranceMap

12th July 2016

A few weeks ago, a letter from one Mrs Edith Robinson was forwarded on to me. In this letter, written in a cramped scrawl, the frail octogenarian details her family’s flight from Paris in 1940, under the shadow of the Nazi invasion.

I will quote the pertinent part below:

‘I had been ill with pneumonia and sent to a centre just outside Bordeaux to recover. Eventually, my mother and father came to collect me, so we could catch a boat back to England. The little Citroen we had was absolutely crammed full of our belongings from the flat in Paris. I was amazed how much stuff they’d managed to fit in there.’

‘My father had gained a laissez pass that allowed us to travel about unhindered, but the Germans were closing in. When we got to Bordeaux we found we’d missed the boat, but we were informed there was another leaving from Bayonne the next day.’

‘On the way there, a storm struck, setting fire to the forest we were heading through. A burning tree fell in front of us. My father managed to swerve around it, but as he did I saw some children come out of the woods and head towards us. They were dirty from soot and smoke. My father just carried on going. I was going to shout at him to stop but I saw his eyes in the rear view mirror.’

‘He looked terrified.’

‘I turned around in the seat and managed to get a glimpse out of the back window, through the stacks of boxes.’

‘There was a man in the road behind us, flanked by children and lit up by the fire. A tall man, in a cloak, with an oval mask and antlers on his head, like a stag.’

‘That’s why my father didn’t stop.’

‘We never spoke of that night.’

Is it possible what Mrs Robinson witnessed that night was the same person as Ms Harding? I dug out the journalist’s sketch and included it with a letter, thanking Mrs Robinson for her correspondence and asking her if if the subject of the sketch was the same individual she saw that harrowing evening in Bayonne.

A few days later I received a reply. It contained the sketch and a simple note in Mrs Robinson’s cramped handwriting.

‘That’s the chap.’

Maybe there is more to this ‘man who has the deer’s antlers’ after all.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* I also recognised this story. I found it on here and Dr Gotobed is correct, apart from the location and the antlered figure, there are many similarities. To be honest, I don’t know quite what to make of this one – C.R. 

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.