‘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. 

Unexplained Impressions in the Snowfall

Flake

February the 8th, 1855. As the sun sets and day turns into night, a heavy snowfall lands on the neighbourhood of Exeter. The winter has been far colder than usual, and the snow that evening settles on that of the night before, and the night before that, refusing to melt. Before sunrise, the local residents begin to stir as the new day begins.

But something strange awaits them out in the snow.

Hundreds upon hundreds of mysterious tracks are found. Around four inches long and three inches across, the tracks resemble that of a hoof, and lay between eight and fourteen inches apart, in single file. When traced, these tracks have a combined length of over fifty miles. Even stranger, whatever left these prints seemed undeterred by any obstacle. The tracks continue, unbroken, over snow-topped roofs and frozen rivers, high walls and haystacks.

More hoof-marks are found the next night. And the next.

At a loss for an explanation, the locals dub them ‘the Devil’s footprints’, on account of their cloven nature.

The people grow fearful, and, for a time, refuse to go outside after midnight. Eventually, as with all such events, things return to normal, and the incident passes into local legend.

Several theories are proposed to explain the prints, ranging from the tracks of wood mice, whose leaping exploits leave a mark that resembles a cloven hoof, to an ‘experimental balloon’ accidentally released by workers at nearby Devonport Dockyard.

As is typical of such theories on the paranormal, all of these possible explanations solve one problem, but inadvertently raise another.

For instance; leaping mice may explain the shape of the prints, but even the most energetic of mice in the warmth of spring cannot leap onto the roof of a house in a single bound.

An escaped balloon, with its trailing ropes and errant shackles, may solve the issue of the tracks being made on raised surfaces, but it is unlikely that those tracks would be as uniform as the ones seen at Exeter that morning. Indeed, one would expect to find drag marks at least somewhere along the trail.

Perhaps it was the work of badgers, or even an escaped kangaroo from a private menagerie. Perhaps it was the work of unnamed ‘pranksters’, that much maligned but never identified group who are so easily blamed for such occurrences.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, something unknown really was stalking the fields of Exeter those dark and snowy nights.

But all this happened over a century and a half ago and, without a repeat of such an event, it is unlikely we will find answers in the here and now.

However, a curious account was bought to my attention a few years ago that, while not exactly the same, is similar enough to allow parallels to be drawn with the events of 1855.

SnowyField

June 1st 2016

Amanda Banford is a cheery woman, with a big smile and a motherly demeanour. She invites me to her house, a small but cosy two-up two-down in the Nottinghamshire village of Bunny, to discuss her ‘funny little tale’, as she puts it. Over numerous cups of tea and endless offers of cake that I eventually give up declining, she recounts her story. Her dog, a friendly Jack Russell terrier named Barnabus, loiters by my feet, gratefully hoovering up any crumbs the moment they hit the floor.

‘It happened a few months back, in January, those few days when it snowed really heavily. I like it when it snows. I like how quiet it gets. It’s so… peaceful, you know? 

‘It was early, maybe four, half four. Barney was barking like mad. He’s not normally like that. He’s a silly little thing, but not a barker. Are you, Barney? No, you’re not. You’re a good boy.’

She picks up the little terrier, fussing over him and, much to my surprise, smothering him with kisses before placing him back on the ground.

‘Anyway, I put my robe on and went downstairs, and I noticed how cold the house was. It was so cold I could see my own breath. I got into the kitchen where Barney was yapping away and would you believe it? The back door was wide open.

‘Now most people’s first thoughts would be something like ‘oh no! I’ve been burgled!’ but all I could think about was something my Dad used to say; ‘if you have the heating on but leave a door or window open, you’re paying twice: once to heat in here and again to heat out there.’

‘I bet your parents used to say something similar. Cake?’

She thrusts another slice of Victoria sponge at me. I take it and ask her to continue.

‘Okay. As I was going to the back door, I noticed there were these big, wet footprints on the floor. Bare footprints, like some fella had just stepped out of the bathtub. They started by the fridge and then walked across the kitchen, straight out of the backdoor.

‘I picked up Barney and took a look out into the garden. The snow was quite deep at that point, at least a good few inches. The footprints carried on, in the snow. You could see the outlines of the toes and everything.’

What did you do next?

‘Well, I was intrigued, I suppose. So I get dressed, popped Barney on his leash, and went out into the garden. I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone; take Barney for his walk and see wherever this barefooted chap ended up.

‘Now, this is where it gets odd.

‘I followed those footprints, by the light of the streetlamps.

‘They went down the garden, out into the street, all the way into town, and then out into the fields.

‘I must’ve followed them for hours. I didn’t have work that day, so it wasn’t a problem. The further they went, the more I wanted to know what this guy was doing, walking about barefoot in the snow in the early morning.

‘The sun had just started to come up when I got to the end of the tracks. They just stopped, right in the middle of a field.

‘Literally, step, step, nothing. No more footprints. I couldn’t believe it. 

‘There were no other signs of anything anywhere nearby. I mean literally nowhere near. The only other prints were those behind me, the ones that me and Barney had made. It was like this guy just vanished, or was lifted up into the air, you know? Poof! Gone!

‘I was more than bamboozled, let me tell you.

‘Cake?’

Fortunately, Ms Banford was quick enough to take some photos of the last few footprints on her mobile phone, before reporting them to the local constable.

He too followed the tracks. He too was unable to explain how they came to such an abrupt end.

The constable estimated that the tracks covered at least eight miles.

Footprint

So what was the identity of this mysterious, barefooted nocturnal visitor? Why did his journey begin in Ms Banford’s kitchen? And what was his ultimate fate? Did he just vanish? Or was there some other agency at work here?

There are similarities that can be drawn between the incidents at Bunny and Exeter. However, unlike in the case a hundred and fifty-odd years ago, I feel it is reasonable to conclude that whatever occurred in that small Nottinghamshire village, it was not the work of leaping rodents, rogue balloons, fugitive kangaroos or even those ever-resourceful yet unidentified pranksters.

A local reporter did actually come to interview Ms Banford the following day, taking a copy of her photographs, and nodding sympathetically at her ‘funny little tale’.

The paper did not run the story.

It seems mysterious footprints in the snow no longer elicit the same excitement they once did.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

I remember my Nan telling me all about the Devil’s footprints when I was a kid, it seems to be one of those things that has been absorbed into the nation’s consciousness. Also vanishing individuals is fast becoming a recurring theme in the good doctor’s notes. Where do all these people go?? – C.R. 

‘Spooky Action at a Distance’

Swirl

Precognition is a curious thing, defined as a forewarning, or even a memory, of events that have not yet come to pass. There are many examples dotted through history of individuals somehow briefly opening a window through time and peering into the future.

In April 1912, one Anne Ward, a maid for the wealthy Cardeza family, refused to board the doomed ship the RMS Titanic with her employers, claiming she’d experienced a dream the night before foretelling a terrible tragedy. The Cardezas went on without her. History records in detail how that journey ended.

Famed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is also believed to have had such an experience one evening during the Blitz. Apparently Churchill ordered his staff to ‘put dinner on a hot plate in the dining room’ and then head down to the air raid shelter. Shortly afterwards, a bomb struck the house, completely destroying the kitchen.

Even President Abraham Lincoln is said to have seen his own assassination in a dream, although he was powerless to prevent it.

Now, it is entirely possible that stories were just mundane events that have become twisted and exaggerated through the lens of time. However, it is also possible that these examples are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, and only remembered because of the famous individuals and events involved. Perhaps many similar things have been experienced by so called ‘regular’ people, and these events, due to their nature, go unreported.

I recently had the good fortune to be introduced by an acquaintance to a very credible witness to such an event, one Dr James Hancock.

Trees

May 11th 2014

I meet Dr Hancock in a busy wine bar at Heathrow Airport. A highly respected heart surgeon, he is on his way to a conference in Geneva, and London is just a stopover. Although he is understandably tired from the first leg of his journey, I find him to be pleasant company.

A serious and sober individual, he comes across as highly intelligent, and not someone who would let his imagination get the better of him.

We both agree that a bar in an airport is not the best place to discuss such matters as what he experienced one day on the winding, wooded roads of California ten years ago, but discuss them we do.

The following is his account.

‘It was 2004, springtime, spring break actually, and I was in my last year of medical school. Aneek, my girlfriend at the time, was desperate to do one of the famous American road trips, so we decided to travel from Three Rivers all the way to Fresno, following a route that her Uncle had recommended to us. We’d hired a vintage Oldsmobile for the journey, a real beautiful ride, and the first day was plain sailing all the way. 

We stopped off at one of the state parks and had a great afternoon just looking around. It truly was breath-taking. We camped there that night then hit the road again the next day.

We’d agreed to take turns driving. That afternoon, Aneek was behind the wheel and I was in the passenger seat. It was a bright day, real sunny, and we were headed down a small winding road through the woods, these amazing giant trees on either side of us.

We’d been arguing the previous day over which radio station to listen to. Nothing serious. It was kind of a running joke by that point. Aneek liked the oldies stations, but I wanted to listen to something a bit more up to date, you know. A Smokey Robinson song had been on, and it was just coming to an end.

I remember the last line clearly. ‘Cause I’m really sad…’’

He rather quietly and flatly sings those words.

‘As it faded out, I reached for the dial to switch the station.

Then it happened.’

What happened?

‘One moment I was awake, and then suddenly everything felt different. The only way I can describe it is that it was like I was in a dream. Everything had this weird sheen to it, like a shimmer. No, that’s not the best way to describe it. I’m not sure I know the best way. Do you know when oil sits on water? All the surfaces I could see, the dash, the windshield, even the road outside, they all looked like that, almost glistening in the sunshine. Glossy, I guess. 

That’s not an ideal description, but it’s the best I’ve got. As I’ve said, everything felt like a dream.

I watched as a car came speeding ‘round a bend up ahead, too fast to stop. Then it hit us, head on.

Then I was outside the car, above it, looking down. I watched in slow motion as the two cars collided and crumpled like cardboard. There were two teenage boys in the other car, and the one on the passenger side came flying through the windshield. I watched the driver’s head slam into the steering wheel. The front of our car buckled. The impact was so great it caused the steering column of the Oldsmobile to slam into Aneek’s chest and head, and I watched as the whiplash effect caused my neck, the neck of the version of me below me, however you want to put it, to snap forward and back again real violently. A similar thing happened to the driver of the other car.

I saw it all, in horrific detail, even though it was just a split second. There was blood everywhere, and I knew, I just knew, that all four of us, Aneek and me, the two kids, we were all a goner. Done for. 

Suddenly I was back in the car, in the passenger side, listening to that last line of the Smokey Robinson fade away again.

‘Cause I’m really sad…’’

He sings those words again, but quieter this time.

‘Everything was back to normal. The weird sheen had gone.

I shouted at Aneek to pull over. She was scared, but she didn’t argue. Just as we were coming to a stop, a car, the same car that I had just seen, came tearing ‘round the corner. There were two teenage lads in the front, struggling to keep control as they took the bend.

They just missed us.

 It took a while for Aneek to calm down. Hell, it took me a while to calm down. She kept asking me how I knew to stop, but I couldn’t explain it. It took me a while to put it into words.

We found a motel that night and travelled home the next day.

I’m aware of how all this sounds.

I’ve never experienced anything like that ever again.

And I’m not a lunatic. Trust me. ’

I tell him that this is exactly the kind of thing a lunatic might say.

He glares at me for a moment before breaking into a broad grin and pouring himself another glass of wine.

Ripple

I found Dr Hancock to be most convincing, and it is obvious that something happened to him that sunny Californian evening. Did he somehow foresee the grisly fate that awaited him on that winding back road? Was there some unknown force at work that decided he should be given a chance to avert that fate? Or is it possible that the ramifications of certain major events in a person’s life can somehow echo both forward and backwards through time, like ripples in a pond, travelling outwards in all directions?

The quantum theory of physics does seem to suggest that it may at least be possible for time to run in more than one direction.

Perhaps future research will reveal Einstein’s famed spooky action at a distance to be even spookier than we presently imagine.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

I must admit that I’m struggling to get my head ’round this a bit, physics was never my strong point at school. The good doctor has mentioned time travel before, but I suspect that this is something different. 

I’m actually looking up heart surgeons in the US by the name of Dr Hancock. If I can find the right guy, maybe he can shed some light on Dr Gotobed’s whereabouts. Fingers crossed! – C.R. 

Strange Lights, Green Children and Scarlet Men

SymbolTun

The village of Woolpit is located in the county of Suffolk, to the east of Bury St Edmunds. At some point in the mid-12th Century, during harvest time, the villagers of Woolpit discovered two children out in the fields. Dressed in unfamiliar clothing, speaking in a strange tongue, and with a curious green hue to their skin, the boy and girl caused quite a stir locally.

Local legend records that the two emerald children were a boy and a girl; brother and sister, no less. They were taken to the local landowner, where the pair refused all food served to them until they stumbled across a plate of raw broad beans.

The aforementioned beans did not last long.

After some time, the children learnt to speak English, explaining that they came from a place without a sun, bathed in perpetual twilight: a place they called St Martin’s Land, where everything was green. The children had been herding their father’s cattle when they suddenly heard a loud and unfamiliar sound, possibly the sounds of the church bells at nearby Bury St Edmunds, and then the pair found themselves in the fields of Woolpit.

The children eventually lost their verdant hue and settled in the area, working in the household of the landowner.

There are no further reports of visitors from St Martin’s Land.

FieldCorn

It is widely accepted that this famous story is either descended from much older local folklore, or is a rather confused and muddled account of a real event of which the actual history has been lost.

Ufologists, however, are quick to point that this story is one of the earliest encounters of ‘little green men’.

I must confess, UFOs and extra-terrestrial beings are not my particular field of interest. However, a similar event was recently brought to my attention, an event that happened as the nineteenth century transitioned into the twentieth, and took place not too far from my current location.

Tun2BW

The Park Estate is a privately owned residential housing estate just to the west of Nottingham City Centre. Many of the houses are spacious villas, built for wealthy locals from 1809 onwards, despite the objections of the ‘ordinary’ citizens of Nottingham, who regarded the area as belonging to the public.

The area is laid out in the Victorian style, a network of wide streets lit by a network of gas powered lamps.

A copy of the Nottingham Daily Journal, dated Tuesday the 3rd of July 1900, carried a curious account of strange lights seen over the Park Estate the previous weekend. These lights were said to have hovered over the Park Tunnel (a wide walkway carved into a sandstone hill, allowing access to the city centre), before dropping down and vanishing into the earth. Four witnesses testified to this. Apparently this event lasted for several hours, and then repeated itself the next night.

But it seems this aerial display of luminescence was just an overture to something far more bizarre.

The following is a police report from two days later, written by a Constable DB Johnson (I have edited the language of this a little to update some of the more archaic terminology):

‘Having finished my rounds of the Estate for the evening, I was walking toward the tunnel back to the city. I was assailed by a bright flash of light and a smell I had never encountered before. Fearing that the lamp at the far end had ‘popped’ I entered the tunnel. Much to my surprise, I found a large and ruddy character lying upon the floor. He appeared to be completely in the nude.

‘Having encountered intoxicated men in the tunnel before, I gave the fellow a swift kick on the behind and ordered him to move on.

‘He muttered something at me, a word I didn’t understand. It was then I noticed that the man was besmeared from head to foot in a thick, reddish liquid. He also appeared completely devoid of hair, on both his head and body.

‘He began to babble something at me. Fearing he had injured himself, I blew my whistle vigorously to summon help.’

Several more constables arrived on the scene and together they attempted to take this large, naked yet hairless man to the local station. He initially resisted, but was eventually subdued.

The constables noted that whilst this man did speak, it was in a language that they could not understand.

The man was duly taken to the station and incarcerated for the rest of the night.

In the morning, the duty sergeant unlocked the man’s cell to check on him, hoping their guest was now in a position to explain himself.

The man was gone. All that remained in the cell to show he was ever there was a large patch of a thick, red liquid on the floor and the lingering smell of ozone in the air.

Tun3BW

All this was brought to my attention by a student at Nottingham University studying local history. She stumbled across the police report and then sought out local newspaper accounts from that period, hoping to glean some further information. The above excerpt was all she could find.

A thorough search of the Psychical Research and Investigation Society’s extensive archives details no further accounts of any other paranormal events taking place in or around the area of the Park Tunnel.

Tun4BW

So who was this large, scarlet man who appeared for six or so hours on that strange July night? Where did he come from? How did he escape the locked cell? And, perhaps more importantly, where did he go? Unfortunately, everyone involved in this particular event is long dead, so the only evidence available is what I have presented above.

Perhaps all this was no more than a misremembered encounter with a drunk. Perhaps the nocturnal lights were just coincidental examples of a little understood phenomenon know as ball lightning.

But coincidence is often a message that has yet to reveal itself. Indeed, this is not my first brush with individuals slipping in and out of reality. Those cases, too, were preceded by strange lights in the sky.

One wonders if there were similar airbourne shimmers in the area of Woolpit just before the appearance of the green-tinged pair in the mid-12th century. Alas, I fear that question will remain unanswered.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

I’ve found another entry where the good doctor discusses ball lightning, and further information on the green children of Woolpit can be found here – C.R.

Ghostly Goings-on in the Lace Market

Devil_and_Drum_from_Saducismus_Triumphatus

Strewn throughout mankind’s history lay accounts of so-called ‘poltergeist activity’. The word poltergeist comes from the German, and translates simply to ‘noisy spirit’. A rather mischievous form of haunting, it throws small objects, drags furniture about and raps loudly upon walls and ceilings, often to the soundtrack of disembodied groaning and grumbling. Interestingly enough, these occurrences always seem to have a human focal point, often a young person on the cusp of puberty.

But sometimes it seems a focal point is not required.

Consider an event that took place in the September of 1862, in a quiet unassuming street named Laksegade in the centre of Copenhagen, Denmark.

A great commotion took hold early that morning in one of the houses on Laksegade, and all of the residents fled, panicked, out into the street.

Witnesses report windows being smashed from the inside. Potatoes, cutlery and other household objects soon began to be hurled from the building, all to the background of loud, guttural laughter and cursing emitting from inside.

A crowd began to gather, watching as firewood and furniture was tossed from on high with reckless abandon.

The activity began to fade with the arrival of the police. Officers searched the building thoroughly, but were unable to locate the source of the disturbance. Much to their surprise, the house was completely deserted.

The phenomena eventually petered out later that morning. Due to the lack of potential culprits, the public began to speculate that none other than the Devil himself was responsible.

This particular case gave birth to the popular Danish phrase: ‘Fanden er løs i Laksegade’, which roughly translates to ‘the devil is loose on Salmon Street’. It is a rather more poetic version of the English phrase ‘when the shit hits the fan’.

Copenhagen

A similar, although less well publicised, event took place in Nottingham, England, in 1998.

Early in the morning of the 10th April, Good Friday, on High Pavement in the Lace Market, the streets are sleepy and quiet. Owing to the bank holiday, many workers are at home.

At about 8am, the peace is broken by the sound of shattering glass. The first floor windows of one of the old buildings on the North side (originally a house, recently converted into offices) are blown out from within. Files and stationary begin to tumble to the ground. A passerby, out for a morning stroll, hears the commotion and calls the police, fearing some kind of explosion.

As in Copenhagen, some hundred years before, a crowd begins to form.

HighPavement

7th February 2006

Barry Glenn is a large, softly spoken man. Round of belly and with a warm handshake, he was a police constable in 1998, and one of the first officers on the scene that particular morning.

We meet at a small greasy spoon by Nottingham train station. Over a pot of tea, Mr Glenn shares with me his recollections of that day.

‘The three of us, Constables Reynolds, Constable Jacobs and myself arrived just after 9am. There was already about a dozen people gathered around the building.

‘There was paper and glass everywhere, and things like mugs and pens strewn about the floor, and also the odd television, the big fat type they used to have for computers. The strange thing was; nothing was smashed or broken.

‘We thought it was a prank at first. Everything looked like it had just been placed on the ground deliberately.

‘We started moving people back, when another telly come out of the window. There was a gasp as it fell, and it fell quickly, like you think it would. But then the queerest thing happened. It just hit the ground and stopped. Dead. No damage to it what so ever.

‘Now, I’ve never chucked a television out of window myself, that’s not my style, but I’m quietly confident that if I did, it would shatter on impact with the floor. That’s just common sense, right?

‘While we were puzzling that, this giant wooden desk comes flying out. A big, heavy bugger, made of solid oak.

‘Same thing as the TV. It hits the ground and stops. Not a scratch.

‘After we’d got everyone clear, I went and run my hand across it. The damn thing was warm.

‘All the while this is going on, there’s this odd, kind of ‘grumbling’ sound coming from the building.

‘Not like an earthquake. More like an animal growling. A big animal.’

#

Taking advantage of a break in the commotion, PC Allen and his colleagues try the door to the building, and, finding it locked, they break it down.

The minute the door is open, the activity ceases.

A thorough search commences, yet no one is found inside.

Whilst it is possible that someone slipped past the officers, if that were the case, there is more than a good chance the assembled crowds outside would have seen that person make their escape.

The glass tube that holds the door to the fire exit closed is unbroken.

One would have expected such an event to at least garner a mention in that day’s news. Mr Allen tells me he was interviewed by the BBC later that day, but his spot was bumped for coverage of the arguably more important Belfast Peace Agreement.

TV

These two cases are interesting in that they present certain, classic aspects of the traditional poltergeist haunting, chiefly the unexplained noises and the hurled objects. Indeed, even the odd behavior of said objects as they struck the ground was also reported in the now famous Enfield case. In that instance, marbles and toys thrown across the room at great speed also came to a dead stop, and were also warm to the touch.

But, in both the Laksegade and High Pavement occurrences, there is one important omission from the catalogue of traditional poltergeist motifs: the lack of a human focal point.

Is it possible that some disembodied force was capable of generating the power required to cause such destruction? Were they somehow manifestations of some kind of unfocused frustration or rage? It is worth noting that in both of these cases, not one person was physically injured during the activity.

If only it were possible to recreate the conditions required to bring forth such an event. The mind races at what we might discover.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

This all happened a short distance from where I currently work, and I have never heard of this case. I did some digging through back issues of the local paper in the library and managed to find a small two paragraph long article tucked away on page 17 of the April 14th edition of the Evening Post titled ‘Ghostly Goings-on in the Lace Market’. Sadly, Nottingham Central Library were unwilling to let me borrow their copy for reproduction.

Once again, I’ve added some links to the article for those who’d like to look into some of the mentioned cases – C.R.

Wires Crossed with the ‘Other Side’

SymbolPhone

17th August 1992

Denton Baines is a currently an electrical engineer, employed by a well-known British manufacturing company. Short but powerfully built, he is jovial fellow, quick with a smile, although one cannot help but perceive that he is probably someone you would not choose to mess with.

Back in the early ‘90s, during the Gulf War, he was a tank crewman for the 1st Armoured Division.

But it is not his military career that concerns us today, rather what he experienced on his return to the United Kingdom.

I have been in contact with Mr Baines for several weeks, and he kindly invites me to his house in Kingston for a spot of tea and to discuss the events that, in his own words, ‘started out weird and just got weirder’.

Tank

“The last action I was involved with was actually Operation Norfolk, in Southern Iraq. The ceasefire was called soon after that. I was there for a few more weeks before I got out. I’d been in the army for six years by that point. I’d got my Engineering certificates, so I was done.

“I went back to base at Verden to collect some belongings, then I drove to Hamburg and caught a commercial flight back to London from there. I was going to move back in with my parents in Croydon for a bit, so I could sum up my options. 

“The ‘plane was pretty empty, and there was lots of spare seats, including those next to me. About halfway through the journey this pale little guy in an ill-fitting suit plonks himself down to my right.

“I gave him ‘the smile’. You know it, the one you give when you want to acknowledge someone’s presence but you also want them to sod off? Most of the time, it works.

“Sadly, not that time. 

“This guy, he starts talking to me, asking me a bunch of personal questions.” 

“What kind of questions?” I ask.

“Weird stuff. Like which way I faced when I slept, did I ever sit down to take a whizz, had I ever had terrible dandruff. Stupid things like that. 

“He had this notebook that he was writing stuff down in. Which was odd, as I wasn’t even answering his questions, just trying to make him to go away.

“Eventually a stewardess came over and asked him to go back to his seat. I didn’t see him again.

“Then, as I’m leaving Heathrow at the other end, bags in hand, someone else starts badgering me. Another pale little guy, in an equally ill-fitting suit, would you believe. And he starts asking me stupid questions as well. 

“I just ignored this guy and got in a taxi. 

“And then something even odder happened.

“I hadn’t told my family I was coming home. I wanted it to be a surprise. But when I arrived, they  weren’t surprised in the slightest. Apparently I’d phoned a couple of hours before to tell them I was on my way.

“Not only did I not ring them, I was on the plane when they received the call.”

MapCroydon

This was just the first in a series of strange calls the Baines household receives after Denton’s return.

Over the course of the next few days the telephone rings no less than a hundred times. When answered, a distant, metallic voice asks to speak to Denton Baines. When Denton takes the call, the voice spouts a series of nonsensical ramblings and bizarre non-sequiturs.

Fortunately, Mr Baines is able to record several of these calls. The following is one example, recorded on the 20th of March 1991.

Denton Baines: Hello?

Voice: May I speak with a Mr Denton Baines, please?

DB: Speaking.

Voice: Denton Baines, of the family Baines?

DB: You know it’s me. Who is this?

Voice: You are destined for great things, Baines. Your waters will run clear for decades.

DB: Why do you keep calling me? What do you want?

Voice: I saw you once out in the sands. The others are just copies, pretending to be you. I saw you out in the sands. Hiding in that metal box on tracks… 

[static]

[a series of monotone beeps]

Voice: …in the dead of winter, steam will rise from the wounds…

[more static]

DB: Hello?

[more static]

Voice: …when the sun burns out on the lake and you have no more moves left. [laughter]

DB: What’s that even supposed to mean?

Voice: May I speak with a Mr Denton Baines please?

[dial tone as DB hangs up]

The voice speaks rhythmically, pronouncing each syllable with equal length and stress.

###

A second phone call, recorded on the 21st of March 1991:

DB: Hello? 

Voice: May I speak with a Mr Denton Baines, please?

DB: Speaking. Who is this? 

Voice: Alpha. Episilon. Zeta. Lambda. Kappa. Twenty clicks until goodbye-time. All your ducks in a row. 

DB: What is that supposed to mean? What do you want? 

Voice: Goodbye, Commander Baines. 

[dial tone as the Voice hangs up] 

It is worth noting that Mr Baines has never held any kind of officer rank, let alone ‘Commander’.

###

Mr Baines’ father contacts the phone company and asks them to check the line and trace the source of these nuisance calls.

The phone company does as requested. According to them, there is nothing wrong with the Baines’ connection. According to them, each phone call is being made from an entirely different location to the one before. Some of these locations are over a hundred miles apart.

The household also begins to receive a different type of phone call, chiefly from the proprietors of local businesses such as takeaway restaurants and taxi firms.

They all have the same request: ‘Please stop contacting us, Mr Baines, or we’ll go to the police’.

Apparently these businesses have themselves been receiving numerous nuisance calls, and when Denton Baines asks them who they have spoken to, they all give him the same answer.

You.

In the past few days, the phone has only been used to dial out to the phone company.

Wires

It is possible that it all this was simply an elaborate hoax. But how could these hoaxers co-ordinate a series of mass prank calls made from phones all across the country, and also impersonate Mr Baines’ voice accurately enough to fool his own family? And more importantly, to what end?

I put forward the theory that some unknown agency was having a great deal of fun at the expense of Mr Baines and his family. Indeed, these events appear to be a modern update of classic poltergeist behaviour, with garbled and nonsensical telephone calls replacing moving objects and notes written by an unknown hand.

However, this does not explain the appearance of the pale-skinned men on the aeroplane and at the airport, nor their puzzling behaviour.

Telephone1

The phone calls to the Baines’ household end a week after they begin, almost to the hour.

However, the final call is different to the others. It consists of a series of rapid squeaks and high-pitched babbling sounds.

This call is also recorded and I send the tape to an associate of mine who specialises in sound manipulation and analysis.

The tape is returned to me a few days later, along with a note that simply reads ‘very funny, Thomas’.

Perplexed, I follow this note up the next day. Apparently the tape I sent to my colleague consisted of nothing more than the sped-up audio track of an old episode of Scooby Doo.

If there is a great celestial prankster, it seems that he or she has learnt how to use the telephone.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

When I first read this one, all I could think was ‘why don’t they just use caller ID!?’ It’s probably worth remembering that this report is from the early ’90s, when smartphones were non-existent and basic mobile phones weren’t exactly prevalent.

I’ve added some links to past articles to this one, hopefully to further illustrate some of the ideas that the good doctor mentions – C.R.

The Modern Golem: Part Two – The Tenth Iteration

This is the second part of this report. For this to make any sense, I recommend that you read The Modern Golem: Part One – Recollections of Prague – C.R. 

St Pancras

4th September 2011

After many months of correspondence, the mysterious ‘Mr Smith’ finally agrees to meet me in person. He insists that we meet in the daytime, in a crowded area, so I suggest a coffee shop located in amongst the bustle of St Pancras.

Mr Smith agrees.

When he arrives, I am surprised by his advanced age. Indeed, even with the aid of a cane, he can barely walk.

We shake hands and take a seat at a table. I order us some coffee, and Mr Smith pours a large amount of something golden from a hip flask into his cup. I decline his offer of the same.

After some initial pleasantries, he begins to talk about what has brought us here. He has a thick Israeli accent, but his English is impeccable.

“I was an assistant to Dr Bentov, one of several. The Israeli government set up a laboratory for him in the desert. State of the art, not a shekel spared. And this was in a time when all the country’s money was supposedly tied up looking after the thousands of refugees who were coming every year.

“But Bentov was special, and the government knew that. Sure, he was a grouch, with a nasty temper, but that was understandable after everything he had been through. And he was brilliant. An exceptional mind.

“They built the Foundation for him. 

“Most men of science refute everything spiritual, but not Bentov. Bentov was looking for a way to reconcile the scientific with the mystic, the natural with the supernatural. And he did it.”

“To what end?” I ask.

“That is simple, Dr Gotobed. Revenge.

“Bentov created a weapon from metal and clay, a weapon that the Lord himself breathed life into. A weapon without a soul.

“At least, that’s what we thought.

“I sense you don’t believe me, Dr Gotobed. Well, let me ask you this: have you heard of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre? Part of their remit was to track down surviving Nazis and bring them to justice, with mixed results. The Wiesenthal Centre had hundreds of investigators at their disposal, and several teams of agents out in the field. At the Foundation there was Dr Bentov, his six assistants, myself included, and our very own sword of vengeance.

“Our modern-day Golem.

“And she never failed.”

###

Kurt Backe, a doctor at the Birgen-Belsin concentration camp, fled Germany in 1945, using one of the many Nazi ‘ratlines’ to escape to South America. He eventually settled in a small town in Panama under an assumed name and found work as a General Practitioner.

His true identity was discovered in July of 1977. However, the Panamanian government refused to deport Backe, warning the Israelis not to come after him.

In the August of that year, Backe’s housekeeper claims a tall, dark haired woman walked into the house one evening and killed the doctor with a single blow to the head. His body was found stuffed into the trunk of a car parked at Tocumen International Airport.

###

“We built nine iterations before we achieved the desired result, Bentov refining the process and the formula each time.

“For the tenth iteration, we used clay from the banks of the Vltava and the Elbe, and a new metal the Americans had given us. They didn’t tell us what it was or where it came from, but it was as hard as steel and substantially lighter. Bentov used it to make a skeleton. And a clockwork heart. He spent months on that, putting it all together and inscribing the formula onto it.

“We named her Ten.”

###

Otto Fuchs, an SS guardsman at the Dachau concentration camp, resurfaced in Argentina in December of 1977. A week later agents from the Wiesenthal Centre visited a hotel in Buenos Aries with the intention of extraditing Fuchs to France to stand trial.

By the time they arrived, Fuchs was dead, killed by a single blow to the head.

###

“I was tasked with teaching her how to interact with people. It was tough going; she had a habit of taking everything literally.

“She asked me once if we’d made her just to kill people. I explain about the Holocaust, and how the men she would be hunting had to be brought to justice. I think she understood. But that’s why I struggle to believe that she didn’t have a soul. If that were true, why would she care?”

###

Klaus Ittner was a senior SS officer, responsible for the murder of hundreds of Italian Jews. He escaped to Bolivia after the war, where he was protected by the US intelligence service, ostensibly for his help with Anti-Soviet operations.

His location was discovered by the Wiesenthal Centre in 1980.

The US government sent word to the Israelis that Ittner was off-limits and not to be targeted.

The former SS officer was squirrelled away to a safe house in the mountain town of Sorata, along with a US security detail.

Less than 48 hours later, Ittner and the security team were dead, all killed by blows that resulted in massive blunt force trauma.

One witness reported that a tall, dark haired woman, a stranger to the town, was seen descending from the mountains on the evening of Ittner’s death.

She did not stay.

###

“She used to call me after her kills. I don’t mean the Foundation. Just me. She sounded… sad.”

###

Over the course of January 1978, a further nine suspected Nazi war criminals were found dead in Bolivia, all killed in the same manner.

###

“Bentov died in his sleep in 1981. He never trusted anyone else with his formula, so it died with him, and the Foundation closed.

“As for Ten, she called me one more time. She asked if she was now free.

“I didn’t know what to say.

“She told me that she was coming here, to London, to try and live like a person. I won’t ever forget that conversation.

“I never heard from her again.”

Cogs1

An assassin created from metal, clockwork and clay, animated by God and taking out former Nazis in South America? Even with all the things I have seen and heard over the years, this does seem rather far-fetched.

And yet, when I ask Mr Smith if he has any proof to back up his claims, he hands me a sealed file and gets up to leave. Before he goes, I ask him why he is telling me all this.

“Because, Dr Gotobed, if she is still around, and she decides she needs help or guidance, she will come to someone like you.”

“Like me?” I ask.

“Someone who will believe her.”

Top Secret

Inside the file was a communique, on paper headed with the official seal of the United States government, sent from US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to the then Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Yitzhak Shamir, dated the 11th of March 1980.

It reads thus: ‘This policy of pursuing Nazi war criminals no matter what is putting serious strain on international relations. Call off your bitch, or we will do it for you.’

The reply came, not from Shamir, but from the Bentov Foundation.

It rather tersely states: ‘You are more than welcome to try.’

Cogs2

Still not convinced by all this, I mentioned Karl Bentov to an acquaintance of mine, an old friend from university who worked for the foreign office in the early 90’s as a liaison to Yaov Biran, the then Israeli ambassador.

She told me that when Biran was presented with a challenging diplomatic issue, he would often lament the fact that there was no longer a Bentov Foundation to take care of it.

My acquaintance tells me that she never understood the reference.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Wow. I’m not sure what to make of all this either. This entire report reads like the plot of a sci-fi film. I guess the good doctor saw enough in it to write it up, and that it would be of interest to whoever these reports are for – C.R.