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. 

The Modern Golem: Part One – Recollections of Prague

Prague Golem

Scattered throughout the past are tales regarding beings created from inanimate materials and bought to life by some otherworldly agent or obscure process. From the Norse tale of Mökkurkálfi, a giant moulded from clay built to assist Hrungnir in his second duel with Thor, to the animated corpse of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a veritable jigsaw of a man pieced together from several, disparate sources. These stories litter history, and are often seen as a way to hold up a mirror to mankind’s ambition and hubris.

The Golem of Jewish legend is somewhat different.

While still a creation of clay bought to life by clandestine rituals and divine power, the Golem is seen more as a guardian, a protector, even a force for vengeance; a being capable of committing acts that Judaism, a culture that traditionally prides itself on reasoning and pacifism, would consider abhorrent.

A creature given life by wisdom and knowledge, but, without a soul of it’s own, a creature capable of terrible violence.

Prague2

The following is the tale of Jehuda Loew ben Bezalel, chief Rabbi of the Jewish town in Prague (the capital of what was then Czechoslovakia), in the 16th Century.  The Rabbi’s followers loved him so much he was known as the ‘Exalted One’.

In the year 1580 a fanatical priest named Thaddeus began to sow disharmony and discord in Prague, with the intention of disrupting peace and harmony by raising superstitious accusations of ritual murder against the people of the Jewish quarter.

Rabbi Lowe learned of this. In a dream, he raised a question upwards, hoping to discover a solution to the problem of how to fight this new, evil enemy.

The reply came.

‘Ata Bra Golem Dewuk Hacomer W’tigzar Zedim Chewel Torfe Jisreal.’

Put simply, ‘You shall create a golem from clay, that the malicious anti-Semitic mob should be destroyed’.

But there was a hidden meaning, one that had to be understood for the instruction to be effective. Using Kabbalistic formulae, Rabbi Lowe began to extract the real meaning behind the message. When he was done, he knew how to create a Golem.

Even to one so holy as the Exalted One, the creation of life is forbidden. But, in this case, could such an act be weighed against the lives that would be saved? Rabbi Lowe was willing to believe it could.

He called for two others to assist him, Jizchak ben Simson, his son-in-law, and Jacob Ben Chajim Sasson, a disciple, and entrusted them with the secret of how to create a Golem. 

“I ask for your help because for the creation of a Golem, four different elements are required. Jizchak, you are the element of fire; Jacob, you are the element of water, and I am the element of air. Together we shall create a Golem from the fourth element, which is the earth.”

On a certain day, after midnight, the three men bathed with special devotion in the ritual bath. At home, they performed the midnight lament for Jerusalem and prayed. Lastly, they travelled to the banks of the River Vltava and located a place where clay could be found.

Then they set to work.

Chanting the psalms by torchlight, they shaped a human body from the clay. And there before them lay the Golem, motionless as a dead body, his lifeless face pointing up, towards the heavens. 

Starting at the feet, Rabbi Lowe instructed Jizchak to walk seven times around the body, chanting the words of creation.

When Jizchak was done, the body glowed as fire.

Rabbi Lowe instructed Jacob to do the same.

When Jacob was done, the fiery red faded and water rushed into the body of clay. Hair began to sprout from the head and nails grow upon the fingers and toes.

Then Rabbi Lowe himself walked around the body, placing a parchment into the Golem’s mouth. Written on the parchment was a name; the name of God.

All three men bowed to the east, the west, the south, and the north. They spoke in unison:

“And the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

The three elements of fire, water and air combined with the earth. The Golem opened his eyes and looked about him.

He was alive.

Silent, but alive.

The three men walked their new creation to the synagogue.

On the journey, Rabbi Lowe said to the Golem: “We have created you from a lump of clay. Your mission is to protect the Jews from persecution. Your name will be Josef and you will live in the Rabbi’s house. Josef, you must obey my commands no matter when and wherever I may send you – into fire, into water, to jump from a roof or even to the seafloor.”

Josef silently nodded and gestured to show he understood.

Prague3

This is but one of several stories regarding the creation of Golem in Jewish history. This particular account is interesting in that it happens in a specific year, unlike most folk tales of this nature. And, again unlike most folk tales of this nature, the main character is an individual whose life can be traced throughout history.

This particular story ends with the removal of the parchment from the Golem’s mouth, rendering it immobile once the danger in question has been defeated. The clay figure was hidden in the attic of the Old New Synagogue, where it could be restored to life if ever required again. No one was permitted to enter the attic for many years. When the synagogue was renovated in 1883, workman found no inert body of clay. But, interestingly enough, some reports from the time claim that, inside the attic, in the thick dust that lined the floorboards, was the outline of a large man, as if someone of great stature had lain still upon the floor for a very long time.

But all this is just a story. There is no physical evidence to suggest that life can be granted to shapes made of clay.

But I have learned that even the most outlandish of folktales often contain at least a kernel of truth.

Not too long ago, my acquaintance at the Ministry of Defence put me in touch with an elderly individual who would only identify himself as ‘Mr Smith’.

Prague1

Mr Smith and I entered into a lengthy written correspondence, over the course of which this mysterious fellow claimed to be a scientist employed by an organisation known as the ‘Bentov Foundation’, based in Israel.

Mr Smith went on, at length, to detail a most intriguing sequence of events, events that span several decades.

I shall attempt to compile these events in this report.

The first takes place during the Second World War, in the same city where Rabbi Lowe spent his life.

VitruvianMan1

Karl Bentov was born in Prague in 1911. A highly intelligent and driven individual, Karl’s family expected him to become a great scholar.

But the young man had other ideas.

Whilst he did study the Hebrew scriptures with great conviction, particularly the older, more esoteric texts, he also took great interest in the natural sciences. Building a laboratory for himself, he quickly began to learn much about biology, chemistry and physics, alongside the knowledge he was acquiring into the ancient ways of his people.

He became something quite unique amongst his peers; a man steeped in the Kabbalistic mysticism of the past as well as learned in the scientific knowledge of the modern day.

Bentov was fascinated with human anatomy and the forces that drive it. His laboratory was strewn with diagrams of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and Mechanical Knight, and the shelves of his bookcase groaned with ancient tomes and manuscripts discussing the nature of the soul.

The following is a translated entry from the diary of one Velém Kohn, a resident of Prague and a friend of Karl Bentov. The entry is dated the 8th of July 1937.

‘Karl and I had a very animated debate last night about what it is that actually make a man ‘alive’. I was arguing on the side of God, that only the Lord possessed the power to grant life. He countered that one day science may be able to perform such a feat. I told him that that would be blasphemy, to which he gave the reply ‘not if it were justified’.

‘After a few glasses of beer, our conversation turned to Europe, and events beyond our borders, specifically the dark rumblings coming out of Germany, and how long will it take for her gaze to turn towards us here in Prague.

‘Karl told me that he was working on something, something that might save us. ‘Something new?’ I asked. ‘Not exactly,’ he replied. ‘Something new created with the help of something very, very old’. 

‘We went to his laboratory and he showed me what he was working on. It was a skeletal torso and arm, built from metal and articulated by an elaborate clockwork mechanism. 

‘I could tell as soon as he’d shown it to me that he regretted it. He made me promise not to tell anyone about his work.

‘I suspect it may be wise to stay away from Karl for a while.’

Whether Velém and Karl ever rekindled their friendship was sadly rendered moot in March of 1938.

The Nazis entered Prague.

Sudetenland+Hitler

In 1942, with the Second World War entering it’s third, bloody year, Bentov was separated from his family and deported to Theresienstadt ghetto, then to Aushwitz-Birkenau, on to the labour camps in Hamburg and finally the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Perhaps it was for the best. If the Nazis had known of Bentov and his work, they may not have been so quick to send him away.

After the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen camp, Bentov returned to Prague, only to find his family dead, his laboratory destroyed, and the Jewish Quarter of the city devastated.

Bentov never spoke a word about the horrors he no doubt experienced between 1942 and 1945, but he was often to be heard publicly cursing the Germans and swearing revenge on every single soul who committed those heinous acts on his family and his people.

Prague4

Very little is known of Bentov’s whereabouts and actions until 1950, when a representative from the Israeli Immigration Department turned up in Prague looking for him. He found Bentov, now cutting a somewhat bitter and frustrated figure, praying in the Old New Synagogue.

Bentov returned with this representative to Israel, which was unusual for two reasons: very few Czech Jews emigrated to that part of the world, and it was almost of unheard of for the Israeli government to actively seek out individuals to do so.

But emigrate Bentov did. And here he drops from sight once more, at least until the late 1970’s, when a series of murders occur in South America, murders that can be linked back to a foundation set up in Karl Bentov’s name.

Part 2 of this reported can be found here: The Modern Golem: Part 2 – The Tenth Iteration – C.R.

The Wolf of Awsworth

SymbolClaw

Awsworth is a small village in the Broxtowe district on the edge of Greater Nottinghamshire. A former mining community, a little over 2,000 people currently call it home.

Back in the early 90’s, it was the location of a series of most unusual sightings.

But first, an urban legend. One I have heard attributed to several places, but the first time it was told to me was in relation to Awsworth.

According to local lore, in late 1976 a teenage boy found a Ouija board in his grandparent’s attic. Deciding to test its power, he declared out loud that he would gladly trade his soul to Satan in exchange for the ability to turn himself into a werewolf. Later that evening, a friend of the boy received an odd phone call, consisting of strange growling and guttural noises.

The next day the boy was found dead in his bedroom, having slit his own throat with a knife made of silver*.

This tale is certainly interesting, if only because it highlights the English propensity for placing blame at the Devil’s door for the misfortune of the young.

But, as I stated, it is probably no more than an urban legend. There are no records of any young males passing away in the village in 1976, let alone by suicide.

Yet there is evidence of something lupine abroad in the sleepy lanes of Awsworth some fifteen years later.

Map4

22nd May 2012

Phillip Bishop is a short and jovial fellow. Apparently in his mid-40’s, he has the countenance of someone half that age. Back in the August of 1992, he had just started as the local postman in the village.

Currently a painter and decorator, Mr Bishop has kindly taken an afternoon out of his schedule to meet me at The Bell Inn in central Nottingham. Over a pint of Guinness he tells me of his experience in the summer of ’92.

“It was a Saturday. I know that as I had the next day off. No post on a Sunday, yeah. I was ‘sposed to meet my friend Travis for a few beers at our favourite pub, The Gate. I ‘member that I’d woken up late. I always had a nap on Saturday afternoon. I didn’t want to be falling asleep at the pub. I’d done that before and woken up with a dick drawn on my face in permanent marker.

“Anyway, like I said, I’d slept a bit longer than I’d meant to. So I got dressed, scarfed down a sandwich and jumped on my bike.

“It was getting dark, but it was still warm, and a full moon with it. I flew down Main Street on my way to the boozer.

“As I was going down the road, I saw in the distance this tall guy. He really stood out, dressed all in black. It looked like he had a long coat on, one that went all the way down his legs, and a hat pulled down over his face.

“He seemed… out of place, just standing stock still by the side of the road in the moonlight.

“As I got closer, I realised it wasn’t a man at all.”

I ask him what it was.

“It was like a… a dog, I ‘spose. A giant dog. Stood up on is back legs, like a guy. With pointed ears and this big, long snout.

“It was staring at me with these big yellow eyes. I didn’t even think to turn around. I just pedalled by it as fast as my bike would carry me.

“As I went by it kinda growled at me. Like it was saying, ‘I see you, lad. Keep going. Keep going.’ And it didn’t take those horrible yellow eyes off me. Not once.

“I got to the Gate and told Travis about this weird dog-man. He didn’t believe me at first, but as the beers went down he could see I wasn’t lying. I was pretty shaken up by the whole thing. After a couple of hours and some ‘Dutch courage’, we decided to go back and look for it.

“We didn’t find it. I cycled that route many nights after, and I never saw anything like that thing again.

“I’m not crazy, Dr Gotobed. And I wasn’t drunk. Like I said, I was on my way to the pub when I saw it. Between you and me, I wish I’d never seen it.”

Mr Bishop’s apparent desire to be believed, I find, makes him all the more credible.

But were there other sightings of this mysterious dog-man that warm summer in 1992?

Stable1

Two mornings later, at nearby Swindlegate farm, two horses were found dead in their stables. Their carcasses were torn apart as if, in the words of the stable owner, ‘savaged by something particularly large and particularly nasty’.

The local authorities were at a loss to explain what could, and indeed, would, cause such carnage.

The trail falls silent, and no further sightings are reported. At least until early 1994.

#

According to police records, late in the evening of January the 11th, one Mr Tankard was on his way back to his home in Awsworth from Gatwick airport, his long-haul flight from the Caribbean having touched down a few hours previous.

Mr Tankard was, by his own admission, very tired from his journey, and he was struggling to stay awake at the wheel.

At about midnight, he turned off the A610 and onto Awsworth Lane, the road that eventually becomes Main Street. Half a mile along, a large black shape bounded across the road in front of him. Mr Tankard slammed on his brakes, but it was too late. His vehicle struck the dark mass head on and with a dull thud sent it flying into a nearby field.

Mr Tankard stopped his car and he went to look for whatever he had struck. He found it, a few yards away. He recalled it was a large animal, possibly a dog, although bigger than any canine he had ever seen. It wasn’t breathing, so, after checking his car for damage, he continued home and called the police when he got there.

CountryLane1

23rd May 2012

Paru Singh was the Scenes of Crime Officer on duty that night, and she was asked to accompany a local police officer out to the location of the accident. They were the first on the scene.

I meet her at a local coffee shop where she shares with me her recollection of that early January morning.

“An officer had gone to Mr Tankard’s home and was telling us over the radio what we could expect. He said the old boy reckoned he’d struck some kind of dog. Like, a massive dog. He seemed to think that it might’ve even have been a wolf.

“But you and I know that there are no wolves in England, am I right, Dr Gotobed? There hasn’t been for two hundred years.”  

She blows the steam from her coffee and takes a sip.

“But the officer who was at their home and had looked over the car said he’d found tufts of black fur stuck in the bumper and the radiator grille.

“So that I got me thinking it might’ve been a German Shepherd or a husky of some kind. They can get pretty big, and the old boy did say he was knackered. Maybe his eyes were playing tricks on him? Tiredness mixed with driving at night can do that to a person.

“But as we were driving down Awnswoth Lane it struck me how bright the moon was that night, and there were no clouds at all.

“We found the skid marks on the road, that must’ve been the point where Mr Tankard had hit the brakes, and we got out and searched the field next to the road. We found the body quite quickly.

“It wasn’t a German Shepherd, or a husky.

“And it certainly wasn’t a wolf.”

What was it?

“It was a man. A naked man.”

An autopsy was conducted on this corpse and the cause of death was noted as massive internal trauma caused by the impact with Mr Tankard’s vehicle.

The man was six foot seven tall, in his early forties, and judged to be in robust health at the time of his death. Apart from an impressive amount of body hair, there was nothing deemed unusual about him physiologically.

His fingerprints and DNA were taken and ran against all databases available to the police at the time, to no avail. Even after a huge media campaign, no one ever came forward to claim the body.

He was buried in a shared, unmarked grave, his identity still a mystery.

Gravestone1

So who was this hirsute man running around the fields of Awsworth during a January full moon? Was he somehow the same creature that Mr Bishop saw, the same beast responsible for the deaths of the two horses at Swindlegate farm? Or was the young postman mistaken that night in July, and the incident at the nearby stables merely coincidental?

Either way, Mr Tankard hit something that night on his way home from the airport, and to this day, he insists it was an animal, and definitely not a human being that he struck.

Once again, there is a curious end to this case. Paru Singh tells me that several years later, one of the other bodies buried in the same unmarked grave as our mystery man was exhumed, evidently to be subjected to further DNA testing. According to her, the officers charged with performing this task were most unamused to find someone had buried the remains of a large canine in the same plot.

The Scenes of Crime Officer did not point out the rather obvious correlation, instead choosing to discreetly hold her tongue.

I fear I would not have been able to do the same.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

* I also heard this tale was I was younger, but in relation to a village in Yorkshire, not Awsworth. When I read this file, I couldn’t help but note the similarities with this earlier report – C.R. 

‘Strange Effects’ out in the Desert

aceofclubs1

The submarine U-122 was a type IXB U-Boat of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine, active during the early years of World War 2. She was launched on the 20th of December 1939 and commissioned roughly three months later under her first and only commander, one Korvettenkapitän Hans-Günther Looff.

In June of 1940, she disappeared without trace.

Her last reported location was approximately 56.00N, 10.30W, apparently returning to her operational base just west of Cape Finisterre in Spain. Historians speculate that she may have been sunk by a collision with the British steam tanker the San Filipe on the 22nd of June, or by depth charges launched from the HMS Arabis on the 23rd.

Either way, U-122 was declared lost with all hands.

u-boat1

In 1978, 33 years after the end of the war, nearly five thousand pages of translated U-Boat logs and diaries were released by the United States Office of Naval Intelligence. These documents were seized by Allied forces in the April of 1945 at Castle Tambach in Coburg. They consist of a daily narrative detailing operations, intelligence reports, claimed successes and losses, organisational matters, and discussions of tactical and strategic issues.

I must confess, I was not planning to peruse them: naval operations are not my primary interest. However, a few weeks ago, a colleague of mine at the Royal Navy sent me a package. Within this package were excerpts from these logs. Several passages that my colleague believed I would find interesting were highlighted. I shall reproduce these highlighted passages below:

16th June 1940

Situation:

[12.40]   Korevettenkapitän Looff reports that the Halo has been successfully retrieved and secured. U-122 is homeward bound via the Jormungand route. Expected date of return, June 30th. Radio traffic to be kept at a minimum during this voyage.                                                                                            

#

       19th June 1940

Situation:

[21.10]   Korevettenkapitän Looff has broken radio silence to report that the crew of U-122 are experiencing ‘strange effects’. The crew are blaming the Halo. Looff is concerned about morale and is requesting passing the Halo on to another vessel on the Jormungand route to complete its journey.

#

 Command:

[22.20]   REQUEST DENIED.

#

20th June 1940

Intelligence:

[03.00]   Reports of U-112 engaging and sinking enemy cargo ship.

Situation:

[03.15]   Korevettenkapitän Looff is reminded that the safety of the Halo is NOT to be compromised under ANY circumstances.

[22.20]   Multiple attempts to contact U-112 have been unsuccessful.

#

 22nd June 1940

Situation:

[00.45]   Garbled transmission received from U-122. Several voices talking all at once. Dive alarm heard sounding erratically in the background. Transmission ends abruptly. No further contact.

#

 Command:

[23.59]   UNACCEPTABLE. CONTACT WITH U-122 MUST BE RE-ESTABLISHED IMMEDIATELY.

#

1st July 1940

Situation:

[12.00]  U-122 declared lost along with all on-board. Fate of the Halo unknown.

 #

 

I have acquired the complete records, and, having read through them, I can find no further mention of the ship U-122 after this point, nor her mysterious cargo, the item rather ambiguously titled ‘the Halo.’

But the sinking of a submarine during war-time and allusions to its peculiar burden are, in and of themselves, no sign of the paranormal.

However, within the package from my colleague was a further document; the contact details of a gentleman named Eustace Hayes.

ladybegood1

4th February 1996

Eustace Hayes is a tall man, in his early sixties, with arms like tree trunks and skin stained by many a year out in the sun. I meet him in the bar he currently owns in Hue Province, central Vietnam. He was stationed here as a Technical Sergeant for the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War, and became part of the small contingent of American serviceman who stayed on after the conflict was over.

Back in the May of 1959 he was stationed at Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli, on the coast of Libya.

He invites me to sit on a small plastic stool by a low table topped by a sticky sheet of plastic. A young waitress brings us a crate of bottled beer and a bucket of ice, and in a slow but booming voice that seems to push through the humid air between us, Mr Hayes shares his story.

“The previous year, I think it was November, a group of surveyors for BP reported seeing a downed aircraft out in the desert, miles from anywhere. Top brass didn’t take them seriously at first. Why would they? There had never been any reports of missing US airplanes in the area. I think they assumed it was either a mirage or a classic bit of British leg-pulling.

“But as the months went by, more and more people began to mention it. Apparently the location of the wreckage was now being marked on maps for the next batch of oil surveyors.

“Well even the CO couldn’t ignore that.

“I was an Airman at the time, and I got sent out with the first search team. And we found it, right where they said it would be. It turned out to be the wreck of the Lady Be Good.”

mapdesert

The Lady Be Good was an American Heavy Bomber. Following a raid on Napels in April of 1943, she disappeared on her return to Soluch Field in Libya. She was assumed lost in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea.

Mr Hayes continues:

“It was amazing. She was split in two, but apart from that she was in almost perfect condition. You would think that fifteen or so years of just sitting there in the desert would’ve fucked her up. But the machine guns still worked, as did the radio. There was even a flask of tea on-board. It seemed drinkable too, not that we tried it.

“But that wasn’t the strangest we saw out there.” 

I ask him what else they found as he knocks back his beer and opens another on the edge of the table.

“Well, one of our crew noticed that there was something else on the horizon. Something glinting just over the dunes.

“Now, remember that I told you that the wreck was being marked on maps, right? Because it was a landmark, visible from the air, yes?

“Following that line of thinking, if there was something bigger out there, also made of metal, then logically that too would have been noticed.

“So, we travelled about 20 miles to the north-northwest, towards whatever this thing glinting in the sand was. I don’t think any of us were prepared for what we found.

“It was a submarine, just sitting there on her side. A German U-Boat to be precise. I recognised the insignia on her hull. And she looked to be in pristine condition. She even had her number stamped on the conning tower: U-122.”

Mr Hayes goes on to tell me how he and his crew circled the submarine, taking photographs and making notes. It’s hatch was open, but there were no signs of life, except for a set of bones about half a mile away, wrapped up in the remains of a Nazi captain’s uniform.

“It was really bizarre. It looked like whoever this man was, he’d climbed out and was crawling away across the sand. But maybe it was just the way the body had fallen.

“As I was looking over the skeleton, Sergeant Caine climbed into the sub, through the hatch. He was only in there for a minute or two, but when he came out he was trembling, and his face was as white as a sheet.

“I’d known the Sarge for a few years, and he was as tough as shoe leather. I knew he’d seen some pretty nasty shit back in the Pacific. But whatever he saw in that sub must’ve really, what’s the expression you Brits use? ‘Knocked him for six’, yeah, that’s it.

“He was mumbling under his breath. Muttering about strange things, things that didn’t make any sense.

“He was a mess. So we decided to pack up our gear and return to the base.

“The Sarge was shaking all the way home. And he was ice cold. Bear in mind that we’re in the middle of the desert, in May.”

Mr Hayes opens a third beer.

“I know what you’re gonna ask me. You’re gonna ask where the photos are that I took.”

I must confess, that was one of the questions on my mind.

“Two days later some ‘agency’ types turned up. Serious men in black suits wildly inappropriate for the climate, just like you now.” 

He smiles and winks at me.

“These fellas took everything; our photos, our notes, the lot. They made us sign something saying we would never talk about that damn submarine, or they’d throw us in jail without a trial.

“I’m not too bothered by their threats now. Hell, I’m an old man. What are they gonna do? I suspect they thought that no-one would believe us anyway.

“It was never mentioned again on the base. I went out there again a few weeks later. There was no sign of the submarine. Or that she’d ever even been there in the first place.

“And I never saw the Sarge again. Do you know what the top brass said when I asked about him? They said ‘don’t ask.'” 

To say this is a frustrating end to this case would be an understatement. But as I decide to wrap things up with Mr Hayes, he goes off upstairs and brings back a crumpled and yellowing piece of thin card.

“I’ve never shown this to anyone before. Hell, I’ve never even told anyone about it. I took it out of the uniform the body was wearing. Do an old guy a favour; don’t look at it here.”

We spoke for a little while longer as we finished our beers. As I was saying my goodbyes to Mr Hayes and thanking him for his hospitality, he shared something else with me about that day in the desert.

“As we were packing up our stuff, I noticed someone had written something in red paint on the side of the sub’s hull, in foot tall letters. At least I hope it was paint.

“It was in English. It said: ‘stop toying with things you do not understand’.” 

With this final piece of information occupying my thoughts, I returned to my hotel, where I duly unfolded the document the former Technical Sergeant had given to me.

It was Kriegsmarine identity card. The name stamped on it was Korvettenkapitän Hans-Günther Looff.

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This case poses many questions: Was that really U-122 that Mr Hayes and his colleagues found in the desert? If so, who or what on Earth could possibly possess the kind of power required to move her to the middle of the desert? And why did she go unnoticed for so long, indeed, if she was even there for all that time? Who were the ‘agency men’ who appeared so soon after it’s sighting? What, if anything, was the nature of U-122’s cargo, the mysterious ‘Halo’? Could the ‘strange effects’ experienced by her crew, and possibly Sergeant Caine as well, have been some kind of radiation poisoning? And who was the intended recipient of the curious message daubed on the craft’s hull?

Finally, where did this misplaced U-Boat go? Surely moving almost a thousand tonnes of submarine during peacetime would be substantially more difficult than during the chaos of World War 2, which in itself would be a Herculean feat.

Sadly, without further information, it seems the fate of the U-122 will have to remain an enigma.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

There was a post-it note with the words ‘Nathaniel Defoe??’ written on it attached to this file – C.R.

A Message from Persephone

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Tucked away in the back of the good doctor’s journal was an envelope. The envelope contained a card, and inside that card was a handwritten message:

My Dearest Thomas,

1,000 years ago, mankind knew the Earth was flat,

500 years ago, we knew that the Sun went round the Earth,

6 months ago, you knew there was no such things as ghosts.

Can you imagine what you might know tomorrow!!

All my love, and best of luck in your spooky new job,

Persephone xxx

I have no idea who this Persephone is. I haven’t seen her name mentioned in any any of the other files or journal entries I have read. Yet another mysterious name to add to the list, I guess.

The message written in the card seemed familiar to me. After some digging around on the internet, I found that it is remarkably similar to a speech given by the character played by Tommy Lee Jones in the 1997 film Men in Black.

The envelope from the journal is postmarked July 1987 – C.R.

Thoughts on Place Memory and Residual Hauntings

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In 1890, the parapsychologist Edmund Gurney put forth an idea that he coined place memory. At its most basic level, place memory postulates that certain locations are capable of ‘recording’ emotions, sights, and sounds, particularly during times of extreme stress and trauma. If the conditions are right, these recordings can be played back, creating what can be called a ‘residual’ haunting.

These replays are strictly that: a facsimile of an event passed. Nothing more, nothing less. They will not, indeed, they cannot, interact with observers (unlike apparent poltergeist activity).

They also appear to be limited to the environment as it was when the initial event occurred. This may explain why these replays sometimes appear to travel through solid walls where a doorway may once have stood, or partially below ground level, perhaps treading where an original floor may have existed.

If such a thing as place memory can occur, it may well explain the scores of accounts I have collected of people witnessing such residual hauntings. Accounts such as that shared by one Harry Martindale*.

From the York Echo, dated 25th October 2014:

Harry Martindale was an 18-year-old plumber’s apprentice in 1953 when he saw at least 20 Roman soldiers, visible only from the knees up, marching through the cellar of the Treasurer’s House.

Harry, who went on to become a policeman for some 25 years, claimed he saw a soldier wearing a helmet emerge from a wall, followed by a cart horse and twenty other soldiers. Scared witless, he fell from his ladder and stumbled into a corner.

He was so terrified by what he saw that he took two weeks off work with shock. Friends laughed at his story, so he kept quiet about his spooky sighting until the 1970s, when he was interviewed by a group of academics for television, and York’s most famous ghostly tale was born.

It emerged that an old Roman road ran through the garrison where the Treasurer’s House was later built, and was about 15 inches lower than the cellar floor. The story also gained legitimacy after Harry described several aspects of the Roman soldiers’ clothing that he would not have known at the time.

His son Andrew said Harry was interviewed by various TV stations as the story blew up but, because he worked for the police, he never made any money out of his experiences.

 

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Now, I believe I should address the metaphorical elephant in the room: there is no record of a residual haunting ever being replicated under strict scientific conditions.

I believe there is a very simple explanation for this.

None of it can be replicated under these conditions.

It is the very nature of the scientific method that removes the factors required for the replay to occur. Even the placing of equipment with which to attempt the observation, measurement and recording of a residual haunting is enough to pollute the location with electromagnetic fields, amongst other things (see the observer effect), that are not conducive to activating the replay. There are simply far too many variables at play, variables that are, at best, difficult to predict, let alone control.

Further to this, if emotion is a key factor in the initial recording and playback of these events, how does one go about measuring it? By its very nature, emotion is subjective: there is no equipment to objectively record fear or love, jealousy or sadness.

To create the perfect conditions required to satisfy the scientific method, an event traumatic enough to create a residual haunting would actually need to have occurred inside a laboratory, under controlled and replicable conditions. With the exception of a pair of highly controversial and sadistic ‘experiments’ that took place at Unit 731 during World War 2, there is, to the best of my knowledge, no record of such an event having ever taken place.

Place memory (more commonly referred to nowadays as stone tape theory, after the BBC play broadcast in 1972) is disregarded by mainstream science, and understandably so. By its very nature, it is vague, unquantifiable, and untestable.

And yet mankind’s history is littered with tales of residual hauntings. And why is it that certain locations such as hospitals, prisons, and mental asylums can provoke an intangible sense of dread, as if the very buildings themselves were trying to share with us memories of past misdeeds that have taken place within their grounds?

If only old walls could speak. What tales they might tell.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

More information on the late Harry Martindale’s experience can be found here, and what he witnessed is certainly intriguing. My head tells me that ‘place memory’ can’t be a real thing, but, as the good doctor says, even I’ve walked into certain houses and instantly felt that ‘nope’ feeling – C.R.