The Old Man and the Dark House

Dark House 1

Sneinton is a suburb of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Despite heavy bombing in the Second World War, and two large phases of redevelopment in both the 1930’s and 50’s, much of the terraced and semi-terraced housing built during Victorian times still stands to this day.

One of these houses, known locally as the ‘Dark House’, and set only slightly back from the main thoroughfare of Sneinton Dale, has a troubling history; a history that came to a rather grisly end in the autumn of 1982 with the deaths of two men and the mental and physical scarring of a third.

The so called ‘Dark House’ is a three storey building nestled in a row of similarly-sized dwellings. From the street, there is nothing untoward to suggest what happened inside. Although no one was ever charged with any crime, the event left a rather curious stain on a certain section of the local community.

The provenance of the house is itself a mystery. All that can be gleaned from local records is that the house was purchased in 1922, with cash, by a gentleman going by the name of Nathaniel Defoe.

Initially I was confident that this is a pseudonym, but after my investigation I am not so sure.

The individual in question does, however, appear to have been a well known character locally.

SneintonMap

6th June 2014

The Lord Nelson pub is a 500 year old building, with low ceilings built for men of smaller stature and meaner temperament. Many landlords have taken custody of it throughout the years.

I meet Alison Dewitt in the smallest room of the pub, known as the Common Room. She is in her late seventies now, but back in 1982, she and her now deceased husband were the publicans of this enduring establishment.

A kindly woman with a warm smile, she buys me a pint and we sit down to chat about the so-called ‘Dark House’ and it’s enigmatic occupant.

“We all called him ‘the Captain’. I don’t think any of us ever knew his real name. We, I mean my husband and I, we took over the Nelson in, when was it, ’68? He was a regular, popped in two or three times a week. Gladys, she’d been coming in for nearly forty years, and she used to say that the Captain was old even when she was young. None of us knew exactly where he was from.” 

“He used to dress like he’d just stepped out of a Dickens’ novel. Long coat, tall hat, big leather boots, that sort of thing. And he had a huge white beard and these piercing, bright green eyes. He used to walk with a stick that had a big chunk of shiny black rock on the handle.”

“He seemed a decent enough sort. Polite. He’d have a few ales and sit right there by the fire. Most times he’d just chat with one or two of the other regulars, but from time to time he’d regale some of the locals with stories about his time in the Navy. Sometimes World War One, sometimes World War Two, but occasionally he’d talk about surviving a shipwreck off the Cape of Good Hope.” 

“Everyone just assumed he was bullshitting, but I like to think I’m quite a good judge of character. You, Doctor Gotobed, I can tell you’re an honest sort, duckeh. It’s in your face. But when the Captain spoke about those times, out on the sea all those years ago, he had a kind of haunted look about him. Like he had actually seen them.”

“And that wasn’t the only thing that seemed off about him.”

I buy us another round and ask her to elaborate.

“Well for a start, he’d always pay for his drinks with large notes, and his wallet was always stuffed with them. No one ever knew where all his money came from. He had a ring on every finger, each one with a different stone set in it, and he carried this large pocket watch on a gold chain. I saw him open it once, and I tell you, it wasn’t a clock face inside it, it was these weird symbols.”

I ask her if she can recreate these symbols for me. I will attach a copy of her drawing to this file.

“But that wasn’t the weirdest thing, oh no.”

“One evening, a local troublemaker came in, all beered up. He was a loud so-and-so, always throwing his weight around, intimidating people. Dobbo, his name was.”

“That night I guess Dobbo took a disliking to the Captain, for some reason only he would have known. He was a big man, Dobbo, all muscle and neck. He sat down opposite the Captain and started goading him, trying to get a rise out of him, calling him a nonce. The old man just ignored him and carried on with his pint.”

“And then this knucklehead stood up and leant over, yelling in the Captain’s face.” 

“I’ve never known the atmosphere in a place change so quickly.”

“The Captain fixed Dobbo with his eyes and the whole pub went silent. Dobbo just… stopped. Dead still, like he was frozen, the whole time the Captain was just staring at him.”

“I swear, that’s the only time it was ever that quiet on a Friday night. You could’ve heard a pin drop in the garden.”

“They were right there, the Captain glaring, and then a dark patch appeared on Dobbo’s jeans, right on the crotch. And it started to spread.” 

“He’d pissed himself.”

I ask what happened next.

“Dobbo ran out and never came back. The Captain returned to his pint. And we all went about Friday night as normal.”

“I never saw anyone try anything like that with the Captain again.”  

 Symbol Watch

This is but one of many stories I hear about the old man known as ‘the Captain’.

He was spotted one still summer’s night up at nearby Green’s Windmill, seemingly moving its giant blades with only the wave of a hand.

Another local tale has him stalking the streets of Sneinton early one morning with a horse’s skull tucked underneath one arm and an enormous black hound traipsing beside him.

There are also rumours of him meandering through nearby Colwick Woods, conversing animatedly with the trees and wildlife, and a shrill howling was heard emanating from the Dark House one cold All Hallows’ Eve.

But these are mere anecdotes, half remembered and told second or third-hand, and must accordingly be taken with a pinch of salt.

The night of the 30th of October 1982 however is different. It is a matter of record that something occurred on that fateful evening, and to get anything even approaching an answer, we must go to the only remaining eyewitness.

Kevin Shields.

Rampton

1st September 2014

Rampton Secure Hospital is a large and sprawling complex, home to four hundred-odd inmates detained under the Mental Health Act of 1983. It has housed some of Britain’s most notorious criminals.

Despite the National Health Service’s best efforts, it is difficult to fight the feeling that a shadow of foreboding lingers over the site.

One of its lesser known residents is one Kevin Shields, a 55 year old individual with multiple convictions for armed robbery and assault. He was incarcerated at Rampton a little over 30 years ago, due to the onset of complex and violent hallucinations linked to a severe cause of post-traumatic stress disorder.

He also has no eyes.

It has taken many months of phone calls and the redeeming of several ‘favours’, but finally I am granted a private audience with Mr Shields.

Our meeting takes place in a secure room, empty save for two chairs and a table, which the blind man’s hands are cuffed to. The two burly orderlies posted outside assure me that Mr Shields is sedated, but lucid.

I am advised, in their words, not to ‘wind him up’.

I assure them I seek only the truth, a statement which elicits much mirth from the pair.

The following is an extract from a transcription of my conversation with Mr Shields, chiefly the part concerning the events of that night at the end of October in 1982:

KS: Me and my brothers, Tommy and Roger, we’d come down from Newcastle to hide out. We’d botched a robbery a few nights previous, and didn’t want the cops to find us. Rog had a friend in Nott’m, so we were gonna crash on his floor for a few nights, ‘til the heat was off.

We’d gone to the pub for a jar or two. Rog wasn’t too keen. He said we should lay low, but Tommy said he was going crazy sat in that house. He was always the gobby one.

Then the old man came in.

We watched him go to the bar and get a pint. He paid for it with a twenty, and his wallet was chock-full with notes. Tommy reckoned there must’ve have been at least two grand in there.

And that was it.

From that point on, we were fucked.

DrG: Why do you believe you were ‘fucked’.

KS: I could see the cogs turning in Tommy’s head. A muscle in his cheek would always twitch when he was thinking. And it was tweaking real bad.

DrG: What did you believe he was thinking?

KS: He’d already made up his mind. He said that if that old man had a wallet that full of cash, and all those rings, imagine what he’d have at home?

We tried to talk him out of it, but his there was no point. 

So we came up with a plan. 

We were gonna follow the old man home, find out where he lived then come back later and do his place over proper good. Make up for all that money we’d lost out on from the botch job up North.

We waited ‘til he left then went after him. We watched which house he went in then we were off back to Rog’s mate’s gaff to borrow a crowbar.

We gave it an hour or so and then we went to the house. We jimmy’d the door open and went in.

It was dark, but I could see the walls were… were dark red, and the floor was bare wood. There were these… these giant markings drawn all over the place. I said to Rog that I didn’t think this was a good idea. That we should just leave and forget all about it.

Tommy told us to stop being pussies.

If only we’d left it there. My brothers would still be alive and I wouldn’t be in here, like this.

We got to the living room. I remember there were candles everywhere. And there was the old man, but younger, and he was just… just sat there in a chair, like he’d been waiting for us.

DrG: I’m sorry, he was younger?

KS: Yeah. And he had this look on his face… a look I’d never seen on anyone before.

He banged this stick on the floor and said a word I didn’t understand… and that was that.

We were fucked. 

The devils came. And there was so much… so much… blood. 

They killed my brothers, a hundred times over. Again and again and again, right in front of me.

I can still see them now. 

It’s all I can see. 

Kevin Shields was found in Colwick Woods at the base of a large oak tree by a local man out for a morning jog.

His eyeballs had been gouged from their sockets.

If it were not for the actions of a pair of dedicated paramedics, he would have died that morning from a combination of blood loss and shock.

Seven days later, on the 6th of November, the lifeless bodies of Tommy and Roger Shields were found washed up on the banks of the River Trent near Lady Bay Bridge. The cadavers were mutilated to the extent where they could only be identified by dental records.

The exact cause of death could not be conclusively discerned for either man.

Now the Dark House stands empty, its windows and doors boarded shut under heavy iron plates.

The Captain made one more appearance at the Lord Nelson two nights later, and was never seen again.

The deeds to the Dark House are still in the name of Nathaniel Defoe.

No one was ever charged in connection with the deaths of Tommy and Roger Shields, or the disfigurement of their brother, Kevin. But that fact did not stop the local rumour mill from turning at a frantic pace.

Nelson 1

If the tales of the residents of Sneinton are to be taken as the truth, alongside the testimonies of Alison Dewitt and Kevin Shields, it is not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that the mysterious Nathaniel Defoe, owner of the Dark House, was in possession of some hitherto unknown and mysterious power.

Indeed, he may still be.

Without sitting down and speaking with the man known locally as ‘the Captain’, one can only speculate as to the source of this power.

cospatrick

There is an interesting coda to this story. Remembering the words of Alison Dewitt, I looked up a list of ships wrecked off the Cape of Good Hope before the Great War. The most recent one I could find was the Cospatrick, a frigate that caught fire off the Atlantic coast in 1874 carrying 477 souls.

One lifeboat was recovered, and the five men on-board only survived by drinking the blood and eating the livers of their dead companions. All but one died shortly after their rescue.

The identity of this sole survivor?

A young British sailor by the name of Nathaniel Defoe.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

 

 

An Encounter on the Midland Mainline

Tucked away in the case I found a journal, which appears to have more reports in it, although these are written up in a different style from the rest of the files. At first I thought Dr Gotobed was just jotting down fiction based on his experiences, but the fact they are accompanied by what appears to be corroborating evidence has made me think again. I’ll try and include a few more of these, if for no reason other than they seem to reveal something of the good doctor’s character – C.R.

Train Station3

14th November 2002

Midland Mainline Train, 21.15 to Derby

“Do you know why you are here?” I ask, looking up from the thin file on my lap and towards the reflection of the young man sat next to me in the window opposite. The description on the yellowed pages is disturbingly accurate, right down to the bloodshot eyes and the gash across the forehead. The kid is in his early twenties, and dressed a little out of date for the time, in slightly flared jeans and a bright yellow sports top. He carries it well, all except for the fleck of deep red across his breast and left shoulder. I’m in a black suit and a white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck. I look like I should be advising him about his future career options. Or on my way home from a funeral.

“Because I fucked up,” replies the kid.

I look down at the file, then back at the reflection opposite.

“Why would you say that?” I ask.

The kid looks down at his feet, revealing a slick dark liquid dashed across his scalp, then back at the window, meeting my gaze in the reflection.

Neon streaks by the window and mixes with spots of rain as the train rocks slightly to take a turn. The carriage lights flicker.

“I… I don’t want to talk about it. Things… they changed. Got too much.”

The only other person in the carriage is an elderly lady sitting several rows away. She turns and looks at me with a slightly concerned expression on her wrinkled face, then gets up and leaves the carriage.

“You need to move on from this,” I say to the window.

“I know.”

“Tell me how I can help.”

In the reflection, the kid looks away.

The door at the end of the carriage clunks, and I see the old lady whispering conspiratorially in a conductor’s ear. The door clicks and opens and the conductor steps in and moves towards me.

I glance back at the window and see the kid’s eyes begin to blacken with rage.

The carriage rocks and the lights dim, before returning to full strength.

“Stay calm,” I whisper, my eyes fixed on the reflection.

The lights flicker repeatedly, more violently this time. A slight breeze begins to coil around the floor.

“Stay calm,” I repeat.

“Excuse me, sir,” says the conductor, gruffly, a skinny bald man in a polyester uniform. “Who are you talking to?”

I look up at the conductor, then to my right at the empty seat next to me. The conductor raises an eyebrow, before following my gaze as I look ahead, to the window. As he does, he catches the reflection of the kid, his bloodshot eyes ablaze with anger and the gaping wound across his head. The conductor gasps and drops his hand-held ticket machine.

The train jolts violently and the lights dim again, deeper, and for longer this time. The breeze turns into a gust and blows through the carriage, lifting the flotsam and jetsam of the day’s commute across the floor and the hairs on my neck up and away from my skin. Somewhere along the length of the carriage, a pane of acrylic glass cracks. When the lights come back on, the reflection of the kid is gone.

There is an moment of awkward silence as the conductor gawps at the window, now empty except for the occasional trackside light flickering by. His face has turned an ashen colour not normally seen on the living.

“I’m Doctor Gotobed,” I say. “Your bosses should have told you I would be here.”

“I’m… I’m sorry, Doctor,” stutters the conductor, picking up his equipment. “We were expecting you earlier.”

“Looks like I’m going to be here for a while.” I turn back to the file on my lap. “I’d appreciate it if you’d keep this carriage clear for the next hour or so.”

The conductor leaves, and the train rumbles on.

Eight stops later, it reaches its destination, and then turns back. I’m still on-board, in exactly the same seat. I run my fingers through my hair and sigh. This is taking far too long, and I definitely don’t want to go around again and spend the night in Derby.

The lights flicker intermittently for a few seconds.

I look up at the window. The kid is back, bloodshot eyes calm now. We sit in silence for a while. “Do you…” I begin to ask, eventually. “Sorry, did you see a light?”

“At first. But I have to stay. I can’t go there. I’ll stay here. With the shadows. Until she knows.”

“Who knows?”

“My girl.”

“Knows what?”

A single tear rolls down the kid’s cheek and mixes with the blood that’s dripping down from his scalp.

“That I love… that I loved her. I didn’t want to go like this. I’m so sorry.” A sniff, and the kid continues. “Can you tell her for me?”

The lights flicker once more.

“Of course. Tell me more about her and I’ll find her. Tell me exactly what you want to say, and I’ll be back here next month. I don’t expect you to be.”

The train rumbles on, and the kid tells me about his girl.

Train Station2

Back in Nottingham, the train groans to a halt. I pick up the file and step off, heading through the high ceilinged Victorian building, its grand archways a testimony to the architectural skills of men long since buried.

“Doctor Gotobed! Doctor Gotobed!” A gruff voice shouts along the platform, and the tall, skinny and bald shape of the conductor jogs towards me. “Excuse me, Doctor. But was that the… the…” I can tell he can’t bring himself to say ‘ghost’. He settles on: “What was that?”

Succinct.

Tucking the file under my left arm, I reach into my jacket for a cigarette. “A request for help,” I reply, lighting the cigarette as I turn towards the marble steps that lead to the exit.

“Doctor Gotobed?”

“Yes?”

“There’s no smoking in the station I’m afraid,” replies the man in the polyester uniform, all back to business.

I flick the cigarette onto the tracks and head up the steps, out onto the street and into the wet November night.

The rain falls like heartache.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Journal1

Tucked away in these pages of the journal is a clipping from the Nottingham Evening Post, dated November the 16th, 1996. It details the death of a 22 year old man who fell in front of a train two nights previous. I don’t feel too comfortable sharing his name here. 

The train was the 21.15 Midland Mainline from Nottingham to Derby. 

There is also another clipping, this one taken from the February 2001 official newsletter of the Psychical Research and Investigation Society. It’s a report of ‘low-level psychokinetic activity alongside the appearance of a full-bodied apparition’ on the same train route. 

These two documents are what make me think this story of Dr Gotobed’s is more than just fiction. 

Either way, typing this up has left me a little drained emotionally. I’m putting the journal back in the case and placing the whole lot back in the cupboard. I need some beers and to think about something else for a while – C.R. 

A Thought-Form by the River Trent

TulpaSymbol3

Gunthorpe is a small village tucked away by the banks of the River Trent, on the outskirts of Nottinghamshire. It is typical of many such places scattered throughout the United Kingdom; quiet, sleepy almost, consisting of no more than a couple of pubs by the riverside, a high street and a patch of houses, all surrounded by a network of fields and criss-crossed by winding country roads.

In August of 1991, it was also the site of what initially appeared to be a curious case of bi-location, but soon became something far more sinister. All centred on one eighteen year old girl:

Karen Ogilvy.

 MapT1

6th April 1995

Joseph Colman is a personable young man, and only the dark circles that have taken up residence around his eyes betray the fact that he is nursing a rather severe hangover. Currently a student in his final year at Sheffield University, he was born and raised in the aforementioned village of Gunthorpe, and a friend of Miss Ogilvy’s.

We meet in the bar of the Corner Pin in Newhall on a cold, grey afternoon. Nestled by the fireplace, between pints of imported lager, Joseph tells me his recollections of the August of ’91:

“Yeah, I remember that summer. That’s the year we got our ‘A’ level results.”

“There were four of us who’d always knock about together. Me, my girlfriend Mia, and then Marcus and his missus Karen. We’d all gone to the same school, so we were all close. Not so much anymore. We’ve all kinda drifted apart.”

“It started off with a couple of little things, things that didn’t seem like a big deal at first. I saw Karen in the village, across the street, walking ahead of me. I shouted at her and she turned round. I waved hello and she just turned back and carried on, completely blanking me. And then she did the same to Mia a few hours later in the corner shop. Apparently Karen stared straight through her. Mia thought she must’ve been high or something.” 

“I wasn’t too bothered by this, perhaps she was just having a bad day? Shit happens. But Mia was pissed off. We asked Karen about it the next time we saw her, and she had no idea what we were talking about. She thought we were just pulling her leg.”

“But… that sorta shit, you just forget about it, right?” 

He gingerly sips his pint before continuing.  

“Well, a few days later, there’s a bunch of us having a drink in the Unicorn. When last orders came, we thought we’d pop up to one of the fields and have a… a smoke. You know what I mean?” 

I assure him that I do.

“Anyway, I’m driving ‘coz I’d only had a couple of pints. Mia’s got shotgun as she was, you know, my girl back then. Marcus and Karen are in the back. Karen asks if we can swing by her house first. She wants to pick up a bottle of vodka she’s got stashed away.”

“So we drive to hers and she jumps out, goes running inside. We’re sat there for, I don’t know, five minutes? Mia’s getting a bit impatient and tells Marcus to go and see what the hold-up is. They argue back and forth for a bit, but then Karen comes out. She walks over to the car, and she’s got this kinda blank expression on her face. Says she’s changed her mind and that she’s not actually feeling too well, that we should go on without her. Bit weird, right? But hey-ho, off we go, the three of us.”

“The next day, Marcus rings me. He says that he’s just spoken to Karen, and she wants to know why we ditched her.”

“I rang Karen myself. She reckons that she went inside, and whilst she’s taking her room apart looking for this bottle of booze, she said she hears us drive away. She goes outside and we’re gone. And she’s absolutely insisting that this is the truth. Almost crying about it.”

“That’s a bit fucked up, right? All three of us saw her, heard her speak. But she’s adamant that never happened.”

 Trent1

Bi-location is a curious phenomenon. It occurs when a person is present in two separate places at the same time.

In Marseilles, towards the end of the last century, a class of schoolchildren witnessed their young teacher writing on the blackboard in front of them as well as strolling through the schoolyard outside their window.

In 1906, the British Member of Parliament Sir Fredrick Carne Rasch was seen attending a debate at the House of Lords, when it was a well-known fact that he was tucked up in bed at home at the time, tackling a nasty bout of influenza.

The Portuguese friar and doctor St. Anthony of Padua was said to have appeared both preaching a sermon at one service and singing in the choir of another one balmy Easter Sunday in the 13th Century.

But bi-location appears to be a harmless, if unsettling event.

What happened in Gunthorpe that summer seemed to quickly escalate into something much more troubling.

Gunthorpe1

10th April 1995

Mia Cooper is a good-humoured individual, currently completing her teacher training in physical education at a Rushcliffe School, a local comprehensive in Nottingham. When I finally get the chance to meet her in person, I get the distinct impression that her job is akin to the herding of cats.

On her lunch break we sit in the staff room, and between bites of a sandwich and sips of burnt coffee she tells me of her experience of the events of the summer of ‘91. Her retelling is faithful to Joseph Colman’s, albeit with some minor, inconsequential differences.

Her words pick up where Mr Colman’s left off:

“We ribbed Karen a bit about that night, told her she had an evil twin knocking about that was trying to ruin her social life. She laughed it off a few times but I could tell she wasn’t amused.” 

“Then it happened again.” 

She shifts a little in her chair, leaning toward me.

“Late on the Saturday, Joe was driving the four of us out into the fields, for a puff or two…”

She mimes smoking something furtively.

“…Marcus was joshing him about making sure that everybody was in the car this time, but Karen seemed in good spirits. We all did. We were due to get our results in a few days, so I think we were all a bit nervous. I suppose we were just looking to unwind.”  

“So we’re going down past Allen’s farm, on one of those tiny country lanes… do you know the ones I mean? You can literally get one car and maybe a Rizla down ‘em. And once the sun’s gone? They’re pretty much pitch black.” 

“Anyway, we turn this one corner, not too quick, and there’s someone standing bang in the middle of the road, facing away from us, not moving. It’s a woman, and she’s kinda swaying. We just assumed she was another club casualty. Too many pills at the start of the night, yeah?” 

“Joe honked the horn a few times, and Marcus is getting all up in his ear, saying he should just nudge this crazy woman out of the way.”

“And then she turns ‘round. And I shit you not, it’s Karen.”

I remind her that she’s just said that Karen was in the car with her.

“She was. She was sat right next to me. And she looked terrified. The one beside me, anyway. The Karen in front of us was just staring at the car with this mad look in her eyes.”

“Until she ran at us.” 

Ran at you? I ask her to elaborate.

“Got down on all fours and just charged at us, running like an animal.”

“Joe slams the car into reverse, swerving backwards down this tight country lane. And this… this thing… this other Karen… she was keeping up with us. And everyone in the car’s just yelling. And then… and then she just disappeared.” 

Mia goes silent for a moment. I can see her hands are shaking.

“I know I saw all this. But I also know that I couldn’t have seen it, you know?”

I ask her what the four of them did next.

“Well we kept going in reverse for a bit. Then Joe stops the car, and we all got out. Karen’s screaming, saying she wants to go home. Marcus’ tries to calm her down but it didn’t help. So we drove her home and she ran inside, slamming the door.”

“We never saw her again.”

Gunthorpe2

The next day, The Ogilvy’s house is devoid of life. A few days later, a ‘for sale’ sign appears outside. As far as I can glean from local records, her parents emigrated, alarmingly quickly, to Canada, taking their only daughter with them.

I have been unable to track them, or Karen, down for comment.

The next day I was, however, able to speak with Marcus Howe, the other passenger in the vehicle that fateful night. A soldier in the British Army stationed somewhere in Bosnia, he manages to  relate his version of events to me over a crackling phone line.

He corroborates the accounts of Joseph Colman and Mia Cooper.

Book1

I believe it is fair to say that whatever took place in Gunthorpe that summer goes beyond mere bi-location. Indeed, the reference point I keep returning to is the Tibetan Book of the Dead and it’s mention of the Tulpa: a thought-form if you will, with a physical presence and a personality, created by mental power alone.

But it apparently takes an enormous amount of focus and decades of training to manifest such a thing.

Perhaps Karen Ogilvy possessed such power, but without knowing it. Perhaps she unwittingly willed a duplicate of herself into being, and that duplicate, without direction, proceeded to leave confusion and distress in its wake.

Without speaking to Miss Ogilvy, it is, unfortunately, impossible to know.

Dr Thomas Gotobed