The Curious Case of Lee Woodgate & Josiah Jeniker

Pentacle

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

His parents beamed with pride at his graduation.

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

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

He never arrived for his first day.

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

Flats1

6th June 2012

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

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

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

Ms Jolley chuckles quietly to herself and rolls a cigarette.

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

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

She chuckles again.

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

I tell her that is correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To this day it stands empty.

Ms Jolley continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flats2

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

#

Ms Jolley goes on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This man is Lee Woodgate.

He is dead.

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

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

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

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

She collects the files, leaving one with me.

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

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

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

Sky

8th June 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘A discrepancy?’ I ask.

She doesn’t answer.

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

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

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

‘He says his name is Lee Woodgate.’

Bed

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

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

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

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

Asylum

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

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

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. 

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.

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. 

‘Little Tricks’ Beneath the Old Angel

Angel1

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

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

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

AngelMap1

9th April 2015

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

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

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

I ask her to start from the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AngelUpstairs1

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

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

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

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

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

“And I love a challenge.” 

He smiles widely.

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

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

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

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

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

AngelUpstairs2

Ms Smith continues:

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

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

“She was perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AngelUpstairs3

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

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

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

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

RC: I’m scared. Do you feel that?

CS: Feel what?

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

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

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

[the sound of wind blowing across the microphone]

[several clicks]

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

[more clicking]

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

[the sound of stone scraping against stone]

[a third voice, female, moaning] 

[rapid clicking]

CS: Please remain seated, Mrs Carr.

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

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

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

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

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

[several screams, followed by three minutes of static] 

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

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

AngelCaves1

Mr Wang picks up the story:

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

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

AngelCaves2

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

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

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

A large split can still be seen in that stone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

AngelCaves3

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

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

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