The Wolf of Awsworth

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Thomas Gotobed

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

‘Strange Effects’ out in the Desert

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

In June of 1940, she disappeared without trace.

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

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

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

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

16th June 1940

Situation:

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

#

       19th June 1940

Situation:

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

#

 Command:

[22.20]   REQUEST DENIED.

#

20th June 1940

Intelligence:

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

Situation:

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

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

#

 22nd June 1940

Situation:

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

#

 Command:

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

#

1st July 1940

Situation:

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

 #

 

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

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

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

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4th February 1996

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

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

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

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

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

“Well even the CO couldn’t ignore that.”

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

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

Mr Hayes continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Hayes opens a third beer.

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

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

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

He smiles and winks at me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

A Message from Persephone

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

My Dearest Thomas,

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

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

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

Can you imagine what you might know tomorrow!!

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

Persephone xxx

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

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

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

Thoughts on Place Memory and Residual Hauntings

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

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

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

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

From the York Echo, dated 25th October 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

I believe there is a very simple explanation for this.

None of it can be replicated under these conditions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

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

The Lightning Bird and the Moonfire

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The following is an extract from an interview I conducted on behalf of the Psychical Research and Investigation Society* with one Ms Edith Cohen, a Northamptonshire resident.

The interview took place on the 20th of June 2000.

‘It was a few weeks ago. The 5th, I believe. I was walking my dog, Bobbins, in the Green Norton Park. It was a clear day; really sunny, not a cloud in the sky. I had my camera with me. I like to take pictures of Bobbins, he’s such a handsome young man. A golden retriever, you know. And he’s so photogenic.’

‘I was tossing a stick for Bobbins to fetch, then getting some shots of him running back to me. It’s his best angle.’

‘Anyway, I’d thrown the stick, and I was down on one knee, and suddenly there was a huge flash of light and this massive crack, like thunder. But, like I said, it was a clear day. The sound was so loud, Bobbins ran away and hid.’ 

‘I was calling out to him to come back to me, when I heard this sound from above, a bit like a crow cawing, but, sort of ‘strangled’. I looked up, and there was this massive black bird soaring above me. It was enormous. I must’ve watched it for a bit, before I remembered I had my camera.’

‘I managed to get a single shot of the giant bird before it flew away.’

‘The picture is a bit blurry, and everyone I’ve shown it to says it’s a stork or a crane. But it definitely wasn’t. I’ve seen those before. What I saw was far too big. And cranes aren’t black, surely?’

I will attach Ms Cohen’s photograph to this file. The picture is indeed blurry, but it does show something in the skies above Green Norton Park, even if that thing is rather difficult to identify.

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Jessica Drummond was born in 1982 in Towcester, Northamptonshire. An only child, she was a conscientious and practical individual, and she excelled at school, particularly in the fields of mathematics and physics. In the summer of 2000, she left Huxlow Science College with four ‘A’ levels and secured a place at the University of Bristol to study mechanical engineering. A fan of the literary works of Jayne Mansfield, she also had rather a poetic streak.

By all accounts Jessica was quite shy and reserved for her age, and her parents insist that she was not the kind of person prone to dabbling in narcotics or drinking to excess.

On the week beginning the 5th of June 2000, she began to experience what her local GP, Dr Kahn, describes as a quite severe case of somnambulism, more commonly known as sleepwalking.

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1st December 2008

I meet Dr Josef Kahn in the The Halt, a quaint little pub tucked away in Chapel Brampton.

A diminutive fellow, with a shock of bright white hair and a surprisingly deep voice, Dr Kahn was the Drummond family doctor, and had been since before Jessica was born. Now retired, it is quite obvious that the events of that first week of June 2000 have taken a toll on him, both professionally and personally.

Over a pint of dark ale, he tells me of his recollections of that summer.

‘I remember Jessica, yes. She was a lovely girl. Very, very intelligent. It was such a shame what happened to her.’

‘Her parents bought her to see me on the Wednesday. She looked terrible; large dark rings under her eyes, the poor thing looked like she hadn’t slept in days. Her father said that they’d found her in the kitchen the last two mornings, and she’d taken all the pots and pans out of the cupboards and laid them out in the garden.’  

‘I examined her, and appeared she was somewhat lethargic, presumably due to the lack of sleep.’

‘It was strange seeing her like that. She’d always been a little reticent to talk, but that day… well, that day it was different.’

‘I spoke to her parents and asked them if she was under any stress, but they assured me that she wasn’t, so I could only assume it was the thought of going away to university that was troubling her.’

‘I wrote her a prescription for some sleeping tablets and advised her parents to keep an eye on her. If it continued, I told them to bring Jessica back and we would look at some other possible forms of therapy.’

‘I wished them luck, said goodbye and then went about my day. I’ll confess, I didn’t expect to see them again.’

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But Jessica’s sleepwalking continued.

The next morning, a local police officer responding to a call found Jessica locked inside the town library, wearing just her pyjamas and surrounded by open books. There was no sign of any forced entry, and the officer was at a loss to explain how the teenager had gained access to the building.

When she was found, Jessica was apparently in a fugue state, muttering to herself about ‘the lightning bird on high.’

She was taken to the local police station and her parents called. Her mother and father were shocked at the news; they were under the impression that Jessica was still in her bed at home.

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Dr Kahn continues:

‘I went to their house once the surgery had closed, and Jessica’s parents were beside themselves with worry. As for their daughter, she had no memory of her escapades the previous night.’

‘I asked to speak with her alone. She seemed lucid, but also a little ‘detached’. She just kept saying how tired she was.’

‘I told her that she could tell me if there was anything bothering her, anything at all, something she thought she couldn’t tell her parents. She said was that when she closed her eyes, all that she saw was a giant black bird in front of her.’ 

‘I gave her some stronger sleeping pills, something that would really knock her out, and sent her to bed. I advised her parents to lock her door from the outside, just in case she went for another nocturnal ramble.’

‘I also told them to call me first thing and let me know how the night had gone.’ 

‘When I didn’t hear from them in the morning, I was under the impression that everything was okay.’

‘How wrong I was.’

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According to the police report, Jessica’s father slept outside his daughter’s door that night. He was apparently awoken at about 3am by two loud claps of thunder accompanied by bright flashes.

No storm was recorded in the area that night.

On hearing his daughter scream from inside her room, Mr Drummond unlocked the door and entered.

Jessica was nowhere to be seen. The small section of window in her room that would open was closed and locked, and a number of large, coarse black feathers were strewn across her bed.

No trace of Jessica Drummond was ever found.

Analysis of the feathers revealed that were from a type of crow, but the exact species was never determined. Their size suggests a wing span much greater than any on record.

There was one another unusual item found in Jessica’s bedroom. It was a picture of a bird, drawn in thick black pen. Underneath it, in Jessica’s handwriting, were the words ‘she comes with the moonfire.’

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There are many perplexing aspects to this case. Jessica Drummond was apparently not the kind of person who had any inclination to run away; indeed, she had her whole life ahead of her. And even if she did, how did she manage to exit her house without alerting anyone? I have seen her bedroom, and I find it difficult to believe she could have crawled out of the window and into the night.

And what of Ms Cohen’s photograph, and the over-sized feathers?

I must confess, I have struggled with this investigation: giant birds and curious meteorological effects preceding the disappearance of teenage girls is a new one, even to me. The only thing I could drag up from the archives was the Native American myth of the Thunderbird, a legendary creature that would beat its wings and throw lightning at the beasts of the underworld.

But surely the appearance of a Thunderbird in Northamptonshire that week in 2000 is too great of a leap of logic?

Sadly, it seems that Ms Drummond’s disappearance will have to remain a mystery.

#

Oddly enough, writing up this report made me recall a trip I took a few years ago, to the Museo Thyssen-Boremisza in Madrid. There hangs a picture titled ‘The Lightning Bird Blinded by Moonfire.’ It is an abstract piece, painted by Joan Miró in 1955.

In its jagged lines it is possible to detect a similarity to the drawing found in Ms Drummond’s bedroom.

Perhaps señor Miro was inspired by a similar encounter.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* This is the same group the good doctor mentioned in An Encounter on the Midland Mainline. I have contacted them , and the chap I spoke to could find no record of a Dr Gotobed having ever worked for them, but he did say that their records were ‘patchy’, at best – C.R. 

‘Little Tricks’ Beneath the Old Angel

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

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

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

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9th April 2015

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

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

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

I ask her to start from the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And I love a challenge.” 

He smiles widely.

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

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

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

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

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

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Ms Smith continues:

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

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

“She was perfect.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I sat opposite the subject and told her I was going to 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.”

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

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

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

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

RC: I’m scared. Do you feel that?

CS: Feel what?

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

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

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

[the sound of wind blowing across the microphone]

[several clicks]

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

[more clicking]

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

[the sound of stone scraping against stone]

[a third voice, female, moaning] 

[rapid clicking]

CS: Please remain seated, Mrs Carr.

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

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

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

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

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

[several screams, followed by three minutes of static] 

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

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

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.