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 confess; 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. 

A Tall Man on the Mountainside

The following letter was tucked away in the back of the good doctor’s journal, alongside an old Polaroid photo and a postcard of the Berber flag. The letter is written in this odd kind of cursive that seems to lean backwards, and is entirely different from Doctor Gotobed’s somewhat cramped scrawl – C.R. 

Berber_flag

Atlas Guest House

Imlil 42152

Morocco

 

June 12th 1990

Dearest Thomas,

As you know, I am deep in the Atlas Mountains with a view to climbing Mount Toubkal. I experienced something most unusual yesterday, and I thought it would be of interest to you.

My colleagues and I had just set out on the first leg of our trip, and I must say that I was surprised by the similarity of the mountainous terrain and climate out here with that of the Scottish Highlands.

The weather had been good for the first hour or so, although Abde (our guide) informed us that winds and rain were on their way. He was correct, and it did not take long for a thick mist to descend alongside this inclement weather, reducing visibility to a mere ten feet or so ahead. Still we continued. After all, one only needs to know (and continue knowing) that the next step is the correct one.

So our progress was slow, yet steady.

Then the peculiar thing occurred: as we were walking up the rock strewn path, I noted a shrill whistling coming through the mist before us.

It was a melody I recognised, but couldn’t place.

The whistling grew louder, and the sound was followed by a tall man striding out of the haze. When I say tall, I mean he was the tallest individual I have ever seen. Possibly 8 foot, possibly even more. He seemed to be wearing a black, shiny and almost skin-tight piece of clothing that appeared to be made from one piece, going all the way from his toes to his neck, and he held up a small brolly. At least it looked small in his hands. He had round, glassy eyes and, I must admit, I found myself a little repulsed by him, for reasons I could not put my finger on.

As he drew closer to us, this chap stopped and addressed our guide in what I assumed was Arabic, before carrying on his journey, nodding as he passed myself and my colleagues.

Once he was gone, I asked Adbe what it was that this man had said.

‘He says the rocks are loose up ahead. He advised we turn back,’ came Adbe’s reply.  

I asked him if that was what we would be doing.

The answer was a rather curt ‘No’.

We carried on, and I resolved not to pay the image of this strange, tall figure any more thought until after we had scaled the summit and were well on our return journey.

But that was not to be.

Not thirty minutes later, we crossed paths with the tall man again. Not that he came from behind us. No. Once again, his coming was preceded by the same whistled tune from the mist in front of us. Again he strode out of the fog clutching his umbrella. Again he spoke to our guide. Again he nodded as he passed the rest of us.

I asked Abde if that was the same man.

‘Yes. And his message was the same.’

‘Will we be turning back?’ I said.

‘No. We continue.’ 

And continue we did, for another hour or so in the blasting winds and their accompanying rain, until we reached a small clearing with some natural shelter, where we stopped for a quick break.

As we were making small talk, the kind of small talk that physically drained people make when they know that there is still much work to be done, a familiar shrill whistling cut through the air. We fell silent, each one of us looking around at the faces of the other members of the group.

Once again, the whistling grew louder, and then the figure appeared, again from the same direction. He did not stop this time; rather he just smiled at us as he walked by. I say smiled, but I’m positive that this gentleman had no teeth or gums, just lips and darkness behind them, but maybe it was just my eyes playing tricks on me.

We watched the figure disappear into the mist and back down the trail leading away from the mountain.

I looked to our guide, assuming he would say that we should just carry on. But Adbe looked terrified. He was already packing his stuff away.

‘Come. We are getting off the mountainside. We will come back in a few days.’

I asked him if his change of heart was down to the repeated appearance of the tall gentleman. He would not answer, and led us back down to our guest house in the village of Imlil without saying another word.

We ate our evening meal in silence and bedded down for the night, hoping to start afresh the next day, today.

I found out this morning that a terrible landslide occurred overnight and two other groups of hikers have gone missing. One of these was the group that had set out not twenty minutes before our own.

And Abde? He is nowhere to be seen.

Now, I have no explanation for any of this. I’m not saying it’s in anyway supernatural, or even if it falls under any of the other categories of ‘spooky things’ that you look into, but I thought it might interest you. It was also good to write down and commit to paper, even if it was just for my own sanity.

We are planning to have another go at the summit once we have found a new guide. Should we see this peculiar chap again, or indeed any other strange persons, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Wish Percy well for me, and tell her that I will be round for dinner with photographs and souvenirs once I get back to good old Blighty. I owe her a bottle of wine (or two)!

Lots of love,

Jane

Waterfall

Once again, I can’t corroborate any of this: landslides in the High Atlas Mountains are not recorded, and investigations into missing hikers from that part of the world seems pretty much non-existent, especially in the early ’90s. Yet more weirdness – C.R. 

‘Not Yet, Not Yet’

Lamp

If precognition is an individual experiencing a forewarning of things yet to pass, what of those times when the warning seems to come from an outside agency?

Many people believe in the idea that there is some greater force watching over us, a force that is capable of intervening with our lives. Indeed, unscrupulous individuals posing as mediums, psychics and soothsayers have had great success over the years in separating people from their money on the pretence of communicating with said force.

But modern examples of such supernatural intervention are few and far between.

But not unheard of.

PubEpping

8th May 2015

Robert Bilson is a tall, middle-aged gentleman, with a wide smile and hair the colour of snow. He is currently employed as an administrator for the NHS, but twenty years ago he worked for a different branch of the civil service.

We meet in the George & Dragon pub in Epping. After apologising profusely for his lateness, even though it was a mere ten minutes, we take a seat at a table in the old games room. Over a pint or two of real ale, Mr Bilson shares his memories of an event that occurred just over two decades ago.

‘I was working for the Revenue at the time, in their old offices in South Norwood. I think they used to be army barracks or something. They certainly felt like it. The building was pretty cramped, lots of interconnected rooms that always smelt like damp. We called it ‘the Labyrinth’.

‘I used to stay behind after everyone else had gone. I’d just been through a pretty bad break-up at the time, I’ll spare you the gory details, but I liked the peace and quiet. It let me get things done.

‘One night, I think it was a Tuesday, I was working away, typing up some records, when I noticed a sound. It was strange. Whenever I typed, I could hear the clacking of keys. Not just mine, but sort of ‘underneath’ mine, if that makes any sense. It sounded like it was coming from down the corridor, but I couldn’t get a handle on it, as it only seemed to happen when my fingers were on the keyboard.

‘I started thinking it was just an echo. But there was something different about that sound. Every few seconds there was a muffled ‘ding’ and then, like a sliding sound.

‘I recognised it. It’s the noise the carriage bell return on a typewriter makes.

‘I didn’t know anyone in the building who used one of those. But, like I said, it was an old office, and there were some eccentric types that worked there. I figured it was one of the older members of staff. People like what they like, I guess. Old habits and all that.

‘I carried on with my reports, maybe another hour or so, the muffled ding on the typewriter carrying on as well.

‘When I packed my things up, I realised I was going to have find whoever this other person was who was working late and let them know that they’d have to lock up.

‘I did a circuit of the whole building and could not find another soul. Perhaps they’d snuck out? I thought it was a little rude that they’d not said anything, but oh well.

‘As I went to the front door I passed one of the offices that were just off the main corridor. It was dimly lit, but I’m sure, absolutely sure, that I saw someone in there.  It was a guy in a pinstripe suit and a bowler hat. He had his back to me and he seemed to be on the phone.

‘I only caught a glimpse of him, because I was walking quite quickly and hadn’t expected to see anyone. I stepped back, did like a double take, but the room was empty.

‘I turned the light on, but nope. Not a soul to be seen. And the other weird thing? There was no phone in that room, not even a socket in the wall for one.’

These types of sighting are not uncommon. Indeed, there is an argument that certain buildings can retain a memory of the souls that dwell within them, and that an individual’s routine, if repeated often enough, can somehow leave an imprint on the very surroundings, an imprint that can be played back if certain conditions are met. But these imprints are just recordings; capable of being replayed, but incapable of interaction.

But what happened next in South Norwood argues against that idea in this instance.

Mr Bilson continues.

‘I’ll admit I was a little spooked, so I locked up and got out of there sharpish. I got in my car and drove out of the car park.

‘Now the end of the road that the office was on was known for being badly lit. A lamppost had been knocked down a few years ago and had never been replaced, and it was pretty dark that night.

‘As I slowed down at the end of the road, getting ready for the turn, I heard a voice, a male voice, clear as a bell. It sounded like it was right in my ear.

‘It said ‘not yet, not yet’. 

‘I froze. The car came to a dead stop and I just sat there, gripping the wheel.

‘Suddenly, in front of me, a big black van with no lights screamed past, tyres squealing, the lot.

‘I didn’t recognise the voice, and I had no idea where it came from. But I know this: if it hadn’t spoken, if I hadn’t stopped and had just carried on going, that van would’ve taken me out completely. I’d be dead.

‘I’ll tell you something else too. I don’t believe in ghosts, or angels or spirits. But something or someone saved my life that night.’ 

Mr Bilson says he worked late in that same building many nights after that. He never heard the clacking of the typewriter or saw the shade of the man in the pinstripe suit and bowler hat ever again.

But he was always sure to stop at the end of that particular road and double check it was clear, even after the broken streetlamp was finally replaced.

Stop

Is it possible that Mr Bilson somehow unknowingly picked up on the danger around him – the lack of light, the sound of the van approaching, even the vibration of the vehicle through the earth itself – and some part of his subconscious manifested the voice to warn him?

This is not unheard of, and the fact the words sounded directly in his ear rather than coming from somewhere else lends weight to this idea.

However, this theory does not explain the sound of the typewriter that Mr Bilson heard, nor the figure he briefly glimpsed in the dark office just before he left.

Mr Bilson did note that the building always had a damp smell, and it is not unknown for the spores of certain types of toxic mould to have psychoactive effects. Studies recently undertaken at Clarkson University in New York at least suggest this is possible, although it is interesting to note that I could find no record of any other incidents of this nature occurring in or around the premises.

Typewriter

Whoever the mysterious individual with the penchant for typewriters was, perhaps more than just his routine remained behind in the building. Perhaps part of his soul lingered there too, keeping an eye out for the staff that stayed behind after hours.

Whatever the explanation, something unusual occurred that dark night in South Norwood, and, whatever it was, it saved Mr Bilson’s life on that particularly gloomy evening.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

‘Stuff to Scare the New Guys With’

SymbolMedic

There is much debate in scientific and theological circles regarding the exact point in time that a collection of cells can be considered living, as well the exact point that the same collection of cells can be considered dead.

The moment of death has historically been a fluid concept. Indeed, there are many examples of those whose hearts have stopped beating or been declared brain dead being bought ‘back to life’ thanks to advances in modern medicine. As I write this, it is commonly accepted in the medical community that true death occurs the moment there is no chance of such a resurrection.

But what of the spirit, that intangible and unique life force that makes us who we are? Is it possible that this part of us can live on after this ‘true death’?

In my experience, the best place to begin searching for answers is in the testimonies of those who work at the boundary between life and death; the medical profession and the emergency services.

HMonitor

4th February 2012

Karen Sawyer is one such individual. Short, slight, and with a disarming smile, she currently works as a baker specialising in bespoke wedding cakes.

However, fifteen years ago, she was employed in an altogether more ‘challenging’ field.

These are her words, not mine.

We meet in a small boutique coffee shop in the London Borough of Hackney where, over several strong cups of Americano coffee, she shares her story.

As she speaks, it is impossible not to notice that her words suggest an inner steeliness at odds with her soft voice and somewhat gentle demeanour.

‘I was a call handler back then, and an emergency medical dispatcher. The trust I worked for smooshed both those roles into one. The night shifts were tough. The hardest parts were the long spells of doing nothing or dealing with mundane calls. Then, ‘Wham!’ You’d get these moments of incredibly high stress. I didn’t last long. Two years, maybe.

‘Some of the ‘old timers’, the people who’d worked there for ages, they all had the odd weird tale to tell or spooky story to share. But you took it all with a pinch of salt. They seemed like urban legends, you know? Just stuff to scare the new guys with, no more than that.

‘I only had one really strange thing happen to me, but crikey was it strange.

‘The shift started as normal, nothing unusual. Some mum rang up, worried about a rash her kid had. A drunk lad who’d snapped a finger, just the typical midweek stuff.  I remember getting up for a cup of coffee, then sitting back down when the call came in.

‘It was a young woman. She sounded… distant, tired. I could tell she’d taken something. She said her name was Tiffany.

‘Tiffany was asking for an ambulance. She said she’d taken a bunch of pills. She said she’d tried to kill herself, but she didn’t mean it. She was begging me for help.

‘I got her address and dispatched an ambulance out to her.

‘We’d been trained to keep people on the line, ‘til the paramedics arrived. She kept kind of dipping in and out on me. She’d go from loud and distraught to quiet and whimpering. She kept saying: ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake, a terrible mistake.’

‘I spoke to her for about five minutes, whilst the help was on its way. I tried to get more information out of her, specifically what the pills were that she’d taken. She said she didn’t know. So I asked her about her family. But she kept, kind of, coming and going is the only way I can describe it. Hysterical to sad. So sad.

‘I asked her if her front door was unlocked. I heard her put the phone down and then a clicking noise, which I assumed was the door being taken off the latch. 

‘Now this is before everyone had mobiles, so I guess she’d put the handset down somewhere near the receiver. 

‘She never came back on the line.’

Ms Sawyer wipes tears away from her eyes.

‘I heard the paramedics enter the building, and then some muffled voices talking. I disconnected and took a deep breath. I thought that I’d done all I could.

‘A couple of minutes later, one of the paramedics on the scene rang up. He was asking me who’d made the initial call.

‘I thought that was a bit odd. I told him it was Tiffany, the young woman.

‘He asked me if I was sure. Maybe someone else had made the call?

‘I was adamant. It was the young woman I’d spoken to. Not a relative, not a friend. No one else.

‘He just said okay and then hung up on me.’

She brushes strands of hair away from her face, composing herself.

‘Someone contacted the front desk, asking for the supervisor. I watched him take the call, all the time looking at me. He hung up and then waved me over.

‘He’d been talking to the paramedics on the scene. Apparently when they got into the place, Tiffany was dead in the hall. She was ice cold, showing signs of lividity and rigor mortis.

‘They estimated she’d been there, dead, for at least a day.’

LondonMono

According to Ms Sawyer, the recording of her phone conversation that night was reviewed at length, along with the logs of the paramedics.

All the timestamps pointed to Ms Sawyer conversing with the caller, a woman who had apparently committed suicide by an overdose of codeine, an opiate, an overdose which took her life some twenty four hours before she dialled 999.

This is not the first case of this nature experienced by a member of the emergency services that I have encountered. Indeed, the more of them I investigate, the more I am convinced that the spirit can sometimes linger behind, tied to this world for a short while, particularly after a traumatic death.

I suspect, in this instance, that the phone call Ms Sawyer answered was a final plea for help.

But without further, focused research, answers to the nature of the soul will continue to remain elusive. I must add that, once again, this is not the kind of incident that can be replicated under the conditions required to satisfy the scientific method.

Mannequin

A month after her experience, Ms Sawyer left her job as a call handler, stepping back from the edge. I cannot blame her.

If there were any justice in the world, those who toil at the apparently fluid border between life and death would be revered and rewarded accordingly.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

This was another one that was tough to type up. It’s always easier when it’s abstract concepts or historical accounts, not actual, living (or dying) people. I think I need a break from reading the good doctor’s notes for a bit. And a drink. A large one – C.R. 

Unexplained Impressions in the Snowfall

Flake

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

But something strange awaits them out in the snow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SnowyField

June 1st 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did you do next?

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

‘Now, this is where it gets odd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Cake?’

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

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

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

Footprint

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

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

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

The paper did not run the story.

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

Dr Thomas Gotobed

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

‘Spooky Action at a Distance’

Swirl

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trees

May 11th 2014

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

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

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

The following is his account.

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

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

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

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

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

He rather quietly and flatly sings those words.

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

Then it happened.’

What happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Cause I’m really sad…’’

He sings those words again, but quieter this time.

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

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

They just missed us.

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

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

I’m aware of how all this sounds.

I’ve never experienced anything like that ever again.

And I’m not a lunatic. Trust me. ’

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

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

Ripple

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

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

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

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

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

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

On the Possible Mechanism of Ball Lightning, and Other Luminous Effects

Ball_lightning

If one were to take to a trip in the darkening autumn months to North Carolina, USA, and park up at Brown Mountain Overlook, somewhere between Morganton and Linville on Highway 181, one would have a good chance of witnessing the ‘Brown Mountain Lights’, a series of glowing orange spheres that hover just above the horizon.

Legend has it that these lights have appeared since the earliest days of the thirteenth century, although the first record that appears in print is from September 1913, in an article that appeared in the Charlotte Daily Observer. This article details the account of a local fisherman who witnessed these mysterious orbs appear several times over the space of a month.

Reports of these lights continued, prompting a formal US Geological Study in 1922. This study determined that the Brown Mountain Lights were nothing more mysterious than the misidentified lights of automobiles or trains.

So far, so mundane.

But, not long after the study was completed, an enormous deluge struck the area, completely flooding all the local roads and tracks, cutting off power and halting all traffic.

And yet, the lights continued. If anything, they grew more frequent.

They are still spotted to this day.

#

So, just what are the Brown Mountain Lights? One theory postulates that they are examples of a phenomenon known as ball lightning.

Ball lightning is often, but not exclusively, witnessed during a thunderstorm. Unlike the split second flash of traditional lightning bolts, ball lightning manifests as a spherical, luminous orb ranging from the size of a pea to several metres in diameter. These orbs hover, pass through solid objects, burning or melting as they go, before exploding violently or fading away, leaving a lingering smell of sulfur behind.

Owing to the unpredictability and infrequency of the phenomenon, actual scientific data remains scarce. Its existence is almost entirely predicated on witness reports throughout history.

A few examples:

In July of 1852, during a particularly fierce storm, a tailor living in Paris witnessed a ball the size of a human head appear in the fireplace. This ball proceeded to travel around the room at waist height, before returning to the fireplace, floating up the chimney stack and exploding. The top of the stack was blown apart.

In April of 1925, in the town of Bischofswerda, Germany, multiple witnesses saw a large glowing orb land near a postman. This orb travelled along a telephone wire to a school, knocked a teacher who happened to be using a telephone to her feet, and bored several perfectly round tennis ball-sized holes through a glass pane. Over 200 metres of wire were melted that day, and numerous telephone poles destroyed.

In August of 1970, in the town of Sidmouth, UK, a large, sizzling red-lit ball appeared over the area during a violent thunderstorm. The ball exploded, knocking out nearly 2,000 television sets.

There are many more of these incidents scattered throughout history.

#

In 2002, one Associate Professor John Abrahamson, a chemical engineer at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, presented a theory to the Physics World Digest. This theory states that ball lightning is no more than a chemical reaction of silicon particles burning in the air.

First, a bolt of lightning strikes the ground. The tremendous energy present in the strike vaporises the ground, forcing a puff of hot silicon vapour to expand upward (silicon being the most common element in the ground).

This vapour then condenses into tiny particles, and electrical charges pull these particles into tiny threads. These threads are hot, very hot, and they begin to burn with the oxygen present in the air, forming a ball. The weight of the silicon is enough to counter the upward buoyancy, so the ball floats, as opposed to flying upwards.

Once all the silicon has been burned through, the ball either explodes or dies out.

Whilst Associate Professor Abrahamson’s theory is certainly interesting, it is worth noting that, for all his experiments, he has been unable to actually create an incidence of ball lightning under laboratory conditions.

#

In 1936, a small team of investigators from the newly formed Psychical Research and Investigation Society travelled to the city of Ural’sk (now Oral) in the Kazakh region of the Soviet Union, to investigate an elderly medium known locally as Madame Sokolov.

According to the investigator’s notes, over the course of several sessions, Madame Sokolov was able to manifest small orbs of coloured light. She was able to control these orbs to a certain degree, making them rise to the ceiling and drop to the floor, and change in size and luminosity.

Astounded by this, the Society paid a not inconsiderable amount of money to have the medium brought to their Laboratory in London for extensive testing.

It is also worth noting here that, for all the Society’s experiments, they and Madame Solokov were unable to create any orbs of lights under laboratory conditions.

#

In conclusion, ball lightning appears to be like so many incidents of paranormal phenomenon; ephemeral and difficult to pin down, existing only as eyewitness accounts and indistinct images, ghost lights and will-o’-the-wisps.

Once again, without someone willing to invest the time, money and resources into an extensive investigation, I fear the answer to the creation of ball lightning will remain a mystery.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

More info on the Brown Mountain Lights can be found here – C.R.