‘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 someone 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’.

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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.”

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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 efforts 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.

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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. 

A Figure on Hack Green

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Military installations have a long history of supernatural activity, ranging from the shade of a dead pilot at the training facility HMS Daedulas who returned for one last photograph with his comrades in 1919, to the shadowy apparition of a suicidal marine that stalked the hallways of Forward Operating Base Ripley in Afghanistan in late 2005.

But sometimes the activity appears to bear little relevance to any event that actually took place at the location in question.

In September of 1940, the German air-force, the Luftwaffe, began their bombing campaign against Great Britain.

Following the flattening of Coventry in November of the same year, the British government began the creation of what came to be known as ‘starfish’ sites. Consisting of a series of lights and controlled fires designed to simulate burning cities, the purpose of these sites was to confuse the Luftwaffe in to dropping their ordnance over the countryside and away from their intended targets.

One such site was at Hack Green in Cheshire.

After the war was over, Hack Green was modernised and upgraded to become part of the British government’s air defence infrastructure. A radar station was added, alongside a rather substantial concrete bunker, built half into the earth. The site was then used to provide air traffic control to military planes that crossed into civil airspace.

With the advent of the Cold War, the Home Office took control of Hack Green, designating the newly reinforced bunker as a ‘Regional Government Headquarters’, just one example of a network of sites that would allow the government to continue to operate in the aftermath of a nuclear strike on the UK.

In 1992, with the end of the Cold War, Hack Green stood empty for a couple of years, before a private concern took over the site and opened it to the public as a museum, housing a large collection of military memorabilia.

It is rumoured, as most buildings with such history are, to be haunted by the usual apparitions of noisy service-men and women.

But it is not the usual apparitions that concern us today.

In early 2011, a most unusual shade began to make itself known.

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15th February 2011

Richard ‘Dicky’ Cole is an elderly man, but surprisingly sprightly for his age. Since the death of his wife five years ago, he spends his days on the fields of Cheshire, sweeping the muddy earth with his trusty metal detector.

He joins me for a pint in the nearby Barrel & Tap, and after some small talk he shares his experience of a fortnight ago.

“My kids don’t like me being out there in all weathers. ‘You’ll catch your death’, they always say. But it’s my life now. It’s what I do.” 

“The only thing I’ve ever found out there was an old Roman coin. I gave it to the local museum. Like a prat. An honest prat, at least. I wish I’d kept it now. That’s why I do it. That’s why I go out there in all weathers. I’d like something to hang on to, a little piece of history.” 

“Do you think that sounds odd?”

I assure him I do not.

“Well, I’ve been out on those fields for some months now, and it’s a big ol’ space. I was getting to the last part, the bit nearest the bunker. I’d left that until the end. There’s a lot of crap around there. Litter and the like.”

“That’s when things got weird.”

How so?

“Well my detector is normally silent. It’ll only beep when I sweep it over something metallic. But that day… that day it was just making weird noises in my headphones. Like the sound of a respirator or someone breathing heavily. There was also this kind of… chattering, I guess it was, like a voice. Unintelligible. Like it was far away.”

“I listened to it for a bit. Then I just gave up. Thought I’d go and get some fish and chips. I’ve not been back. I don’t have time for that.”

“I’m putting it down to sodding Japanese engineering. I’d dread to think there’s another reason for those sounds, whatever they were.”

Mr Cole kindly lent me his metal detector for an afternoon. I was unable to recreate the sounds he heard that day.

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17th February 2011

Alexa Lewis is a musician local to Cheshire. Twelve days ago she was out on the fields near Hack Green with a friend, there to take some promotional photos for her newest release.

She invites me to her flat for a pot of tea, and, in measured tones that suggest a cynicism quite advanced for her age, she relates her experience.

“I was out near the bunker with Sebastian. He’s a lad I met at college. He’s doing photography, and he said he’d do my shoot as a favour, as he’d be getting some shots for his portfolio as well. Between me and you, I reckon he was just trying to get into my pants.”

“I had my guitar with me, and we’d taken a few pictures already. Sebastian suggested I sit on the fence and get some shots with the bunker behind me. Something about horizontal lines, or some other bullshit.”

“I’ll level with you, Dr Gotobed. I was getting a bit of sick of the whole charade by that point.” 

“Sebastian said to say ‘cheese’, so I gave him my best smile. I was pretty confident that would be the one. I was quite keen go home.” 

“I asked him ‘how was that?’”

“He took another photo, then looked down at his camera and frowned.”

“I went over to him to see what was wrong. He said there was some kind of artefact on the photo.”

“Now, I have no idea what he meant by that, but apparently it was some kind of ‘digital mistake’. He showed me the first picture on the screen of his camera, and there was this odd kind of yellow ‘blob’ on there, behind me.” 

“Then he scrolled to the second picture, and there was the yellow shape but bigger. It was definitely a person, dressed in some kind of, I don’t know, like a… a radiation suit? It had a black plate of glass over its face. And it was reaching out for me, just over my shoulder.”

“I remember a chill running down my spine when I saw it.”

“Sebastian held up his camera to the bunker again and took another photo. This time the figure in yellow was right in front of us. And it was tall.”

“But there was no-one else anywhere near us.” 

“That’s it, we were done. We jumped in Sebastian’s car and drove off. I’ve not heard from him since. Which is a shame. I’d like to see those photos again.”

“Not the creepy ones, though. Just the others.”

Ms Lewis gave me the contact details for Sebastian. As of today, my phone calls and emails have gone unanswered.

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19th February 2011

Natasha Barker is a teaching assistant from Hounslow. Ten nights ago, she and her significant other, one Clive Bono had booked an evening ‘ghost walk’ at the Hack Green bunker.

I meet Ms Barker in a small café in west London, where she orders tea and cake for both of us and explains, in admirably animated fashion, how she doesn’t believe in ghosts, but the so-called ‘ghost walk’ seemed like it might be a fun idea.

“Clive’s always up for trying new things. We both decided to stop drinking a few years ago, so we’re always on the lookout for fun stuff to do that are a little, you know, ‘wacky’.”

“There was a small group of us outside the bunker waiting for the guide. He showed up about ten minutes later and stood in front of the door. It was cold, and we were all wanting to get started.”

“The guide, though, he’s got other ideas. He’s just standing in the doorway giving us the history of the place. It was interesting, but it would’ve been nicer to have been inside, in the warm!”

“Whilst the guide is jabbering away, and Clive’s doing his best to make me giggle, there comes this knock on the door behind the guide. A really, really loud knock. Like ‘clank clank clank’.” 

She raps her knuckles hard on the table between us.

“The guide turned around, and the door behind him opened. Now that door was made of metal, and it looked heavy. Like, really heavy.”

“Next thing we know, this tall figure dressed in a yellow, kinda, haz-mat suit was there. I couldn’t make out a face, the glass plate in the helmet was too dark. And there was this breathing. It sounded like Darth Vader.”

“It moved towards us, out of the bunker. The group split, and this giant guy in yellow walked between us, still making that breathing sound, and then it just ‘disappeared’. One moment there, the next, gone.”

She clicks her fingers and waves her hands in the air.

“We thought it was all part of the tour, so we turned back to the guide and the whole group started clapping. Clive was going up to the guide to ask him how they managed to make it look so real.”

“But the guide fainted.”

“We later found out that it was nothing to do with the tour at all.”

“Like I said, Doctor Gotobed, I don’t believe in ghosts, but that? That was spooky.” 

I contacted the management at Hack Green, seeking an interview with the guide from that night. A cordial young man at the museum confirmed that the guide in question did indeed lose consciousness that night and was taken to hospital.

He has since moved away and is unwilling to speak with me.

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According to official records, no deaths ever occurred at Hack Green during its operational days. It is also interesting to note that the radiation suits stored at the site were (once again, according to official records), never used for anything more than emergency drills. Those suits were also not fitted with the type of respiratory equipment that would make the kind of wheezing noises that were heard by Mr Cole and Ms Barker.

So what is the nature of this soul which appears so keen to reach out to the living?

This is a question I am unable to answer. All I can do is monitor the site and hope it tries again.

There is, however, a curious aside to all of this.

During my research I contacted an acquaintance of mine at the Ministry of Defence. She passed a file to me which, whilst heavily redacted, details an experiment named ‘Project Sunlit Uplands’ that took place at Hack Green.

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From the little information I can glean from this censored report, it appears this project had parallels with the now discredited ‘Philadelphia Experiment’* of 1943.

The date ‘Sunlit Uplands’ took place? 1993, when Hack Green was apparently empty.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

more information on The Philadelphia Experiment can found on Wikipedia here, but beware, it’s a whole new level of batshit. I managed to disappear down this particular internet rabbit hole for a good few days, don’t blame me if you do the same! – C.R. 

He Who Has the Deer’s Antlers

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7th October 2015

Jemma Harding is an entertaining woman, with striking red hair and the enviable ability to spin an interesting tale out of the most mundane of events. She is a journalist, and twenty years ago she was the European correspondent for a major British broadsheet.

Several weeks ago a colleague of mine asked her to get in touch with me, to share an incident that occurred to her in 1996, in the South-West region of France.

We meet in a riverside wine bar in Stratford-upon-Avon, away from the seemingly endless throng of tourists.

It takes some coaxing and a glass or two of red wine to prise the following account from her.

“I was travelling down to Bayonne, to meet my family. It was my brother’s birthday and they have a little châteaux down there. I decided to drive there, rather than fly. I thought as I was going to be spending a lot of time with my siblings and their kids over the next few days, it might not be the best idea to travel with them. You know what families are like. I mean, I love them, but a whole week in each other’s pockets? No thanks.”

“I stopped over in Bordeaux to visit a friend before setting out on the final leg of my journey. I’d done this trip before, but I’d never travelled to Bayonne on this route, so most of it was new to me.”

“Eventually I found myself on this forest road, about two lanes wide, and I hadn’t seen another car for miles. There were trees everywhere, as far as I could see on either side, all these different greens. It was really quite stunning.”

“Then I came across something very odd.”

“There was a little car stopped in front, longways and kind of half off the road. It’s doors were open and there was luggage scattered across the dirt.”

“But that wasn’t the strangest thing.”

“I slowed down a little as I got closer, and I saw there was a couple, a man and a woman, laying in the road. They were both still and facing away from me.”

I ask what she did next.

“I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew that I should stop and see if they were okay, but there was something off about the whole thing. It just didn’t look right. Every fibre in my body was telling me to just get out of there.”

“I saw that if I went off the road a little I could get around them without hitting them.”

“I manoeuvred past them as best I could, with all these alarm bells ringing in my head, then they were behind me, and I picked up speed to get some distance between us.”

“I took a look in the rear-view mirror and the couple had got up, and about a dozen or so of these scruffy looking kids had emerged from the trees nearby. They were all glaring at me.”

“But in the middle of them, towering over them, was this massive cloaked figure. It must have been about eight foot tall, and it had this weird round mask on, and what looked like deer antlers on its head.”

“That was it. I slammed my foot down on the accelerator and I was out of there.”

“When I got to Bayonne I stopped at the local police station and told two officers what I’d witnessed.”

“They took notes and smirked, muttering something about ‘l’homme qui possède des bois de cerf’.

“My family didn’t like the idea of me driving all that way on my own anyway, so I didn’t tell them what I’d seen. In fact, I’ve never mentioned it to anyone except you, and the other woman.”

I asked Ms Harding if she could draw a picture of the cloaked figure, which I have attached to this file.

L’homme qui possède les bois de cerf’ roughly translates to ‘the man who has the deer’s antlers’.

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Ms Harding’s story does sound remarkably like a similar tale that did the rounds on the internet recently*, except that particular story takes place on a dirt road in the United States.

There is no mention of the masked man in the cloak.

Considering Ms Harding is a journalist, a respected one at that, along with the obvious distress she displayed whilst recounting her story and the reaction of the local constabulary to her plight, I believe her account has more than a whiff of credibility.

And yet, the fact one tale resembles the other so closely was enough to sow seeds of doubt in my mind.

I elected not to pursue this case further, and, I must admit, I let it slip from my thoughts.

Until recently.

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12th July 2016

A few weeks ago, a letter from one Mrs Edith Robinson was forwarded on to me. In this letter, written in a cramped scrawl, the frail octogenarian details her family’s flight from Paris in 1940, under the shadow of the Nazi invasion.

I will quote the pertinent part below:

‘I had been ill with pneumonia and sent to a centre just outside Bordeaux to recover. Eventually, my mother and father came to collect me, so we could catch a boat back to England. The little Citroen we had was absolutely crammed full of our belongings from the flat in Paris. I was amazed how much stuff they’d managed to fit in there.’

‘My father had gained a laissez pass that allowed us to travel about unhindered, but the Germans were closing in. When we got to Bordeaux we found we’d missed the boat, but we were informed there was another leaving from Bayonne the next day.’

‘On the way there, a storm struck, setting fire to the forest we were heading through. A burning tree fell in front of us. My father managed to swerve around it, but as he did I saw some children come out of the woods and head towards us. They were dirty from soot and smoke. My father just carried on going. I was going to shout at him to stop but I saw his eyes in the rear view mirror.’

‘He looked terrified.’

‘I turned around in the seat and managed to get a glimpse out of the back window, through the stacks of boxes.’

‘There was a man in the road behind us, flanked by children and lit up by the fire. A tall man, in a cloak, with an oval mask and antlers on his head, like a stag.’

‘That’s why my father didn’t stop.’

‘We never spoke of that night.’

Is it possible what Mrs Robinson witnessed that night was the same person as Ms Harding? I dug out the journalist’s sketch and included it with a letter, thanking Mrs Robinson for her correspondence and asking her if if the subject of the sketch was the same individual she saw that harrowing evening in Bayonne.

A few days later I received a reply. It contained the sketch and a simple note in Mrs Robinson’s cramped handwriting.

‘That’s the chap.’

Maybe there is more to this ‘man who has the deer’s antlers’ after all.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* I also recognised this story. I found it on here and Dr Gotobed is correct, apart from the location and the antlered figure, there are many similarities. To be honest, I don’t know quite what to make of this one – C.R. 

‘The Cannonball’

This is another one from Dr Gotobed’s journal, however there is not a lot of corroborating evidence for this particular entry. I will detail what little I could find at the bottom of this post – C.R. 

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11th April 1974

Jason Ladejo is a troubled child, his mother a hazy memory and his father an unemployable drunk. Short and undernourished, bullied at school, Jason would call himself a cliché, if he had any idea what the word meant.

He is eleven years old when one push too many results in something inside the young Jason snapping and he beats the living snot out of his two older and much bigger assailants. He finds himself in the Headmaster’s office, seated in an uncomfortable plastic chair, looking down at his bloodied knuckles as his feet swing inches above the floor.

He doesn’t feel bad for what has happened, and he is not concerned about the bollocking he is about to receive. The only thing he is focused on is the sensation of adrenalin that moments ago pumped through his blood, driving his muscles and lighting a fire in his belly the likes of which he has never felt before.

He will spend years chasing that same fire.

#

Seventeen now, and Jason is much bigger. Still not tall, but strong. And quick. He has been training to box for the last six years, and he has a right hand like no other. His father is long gone, and the young Jason lives at the gym, cleaning the place in exchange for board. His coach, the man who has so kindly taken him in, can only predict great things for the lad, so much so that he affectionately names him ‘The Cannonball’. As he prepares for his first professional fight, Jason acts like he doesn’t care about his new moniker.

But he does.

He beams with pride when no one is around.

Inside, the fire burns low, biding its time, patient.

#

Five years later, Jason ‘Cannonball’ Ladejo is fighting for a shot at the title of middleweight champion of Great Britain. It is round five, and despite a spirited display, he has lost the crowd and been on the back foot since the second. His opponent is a tall fellow, cocky, with arms like tree trunks and a face only a mother could love.

A blow to the stomach doubles Jason over as two dozen cameras wink in the middle distance, capturing the moment. A glance to his left and Jason sees his coach grimace, the old man feeling the blow too. The cheer of the spectators baying for blood becomes a low thrum in Jason’s ears, tangling with the thud of his heartbeat and booming through his head.

And then it’s there.

The fire.

Jason hasn’t felt it in a while, but he recognises it, embraces it.

Before him, through a haze of spotlights, he sees his opponent playing to the crowd, one arm above his head and the other theatrically winding up a giant right hook.

The fire courses its way through Jason’s blood.

His adversary pulls the trigger and the punch is unleashed.

But it doesn’t matter.

The Cannonball is quicker.

Jason’s fist drives skywards, a perfect uppercut that connects with the other man’s chin, snapping his head back and almost lifting his feet from the canvas. The fire burns bright as Ladejo lines up another blow, but his opponent falls backwards, out for the count.

The crowd roars its approval as stars twinkle inside the arena.

Afterwards, there is a television camera and a microphone thrust into Jason’s face, an interview, slaps on the back and handshakes that fade from memory almost as soon as they are done. Talks of the next bout. In London. Something to do with being the mandatory challenger for the title.

The fire inside begins to dwindle once more.

#

There are more fights over the next few years, although none as tough as that last one in which the fire burned. He is ‘Cannonball Jay’ now, and even though he loses his shot at the title on a technicality, he wins all the others, and all without feeling the flame inside.

The old man who coached him is gone, replaced by a newer, younger version, a man whose head is filled with statistics and hypothetical scenarios.

As Jay becomes more successful, the training gets harder, but the nights get longer too. There are evenings out with new friends that start one day and finish several later. There is booze, white powder and women, all of which his ‘new friends’ source for him. A trip to Las Vegas ends with a split points decision in his favour, another shot at a challenge for the title, a two page spread in Ringside magazine, a lost weekend and a four day hangover. There is a girlfriend, a leggy model who drapes herself over souped-up cars for the titillation of spotty teenagers impressed by such things.

Jay’s new friends multiply, so too does their ‘generosity’.

As they do, the fire inside dwindles, the embers close to consuming themselves.

#

Jason Ladejo is nearly thirty years old now, living alone in a tiny flat on the outskirts of Sheffield city centre. The international travel, the title fights, the ‘new friends’, the booze and the white powder, all long gone. The leggy model is gone too, saying she is too young for a has-been and pretty enough to land herself a gonna-be. Jason has become a journeyman. Fighting for cash, he loses more than he wins; a cautionary tale to younger competitors, how to fuck it all up when you have everything you ever wanted and more. He now knows the word ‘cliché’, and he is aware that it applies to him.

He runs ten miles every morning and spends two hours hitting a punch-bag every night, telling himself it’s to keep in shape, but he knows really that he is looking for the fire. He fears it is long gone, that he will never experience it again, but still he pounds the streets every morning at dawn and thumps the bag at dusk.

There is a phone call from a promoter, a decent one, not the crooks and shysters he normally deals with these days. It transpires there is a new kid on the block, a rising star, much like Jason nearly a decade or so ago. The scheduled opponent has bailed, a fractured wrist, and ‘how would ‘The Cannonball’ like to step in?’

The purse is big, not as big as the glory days, but it rises with every round the fight goes on. Jason accepts, telling himself it’s just for the money.

It’s the first time in a long time that anyone has called him ‘The Cannonball’.

Inside his stomach, a tiny spark flares in the dark.

#

Round six, and Jason is taking a pounding. His opponent is some kid called the ‘Steel Something-Or-Other’, and he’s good, very good. The crowd is cheering every jab, every cross and hook that lands on Jason’s face and ribs. The taste of his own blood fills his mouth, and the flesh over and around one eye is swelling up, forcing it closed.

Nobody is cheering for him.

Another blow smashes across his chin and Jason stumbles and falls, his cheek hitting the floor, the smell of sweat and the canvas flooding his nostrils.

Cameras flash in the crowd. Voices roar as the referee stands over him, shouting the count.

Just lay back, says a voice in Jason’s mind. You’ve earned your money. It’s over.

The kid with the name Jason can’t quite remember is waving victoriously to the crowd.

Lay back and wait for the count.

The lights above the ring swim across his vision.

The referee reaches five.

Nearly there.

Six.

A feeling that Jason has not felt for a long time grows in his stomach. It courses through his  limbs and pulls him back to his feet as the referee reaches eight.

The kid looks surprised, but his guard is up quickly and he comes at Jason, confidence written all over his face, smelling an easy victory and a glorious knock out. He leads with a jab, hitting Jason’s forearms but setting up a one-two.

It doesn’t matter. The fire is lit.

Before the kid unleashes the second punch, Jason takes a step forward, sets his feet and slams his fist into his opponent’s face like a jackhammer. The kid’s nose erupts in a spray of red and his guard collapses, his hands falling uselessly to his sides as he stumbles backwards.

The fire inside Jason burns bright now, ablaze inside him. He moves forwards and lets loose another blow, a looping left handed bomb that explodes where what’s left of the kid’s nose used to be. The space in the ring is running out and the kid stumbles back against the ropes, his eyes open but fixed on a point only he can see.

Over the din of the crowd, Jason is aware of the sound of a bell ringing frantically somewhere in the distance. But the fire is an inferno now, drowning out all sound as he unleashes another monster right hook.

The punch that gave him his name.

The Cannonball.

It connects cleanly and Jason is aware of something in Steel Something-Or-Other’s neck snapping.

The kid drops like a stone. The crowd falls with him, into a hushed silence. Doctors and paramedics swarm into the ring as the fire burning bright inside Jason once more begins to fade.

It takes a moment for reality to sink in.

The kid is dead.

#

Jason heads home and drinks himself in to a stupor. He wakes the next afternoon on the sofa, a raging hangover having made acquaintance with the bruises on his face and body. Nearby, the light of an answering machine silently blinks, its tape holding thirty or so messages. He chases away two journalists from his door before sitting and waiting for the results of the enquiry as to how he was allowed to take another’s life in the name of sport. Several large bottles of vodka whisper sweet nothings as they keep him company.

And there is something else. A weight on his shoulders, so heavy it forces him into a contorted stoop.

#

Six months of visits to doctors, specialists and physiotherapists results only in baffled faces and endless prescriptions for painkillers. And still the weight grows heavier, the stoop more pronounced.

As a last resort, and on the recommendation of a drunken acquaintance, he visits a local so-called psychic. An old woman of gypsy stock, she tells Jason that the shade of the dead man from that fateful night sits upon his shoulders. It is the weight of this man’s life, all his potential, his unfulfilled hopes and dreams that were extinguished in the ring, that is responsible for compressing Jason’s once mighty frame.

He initially scoffs at this old woman with her crackpot ideas, but that night, Jason wakes and goes into the bathroom. Turning on the light, he sees the shape of his broken foe sitting astride his shoulders, his battered and bruised head lolling at an unnatural angle.

From that point on, this is all Jason sees whenever he looks in the mirror.

#

Three weeks later, Jason is dead, his life ended by a large amount of painkillers washed down with copious amounts of vodka.

A doctor rules the death an overdose. But there is one fact that troubles this man of medicine:

The lifeless body of Jason ‘Cannonball’ Ladejo, once contender for the title of British Middleweight Champion, ‘weighs the same as two men his size‘.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Boxing2

The only evidence with this particular entry is a torn out page from the May 1987 edition of ‘Ringside’ magazine. It is one half of the interview mentioned above. While there is no Wikipedia entry for Jason Ladejo (which in itself is not entirely damning), I did find an article in a local Sheffield newspaper about a young man named Bobby ‘Steel Hands’ Sheppard who died in the ring at the hands of an unknown opponent in 1992. I will continue to look into this, time permitting – C.R. 

On the Possible Mechanism of Poltergeist Activity

This is an excerpt from a much larger file. Sadly, a dozen or so of the pages are water damaged beyond repair and only the following section remains legible – C.R. 

Mechanism1

A key part of the varied palette of recorded phenomena associated with poltergeist activity is the manipulation of solid matter: a much-loved trinket disappearing, only to re-emerge sometime later in a place that had previously been searched thoroughly, a shower of stones apparently falling from the ceiling, a toy building brick thrown through the air by ostensibly invisible hands, mugs and other kitchenware traversing the surface of a table under their own steam.

I could go on.

Here I would like to propose a theory as to the possible mechanism of these phenomena.

First, a thought experiment.

Alan1

This cheerful fellow is Alan. Imagine, if you will, that Alan is a living person, like you and I, except for one crucial difference; Alan exists on this piece of paper in two dimensions, and two dimensions only. He perceives the world in terms of length and width, but he has no concept of height.

If we hover a finger over to the paper, a little to his left, he has no knowledge of it. If we place that finger down, he perceives a flesh-coloured line next to him.

Alan2

If we draw an unbroken line next to him, Alan cannot cross this line. He has no way to ‘step over’ it, so to speak.

Alan3

By drawing further lines around Alan, we can trap him in a square. His only way out is if we are kind enough to erase a segment of one line and create a door for him to come and go. So Alan is free to carry on with his two-dimensional life as he pleases.

And now we can really start to mess with his world.

Alan4

If we were to take an object, in this case a coin, and place it outside the door, Alan can see it. But if we pick up the coin and place it inside his small room, all Alan can see (remembering that he can only perceive in two dimensions) is the coin disappearing and then reappearing next to him.

If we were to take the coin off the paper and place it in our pocket, as far as Alan knows, that coin has vanished forever.

If we were to blow across Alan, slightly from above, he would see not our pursed lips, but only feel a breeze brush by him in the horizontal plane.

Now, let us extrapolate Alan’s world into three dimensions, bringing his reality into line with our own. What if there were beings that exist ‘above’ Alan and ourselves in a hypothetical fourth dimension? Following our little experiment through to its logical conclusion, would it not be possible for said beings to ‘pick up’ objects from our limited reality and place them in another location, all unperceived by ourselves? And what other little tricks could they play upon us, toying with us in the same way we have been toying with Alan, poking at our reality with hypothetical fingers.

But what purpose would this serve?

SymbolMechanism

I would like to propose another thought experiment. Consider, if you will, a colony of ants living by the side of a footpath. The various member of the colony all have their jobs, and for the most part will go about their business, unconcerned with and untroubled by the lives of the people that stroll by them every day.

But what if one afternoon a small child bends down and prods the ants with a stick? What would these tiny creatures make of such an occurrence? How would such an event fit into their frame of reference?

I am aware of the limitations of this comparison. Ants are not humans; our motivations, our fears and desires, even our very existence, to us appears considerably more complex. But what if there are things outside of our frame of reference, things that are as different from us as we are from insects?

Indeed, prod a line of ants with a stick and they will do their best to minimise the disruption and carry on with their business.

In my experience, most people, when confronted by something far out of their range of comprehension, tend to do the same.

 

From what I can gather, the next section goes on to detail the good doctor’s ideas as to why teenagers are more susceptible to being harassed by poltergeist phenomenon, and that’s about all I can glean from the ruined pages. It’s a real shame that more of this file hasn’t survived – C.R.

The Old Man and the Dark House

Dark House 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

SneintonMap

6th June 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I buy us another round and ask her to elaborate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’d pissed himself.”

I ask what happened next.

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

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

 Symbol Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Shields.

Rampton

1st September 2014

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

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

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

He also has no eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the old man came in.

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

And that was it.

From that point on, we were fucked.

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

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

DrG: What did you believe he was thinking?

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

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

So we came up with a plan. 

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

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

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

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

Tommy told us to stop being pussies.

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

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

DrG: I’m sorry, he was younger?

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

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

We were fucked. 

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

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

I can still see them now. 

It’s all I can see. 

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

His eyeballs had been gouged from their sockets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nelson 1

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

Indeed, he may still be.

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

cospatrick

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

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

The identity of this sole survivor?

A young British sailor by the name of Nathaniel Defoe.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

 

 

‘What News of Blackburn Rovers?’

Cat2

The following is an old British folk-tale, the earliest written account of which can be found in the short novel Beware the Cat written by one Gulielmus Baldwin in early 1553. The version I recount was told to me by my grandmother, when I was but a very small boy.

‘One dark but temperate evening, a weary traveller named Paul eventually arrived at his homestead in Aldwick. Hanging up his hat and greatcoat and removing his boots, the exhausted man took his seat by the fireplace.

“Why, whatever has happened?” asked his wife, who’d been awaiting his return for some time. “You’re the colour of death.”

“It was the queerest thing, dearest. I was on my way home when I heard a shrill voice a-calling?”

“A voice?”

“Yes. I looked around and there was naught but a cat coming towards me?”  

“A cat?”

“Yes, just like ol’ Jon-boy here.”

Jon-boy awoke from his slumber by the fire and raised an eyebrow at the mention of his name.

“Then to whom did the voice belong?” enquired Paul’s wife.

“It belonged to the cat. It told me to tell Johnathan of Aldwick that Arthur of York has passed away. But I don’t know of any ‘Jonathan of Aldwick’, do you?”

At that news, the previously languid Jon-boy leapt in the air and declared, in a shrill voice, “Arthur is dead! Then I am the King of the Cats!”

And with that ol’ Jon boy shot under the door and was never seen again.’ 

Coffe&Paper

Tales of talking animals abound throughout the myths and legends of all cultures, but if you were to speak to an individual now who claimed to have conversed with a cat, you would be well within your rights to question that person’s sanity.

I have met such a person.

In May of 1995 I found myself in the Spanish coastal town  of Valencia. I had been sent to investigate local accounts of a satanic cult active in this area. When this turned out to be nothing more than a group of local teenagers dressing in black and listening to some very silly music in a cave upon the beach, I decided to find a cafeteria in which to sit and write up my report.

I ordered a coffee and was soon joined by a young gentleman who, noting that I spoke English, seated himself at my table. We got to chatting and it transpired that this fellow was also an Englishman, a professional footballer no less, who had been sent here by his club to recover from an injury in the warmer Mediterranean climes.

This footballer became rather animated when the conversation turned to my work, and he recounted to me a rather strange event that had happened to him about a week previous, at another cafeteria in a small village a little further up the coast.

These are his words:

“I’d sat down for a cup of tea and some breakfast. I went there ‘coz they actually had proper British tea. Hard to find on the continent, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

“I’d got a hold of a copy of the Daily Mirror from the day before and was reading up on the football scores on the back pages. I might be out of the game for a bit but I like to keep up with the results, as you do.”

“Anyway, I’m sat there with the paper and this little black cat starts rubbing itself up against my legs. I’m more of a dog person myself, but he seemed happy, purring away, so I let him get on with it.”

“After he’d been doing this for a bit I thought I’d give him a little rub behind the ears. I bent down to stroke him, and this cat looks at me, and I’m not fucking kidding, he says to me ‘what news of Blackburn Rovers?’”

“I was absolutely dumbstruck.”

“He asked again, ‘what news of Blackburn Rovers?’”

“I guess I was too taken aback and I didn’t want to appear rude, so I told him that Rovers had lost by a goal to Liverpool yet had still won the Championship. With that, the cat smiled  and sauntered off, leaving me there with my jaw swinging like a barn door in a breeze.”

“The owner came out with another cup of tea for me, and she must’ve seen the look on my face. I told her what had just happened and she replies with ‘not to worry, that’s just Alfonso. He likes to keep up with the  fútbol’.

“Apparently he asked a French kid a month before how Saint-Étienne were getting on in Ligue One!” 

Cat1

The footballer asked me not to reveal his name*, no doubt for fear of ridicule on his return to England. He did tell me the location of the cafeteria in question, however when I arrived there an hour or so later the place was closed for the siesta.

Unfortunately I had a plane to catch and could not linger, but I do intend to return when the opportunity presents itself.

How I would relish the chance to meet Alfonso and discuss the merits of playing two up-front with this eloquent feline.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

* I would love it, absolutely love it if I could find out the name of this footballer! Does anyone have any ideas? – C.R.