‘Strange Effects’ out in the Desert

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

In June of 1940, she disappeared without trace.

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

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

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

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

16th June 1940

Situation:

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

#

       19th June 1940

Situation:

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

#

 Command:

[22.20]   REQUEST DENIED.

#

20th June 1940

Intelligence:

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

Situation:

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

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

#

 22nd June 1940

Situation:

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

#

 Command:

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

#

1st July 1940

Situation:

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

 #

 

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

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

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

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4th February 1996

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

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

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

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

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

“Well even the CO couldn’t ignore that.

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

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

Mr Hayes continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Hayes opens a third beer.

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

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

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

He smiles and winks at me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

There was a post-it note with the words ‘Nathaniel Defoe??’ written on it attached to this file – C.R.

A Message from Persephone

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

My Dearest Thomas,

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

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

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

Can you imagine what you might know tomorrow!!

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

Persephone xxx

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

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

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

Thoughts on Place Memory and Residual Hauntings

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

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

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

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

From the York Echo, dated 25th October 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

I believe there is a very simple explanation for this.

None of it can be replicated under these conditions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

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

The Lightning Bird and the Moonfire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1st December 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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But Jessica’s sleepwalking continued.

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

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

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

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Dr Kahn continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How wrong I was.”

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

No storm was recorded in the area that night.

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

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

No trace of Jessica Drummond was ever found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

Perhaps señor Miro was inspired by a similar encounter.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

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

‘Little Tricks’ Beneath the Old Angel

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

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

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

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9th April 2015

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

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

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

I ask her to start from the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And I love a challenge.” 

He smiles widely.

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

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

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

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

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

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Ms Smith continues:

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

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

“She was perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AngelUpstairs3

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

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

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

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

RC: I’m scared. Do you feel that?

CS: Feel what?

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

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

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

[the sound of wind blowing across the microphone]

[several clicks]

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

[more clicking]

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

[the sound of stone scraping against stone]

[a third voice, female, moaning] 

[rapid clicking]

CS: Please remain seated, Mrs Carr.

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

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

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

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

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

[several screams, followed by three minutes of static] 

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

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

AngelCaves1

Mr Wang picks up the story:

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

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

AngelCaves2

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

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

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

A large split can still be seen in that stone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

AngelCaves3

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

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

A Figure on Hack Green

HazMatSuit1

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.

MapHG1

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.

Trees1

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.

Field2

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.

Bunker1

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.

Papers1

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

Antlers2

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’.

Antlers1

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.

FranceMap

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.