Thursday, 31 December 2009
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Ghostbusters, of course, the blockbusting movie from 1984 which is uncannily accurate in every way and serves as a visual representation of the serious art of seeking out spooks. (Or at least how we want it to be rather than the sad reality.)
If you’ve seen it as many times as I have (I’ve also watched the commentary, deleted scenes, trailers and bonus documentaries), you’ll know that the film’s first glimpse of the supernatural happens in the basement of the New York Public Library.
The librarian on duty down there is attacked from all sides by hundreds of flying index cards. And our intrepid heroes are confronted with a tall uneven stack of books which has no earthly explanation (other than the merest possibility that a bored member of staff might have just stacked them there for a laugh).
Naturally, then, you can understand my delight when I heard from Mike that we’d been granted a guided tour of Sheffield Central Library’s basement (known as ‘the stacks’). He’d heard that some of the staff had seen strange things down there, so he’d got in touch and they’d kindly invited us along to have a gander.
I got there early on the day in question, so I drooled over the wares on offer in the DVD/CD lending room, then hovered round the graphic novels section, browsing my favourite titles.
A lady on staff came up to me and asked: ‘Can I help you, sir?’
‘No, ta,’ I thanked her and smiled. ‘Just looking.’
Come the time of our appointment, I trundled back to the foyer and found the very same lady standing there with her colleague. They were looking down at their watches, looking up at the library’s entrance, looking down at their watches again, and so on, as if they were expecting to see someone.
‘Excuse me,’ I said. ‘Are you waiting for the ghost blog people?’
The lady smiled and shook my hand.
‘I knew it was you!’ she announced.
I’m still not sure what it was about me that gave the game away. My jacket? My hairstyle? My general demeanour? I’m now paranoid that whenever I’m out and about, children and grown-ups alike are laughing and pointing at me, whispering: ‘Hey, look. That man over there. He’s a ghost-hunter. It’s obvious!’
The lady in question was Eunice Heathcote, who’d worked at Sheffield Central Library for ten years, and in her time (in common with many of the staff there) she’d spotted a number of ghostly figures roaming around the premises.
Eunice was delightful as she chatted away, and so was her colleague, Linda Greenwood. Linda had been at the library for a year and hadn’t had the same experiences as Eunice, so she was just as fascinated by Eunice’s tales as I was.
A few minutes into our chat, Mike burst through the library doors.
‘Sorry I’m late!’ he yelled.
He was hot, flustered and sweaty. Parking had been nigh on impossible in town that morning. Spaces were like gold dust, but as soon as he’d found one he’d parked his car there and raced on over to us as fast as he could.
Shaking hands with Eunice and Linda, wheezing, panting and wiping his brow, we were escorted to our first port of call: the staff women’s toilets. (The places that self-respecting ghost-hunters have to check out in order to do their research…)
Turns out that Eunice had been in there one day when she spotted a lady standing in one of the cubicles, as solid as you or I. She definitely wasn’t a member of staff, and she was garbed in vivid, bright-coloured period dress (was it Victorian?). Eunice had turned to the sink for an instant, then turned back quickly and the lady had gone! There was no way she could have left the cubicle and sneaked out the door in the half second or less that Eunice had turned away.
Brilliant story, but I don’t know what unsettled me more. Eunice’s unusual tale, or the fact that Mike and I were standing right in the middle of the women’s loos, scared that we’d be caught at any moment!
The second port of call was the basement itself: ‘the stacks’.
As we entered, Eunice reassured us: ‘Don’t worry. You won’t get attacked by flying cards or books!’ (So she’d seen Ghostbusters as well. Excellent!)
For a book lover like me, ‘the stacks’ was pure heaven. Rows upon rows of shelves piled high with books and other publications as far as the eye could see. I could quite happily have spent days in there.
There were lots of dark corners and narrow shadowy corridors for ghosts to hide in. Except they didn’t hide. Staff would often see people down here, again in period dress. And it seemed that these people (ghosts?) could also see the staff, speaking to them and gesturing.
Eunice had once seen an amorphous dark mass down here. She hadn’t been scared by the period figures, some of whom walked up and down the staircase, but this eerie black shape had given her a deep sense of uneasiness.
I shared this sense of uneasiness each time I heard a bang or a clatter or a door slam down here. The sound effects in question would invariably be followed by a member of staff walking past, pushing a trolley or going about their everyday business.
But my overactive imagination would always assume it was something more sinister and spooky. The others just laughed at my jumpiness. Thanks, guys (and gals…)!
Finally, we chatted to a lady at the main desk upstairs. She told us that once, in the main library area, she’d heard her name called out. She looked round, but no one was there. Then she could smell flowers really strongly, but again there were no flowers around to be giving off the scent. (Mike has a theory about this. More about that in his follow-up blog entry coming soon.)
Eunice’s parting thought to us as we headed for the door was: ‘These people haven’t just been spotted in the basement. Staff see them in the library as well, in the daytime, as clear as you can see me and Linda right now.’
It occurred to me that all of Mike’s and my ghost-hunting excursions have taken place at night. But Eunice believes that ghosts can appear at any time. We only notice them at night because we’re not expecting to see anyone, but if they occur in the daytime we might walk straight past them, thinking they’re just ordinary folks like you or I.
As Mike and I emerged onto the midday street, encouraged and challenged by our visit to the library and grateful for the warm hospitality of our hosts, I couldn’t help looking at the crowds of people hustling and bustling down Surrey Street. I wondered how many of them might be daytime ghosts, and how would I be able to tell?
‘Great stuff,’ said Mike of our morning tour. ‘We’ll have to pay a return visit soon.’ I hope so. I’m looking forward to it!
And return we shall. But in the meantime, Mike has been doing some research. Lots of it. With some very interesting findings. But that (as clichéd endings go) is another story…
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Mike had also read recently that a motorcyclist, who used the bypass to get to work each day, had problems each time he approached it. Turns out his engine would cut out and only return to full working order once he’d walked his faultering vehicle the full length of the bypass.
If this happened to him every time, it kind of makes you wonder why he didn’t choose another route. (Or maybe he was persistently late for work, and this was the only excuse he could think of. In the words of Michael Jackson: ‘Don’t blame it on the sunshine. Don’t blame it on the moonlight. Don’t blame it on the good times. Blame it on the paranormal goings-on at Stocksbridge bypass that affect the inner workings of my motorbike.’ Or something.)
When you consider both of the above stories – along with the sad fact that the only remotely spooky thing that’s happened to us since we started this blog is Mike’s mileometer packing in as we headed for the bypass in question – can you blame us for deciding that a return trip to Stocksbridge was in order?
If something had happened every single day to this motorcyclist, then the odds were in our favour for a genuine happening on our journey. And, amazingly, we could finally have something worth writing about!
So, with our hopes high, our tank full, and bags of liquorice allsorts in our pockets for sustenance on the way, we set off up the M1 for Stocksbridge. We were gonna catch ourselves a mad monk from the otherworld!
I wish I could say our optimism was rewarded on that fateless night.
I wish I could report back with spine-tingling tales of a mysterious transparent figure roaming the roads and interfering with our innards (the innards of our car, that is).
I wish that the most dramatic thing that happened that evening was slightly more interesting than me losing a pink liquorice allsort (one of my favourites) down the back of Mike’s car seat.
We tried our best, really we did. We must have driven up and down that bypass at least half a dozen times, our eyes darting left, right, and all directions in between for the slightest sign of strange goings-on in bushes, over fences, behind trees ... or anywhere!
But strange goings-on there were none.
Sadly, the only sighting that was vaguely unusual was a lorry parked in a layby, with the word Symphony cryptically painted on its side in large red letters. Was there a full orchestra in there, being carted about from symphony hall to opera house like a stable of horses being ferried about in the back of a van?
Eventually, our curiosity got the better of us, and because there was clearly nowt else to be seen on the road, we pulled up slowly behind the lorry. As we read the writing on the back doors, it all became clear. Turns out Symphony is a company that manufactures mattresses, and the lorry was most likely full of them.
So, unless our ghost-monk was having a secret kip on one of them before his next scheduled stint at terrorising Sheffield motorists, that was probably ‘it’ as far as our ghost-hunting attempts went that evening.
Mike turned his engine off so that we could have a breather from driving backwards and forwards. It was hard work not seeing any ghosts on the highways and byways of Sheffield … and the fact that mattresses were in our immediate vicinity must have sent a subliminal message to our brains that we were tired.
So, with nothing else to do, we chatted in the dark for a while, and Mike regaled me with a repeat telling of his gardener, Chuck C’s story of the phantom visitor in that poor woman’s car. I was thrilled and intrigued by this, until I turned my head and saw a sinister silhouette in the dark behind Mike.
‘M-M-M-M-Mike,’ I stuttered. ‘I hate to tell you this, but … behind you. It’s…’
I stopped in mid-sentence when my intelligence kicked in, correctly telling me that all I was seeing was the head rest sticking up on the back of Mike’s seat. Amazing what a teensy bit of darkness, plus a truly spooky story, can do to one’s powers of suggestibility and imagination. In such conditions, a head rest from Halford’s can so easily be perceived as a deranged dead monk with the ability to sabotage complex 21st century automotive systems. I consoled myself with the fact that this was a simple mistake that anyone could have made ... wasn’t it?
Mike and I decided there and then that we needed to change our strategy. We were clearly getting nowhere. So, instead of looking for ghosts ourselves, maybe we should shift our efforts to seeking out and interviewing people who’ve regularly seen the very things that elude our grasp.
Which is precisely what we did! Please don’t miss our next exciting blog post in which we tell you in great gory detail what happened to us in the basement (not to mention the women’s toilets) of Sheffield Central Library.
Plus my intriguing encounter in the library’s graphic novels section.
Monday, 21 December 2009
Friday, 18 December 2009
Or is it that he's trying to provoke the spirits of Christmas past, present and future, so that we might actually see a ghost or two before the year's end? We are supposed to be ghost-hunters after all, and we still haven't seen one of the bloomin' things...
Friday, 11 December 2009
Inspired by this (and since the Stocksbridge bypass was our very first foray into this ghost-hunting lark back in May), we decided to take a trip down memory lane and revisit this infamous location to see if we had any further luck in finding our elusive spectral monk.
Watch out for the account of what we discovered (or maybe didn't discover!) in a few days' time.
While you're waiting, you could check us out in Sheffield's excellent exposed magazine, which shifts 35,000 copies each month. It's available free at all good pubs, clubs and shops in the Sheffield and Doncaster area, and you'll find us on page 12 in the festive December issue.
Or you could listen to the latest Paul and Spike show, a bumper two-hour edition! This is our third appearance on the programme, and (amongst other things) there's a teaser for our upcoming Stocksbridge bypass story, as well as all the gory details of Mike's recent encounter with his boiler man.
What's the significance of the bright blue bucket in the picture above? Not telling! You'll just have to download this brilliant show from the link below in order to find out. (Believe me, it's stonking!)
The Paul And Spike Show, episode #136: Friday December 11th, 2009.
Click here to download the show mp3.
Click here to subscribe to the Paul And Spike Show, using iTunes or any feedreader.
Furthermore, bookmark PaulAndSpike.com, mmkay?
I'm pleased to say that this is no less!
Before we get into this story of an eerie encounter that will send a chill down your spine, it's important to mention the kind of guy Chuck C happens to be. First of all, by profession he's a gardener, and not just a very good gardener, he happens to be my gardener!
Commercial break (at this point, please hum the type of background music you'd hear on a TV ad).
‘Living in the Sheffield or South Yorkshire area? Require a good and professional gardener that you can rely on? Contact email@example.com and we'll gladly pass on your details!’
(You can now stop humming!)
In order to set the scene, we must return to one of the very first imputed haunted sites that Two Men and a Ghost checked out. (Er, you really can stop humming now!) The A616 Stocksbridge bypass of Sheffield was opened back in 1988 at a cost of £18 million. At seven miles long, it was mainly built in order to divert heavy traffic away from the centre of Stocksbridge, running from Underbank to meet up with the M1 motorway.
Its official opening date: Friday, 13th May.
Whilst over the past number of years, an unusual amount of accidents have taken place, there has been one factor that has continued to haunt the bypass: the sudden appearance of a ghostly monk.
Okay, so we've set the scene. Grab your cuppa tea and read on...
It is during the late hours that we find Chuck C driving along the aforementioned bypass. It had been a long hard day for the gardener, and the only important thing on his mind now is to return home to his family. Because of the lateness of the hour, the road is quiet, all but for the car he can now see in the distance. Nothing appears out of the ordinary. It seems like just another lonely driver on an equally lonely stretch of road, both drivers looking forward to its end.
But for Chuck C, it all became the beginning rather than the end: the beginning of a strange and haunting experience. He noticed that, suddenly, the other vehicle began to move in an erratic manner, swinging from one side of the lane to the next, like a metal creature anxious to shake something off its metallic hide.
Whilst getting close, but not daring to get too close for fear of getting hit, it was all too clear that the driver was somewhat stressed. Chuck C managed to safely overtake the troubled vehicle, gaining his position in front of it.
It was at this point that the car flashed its headlights, indicating that it was about to pull over and come to a stop. Following its lead, Chuck C stopped his own van, getting out. He began to walk towards the car, because he would always go out of his way to help someone. But he wasn't prepared for what awaited him.
Upon approaching the car, he could see that the darkened image of the driver had become that of a young woman. Judging by her expression, she was clearly very upset. Lowering the window, she gazed at him tearfully. Could this have been someone in the aftermath of a terrible row, now regretting its outcome, or was it something much more?
Still crying, she asked: ‘Didn't you see him? He was sitting right next to me.’
Chuck C turned his attention to the passenger seat, hoping to see who exactly she was talking about. But it was empty.
The poor woman continued to ask the question, but added a few facts. Whilst driving along, she became aware that the car had become incredibly cold. She started to realise that she was no longer alone in the car: seated next to her was the dark figure of a monk, dressed in robes that were old.
The hooded figure remained silent. It was fully understandable that out of blind fear, anyone would have reacted in the manner that she did.
The monk was now thankfully gone, and the moment had passed. Feeling more calm, she continued on her journey whilst Chuck C drove slowly behind her, keeping a watchful eye on the car. The vehicles parted company upon reaching the nearby lit urban area.
I can vouch that the gardener is a really down to earth kind of guy, but he could clearly see that during that evening something had happened to be added to the ever frequent stories of the haunted bypass.
Having heard the story, it yet again provoked more questions that cannot be answered:
- Could this be the ghost of a runaway monk who had died there but had sadly been buried in unhallowed ground?
- Has his grave been disturbed because of the construction of the bypass?
- How does he know that a passing car has one person in instead of four, so that there’s room for him to sit?
- Has he ever tried to get on the back of a speeding motorbike?
Questions ... questions...
(You can start humming again now if you like!)
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
We sneaked into some woods at night to seek out a bench where (it was claimed) the ghost of an old lady had been spotted doing some knitting. We couldn’t find the bench anywhere, I slipped in some freezing cold mud, and we soon emerged out the other side onto a road. Turned out we’d gone to the wrong woods, and the correct woods were just across the street.
READ ON, McDUFF…
We were cold, wet, miserable and dejected – especially me with mud splattered all over my jeans and coat – but we’d come this far and I wasn’t going to turn back now. We crossed the road and plunged headfirst into this second set of woods, and we soon found a path that led up to a quaint old cottage surrounded by trees.
‘Nice cottage!’ said Mike. ‘Wonder if anyone’s in?’
To illustrate his statement, he shone his torch into the front window.
To our horror, the light came on in the front room. We’d thought that no one was inside, but obviously we were wrong.
Had the occupants been startled by Mike’s torch and quickly flicked on a lamp to phone the police about intruders?
Quaking, we hid behind one of the trees.
As luck would have it, as I turned in the dark I bashed my knee on the side of a bench. Doesn’t sound lucky at all, does it? Not until you realise that it was the exact same bench we’d been looking for all evening.
‘It’s here, Mike,’ I whispered.
‘What is?’ said Mike.
‘The bench,’ I announced. ‘It fits the description. It’s got four legs, you can sit on it, and it looks like a bench.’
‘That must be it, then,’ agreed Mike. ‘A bench that looks like a bench. Success!’
Not quite. We’d located our bench all right, but we hadn’t found our ghost.
If this blog was called ‘Two Men and a Bench’ we’d be laughing. Result!
But we weren’t after a bench, were we? We were after the ghost that sat on it, merrily knitting mittens or woollen tea cosies or the like.
Anyway, there were two reasons we sat on that bench in silence for twenty minutes.
One was to wait for a ghostly manifestation. (No such manifestation appeared.)
The second was ‘cause Mike was worried that if we moved back into sight of the cottage, we might give the occupants a heart attack. It was nearly midnight after all, so what would they make of two grown men roaming around the equivalent of their front garden, one with a ghost-hunting fedora on his bonce and the other caked in mud from head to trainers?
But we had to make a dash for it at some point, and me needing a pee was the deciding factor in our sudden lurch for freedom.
‘Here goes!’ we said and we raced back past the cottage like the cast of Blackadder going over the top of the trench in that infamous final episode.
It didn’t help that we could hear a police helicopter overhead. Or rather it did – it made us race all the faster!
Minutes later we arrived at our starting point, with just a short walk up the road to Mike’s parked car. But I was aching from my fall, wheezing after our run, and busting for a pee. So Mike kindly offered to fetch his car and drive it down to me while I strategically relieved myself on the base of an obliging pine tree.
Standing by the side of the road – bladder now empty, and with traffic racing past - I couldn’t wait for Mike’s car to meet me so that I could get back home and flop straight into bed.
Not much later: Home. Flop. Snoring immediately. And that was the end of yet another successful ghost-hunting venture from the good folks of ‘Two Men and a Ghost’ in Sheffield.
Email from Mike the next day:
‘This morning, my poor back was killing me, this forcing me to walk in a very odd manner. When I took my son up to school, I happened to be walking along to his classroom, when a young dad passed me, saying: “Good morning.” All's well until I hear the words: “Weren't you coming out of the woods last night with another chap carrying torches?" At this moment, I felt the world rush past me.
‘Because of getting put on the spot, I replied: "Oh, yer, we were doing research for a project on our blog!" Yep, that sounded good, well done, Mike. It sounds very professional and mysterious. So why the hell did my mouth continue by saying: "Hope that the passing police helicopter didn't see us!"’
Mike was hobbling and I was covered in mud. I dread to imagine what he thought we were doing in the woods that night…
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Maybe it’s a desperate expression of our mid-life awareness of mortality.
Maybe we’re on a quest to touch transcendence, seeking some form of reassurance that life goes on beyond the death of the body.
Maybe there’s an inbuilt human need in us to prove that there’s more to reality than our five senses show us.
Maybe we’re weary of the mundane world and crave a thrill … a frisson of excitement that comes from an encounter, no matter how small, with the mysterious realm of the paranormal.
Or maybe we’re just pillocks.
To be honest, I favour the latter interpretation. As evidence, I present to you an account of our latest excursion into a wooded area near a dam in Sheffield. (The location is being kept secret to protect the guilty.)
It should have been straightforward. We were looking for an old lady knitting. But not just any old lady: this one was dead, and I’m reliably informed that not being alive is a definite handicap when you want to rustle up a matching blouse and scarf from three balls of wool.
The lady in question had been spotted knitting on a bench in some woods in Sheffield, despite having died and despite there being photographic evidence of her knitting on the very same bench many decades before.
So … our mission (should we choose to accept it) was to seek and locate this haunted bench and examine it closely for signs of knitting needles, fragments of wool and old ladies.
Trouble was, only Mike knew where the woods were. So he agreed to meet me outside a certain church in Sheffield. We both knew this building well. How could we possibly go wrong?
I parked my car by the front entrance and soon got a text from Mike, saying: ‘I’m here!’ I looked round … but there was no sign of him anywhere.
Another text: ‘I’m still here!’ Very profound. Wherever Mike happened to be right now in the world – either outside the church, at home in his kitchen making toasties, or hiking round Outer Mongolia – Mike was most definitely ‘here’, at least from his point of view.
But it wasn’t my ‘here’. Mike’s ‘here’ didn’t seem to intercept my own personal ‘here’ in any way, shape or form.
Turns out he’d parked outside the church’s hall a hundred yards or so down the road from the church itself. After sending me that second text, he’d spied me walking towards him, leapt out of his car and ran to shake my hand, eager to fill me in on the details of the ‘thrilling’ evening he’d planned for us.
Apparently, I’d smiled back at him and headed for his passenger door. Except it wasn’t me at all. On closer inspection, Mike saw that he was thrusting his hand towards a gentleman of Oriental persuasion holding two bags of groceries. He’d been waiting for a lift and obviously thought that Mike was the friendliest taxi driver he’d ever met.
I don’t know how they resolved their misunderstanding, but I think it ended with Mike bowing his head politely while holding his palms in the praying position. Mike shamefacedly returned to his car and texted me with: ‘Where are you?’
I was tempted to reply with ‘I’m here!’ Instead I disclosed that I was outside the church. Not a promising start to the evening, you’ll have to admit, but at least it was consistent with the rest of the night’s events.
Now that I think about it, I’d previously told Mike we should meet outside the hall and not the actual church. But what’s a hundred yards amongst friends?
Anyway, we finally met, I jumped into his car, and within minutes we were parked up the road from our date with destiny. Taking a quick gulp of air, we bravely plunged into the pitch black woods armed with nothing but torches and adrenaline.
It was cold, drizzly and muddy, we could barely see where we were going, but we were buoyed up by the prospect that soon, very soon now, we would almost certainly be bumping into our friendly phantom knitter.
Poor Mike had witnessed my torch flying high up in the air while I simultaneously flew in the opposite direction. Splatting onto the squelchy earth, I found myself covered in mud, the self-same substance that had caused me to slip.
I don’t know whether Mike thought I’d had a heart attack and died, or even been attacked by an upset ghost who’d wanted to knit in private. But he seemed considerably more shaken up than I was, and I was the one who’d fallen.
‘Sorry, Mike, it’s the mud,’ I explained, trying to calm him down as he offered a trembling hand to lift me up. ‘I’ll watch where I’m going the rest of the way.’
Which I did. I watched where I was going for five minutes. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. More. We must have plodded through every soggy square foot of those sodding woods, but sight of a bench? There was none.
Finally, we emerged out the other side. Failure? Not quite. Hope was across the road where we spotted another set of woods. This was the one, confirmed Mike. Turns out we’d parked on the wrong road. Typical!
But we’d come this far. We weren’t going to turn back now. I didn’t want my clothes to have been soiled with mud in vain.
So, taking another gulp of air, we bravely plunged into the next area of woodland. And, to our amazement, we soon found ourselves face to face with...
TO BE CONTINUED
(Don’t you just love cliff-hanging blogs!)
Thursday, 5 November 2009
To remind you, the question was: A mask based on a famous sci-fi actor was turned inside out in order to become the villain of the movie, Halloween - who was that famous sci-fi actor?
And the answer (of course) was: William Shatner, famously absent from this year's blockbusting Star Trek reboot.
So, onto the winner...
Mike scientifically stuffed all the entrants (not literally, just their names) into his ghostbusting fedora, and his partner Sarah dipped her trusty hands in and pulled out ... ta-da! ... Shaun Lawrence. Congratulations! A fabulous piece of original A3 artwork, signed by Mike and myself, will soon be winging its way to you in an airtight cardboard tube.
And because we were so pleased at how many people responded, we've decided ('cos we're like that) to award two runner-up prizes as well. Smaller (but just as collectable) bits of artwork will be on their way to Allan Colthart and the person whose email address starts with 'mellisonlawv'. We'll be emailing you all shortly for your snail mail addresses.
There may be another competition at Christmas. Watch this space!
In the meantime, you could do worse than listen to our second appearance on the Paul and Spike show, about 17 minutes in. But please don't tell the authorities what we got up to that night in the woods...
The Paul And Spike And Two Men And A Ghost Show: Friday October 30th, 2009.
Click here to download the show mp3.
And click here to subscribe to the Paul And Spike Show, using iTunes or any feedreader.
Friday, 30 October 2009
Friday, 23 October 2009
In fact, there's the prize in front of you now. Imagine holding in your sweaty hands the original, intricate A3 drawing of the above illustration, signed personally to you by the two men themselves (but not a ghost).
All you have to do is answer one simple question. More details here.
And while you're thinking of the answer, have a listen to Mike Kazybrid's lengthy interview this week with Rony Robinson on Radio Sheffield. Mike can be heard here, about 2 hours, 20 minutes in, and the file is available to listen again till 28th October.
(This competition is not open to friends, employees or relatives of the ghost.)
I thought I would tell you about a ghostly tale from my younger years ... it is true ... I used to be young.
Well, I was married at the time (yes, it's true, I used to be married) to an annoying chap, but we won't go there. Well, it was early in the morning and I was alone in the house. I was finishing off my last few scraps of breakfast (yes, it's true, I used to eat scraps for breakfast) and it was during the final slurp of tea that I turned around to look in the living room.
As I turned, I saw a figure pass from one side of the room to the other. This figure wore a blue uniform and hat ... don't know what the uniform was, but the hat was a box type without a peak. The colour was more of an electric blue and the outline extremely realistic ... it could have been someone actually walking in my house. I don't know where the figure started walking from, but it finished going through the wall which would lead to the outside of the house.
Strange thing was that as I looked at it I didn't think anything of it. I fully realised it was inside the house, but after it disappeared I simply went to work. Then, at about ten o' clock as I drank yet another cup of tea in my unauthorised break at work, I started to shake a bit, declaring: 'I've seen a ghost!'
My colleagues were intrigued and looked around the office to see where it was.
'NO!' I said creepily. 'It was this morning before I set out to work!'
'Right!" came their cynical response as they sniffed suspectingly at said tea. No matter how I tried to convince them, my colleagues were loathe to believe.
I have no idea why it took me a few hours to actually realise what was going on. Needless to say, I moved very shortly afterwards and never felt relaxed in that house again.
Now, some 20 odd years on, I just wish I could've offered him a cup of tea ... thirsty work I reckon this wall walking.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Well, not quite. We're almost there, but in the meantime, to reward all good readers of our blog, here's a Halloween competition with a very special prize indeed.
1. The question - A mask based on a famous sci-fi actor was turned inside out in order to become the villain of the movie, Halloween - who was that famous sci-fi actor?
2. The email address - Send your answer to our brand new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The deadline is the night of 1st November, the day after Halloween. On 2nd November we will print out all the correct emails, try to cram them all into Mike's special ghost hunting hat, then pick out just one to win our unique, collectable prize, which is...
3. The prize - an original pen and ink cartoon of those fearless seekers of the para-abnormal, 'Two Men and a Ghost' (aka 2MG). This will be produced on art paper, size A3, and will be mailed to the winner's address. It will be personally signed (with your name on it) by 2MG creators Mike Kazybrid and Andrew Wooding.
Just to give you an idea of how prestigious this original cartoon will be:
Artist Mychailo 'Mike' Kazybrid has worked in the cartoon and comic book industry since 1975. His portfolio includes artwork for countless licensed characters ranging from Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, The Tick, Count Duckula and DangerMouse to name but a small few. He has been a featured guest at a number of Transformers conventions, and UK comics luminary Dez Skinn (former editorial director of Marvel UK and editor of Comics International) says of him in the book Comic Art Now: '...his detailed pensmanship on his backgrounds is little short of 19th century engravings, and in stark contrast with the foreground hero...'
This is a one-of-its kind prize and sure to be sought after. It'll look great on your mantelpiece!
Go on. Name that mask and win that prize. Email your answer now to: email@example.com
And while you're at it, tell us what you think of us.
On second thoughts, maybe not...
Rest assured, it is coming soon. It'll be here sometime this weekend, just as soon as we've polished to perfection the unique, special prize, fine-tuned the wording of the challenging competition question, and ... er ... been to the toilet a few times, picked our noses and watched a few movies.
In the meantime, you could do worse than read our third mention (no less) by Martin Dawes in The Star newspaper in Sheffield - check it out here. Thanks, Martin!
You can also listen to us on the latest edition of The Paul and Spike Show. We're 22 minutes in (ish) ... but the rest of the show's quite good as well! Also, big thanks to the good folks at radio six international who will be running promos for our competition all the way through October.
The Paul And Spike Show: Friday October 9th, 2009.
Click here to download the show mp3.
And click here to subscribe to the Paul And Spike Show, using iTunes or any feedreader.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
It sounded like a promising evening of ghost hunting, except it took us over an hour to find Graves Park, and when we finally got there, we couldn’t locate the bloody boating lake! It was pitch black in there, and the light from our mobile phones and iPods did little to illuminate the way.
But good things can come from bad, as they say, and the whole sad experience has forced us to rethink our methods. Two weeks later we have bounced back fighting fit, armed with a surefire strategy that will take us to the next level … appliances!
Turns out that all self-respecting ghost hunting teams worth their salt go forth armed with gadgets and gizmos to aid them in their quest. Ultra-sensitive recording equipment. Finely-adjusted cameras. Radiation detectors and the like. All sorts of technological wizardry, with the single aim of proving to the world that ghosts are more than just pygmies of our imaginations.
Mike and I don’t have much of a budget yet (for some reason, Sheffield Council have declined our request to fund our vital scientific experiments), but we’re proud of our very first dip into the metaphorical pond of paranormal paraphernalia.
For our return visit to Graves Park, we each took a ‘para-luminator’ (mine was a torch from Poundland; Mike’s was one of those wind-up non-electrical torches that doesn't need batteries), and we shared a handy ‘moisture manipulator’ (a fold-up umbrella from Oxfam down the road).
Turns out the moisture manipulator was a must – it was chucking it down this evening. And the para-luminators meant that we stumbled across the boating lake within minutes … although it was a little off-putting hearing Mike whizzing his para-luminator round like a egg whisk each time he felt like shedding some light on things.
Plodding towards the boating lake, I could have sworn I saw the outline of a giraffe. It was dark, it was raining, and my glasses were drenched, but it was undeniably a giraffe. Could we have found the first reported case of a spectral safari animal? I pointed it out to Mike, and since the batteries in my torch had already run out of juice (good old Poundland), Mike obliged by powering up his para-luminator.
Whizz! Whoosh! Whirr! (This should be good for at least ten seconds of light.)
It wasn’t long before Mike’s para-luminator revealed that what I was seeing was indeed a jungle creature of the long-necked variety. But it wasn’t a ghostly giraffe. It was flat and cut out of wood and turned out to be part of a jungle-themed play area for kiddies. Ah well. Like so many of our potential ghost discoveries … so near, and yet so far. It makes you think, doesn’t it?
The best thing I can say about the boating lake was … we didn’t fall in. The path winding round it was dark and slippery, and that can of Irn-Bru I’d imbibed an hour before was getting to my head.
We walked round the lake once … didn’t see a ghost. We walked round the lake again … still didn’t see a ghost. We walked round the lake a third time … guess what? Our optical perception of a watery ghoul was still most firmly in the negative.
On the way out of the park, though, I received my biggest fright since we started this ghost hunting lark: a blood-curdling high-pitched scream that chilled us both to the very bone.
Mike did his powering up again…
(frenzied egg whisk sounds)
…and the resultant beam of light revealed that the shriek originated from a nearby peacock. Maybe the poor thing had been frightened (like us) by the imposing silhouette of a fake wooden giraffe.
Folding the moisture manipulator away so that we could consume a bag of Monster Munch in Mike’s car, we resolved to be armed with even more ghostly gadgets on our next foray into night-time Sheffield.
Helpfully, Mike emailed me the next day with his proposal for further appliances. Considering our lack of funds, we have to be realistic about what we can afford. But I think this list looks promising. What do you think?
Automatic writing experiments
White noise experiments
An 'AA' battery
K9 model of Doctor Who's dog
Blow up paper bag and burst it
Wooden recorders and odd flute
Lonely Scott, John, Alan and Gordon Tracy
Sunday, 4 October 2009
You won't find sayings any pithier than these ... we are proud to take his pith and post it for all to see.
More sayings to come, once we've managed to retrieve them from the circular metal receptacle on the floor of our office.
Saturday, 26 September 2009
The second third of 2MG (Mike Kazybrid) will be receiving similar treatment from Rony Robinson next month. Listen out for him from 2.20pm onwards on BBC Radio Sheffield, Friday, 23rd October. And don't forget to watch him live on the Radio Sheffield webcam here.
Negotiations are ongoing for Rony to complete the 2MG hat trick. The final third of 2MG ('a ghost') is currently checking his diary for dates, and as soon as we know when he's available we'll pass on the news of his historic appearance. (The webcam pictures should be interesting.)
In the meantime, our good friend Spike Nesmith - top radio presenter, based in the States, and co-host of The Paul and Spike Show - has given us a plug in their latest podcast. The podcast's page is here (we're mentioned about halfway down), and you can download the mp3 right here.
Good, eh? Rumours that next week we're sitting in for Steve Wright in the Afternoon are unfortunately unfounded.
We spent months working on this, consulting with such advertising giants as Saatchi & Saatchi (actually, we came up with it over a packet of peanuts in the pub), and we hope you like it. As you can see, we have taken every effort in our artistic endeavours to continue walking that fine line between 'quite good' and 'complete rubbish'.
A no-prize to the first person who recognises which film our tagline is based on. I have a sick sense that's no one's going to get it...
Sunday, 20 September 2009
Let's set the scene. We're looking at the life of a young lad growing up in the 1960s ... er ... I'm talking about me, who else? Where was I? Oh yes, growing up in the 1960s! Wonderful time, great days, full of a real sense of creative talent going on, not just in comics, but also in film and television.
In the midst of all this, like most kids I had my share of pets, with the odd dog (and if you'd have seen them, you'd have called them odd!), but mainly cats. Now, the general idea is that when you purchase a pet, you like to think that it's going to live with you for quite a number of years, but sadly this wasn't the case.
During a period of a few years, without fail, each and every animal never died of natural causes. Troubled by this, but not as much as the cats were, I decided to present to my mother the various important questions that were forming in my young mind, questions such as: ‘Why has Tiddles kicked the bucket?’ (Hmm, bet Tiddles wanted the answer to that one as well!)
This is where we finally get to the much awaited spooky bit. Going back many years before, when Mum was just a youngster herself, a very mean and nasty piece of work once lived in the area, by the name of Mr Topee, better known as ol' Topee to all the local kids. The said character had a real hatred of animals, more so cats and dogs.
Why? Good question. I mean, I could understand it had it been that damn dog that once bit me on the rear whilst I ran for my life. (I have to confess that I was that six-year-old boy who had fired his best super-duper water pistol at its mush!) Anyway, back to ol' Topee.
It happened this way: late one afternoon, my mum and a few other children had noticed him wandering down one of the back streets, staggering under the weight of the large sack that rested over his shoulders. But it was the sight of Topee returning from the darkened back street without the mentioned sack that brought a chill to the young onlookers.
Having waited until he was clearly out of sight, they rushed tightly together, each footstep almost walking in time with the others. The late afternoon sun didn't seem to cast its kind rays on that part of the darkened street corner. As they approached the outline of the abandoned sack, they held each other in an attempt to feel like one complete force.
Mum couldn't remember just who had made the original move, but it was the slight nudge of someone's shoe that made the sack fall over. Having remained still for what seemed like for ever, with a great sense of daring they untied the old piece of string that held the top together. At this point it revealed its terrible secret: the cold, still features of what was once a handsome German shepherd resting silently on the stone floor. Sadly, this wasn't the first and certainly not the last time that animals were to be poisoned by the hand of Mr Topee.
Phew! Okay, let's get back to the '60s. Having discovered the tale of Topee, I followed it up with my next question to Mum: ‘What's that got to do with us right now?’ I honestly didn't want the answer.
It appeared that Mr Topee died at home whilst seated in his old rocking chair. This wasn't long before his house went up for sale, and it was soon to be purchased by my gran. In short, Topee had parted this life in our home … my home! It wasn't the perfect answer, but could this be the reason why my pets died, never enjoying a full and long life in Topee's house?
That evening, I recall taking myself off to bed, feeling that something of that horrible old man remained in its structure. Just before falling asleep, it was time for one final question, the one I really shouldn't have asked: ‘Mum, you know the rocking chair that ol' Topee died in. Whatever happened to it?’
‘Oh, that? That's the one that sits in the far side of the cellar. Sleep well, son!’
Monday, 14 September 2009
I say 'a lot of you'. What I mean is, a couple of you have asked us what we do in our spare time. Well, one of you. Well ... not even one. Apparently, none of you care in the slightest what we do in our spare time. But Mike's drawn this cartoon of us unwinding in between our important investigations, so I'm going to inflict it on you anyway. As you can see, it's fun fun fun at 2MG Mansions. Boy, do we know how to let it all hang out. Even Mike's cat is infected with the party spirit.
One thing I realised the last time I unwound was that I didn't completely finish the story of our first trip to Graves Park. After our utter and total failure to find any form of light to illuminate that sign in the dark, we returned downhearted to Mike's car to have a detailed and important debrief.
'I think we need to bring torches next time,' said Mike.
'Mm,' I agreed.
Our debrief over, I suddenly saw that there was something black and indistinct in the dim light of the road in the distance. What could it be? A stray dog? A fox? A starving squirrel foraging for nuts? Or something more sinister and supernatural heading straight for us?
I pointed it out to Mike, but he couldn't see it.
Doubting my eyes, I peered into the distance and spied the spectral shape again. It was weird and formless - unearthly, even - and it was still on the move.
Alarmingly, it also seemed to be moving in time with my head. If I turned slightly to the right, it also turned right. If I turned slightly to the left, it did likewise. Could it have become psychically linked with my neck muscles?
I pointed it out to Mike again, but he still couldn't see it.
'Pah! Are you blind?' I snorted, and I thrust my hand forward to point his eyes in the right direction. It was then that I noticed my finger was pointing at a small speck of muck on Mike's windscreen. It was weird and formless - unearthly, even. Except it wasn't unearthly, was it? It was just an ordinary speck of muck. Peering into the distance through Mike's windscreen, the speck had appeared blurry and far off and had moved in time with my head.
Ah well. So close and yet so far. We almost had proof this week that ghosts exist. We were 99.9% certain of it. We were that near to finally knowing for a fact that paranormal beings roam the streets of south Yorkshire at night.
Too bad it was just a piece of shit on Mike's car.
Better luck next time? Maybe ... if we remember to bring our torches.
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
Which road, and the precise length of Mike’s ‘just’ were appropriately vague, as I was soon to find out.
We nattered for a while in Mike’s car about this and that and t’other, and before we knew it, night was falling all around us.
Fall, it went.
‘Better get a move on,’ I suggested. ‘Where are we supposed to be heading anyway?’
‘Follow me,’ beckoned Mike, ‘and I’ll tell you a story.’
As we sauntered in the twilight, Mike regaled me with the thrilling tale of a photographer and a young woman. No, not a salacious piece of gossip, but a startling story of impossible photographs and invisible wedding crashers.
Back in 1989, the photographer in question had shot a panoramic snap across the boating lake in Graves Park. When he developed it, he noticed a young woman standing between some trees in the background, wearing a long short-sleeved dress and holding a bouquet of flowers. The photographer insisted she hadn’t been there at the time, so how had she ended up in the picture? (Cue some suitably atmospheric spooky music, maybe downloadable from iTunes. Just type in ‘suitably atmospheric spooky music’ and see what comes up.)
Around the same time, just before a wedding at Norton Parish Church, a guest took some photos of the building. Again, there was a ginormous surprise when the snaps were developed: the pictures showed quite clearly a bridesmaid in a Victorian dress. The people who’d developed the piccies (the local branch of Boots?) informed the lady who took the snaps that they’d seen that bridesmaid before – she’d appeared in photographs of other weddings at the very same church. Creepy, eh? (Now play the theme to The Twilight Zone. If you don’t have it to hand, just hum it.)
Turns out that a long, long time ago - possibly in the nineteenth century - a bride-to-be received some very bad news before her wedding. The news remains a mystery, but whatever it was - (maybe she’d been told she had to live in Bunting Nook?) - she fled from the church and was later found dead in the boating lake of Graves Park.
To add to this jolly tale, another woman committed suicide in the very same lake, again for marital reasons: her dad wouldn’t give her permission to marry her boyfriend. Could one – or both – of these women have turned up in the various purported ghost photos, both, for reasons of their own, obsessed with weddings and cameras?
As Mike told me all this, I had a moment of inspiration. Maybe we could fake a marriage ceremony at the church in Norton, entice one of these ghost brides to turn up, snap a load of piccies, then nip down to the nearest Boots for our definite photographic proof that weddings and ghoulies are often ideal bedfellows.
For some reason, Mike wasn’t happy with the idea. Maybe it was because I’d volunteered him as the pretend bride in our staged wedding. Or maybe it was because we’d just walked a mile and couldn’t see Graves Park anywhere.
‘I think I may have taken a wrong turning,’ he admitted. So we took a different turning and carried on sauntering.
‘I think I may have taken a wrong turning,’ he admitted again as – another mile later – we were still no closer to the site of our investigation. At least we were getting some exercise. Ever hopeful, we tried another turning.
Guess what happened after a further mile of walking?
‘I think I've … er … taken a wrong turning again.’ (I bet other ghost hunters don’t have this problem. Maybe the ghost brides were messing with our sense of direction.)
The only thing for it was to head back to our cars at Bunting Nook and drive to Graves Park. We still might get lost, but at least we wouldn’t get blisters on our tootsies.
Amazingly, we made it, and we marched through the open park gates in almost pitch blackness. So, where was the boating lake? We couldn’t see it anywhere. But we still walked slowly in case we accidentally stumbled across it and joined those poor women at the bottom.
Eventually, we bumped into a sign.
Maybe this would give us a clue where to go. But we couldn’t read the words in the darkness, and we didn’t have any torches. Mike lit up his mobile phone – not enough illumination, unfortunately. I lit up my iPod – even less illumination, but at least we had the option of listening to the Greatest Hits of ABBA to cheer ourselves up.
With nothing else to do, we returned downhearted to our vehicles. What an evening. First, we’d got spectacularly lost. Second, we couldn’t find our haunted boating lake, despite being in the very park it was meant to be in. And third, Mike selfishly refused to kit himself out with a wedding dress to aid our investigations.
We felt like the worst ghost-hunters ever. Or were we?
Read on, McDuff, for the imminent account of our second foray into ghostly Graves Park, this time armed with torches…
Thursday, 27 August 2009
What it actually illustrates is our experience at Graves Park, when we went on the hunt for two drowned women in the boating lake. What a night we had: ghost photos, eerie weddings, cross-dressing (sort of), an evil dark thingy crossing the road, and a King Size Twix between us.
Keep watching for the full report on this very blog next week when all will be explained. Two Men and a Ghost - I never knew there was so much in it!
(Apologies to the venerable TV Times for nicking their 1980s advertising slogan...)
Saturday, 22 August 2009
Which reminds me: word has reached of us a haunted loo in Sheffield. It's located in a certain Little Chef, and what's more ... it's in the women's toilets.
Not sure how Mike and I are going to get away with investigating this one, but we'll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you know of any drag queen outfitters in the Sheffield area, please let us know...
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
It’s an article about a ghost from Barnsley that’s obsessed with flushing toilets. The question one has to ask is: ‘Why?’ What trauma from their mortal existence would lead a ghost to compulsively flush the bog? Is there a dysentry pandemic in the spirit world? Do they get the squits in the nether regions? Or could it be Elvis from beyond the grave, regretting that one last cheeseburger?
I googled again, a little more precisely this time, and found our mention here, under the heading ‘Ghosthunters a hit Down Under’. The piece was written by Sheffield journalist Martin Dawes, the same nice person who kindly gave us a plug when this blog was just two weeks old. His write-ups are much appreciated, but he seemed to end this one with a sarky comment: ‘Their site is full of funny cartoons. But not, as yet, a single ghost…’
Really? What about our malfunctioning mileometer on the Stocksbridge bypass? And Mike’s childhood reminiscences of his levitating cot and haunted piano? Maybe he reckons these can all be explained away. Maybe he's looking for conclusive proof?
Well … here, especially for you, Martin Dawes … is the account of our trek to Beauchief Abbey.
It was a peaceful evening, in lovely grounds surrounded by a golf course. The abbey was founded in 1175 by Robert FitzRanulf de Alfreton. Old FitzRanulf (or 'Fitz' for short) was High Sheriff of Nottingham and Derbyshire. Some believe he played a part in the shameful death of Thomas Becket in 1170.
The theory is that Fitz, racked with guilt by his misdemeanour, attempted to redeem himself by funding a religious building. Back then there was no Children in Need or Comic Relief for conscience-easing acts of charity, so Fitz had to build an abbey instead. Slightly more expensive, perhaps, than writing a cheque to Pudsey Bear, but at least he didn't have to put up with Terry Wogan. Or wear a red nose. (Or maybe he did. Who knows what fun-loving High Sheriffs of Nottingham and Derbyshire got up to in those days? There's nothing in the history books to prove otherwise.)
As for paranormal activity, there's supposedly a ghostly monk in the vicinity. Maybe a friend or former colleague of the 'mad monk of Stocksbridge'? Our Beauchief Abbey monk wasn't mad - at least, not this evening. We didn't see hide nor habit of him. He probably couldn't be bothered to do a haunting tonight. Perfectly content with his lot, he was quite happy to put his feet up in the great beyond while chanting in Latin ... or contemplating ... or painting over his bald spot ... or whatever ghost monks do on their evenings off. (Wonder if ghost monks have a union? The GMU perhaps?)
There have also been sightings of a lady in white, who sometimes roams the ruins of the abbey. We didn't see her either. All I can say is I'm glad she didn't wear red, otherwise that annoying Chris de Burgh song would have gone round our heads all evening, over and over again. (Wish I hadn't mentioned it. It's going round my head right now.)
For what it's worth, it's been written that the abbey is built on ancient ley lines, but no matter how hard I looked I couldn't see them. What does a ley line look like when it's at home anyway?
Desperate for something strange to happen, we ascended a large grass mound and surveyed our surroundings. Mike started to theorise that the mound was home to a mutant giant mole that only came out at night, and I believed him ... for a milli-microsecond, that is. Mike was clearly gibbering, so it was time to call it a day.
'It's a day,' I said.
'No, it's not,' said Mike. 'It's a mound.'
I tripped on the way back to the car. Had I stumbled across an ancient ley line? Closer inspection revealed it was a can of Irn-Bru.
So, Martin Dawes of the Sheffield Star, you'll be pleased to see that there's no conclusive proof again this week. But hope springs eternal in the human breast and maybe in the ghostly breast as well - or breasts, in the case of the lady in white.
Better luck next time? At the infamous boating pond of the ghostly Graves Park?
In the meantime, how can I free my mind of Chris de Burgh's incessant warbling? Got any bright ideas anyone? Where's that packet of Anadin...
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
This ‘Spooky Encounter of the Ghost Kind’ takes place when I was around the young age of nine. Life was good as I was well into discovering The Mighty World of Marvel comics. Spider-Man was top of my list of superheroes, not forgetting that wonderful battle between the Human Torch and Captain America. And just in case you missed out on that issue of Strange Tales, that Cap turned out to be a fake. However, it did open the door for the grand return of the real Captain America as seen in The Avengers #4.
Okay, I'll promise to shut up. So, where was I? Oh, yes, spooky encounters, etc.
To set the scene, for the first eleven years of my life I grew up in my grandmother's house, a large place consisting of eight bedrooms. Apart from my parents and I, Gran would often have stay a number of lodgers. As a youngster, I was never alone; people always seemed to fill each space of the house. But as I got older, I also grew to realise that certain others did also dwell alongside of us. Are you spooked yet?
On a serious note, whilst humour has always played a large part in both the careers of my good mate, Andrew and myself, we were deeply aware when we started to produce Two Men and a Ghost that certain events force you to adopt a serious view of paranormal matters. Certain others did reside in the house of my childhood, as I was to learn yet again on that cold November night.
On the evening in question, my father was at work. He was a man who had been employed in the textile industry for over 20 years, working 13 hours a night, six nights a week. My gran happened to be out, and because of a shortage of lodgers, the only ones left in the house were my mother and myself.
I recall playing with my toys while Mum read the local newspaper. The only sounds came from myself, seeking to create a fantasy world for my toy figures.
It wasn't long before we both became aware that another sound had started to fill the air, the sound of the piano being played from the out of bounds front room. Out of bounds mainly to myself and any one else below the age of eighteen. Never quite understood why. For someone who was much more interested in the comic book version of New York and all the superheroes that filled it, the front room offered nothing but old furniture.
My mum and I sat staring at one another for a brief moment. Maybe we had imagined the sound. Perhaps the people next door were having a piano party? Fat chance! As we slowly left the room, we quietly began to walk down the stairs, always mindful of the terrible creaking noise coming from each wooden step.
But as we turned the corner to come down the next flight of stairs, it wasn't the thick blackness that sent a chill deep inside me, it was that thin bright line of light from the bottom of the front room door. I recall a feeling of fear mixed with excitement filling my entire body. It didn't matter that my mum was standing next to me; after all, when my father was out, surely that made me the man of the house, didn't it? Even if I was only nine.
This was it; I could go no further. Standing up close to the door, I could hear very clearly the piano keys hitting the atmosphere. This was the first time I'd realised that they offered no real tune. Quite the opposite - it was a mass of tuneless screams produced be the erratic banging of an unseen hand. I began a mental countdown; it's amazing how brave you can be when you're much younger. Three, two, two-and-a-bit ... one!
Turning the door handle, I took a deep breath and quickly entered the room, expecting to see ... nothing. The first thing that puzzled my mum and I was the fact that the light was on, but couldn't Gran have left it on before going out for the evening?
It was the second part of that puzzle that made us feel uneasy. Looking around the room, my eyes fell upon the piano, revealing its black and white keys to the onlooker. That was something that shouldn't be, for the rule was always that the lid be firmly placed down, hence to avoid collecting dust. Placing my hands on the smooth surface of the keys, I could still feel the tell-tale vibration of its tones so recently played.
So there we have it, a light left on and a piano without the player.
So that's me, a pretty much down to earth type of guy. I often think back to that cold evening, and I wonder, which part of the answer did my young eyes miss? Anyone could have by mistake left the light on without mentioning it, and as for the piano, perhaps the cat had got locked in and in a state of panic, had climbed upon the keys creating that awful sound. Except, the lid wouldn't have been left up, and the cat wasn't around any more. Like every other pet I'd ever had in that house, it had died by unseen means.
And that's a story for the next ‘Real or surreal?’ Sleep well...
Monday, 27 July 2009
If you can compare us to Mulder and Scully of The X-Files, I’m the slightly sceptical Scully, although I don’t look as good in a dress as Gillian Anderson. Mike, on the other hand is the ‘true believer’ Mulder figure, and possibly for good reason.
Mike claims to have had a number of paranormal encounters in his lifetime. So, with The X-Files theme whistling around your head, here is the first of his occasional series of articles (called ‘Real or surreal?’) containing some of his thoughts and stories on the subject of ghostly phenomena.
Over to Mike…
Mike sez: In the midst of enjoying putting together Two Men and a Ghost with my good friend Andrew, it was suggested that I equally throw into the mix certain past moments of paranormal experience. Okay, whilst I can't claim to have had a ghost encounter of the scare kind each week or month, I can offer various things that have happened in my life.
At this point, I feel it important to state clearly as to where I stand concerning such matters. Am I a down to earth kind of guy? Certainly. Do I believe in ghosts? Yes. Under the heading ‘Real or surreal?’, every so often I'll offer up a tale that's going to bring a chill to your senses ... or, hopefully, something of interest.
My first tale goes back to a cold night sometime in the late 1950s. Reason? Because I'm a grumpy ol' git in his mid-fifties. Happy now? Anyhow, back to the tale…
It was very much the norm in those days to keep your youngster still sleeping in their cot right up to school age. During the night in question, as a young tot, I found myself awoken by something moving in the room. Looking through the wooden bars of my cot, I could see my parents soundly asleep, but even at that tender age, I knew that I wasn’t alone in the room.
Softly, from out of the corner, a figure moved gently towards the cot. A tall dark shrouded apparition that appeared to glide into view, coming to a halt before the cot. I strongly recall as a child not being fearful, more puzzled.
The spectral visitor extended his long white hands from his own darkness, as white as moonlight. Then, without actually touching the wooden frame of the cot, I became aware that it had risen ever so slightly from the floor. For what was only seconds, the cot returned to its original place and the unspoken guest retreated backwards into the dark of the room.
Okay, by this time you'll be thinking I've been sniffing printers’ ink and have worked on comics for far too long … not that I'd blame anyone. Now a man in his mid-fifties, I still from time to time ponder on that night as a child.
Having spoken to many down the years, it was clearly pointed out that it was no dream. And it certainly wasn't Gran walking into the room; she was a big lass, mother of seven kids, who could have gone three rounds anytime with Big Daddy!
Anyhow, better get back to the artboard and also check out new weird sites around Sheffield and beyond. Until the next ‘Real or surreal?’ … behold and begone!
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
You see, Bunting Nook had completely lost my interest. The last time we were here, it promised so much, and delivered … nothing. I couldn’t imagine anything of a haunted nature happening here … ever. So much for birds never singing in this place. They were chirruping away even louder than before.
Funny thing was, as we happily chatted – about telly, pile cream, the education system and Bernard Manning (amongst other things) - night-time descended over good old Bunting Nook. The street lights flickered on and cast a dull yellow glow over everything, the air became still, leaves and litter stopped blowing about, and the silence around us was deafening.
Those birds had decided to call it a day. Either that, or the loose dogs of Hell-Clough had secretly followed us and had their merry way with them all.
Our conversation stopped dead. Both of us became aware simultaneously that a change for the worst had happened in our surroundings. We felt a deep foreboding. Dead spooky it was. For the first time ever, I began to believe that anything might happen in this place. Maybe the stories about Bunting Nook were true after all.
(The gasp came from me.)
(The enquiry came from Mike.)
My heart beat fast, my veins were icy cold, goosebumps raced up and down my spine, plus all sorts of other anatomical symptoms of a sudden and utter shock.
‘C-car,’ I stuttered. I’d glimpsed it in the mirror on the passenger side of Mike’s car. ‘Th-there’s a car right behind us. How long’s it been there? What does it want with us?’
Mike glanced over his shoulder.
‘It’s your car, Andrew. It’s been there all the time. That’s why I drove you here, to bring you back to your car!’
‘Oh. I see. Well, that’s all right, then.’
Feeling a right ninny, I reckoned it was time to leave. I bade Mike farewell and stumbled the three yards to my Vauxhall Astra. The street was still spooky, still silent and still surprisingly free of birds. I couldn’t see or hear a bird anywhere.
Then I noticed it. Right on the bonnet of my car. A massive great blob of bird crap, the biggest I’d ever seen.
‘I bet you think that’s funny!’ I said, shaking my fist at what I imagined to be a gaggle of mischievous birds sniggering silently in the trees above.
Either that, or the birds really had gone, and the mess on my car was a ghostly phenomenon from the nether regions. Did it have magical properties?
I might just keep it, or even sell it on the internet. Next time you’re on eBay, type ‘ecto-poop’ into the search box. It’s the genuine article, sure to be worth a fortune.
Monday, 20 July 2009
‘Hell-Clough? I’ve heard of Brian Clough … but is there really such a place as Hell-Clough?’ This was the question that raced through my mind as I perused the following ominous email from Mike:
If you're still happy about tomorrow evening at 8.00pm, could I suggest meeting at Bunting Nook again? The reason is that the place I'm wanting to check out is just a five minute drive away. The place is called Hell-Clough. We're talking about a tale of murder, lost lovers and the ghost of a fair eighteenth century maiden that's often seen. Much to tell, but I'll save that until we meet yet again!
My ghostly best,
How could I refuse? Fridays just aren’t Fridays unless they involve murder, lost lovers and fair eighteenth century maidens. That, and Vimto and crisps.
Mike filled me in the next evening as we wandered the secluded country lane that winds its way through Hell-Clough. Turns out there was this guy called James Archibald Durant who lived in the
Fearing the law, James ‘Archie’ Durant fled with his daughter to
Some have reported her as floating across a corn field and disappearing into a group of nearby trees. All very spooky. Eager to experience the mystery first hand, we kept our eyes peeled on our travels as we looked for a woman in a long gown and large hat.
‘Mike, is that a woman in a long gown and large hat over there?’
‘No, it’s a man on a tractor.’
‘Oh, sorry Mike.’
A few minutes later…
‘Andrew, is that a woman in a long gown and large hat down there?’
‘No, it’s a badger.’
‘Oh, sorry Andrew.’
And so on, every few seconds, for the duration of our evening ramble. It felt like we’d stumbled across every possible lifeform imaginable, except for the one thing we were looking for. How dare these ghosts not perform on cue! Don’t they know we’re on the lookout for them? Don’t they realise we want a genuine ghostly experience to spice up our desperately ailing blog?
We did find something mysterious on our travels, though. We wandered past a compound of sorts, which was thoroughly fenced off, with gates firmly bolted. Outside, there was a large sign to scare away trespassers, with the warning: BEWARE LOOSE DOGS. We scratched our heads. We’d heard of loose women … but loose dogs? Was this a red light area for the canine species? And, more to the point, what were these ‘loose dogs’ liable to do to us if they were to leap over the fence?
The painful realisation made us race all the way back to Mike’s car. Very quickly.
The car happened to be parked by the very field that one of the ghost sightings took place in. And in one corner of the field was a massive great pylon, crackling with electricity. Is it significant that there are pylons all along the Stocksbridge bypass as well, where the mad monk has frequently been sighted? It makes you think, doesn't it?
It certainly made me think.
To explain: I found myself at a quantum physics conference in
Also, what if that sign back there had said: BEWARE LOOSE CHANGE instead? Imagine the compound’s caretaker lobbing dangerous 50 pence pieces or handfuls of tuppenny bits at us. A frightening, but potentially lucrative, thought…
…though admittedly not as frightening as the fact that there’ll be another blog entry soon…