Monday, 29 June 2009

Silence of the birds (our icy adventure in Bunting Nook) (by Andrew Wooding)

Since starting this blog, Mike and I have noticed a truly strange phenomenon: everyone we’ve spoken to about our quest has a ghostly story or two to tell, usually followed by a recommendation of a haunted location for us to visit. No one’s laughed at us (which makes a change) – everyone’s been most eager to help with a tip-off or a story of their own. Maybe you could do the same by leaving a comment at the end of this blog?

For what it’s worth, here’s my own personal ghost story: the mysterious hovering lampshade of Bordesley Green. This really happened, and I’ll never forget it! Back in the nineties – I believe it was winter - I was staying at my aunt and uncle’s in Birmingham. There I was, reading a comic in bed in the spare room, when I glanced up at the ceiling … then froze in my bed!

This wasn’t just because it was a cold house (they didn’t have central heating); it was because I was witnessing a truly ghostly phenomenon. The lampshade hanging from the ceiling was moving quite dramatically of its own accord … from left to right, from right to left, from north to south, and all directions in between … as if some invisible figure was pushing it about for devious reasons of its own.

I couldn’t move for ages. Would this nightmare ever end? To add to the mystery, the air directly below the hanging lampshade seemed to be shimmering. Evidence of a ghost perhaps … or was it some sort of heat haze?

‘Heat haze?!’ It was then that I realised what was happening. One of those portable three bar heaters – switched on in the spare room - was giving off heat directly below the lampshade. The heat (as it does) was rising, and it was this that was causing the lampshade to swing randomly about. No ghost, then … unless Morphy Richards heaters give off paranormal entities, but there’s nothing about this in their warranty.

The reason I mention this is that on our travels, Mike and I fully expect to see lots of strange things. But how do we know when something is ghostly, and when it’s something that’s perfectly explainable by science or psychology?

On our first trip to Stocksbridge, our mileometer packed in for the entirety of the trip, only working again when we headed for home. How do you explain that? On our second trip, nothing happened, other than indigestion from guzzling a fun pack of Gold Bars too quickly. Ghostly noises emanated from our stomachs, but it was nothing to do with the spirit world and everything to do with trapped wind.

This being our third excursion, we wanted to ‘up’ the probability that we’d stumble across something worth writing about. So Mike chose Bunting Nook, a leafy road near Graves Park in Sheffield, noted by a number of paranormalists for the following phenomena:

  1. There’s a ghostly dog, known as a boggart;
  2. An eloping couple who died after falling off a horse (what were they doing on the horse?) supposedly haunt the lane;
  3. A man with the surname Glover was brutally murdered in the nineteenth century, and visits his grave in Bunting Nook once a year;
  4. Birds can never (I repeat, never) be heard in the lane;
  5. There’s a ghostly figure that walks through walls.

There you go: five possible paranormal encounters. How could we go wrong?

We spent the best part of two hours wandering up and down the lane, and unless the boggart’s changed its form into that of a squirrel with halitosis, we didn’t come across it. There was no eloping couple, no grave in the graveyard with the surname of Glover, and those birds that don’t sing … they were screaming their lungs out at us, and we were treading in evidence of them all over the pavement.

This left the ghost that walks through walls. On our third walk up the lane, I examined one of the walls more closely, cleverly made of sharp flat rocks piled on top of each other. Protruding between two of the rocks was an ice lolly stick. Hoping I’d find a joke on it, I plucked it out, but there was no such joke … not even a Lyons Maid logo burnt into the wood.

A hundred yards or so down the lane there was another lolly stick on the floor, lying between all the bird poo. Then another lolly stick near the bottom of the lane … or, to be more accurate, only half a lolly stick.

Mike and I tried to imagine the events that led to this thought-provoking display of litter. Did the lolly sticks originate from just one person, greedily sucking his or her way through three of the lollies in succession while traversing the length of the lane? Or maybe the lollies were consumed by three people walking together, who happened to suck at different speeds and finished at different points on their journey. And why was one lolly stick half the size of the other? Maybe the three friends in question were two giants and Ronnie Corbett?

These are mysteries we are still pondering days after our experience of the legendary Bunting Nook. And can you blame us? There was nothing else for us to ponder … other than how we were going to get all that bird crap off our shoes.

Ah well. Better luck next time?

PS. Maybe the significance of the ice lolly stick is that our ghost likes to walk through Walls?

PPS. No, I didn’t think it was funny either…

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Blanket media coverage for Two Men and a Ghost! (by Andrew Wooding)

What a phenomenal week it’s been! With our Sheffield ghost-hunting blog barely two weeks old, we have been the proud recipients of what can only be described as blanket media coverage … a veritable whirlwind of publicity in a frenzied Sheffield media storm.

In short, we had blanket media coverage at the bottom of page 10 of The Star on Thursday … and on Saturday morning, on BBC Radio Sheffield, we had blanket media coverage for 9½ minutes at 7.45 in the morning, between traffic reports and an interview with a vicar about trespassing sheep.

The Star article, expertly scribed by columnist Martin Dawes, can be eyeballed here:

As for our radio appearance – on the Saturday Breakfast show, hosted by the effervescent Gareth Evans – I was hoping to provide a ‘listen again’ link, but there isn’t one. Too bad, as there seems to be a ‘listen again’ option for just about every other Radio Sheffield programme, including Sunday Breakfast, and Gareth Evans’ weekday shows.

Was it ghostly intervention that prevented our interview from being archived? Even though we’ve just started, are we getting so dangerously close to the truth that spooks are scared of us and need to intervene with BBC mixing desks and digital recorders? Naah … I didn’t think so either.

I’d like to report on one spook, though … the subject of our first investigation, the mad monk of Stocksbridge, a ghost that purportedly interferes with the inner workings of cars because he isn’t happy about his eternal rest being disturbed by the sudden new influx of noisy traffic thundering along the Stocksbridge bypass.

You may recall that our first outing to Stocksbridge was in Mike’s car, the mileometer of which inexplicably packed in for the entirety of our exploration and only started working again when we headed away from the so-called haunted area.

Trying to be scientific – we decided to pay a visit to Stocksbridge again – but this time in my car. Cynics could say that maybe Mike’s mileometer was faulty and it was all just coincidence. But if the mileometer stopped in two separate cars on two different journeys, then we would really have something worth writing about.

Our experiment paid off. Sure enough, as Mike hopped into my passenger seat and we set off from Meadowhall car park to the busy Stocksbridge bypass, my mileometer…

…worked perfectly, and it did so for the remainder of the evening. Ah well. At least it was nice getting out for a drive, as well as pigging out on a family pack of Gold Bars, kindly supplied by Mike.

The only thing I can think of is that maybe, just maybe, the mad monk is pleased with us for spreading the word about his frustrations. He only does his stuff with people he’s narked with, but by sticking up for him we’re now in his good books and he’ll leave our cars alone. So the fact that our mileometer worked perfectly might still be definite proof that the mad monk exists. Not convinced? Don’t blame you, but I’ll leave you with this final true fact.

After dropping Mike back to his parked car at Meadowhall, then heading for home in my own car (in Waterthorpe near Crystal Peaks shopping centre), I put my iPod on ‘shuffle’ mode. There are hundreds of possible songs on there, but just minutes from reaching Waterthorpe, shuffle threw up Rasputin by Boney M again, that celebrated hit single about the most famous mad monk in history. What are the chances of that, eh? Was it a sign from the mad monk himself? It makes you think, doesn’t it?

The mad monk of Stocksbridge might be pleased with us, but he has a terrible taste in music.