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…
Saturday, 11 July 2009
Don't spend too long there, though. Come back here, 'cause we're just a few days away from posting our extraordinary (ish) experiences at Hell-Clough in Sheffield. What did we stumble across (and have to wipe off our shoes when we got home)? And what is the significance of the cartoon above? All will be revealed in the next few days...
(Cue dramatic fanfare from a BBC 'spooky music' record.)