Saturday, 21 November 2009

If you go down to the woods today... (by Andrew Wooding)

Why are we doing this ghost-hunting lark? I ask myself that a lot. Why are two grown men venturing forth into muddy, rainy nights, risking life, limb and sanity to find evidence of ghosts in the unlikeliest (and coldest) of places?

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...


(Don’t you just love cliff-hanging blogs!)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

And the winner is...

Mike and I (and the ghost) have been dead chuffed at the huge response to our Halloween competition. We also sheepishly noticed that not one single entrant got the answer wrong - maybe we should make the question harder next time!

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.