Thursday, 24 December 2009

Daytime ghosts at the Sheffield Central Library (by Andrew Wooding)

Every self-respecting ghost-hunter has a certain item on their DVD shelf. Can you guess what it is?

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 clich├ęd endings go) is another story…

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Stocksbridge bypass revisited (by Andrew Wooding)

A few blog posts ago, Mike told the story of his gardener, Chuck C’s ghostly encounter on the Stocksbridge bypass. The woman in the car in front of him was shaken (understandably so) because a phantom monk (in robes and everything) had allegedly appeared in the passenger seat next to her for part of the journey. Maybe he couldn’t afford a bus ticket.

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.

Oo-er…

Monday, 21 December 2009

Humbug, part two...

Crumbs. Look how long Mike's had to wait to see a ghost!

Rather than finding one, it seems he's turned into one himself.

Gonna have to change the name of this blog to 'One Man and Two Ghosts'...

Friday, 18 December 2009

Humbug to Christmas...

Yes, it's a close-up of our very own Mike Kazybrid (one-third of Two Men and a Ghost). Could it be that he doesn't like Christmas?

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

Exposed in Sheffield ... and more 2MG on the radio!

In our last blog post, Mike's gardener Chuck C revealed his own spooky take on the alleged mad monk sightings on Sheffield's Stocksbridge bypass.

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?

Chuck C's 'Tale of the Weird!' (by Mike Kazybrid)

You may have noticed that from time to time, valued guests to the blog have kindly contributed by sending in what could only be described as yet another ‘Tale of the Weird!’ For example, check out the great story from Julie Blount here.

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 twomenandaghost@hotmail.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

...you're sure of a big surprise! (by Andrew Wooding)

THE STORY SO FAR:

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.

‘Blimey!’

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.

‘Ow.’

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.


POSTSCRIPT

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…