Saturday, 13 February 2010

The fourth 'Real or surreal?' (by Mike Kazybrid)

Before starting this fourth ‘Real or surreal?’ feature (the previous three are here, here and here), I’m sure that the first thing you want to ask is: ‘Where's the ghost?’

I’m sorry to say that there isn't one this time! But before you surf on over to another website … no wait, don't do it yet … it’s still worth reading. This is a true tale of mystery and suspenders!

It didn't start out that way. It began as a simple, chance meeting of two strangers in a coffee bar way back in 1972: myself and a young guy of similar age, called Tom.

We got talking over a coffee or two about everything from Woodstock and flower power to bikers and rock bands. As the time passed with fruitful conversation, Tom invited me back to his pad for a few beers and to play on our guitars.

At this point, let me educate those of you who are much younger than me. First of all, back in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, we honestly did use the word ‘pad’, along with many other terms such as ‘cool, man’, ‘groovy, baby’, ‘all outta bread’ (money) and ‘squaresville’.

Now that I've totally embarrassed myself, on with the tale… Look, it's my tale and I'll tell it how I wish, warts and all! Er, where was I? ‘Tom's pad!’ I hear you cry with a hearty moan.

So, for the rest of the afternoon, Tom and I played our guitars, hoping to capture the same sounds and chords of our music heroes of the day. When our jamming session finally came to a close, he asked me if I'd be interested in helping him move to his new flat next week. Jumping at the chance of more musical get-togethers in the near future, I said yes.

The next day we met at his flat with the intention of calling in on his new landlady. The new dwelling was a good half-hour walk away, so we made haste to get there in order to sort out the finances and a moving date.

Over the following few days, I didn't see him. But come the morning of the Saturday move, I found myself standing on his doorstep, keen to help.

It's now that the tale begins to take on a twisted shape. Instead of my new mate opening the door, it was his landlord. He didn't quite take to those of us who preferred the hippy way of dress and life. However, he was willing to pass the time of day.

I explained that I was there to help Tom move his things, but his reaction was one of confusion and he enquired as to who exactly Tom was.

I went on to explain what had happened during the past week, almost insisting to be taken to Tom. My insistence wasn't required.

The landlord invited me to look at the back room flat occupied by my friend. I quickly opened the door, expecting to find him in a sea of carrier bags, suitcase and, of course, guitar.

But a cold chill ran down my spine as I found myself standing in the middle of a totally different room, a room that hadn't been used for ages, full of dusty old furniture and a deep-rooted smell that shouted out the word ‘damp’!

Having now firmly explained to the landlord that Tom was indeed real and that a number of days ago I was in that very room, that very different room, I could see from his disbelieving expression that I was wasting my time.

Angry and frustrated, I had in mind a new plan, and that was to call upon Tom’s new landlady. Surely she would remember me? She was a small no-nonsense Eastern European lady, close to 50 years old.

When I encountered her for the second time, I was taken aback by her response. She not only claimed that she didn’t know me or Tom, she also insisted that no room was available.

I left not knowing where or whom to go to. Tom was real. I knew it. We'd spent time together. But now...

That was 37 or more years ago. From time to time, I still think of my all too brief friendship with Tom.

I don't have and can't offer any answers to this mystery, but in the true spirit of that which is either real or surreal, it's yet another tale from those you've come to know as ‘Two Men and a Ghost’.

Sleep well.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

I Tube, YouTube, We All Tube... (by Andrew Wooding)

You may have noticed that in the last few weeks 2MG has branched out into video production (if you can call it that). Shot over the Christmas period on his iPod nano, every expense was spared as Mike risked being arrested for late-night heavy breathing in a certain Sheffield graveyard. The fruits of his creative endeavours can be seen in our five ‘Sheffield Ghost Hunt’ videos here, lovingly presented in their raw, non-edited state for your perusal.

So far it seems that lots of people have been perusing them. So, encouraged by our initial success, we will soon be uploading our sixth ambitious production, called The Rear Itch Project. Can you guess which well-known movie we’ll be spoofing? With a title like that, I dread to think how Mike aims to film it with his iPod nano…

As I uploaded our first forays into viral video promotion, I couldn’t help but become aware of the dozens, nay hundreds, nay thousands of similar such videos scattered throughout YouTube. Intrigued, I decided to check some of them out so that you don’t have to.

Remembering our many attempts to seek out the mad monk on the Stocksbridge bypass, typing the words ‘Stocksbridge’ and ‘ghost’ into YouTube’s search engine yielded a number of results. Some of the more notable ones are here:

stocksbridge ghost OMFG! - This video is disturbing, for all the wrong reasons. A million times worse than fingernails down a blackboard, there is nothing more irritating than shrieky, giggling teenage girls who’ve overindulged in shandy.

Not sure what OMFG stands for (Oh My, Freaky Ghost?), but YouTube viewers seem to be convinced that the indeterminate smudge in a tiny portion of the screen, 41 seconds in, is conclusive proof that paranormal activity is real. Myself, I’m not so sure.

Research also reveals that this is a tunnel in York and nothing to do with the bypass outside Sheffield after all. Ah well…

Ghosts of Stocksbridge - Haunted Road, Parts 1 and 2 – Now, this is more like it. A quality 20-minute video, well put together, with down-to-earth convincing interviews and little in the way of sensationalism.

The video reveals that the bypass was opened in 1989 in the vicinity of a Cistercian monk who broke his vows and was buried in unconsecrated ground. Some eyewitness accounts say that the monk was sighted either hovering or walking below ground – could they have been peering back through time when the ground was at a different level?

There is also talk of the bypass being criss-crossed with pylons and substations. Could the electrical and magnetic fields be influencing people’s frontal lobe experiences?

The only thing that bothers me is that just about the entire population of Sheffield seems to have been interviewed in this video. How come me and Mike are the only people in the area who’ve never actually seen the mad monk? Do you think he’s got something against us?

Stocksbridge Bypass Ghosts, Parts 1 and 2 – This excerpt from ITV’s Strange But True? is presented by Mr ‘Ask Aspel’ himself, the legendary Michael Aspel. Only, instead of presenting viewers’ requests for favourite clips from The Goodies and Bagpuss, he introduces the world’s most popular ghost accounts.

In this clip, he gives us the same story as the Haunted Road video above, with some of the same interviewees. Yes, it covers old ground, and I wouldn’t even be recommending it, if it wasn’t for its one unique endearing feature: reconstructions!

Yes, each interview is accompanied by a ‘Strange But True?’ reconstruction of the sighting in question, by rejects from Equity who look nothing like the interviewees they are supposed to resemble.

Of special note are the security guards in Part 1 who specialise in gibbering horror (they prepared for their roles by watching the annoying girls in the ‘OMFG!’ video above). They deliver the immortal lines ‘It’s disappeared into thin air!’ and ‘Let’s get out of here!’ with as much conviction and sincerity as Olivier’s star turn in the definitive film version of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

STOCKSBRIDGE BYPASS MONK – More annoying teenagers, this time of the male variety. It is obvious that they have partaken of one too many rootbeers as they zig-zag across the late-night bypass in their car. Blurry mobile phone footage shows a monk at the side of the road, accompanied by an (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that is as convincing in its delivery as the security guards in the video above.

One of the comments left beneath the video is from yellowsub1966: ‘Lauged my bollocks off at their attempts to feign surprise.’

I’m slightly disturbed by this comment. I am not entirely sure what the obscure word ‘lauged’ means. Could it be youthspeak for gouging? Did he really gouge off his genitals? If so, this is eerily appropriate as the mad monk would have taken a vow of celibacy. Maybe encounters with the ghost of Stocksbridge bypass lead to random acts of self-mutilation?

Beware: The video concludes with the words ‘Go down baby. Go down baby. Go down baby.’ Maybe it’s the monk himself, speaking through their radio and condemning them to everlasting torment in the underworld below (in other words, hell). Maybe the monk can reach out through our tellies, radios and computer screens? Hmm.

I will conclude this initial trawl through the neverending delights of YouTube by pointing you to my favourite video of the lot. In fact, you could say it's special. Widening my search to ‘Sheffield’ and ‘ghost’ brought me to this 5-minute classic. Enjoy!