Tuesday 4 December 2018

Haunted Britain

A catalogue of hauntings from the landscapes of my life, 1987–2002.

A lone boy from Treboeth was murdered on the Kingsway one ill-fated night in 1994, and his curse rang out across the street from Barons to the YMCA, his beloved wheels set to flame. Now, between the hours of midnight and one, a ghostly, phosphorescent VW Golf roars through the streets of Swansea, revving its otherworldly engine and playing the Manics extra-loud on its spectral sound system.

In an area of North Prospect, Plymouth, there is a wholly self-contained community of people. Sharing certain physical characteristics and opinions, they are shunned by the other people of the God-forsaken hellhole in which they live. But they’re still happy.

Approach them, talk to them, touch them, and you will become one of them; look like them, think like them. And you will never, ever leave.

Every thirty years or so, three early medieval saints meet at the Worm's Head Inn, Rhossili, and reminisce over coffee.

The love letter, written in big letters in French on the pavement of a street in Swansea, fades as the object of its affection grows farther away.

On one of the pillars of the derelict church on St. Helen's Road, an alchemical tractate was written, along with crude diagrams of the four humours and their significance, and the references for several verses from the book of Revelation, scrawled in magic marker.

Opposite the Millbridge Inn, in Stoke, Plymouth, a pack of cards is scattered face-down along a length of pavement.

No matter how wet the day, the cards are always dry, and if one stoops and picks up a card, the first card picked is always the same.

I dreamed that somehow I could hear the voices of two people - men, Americans - communicating, by radio or something. I realised that they were approaching my mother's house, where I was staying, and that they wanted to arrest me or kill me.

They were, they said, down the street. I rushed upstairs and looked through the window. I didn't see them, but heard them realise that I was aware that they were coming. One voice told the other to 'change shape', and it dawned on me that my pursuers were of supernatural origin.

I found myself in the kitchen with a shotgun and an electric torch, sitting on the floor, paralysed with terror, as I heard them come to the door.

The second visit came three months later. We found the man in our bedroom, sitting on the bed, looking blankly at his reflection in the mirror. Again, we reacted by threatening to call the police, and this time, I approached him, fully intending to physically restrain the man, but as I drew nearer, the man stood up and looked at us. And we both went quiet. Neither of us tried to stop him as he walked out on to the landing. This time, we heard him walk down the stairs. Then there was silence. We followed him together, but again there was no sign that the man had been in the house, and again all of the outside doors and windows were locked. He left no token of his passing this time.

On this second occasion, we didn't call the police. This time we had both seen the man's face, and had seen the same thing. There was no anger in the man's eyes, no fear, cunning or even stupidity. What we saw was sadness, misery that made it hurt to even return the man's gaze, and regret.

For what, neither of us could tell.

Again we had trouble sleeping that night. On the following day, My wife discovered that she was pregnant.

Five miles from Ashburton: tangled strands of linen hung in the air above this lonely tract of land, flapping in the wind, crossing and uncrossing. The white strips of torn cloth reflected the light and shadow in strange ways. For a moment I got an impression of a huge medieval parchment, with a single illuminated letter inscribed on it in gold, but the wind rose and bit into my eyes, and I had to screw them up. When I looked up again, the strips of cloth were gone.

This colossal stone hand looks like it has burst from the ground and spread its fingers out to the sky. Its wrist is firmly embedded in the bedrock. Surrounded at the base by old rubble, as if it erupted from the earth long ago, throwing earth and rock all over the place before running out of energy too soon. Like it was a giant who failed to fully clamber out, leaving his right hand visible above ground. Think it’s about thirty, maybe forty feet high. The fingers are spread very wide. I don't think limestone should be able to support that kind of structure. It should have collapsed long ago under its own weight.