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Recently I was compiling a Halloween playlist on my YouTube channel, and finding a whole horde of paranormal documentaries from years ago.  In the Comments sections were some fascinating stories and inputs from viewers.  Now I haven’t a clue what the Copyright laws are regarding YouTube Comments section (if there are any), but I did want to put people’s words here verbatim, and not just have me regurgitating them in my own words.  If anyone at YouTube does a Prince Harry and violently objects, then I will simply mothball this piece, so read it whilst you can.  I have deliberately NOT included people’s usernames, as I don’t want any innocent person being trolled or hassled because of something I’ve written.  I have also left out the ubiquitous comments you often get on YouTube of “dude put down the crackpipe”, “look at my privates”, “this is the End Times, make Jesus your friend”.  Any comments I’ve made are in square brackets.

Borley 

Borley Rectory, which burnt down in 1939, was described in its time as The Most Haunted House In The World.  Even though the house is long gone, and has since been built over by a small housing-estate, it still acts as a magnet for ghost-hunters and thrill-seekers.

.  “I live locally to Sudbury and been many times, never seen nothing at the Borley Church itself but have seen a figure in a white cloak in about 1998, that came out of a field crossed in front of the car to a field opposite about 1/4 of a mile away.  Me and two of my mates turned the car around and shone lights in the field and couldn’t see a thing.  Totally vanished … For sure it sent shivers up our spines and goose pimples”.

.  “I am the mother of 3 children whose great grandmother was Marianne, she said it was not true” [Marianne Foyster was the wife of the Revd. Lionel Foyster, who lived at the Rectory in the early 1930s.  Marianne is a very controversial figure in Borley folklore.  Legendary ghost-hunter Harry Price, who extensively investigated the haunting, was sceptical of her involvement.  Many years later Marianne, by then an old lady, was tracked down in the United States.  She admitted that she had made up much of the story of the haunting to make her life in a quiet English village more exciting].

Dakota Building, New York 

The Dakota Building fascinates me.  There is something wholly mysterious about it.  Whenever I hear about it I always think it sounds like one of those creepy buildings which is really a doorway to another dimension!  Anyway, it has had many famous residents over the years, including Lauren Bacall, Judy Holliday, and John Lennon.  Tragically, it was outside the Dakota where Lennon was gunned down in December 1980.  His widow, Yoko Ono, still lives there.  The exterior of the building was also used in the cult horror film Rosemary’s Baby, a movie which has many cursed and strange tales about it.  Very recently, Top 5s did a fascinating piece about the many haunted stories about the Dakota.  Sadly, the Comments section didn’t yield very much in the way of personal anecdotes, & seemed to have an above-average amount of attention-seeking dickweeds in it, but one tried to pull all the connections together:

.  “Rosemary’s Baby was filmed at the Dakota. The director was Roman Polanski.  Charles Manson was obsessed with Rosemary’s Baby and that’s why he killed Sharon Tate, Polanski’s wife [I’m not sure about that one, I always thought Manson was simply after somebody famous to kill, and sadly Sharon was there].  He was also obsessed by and inspired by The White Album and the song Helter Skelter, made by John Lennon and The Beatles”.  [Interesting, but I remember watching an interview with Manson years ago, & he disowned the Helter Skelter connection, saying he was not from The Beatles generation, and they weren’t relevant to him, although in truth he was actually only 6 years older than Lennon].

Ghosts On The Underground

This was an excellent British documentary, made (I think) in the mid-Noughties, and put onto YouTube by The Hampshire Ghost Club.  Absolutely crammed with spooky tales of the London Underground.  Paranormal film-making at its best, focusing on credible witnesses, and not full of annoying, smug hipsters loaded to the teeth with technology and infra-red cameras, bursting into buildings like the SAS and screaming at anything spectral that might be there.

Part of the programme focused on Bethnal Green Station.  During WW2 it was the site of a horrific tragedy, with strong shades of Hillsborough, when 173 people were crushed to death.  It was the biggest civilian fatality incident of the War.  One comment said: “The scientist [in the programme] talks about feeling breathless in the station office.  If Bethnal Green Station IS haunted by people who were crushed in a stampede during WW2, then they might have been projecting that feeling of not being able to breathe as they were crushed onto him, that’s creepy and incredibly sad”.

.  “A friend of mine worked on the Underground back in the 70s.  His first night on duty was at South Kensington and his co-workers set him to be at one end of eastbound platform on the District Line at 12:15 AM.  The staff supposedly heard footsteps coming towards them from the tunnel at this time every night.  He was scared stiff by his encounter and swore that was so”.

.  “My father worked on the Underground in the early 90s at Temple Station and he quit after just 3 days because he saw a girl screaming at the end of one of the long tunnels and then she started walking towards him, he has never gone back”.

.  “I wonder why they chose to leave out the story of the crying woman at King’s Cross?  A man saw a woman in jeans and a t-shirt and reaching out in distress, he went to offer her some assistance but as he did so he saw another commuter walk through her.  This was in 1996”.

.  “Even walking through the Underground with hundreds of people around, it has an eerie presence” [agreed, I can think of few places more genuinely eerie and atmospheric than the London Underground.  When I came to do the cover for my book Strange Tales 4, I wanted to use an Underground station for the illustration.  I was recommended to try Regents Park station, as it’s often quiet there during the day.  Something about peering down into those cold dark tunnels can be quite spooky, that old 1970s horror film Death Line has got a lot to answer for!  “Mind the doors!”]

.  “Green Park Station … that station is eerie big time”.

Guitar Shop Haunting 

Very recently – the end of October 2019 – Top5s did a video about ghostly images caught on CCTV camera.  One of the places featured was GAK Guitar Shop in Brighton, where a strange misty shape had been caught on camera, as well as mild poltergeist activity occurring out-of-hours.

.  “I’ve lived in Brighton all my life and spent many a day in GAK playing guitars and synths.  The upper shop that sells guitars has always had a creepy vibe about it, especially upstairs.  Not surprised strange activity has been caught on CCTV”.

.  “I hear a lot of stories about Brighton, UK, a lot of dark secrets.  Max Spiers [an arch conspiracy theorist who died suddenly in 2016] spoke of it too in his claims”.

.  “I was in that GAK on 3rd May this year [2019] buying a guitar … I was there about 3 PM-ish.  I felt two taps on my left shoulder, turned around expecting to see a member of staff or another customer but as I turned around I felt a cold gust of air across my face and nothing was there!  It was a very strange experience.  Never felt anything before or since this”.

Hotel Cecil

The Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles has an extremely lurid history.  It has been the haunt of serial-killers, Elizabeth Short (aka the Black Dahlia) was supposed to have stayed there before her unsolved murder in 1947, and in more recent years it became the site of the equally unsolved death of Elisa Lam, a young Canadian girl who disappeared at the hotel in 2013, and whose body was subsequently found in the hotel’s water tank.  There is unsettling footage of Elisa in the hotel’s elevator, in which she acts in a quirky, disturbed fashion, and which has fuelled many theories as to why she was acting the way she was.  I’ll return to this after the following comments, which were underneath a video the popular channel MostAmazingTop10* did about scary hotels in October 2018.  [*although by god, they do have some spectacularly annoying and me-me-me shouty presenters, I’d much rather listen to the soft-voiced guy who narrates the Top 5s videos, the presenters on Beyond Creepy and SecureTeam10 also have pleasingly low-key voices].

.  “I once experienced a haunting at the Hotel Cecil.  Woke up one night, feeling afraid and sweating profusely.  Someone banged on the door, shouting ‘housekeeping’.  It was freaking 2 in the morning.  The banging persisted for about 3 minutes.  The next day, I got to know that a housekeeper had died there, of fright, when he discovered a man who had hanged himself in one of the rooms.  The Cecil truly is a freaky place”.

.  “My husband and I stayed at the Cecil Hotel back in 2008.  I remember the weird feeling we got as we entered the lobby, even questioning if we were in the right hotel.  When we went up to our room, the oppressive air that hit us as the lift doors opened made us think we had been transported into another hotel entirely!  We had an absolute blast though and only stayed there because we needed a cheap room for a few nights whilst driving the Californian coast”.

Now one of the theories about Elisa’s strange behaviour in the elevator was that she was playing something called The Elevator Game.  I Googled this, and it looks horrendously complicated.  The game originated in Japan and South Korea, and it seems to revolve around pressing different buttons, and things like if someone gets in, then you go back to square one, or some such nonsense.  It’s like a complicated board game but involving elevators, and I doubt there is any way I would be able to remember it all!  All you need to play it is a public building with at least 10 floors, and an elevator which isn’t in constant use by a lot of people, because otherwise you will have to keep restarting the game.  I think part of the appeal of the game (and there seem to be YouTube videos where people have played it) is that it has some very spooky elements to it, such as if a woman enters the elevator on the 5th floor, you must not look at her face or speak to her, or she will claim your soul for her own.  Good grief, Monopoly was never like this.

What is the point of The Elevator Game, you may well ask?  Do you get a prize at the end, do you get £200 if you pass Go?  Well apparently if you follow all the rules correctly, it will transport you into another world.  How will you know you are in this other world?  According to a fansite I found it said that the other world is identical to ours.  Uh-huh.  But electronics will not work there, all the lights will be off, and the only thing you will be able to see from the windows is a red cross in the distance.

Now I am adopting a jokey tone, because … well I like to do that, but there are many who take this game very very seriously.   I found some comments on Reddit which seemed to be very sincere in how dangerous this game is.   The reason people think Elisa Lam may have been playing the game are because of her odd behaviour in the elevator.  She is constantly pressing the buttons, and stepping out to look up and down the corridor outside.  She also seems to be talking out loud, as if speaking to someone invisible, and making strange gestures.   Whatever the truth of the matter is, I hope she is at peace now.

The Hotel Cecil has recently had a name change, but somehow I doubt that will be enough to bury its shady history.  Out of curiosity I found some old online reviews from people who had stayed here a few years ago.  Although some gallantly tried to defend the Cecil, there is no doubt that staying here was a mentally scarring experience.  Hordes of 1* reviews speak of communal shower rooms, no air-con, doors with four locks on, one door looking as if someone had attempted to kick it in, people screaming in the corridors or out on the streets, homeless and druggies in the lobby, a sink falling off the wall when someone put their hand on it, and – the absolute piece de resistance – crap (literally) in the foyer area.  One woman said she lived here for a while because it was only $85 a week.  She said her neighbour across the hallway was a drug dealer, but he seemed “a nice guy”.  With all that going on, any ghostly happenings would probably be pretty unnoticeable!  But one reviewer, who said he was a skeptic, reported his bathroom door opening and closing by itself.

The Mannequin People

This is a truly bizarre phenomenon, in which witnesses see people who appear to have no faces at all, like shop-window mannequins, particularly the ones we get these days, which have no features at all.  This phenomenon was featured in a Beyond Creepy video.

.  “I was driving off the road in the desert south-west when I had a similar encounter.  I noticed a car with 2 people standing outside the car.  As I approached, I decided to slow down and ask if they were ok.   I got about 20 feet to them and noticed they were turned with their back to me and neither of the two moved at all.  Then as I got right next to their car I stopped and yelled out the window “are you guys ok?” The closest one to me turned his head only toward me and I almost passed out when I saw his white featureless face, just like a mannequin, its head moved fast and jerky and it nodded no at me, just kept nodding faster and faster.  I punched the accelerator, drive right past them and kept looking back.  They remained motionless except the one kept nodding his head real fast”.

There were several cases like this, and curiously, as one Commenter pointed out, they all seemed to involve cars.  Many had theories, ranging from crash helmets, to people (for whatever reason) wearing stockings over their heads, to severe burn victims, to experimental Artificial Intelligence.  I’m not out to disparage anybody’s experiences here, but I had a similar experience once many years ago.  It was a bright July day, and I was walking down a street in a nearby town.  A girl was sitting on the side of the pavement.  She turned to look at me as I approached, and I was freaked out because she didn’t appear to have a face at all.  As I got closer I realised that the sun was at an awkward angle, and gradually her features appeared.   So sometimes I guess it can just be a simple trick of the light.  Even so, that experience has always stayed with me.  It was a very odd moment all round.  At the same time as this was happening, a man (whom I didn’t know at all) ran past me, carrying two funeral wreaths and cheerily yelling “hello! hello!” at me.  Sometimes life can be very dreamlike and surreal.

Men In Black

The Men In Black are one of the weirdest aspects of the whole UFO phenomenon.  A couple of years ago Beyond Creepy did a video about this subject.

.  “About 3 days ago, I was at my house for lunch.  About 3 minutes after I got home there was a knock at the door.  There was a woman who I got a strange feeling from.  She claimed she needed to do some measurements around the house for an allstate inspection [I have no idea what this is, I’m assuming it’s an American thing].  For some reason I said Okay go ahead.  I don’t know why.  But I called allstate and they said they had no one in my area that day.   I have the creeps about what she was doing.  I have a cold chill thinking about it.  I can’t remember her face.  It was almost dreamlike.  Like I was an autopilot or under her control.  Fuck I wish I’d gotten her plate number”.  [Some YouTubers sensibly replied that the woman may well have been a burglar casing the joint (to use some old slang there), and that you should ALWAYS ask for a person’s ID before letting them in.  Agreed.  An elderly woman once told me of a strange thing that had happened to a friend of hers.  Her friend – another elderly lady – got a knock on the door, and a woman asked if she could urgently use her bathroom.  The old lady let her in, and the woman went upstairs.  After a short while, she reappeared, walking back down the stairs … dressed as a man!  The visitor promptly walked out of the house without another word].

Moon Madness

This was a documentary about the idea that people begin acting even more crazy around the time of the Full Moon.  (Although these days we seem to be permanently in Full Moon mode).  The theory that the Moon affects people has been around for centuries, and the words “lunatic” and “lunacy” of course come from Lunar.  Many of the comments under this video came from people who worked in professions where they had to deal with members of the public, and are very interesting.  I should add one guy did say he’d worked on a mental health ward for years and hadn’t noticed anything special about Full Moon times, but there were numerous ones who had a different view.

.  “I worked as a mental health nurse for 35 years and in one place the manager kept a diary of the Moon and behaviour for years and it definitely seemed to effect some people.  It draws the ocean so the brain being made up of fluids seems it could be effected.  I definitely feel there is a connection”.

.  “Anybody that has interacted with the public over extended periods of time knows it’s a fact people are weird, agitated, if not criminal during Full Moons.  They don’t always involve 911 [the US emergency number, equivalent of the UK’s 999], so much of it is undocumented.  Try working at an airport or Disney sometime”.

.  “I used to bartend and we always hated Full Moons it does bring out the crazy”.

.  “I’m a nurse, I don’t know if it’s truly worse or if we are just more aware of the stuff that comes in, but I hate working on Full Moons”.

.  “My father worked in a hospital and he used to dread the Full Moon night shifts”.  Someone replied to this that his mother worked in a hospital and she dreaded it too, “she calls it the Hell Moon”.

.  “I worked with folks with behavioural disabilities.  Full Moons certainly raise stress levels”.

.  “I worked as a vet assistant and the moon madness is very real, more dogs and cats run away, get hit by cars … and just generally get ill or agitated.  And if it does this to animals, people must also be affected in some ways”.

.  “Working as a dentist for 30 years I have noticed that patients are about 40% more active requiring emergency treatment that they had put off for months.  Most make a big deal about their issues, wanting extractions asap”.

.  “Try being a cop, or work in a hospital, it is true, domestic violence, killing, accidents, all increase”.

. “Horses go a bit more bonkers during Full Moons and police always say that people are more volatile and weird.  I’m a skeptic but there’s something to this theory”.

.  “I have never worked in a hospital or an emergency services, but I have worked in several hotels as a general manager and desk clerk and we used to dread a Full Moon.  It was especially bad if it fell on a weekend or God forbid Friday the 13th.  I think the Friday the 13th was more of a subconscious association with the day, but it made for some freaky coincidences”.

.  “After working for 22 years with dementia patients I can tell you the Moon DOES affect people.  A couple of days/nights before a Full Moon, a good portion of them would start acting, the only way I can explain it, would act squirrely [this word was new to me, I had to look it up in Google’s Urban Dictionary!  It means to act eccentric, or to rush around like a squirrel].  Not normal.  If you can call dementia normal anytime.  So yes I am a firm believer”.

Pluckley 

Pluckley in Kent is often cited as the most haunted village in England.  These comments were under a segment from Strange But True Encounters filmed in 1995.

.  “I visited once, it seemed like a nice village, but there were a couple of spots where it was weirdly cold, and this was a day in the middle of August”.

.  “I live in Pluckley, the rumours are true.  I’ve witnessed various encounters some still haunt my dreams 5 years on”.

.  “A village with two faces, the day face is picturesque and a postcard of England but at sundown heck that place is dark and oppressive”.

.  “I live literally 10 minutes from Pluckley, I have never seen or experienced anything paranormal, but I did crash my car right in the middle of the woods for a completely unknown reason … I braked and slid across something in the road but it was completely dry.  Had I died, I would be on that ghost map”.

.  “I did witness someone entering the Gents in the pub, just ahead of me.  When I went in there I discovered I was alone in there.  I cannot explain that at all”.

Pontefract Poltergeist 

This is quite a famous case in the annals of poltergeist phenomena.  From what I recall it erupted in the 1970s, and was extensively investigated by Colin Wilson, amongst others.  I thought it had long since vanished into history, but apparently this unassuming semi-detached house in West Yorkshire can now be rented out by ghost-hunters.  I must admit this did send my bullshit detector into overload.  I’m always dubious about this kind of thing.  The channel Unexplained Mysteries did a short 3-minute video about the house.  Several people commented that they, or someone they knew, had stayed in the house and experienced nothing.  Someone else said they grew up in the area and thought the whole thing was “bullshit”.

.  “A friend of mine did an overnight there 2 weeks ago [in the Summer of 2019] with her paranormal group.  They have a vicar in the group and said protective prayers before they entered, my friend still got scratched”.  Someone replied that it sounded like a jinn had taken up residence.

.  “The neighbours next door have been caught banging and playing recordings and running through the attic.  It’s £120 to spend 18 hours there”.  This comment was queried by someone who wrote “The neighbours don’t get the money though.  I worked there for 2 years [at the house?] and while something we could tell was noise from next door, we witnessed so much activity and captured so much evidence that certainly wasn’t”.

The Stickman Phenomenon 

The development and rise of the Internet over the past 3 decades has to be one of the most extraordinary inventions in our entire human history.  It has transformed everything about the world and how it functions.  Even in the paranormal world it has had a marked effect.  One of which is a rise of stories that seemed to begin with the popularity of the World Wide Web taking off in the mid-1990s.   We have had urban legends such as the Shadow People, Slenderman, the Black-Eyed Children, and this one, the Stickman.  Whenever I hear about the Stickman, I keep thinking of the opening credits to the old TV series The Saint.  Now much as I loved Sir Roger Moore, those opening credits used to freak me out a bit when I was a small child!  In recent months BeyondCreepy loaded a video about the Stickman onto YouTube.  The jokesters were out in force with the comments on this one, but I repeat below some of the more serious ones I read:

.  “I think it possible, from the supposed air displacement or disturbance, they may be dimensional and only appear to be stick figures because they are being squeezed by our atmosphere and gravity and the density of our dimension … They could always be there, but we cannot sense them …” [this was an interesting theory from one viewer, someone else pointed out that Stickman images can be found way back in cave paintings and aboriginal drawings].

.  “I saw a black figure at the end of the hallway when I was about 4.  It had no facial features and it was just black but the shape was like someone wearing a cape or robe.  It terrified me, it permeated evil.  Someone I grew up with saw a shadow figure crossing the road, he said it just seemed to stretch across the road, merging with the dark shadows and disappeared.  It had a perfectly round head and was jet black but it didn’t have a cape/robe, it was like a stick figure.  I didn’t tell him what I saw”.

.  “These kind of creatures reminds me of what we call a ‘mantiw’, in the Visagan folklore (central Philippines)”.  [I Googled some artistic images of this creature, and it certainly does resemble descriptions of the Stickman].

.  “I remember when I was smaller maybe 5 my Mom was inside and told me to go play in the back yard.  The back yard is backed by forest and I think there was a stick person in the forest … it walked weird and it left and I never saw it again”.

.  “Three years ago a friend and I were driving to my cottage, rounding a turn … both my passenger and myself shouted out in shock as there appeared to be a thin black figure standing on the edge of the road.  Matches the description perfectly.  It was a weird one.  But I’m glad I had someone with me!  That’s the only time I’ve ever seen such a thing”.

Unexplained Mysteries covered the same subject in August 2019:

.  “I’ve seen one back in like 2014 standing next to a tree above the hillside it look like it was around 9 feet tall had no detail no face nothing and just recently like 4 months ago me and my son seen one around the same spot again here in Albuquerque New Mexico”.

.  “Holy crap!!  This is what I saw!!  So glad I’m not the only one.  Thought I was crazy.  It was completely silent, over 6 feet tall and solid black.  I’ve always described it as completely dark, solid, tall … saw it during an investigation of an old slave cemetery in Charlotte, NC”.

The Stocksbridge ByPass 

The Stocksbridge ByPass in South Yorkshire is often regarded as one of Britain’s most haunted roads.  Numerous tales abound about it, including ghostly monks and little children dancing around an electricity pylon singing ‘Ring O Ring O Roses’.  I’ve seen a few videos on YouTube about it, including a truly creepy segment from Michael Aspel’s Strange But True series in the early 1990s.  Much more recently the MostAmazingTop10 did a video about Cursed Roads, and Stocksbridge featured in the No.1 position.

.  “I went with my boyfriend and we parked up.  I remember him telling me the whole monk and little children story, and I just immediately felt weird – honestly it’s one hell of a creepy road.  DON’T GO THERE”.

.  “The weirdest my husband and I witnessed but is apparently common is balls of light.  At first I thought there was a motorcycle behind us … but it got closer and closer.  I was driving and told my husband to take a look behind.  The stretch we were on had no lights at that time (there are lights now) he said he couldn’t see a biker, or hear one.  But it got closer and closer until it passed right through the centre of the car!  I was now following it … so I slowed, wondering whether it was a ghostly warning?  But as suddenly as it appeared, it shot up into the air and out over the hills, we then saw a super bright light, it just lit up all of the sky behind the hills for a second and was gone”.  [she then went off onto a rant about speed-cameras on the road].

Strange Trumpet Noises/Bournemouth

In recent years, since about 2012, there has been a spate of weird noises heard from the sky worldwide.  These have been described as ranging from industrial machinery type noises to heavenly trumpets.  There are numerous videos on YouTube about this phenomenon, but one of the eeriest I’ve ever seen was a short 2-minute vid loaded by a guy in Bournemouth in January 2017.  The uploader said it came from the direction of the sea. These are some of the Comments underneath.

.  “Medstead Hampshire – walking the dog the other day in woods – this was the same noise we heard for about 20 minutes.  It is not the first time nor in just one location!  Really loud and weird!”

.  “OK 1:20 AM (12.06.18) in Somerton, Somerset.  Me and my partner was woken up by a loud sound that sounded like a huge road sweeper coming from the sky.  Along with it was an organ sound from a church which was in a high note sound, this was extremely prominent”.  [this one was particularly interesting for me personally, because I once heard the “huge road sweeper” sound myself a few years ago, here in Oxfordshire.  It must have been a Summer night because we had the window open, and it was getting light early.  The noise was extremely loud, but I couldn’t see anything out of place, or what could have been causing it.  At the time it sounded like somebody sluicing the roads with a big hose, but I couldn’t see anything, and I can’t imagine why they would be doing that in the middle of the night! This must have been towards the end of the Noughties, there wasn’t much publicity about strange noises from the sky then, and I only had a crappy old BlackBerry  phone at the time, so not much good for filming.  I would put the time it happened at around 4 in the morning.  A random thought’s just come in my head that it might have been some insomniac watering their garden, but it sounded way too loud, and almost industrial, for that].

.  “I’ve heard this twice before in Norfolk”.

.  “Bournemouth again, 2 years later at 5:46 AM I’m here, Googling the noise I’ve just heard and it’s the same thing as in your video.  Went on for like 15-20 minutes and couldn’t find anything else.  My cat was going mental while it was on, as it stopped she is fine”.

.  “I keep hearing this exact same thing in West Yorkshire.  Usually around 3 AM”.

.  “Heard similar this Summer and reported it to local press but had a more beed Bass sound to it … and a friend 2 miles away heard the same thing at 2 AM.  I live in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire”.

.  “I’ve heard this noise tonight or something similar in Elgin, Scotland … I can’t explain what I heard apart from a weird humming and screeching sound also dogs barking and car horns and stuff extremely strange”.

Vampires In Seattle

Beyond Creepy posted a fascinating video about the so-called real-life Lost Boys of Seattle, regarding a bunch of friends who were menaced by some peculiar black-eyed youths whilst out one evening.  It’s a relatively long video for this sort of thing (about 25 mins), but well worth a watch.  The Black-Eyed Kids phenomenon, like the Stick Men, seems to have grown with the Internet over the past 20+ years.  I’ve blogged about them on here a couple of times myself.  There was some debate in the Comments as to whether the Black-Eyed Children are vampires or not.  All I can say is there are strong similarities to both legends, most particularly them having to ask to be let in when they knock on your door.

.  “Could be one of the reasons for the missing 411 cases … Technically Seattle is one of the darkest cities in the country with the least amount of total sunshine over the year” [this comment set me off thinking about the quiet sun of the past few years.  What I mean about that is the fact that the Sun seems to have unnaturally inactive for quite some time now.  At the beginning of 2018 it was reported in the British press that right across Europe, including parts of Russia, there had been remarkably little sunlight, even by the usual standards of January in the northern hemisphere.  One French newspaper had even headlined it “mort de la soleil”, death of the Sun.  I’m not quite sure what all this has to do with the vampires of Seattle, but the comment about the city being dark reminded me of it].

.  “I live in Seattle and have had one very strange incident. This was in the mid-1980s. I was driving east on NE 55th St … I was right by the cemetery between 30th & 35th … there was a man, straggly long hair, wearing a trench coat, walking towards me on the sidewalk.  I was looking right at him, then he looked right back at me & proceeded to disappear right in front of my eyes”.

.  “My adult children lived in Seattle for a while.  It’s beautiful, and we felt a creepy supernatural element there”.  [I am definitely getting a whole new view of Seattle, thanks to this story, I thought it was all about Bill Gates, high tech, Facebook, & 50 Shades of Grey!].

***

I enjoyed doing these, and re-visiting some old favourite stories.  If I find anymore I’ll add to it.  One comment was particularly thought-provoking:  “It does seem that paranormal activity and events have greatly increased over the past few decades, as if there is something happening that breaks down the natural borders between the worlds or universes?  The thing is when will this development be reversed, or what might happen if it keeps on occurring even more often, in even more places than before?” 

This is an interesting comment.  The mainstream media occasionally runs stories that fewer ghostly happenings or UFO sightings are happening these days, but this is blatantly cobblers.  It really doesn’t help that when they occasionally venture into the paranormal world, such as in the run-up to Halloween every year, they constantly rehash the same old stories that have been doing the rounds for aeons.  The big question is, are there actually more paranormal events happening than ever before, or, because of the Internet, are we simply hearing about them more?  These days people can get their stories out to a much bigger audience.  In pre-Internet days it was probably limited to telling family members, or the local newspaper who were desperate to fill up their pages.  If you were really unlucky rags like the Sunday Sport might be interested.   But otherwise it would be a case of “my gran saw a ghost in her house once”, that sort of thing.

I would like to believe that people are generally more open-minded these days, and although you always run the risk of being jeered at, whether it’s on the Internet or In Real Life, you are less likely to be dismissed by society at large as a total nutter.  There is more awareness of undercurrents.  In previous decades there would have been more an attitude of “I don’t want to know about such things, I just want to keep my head down and avoid any trouble”.   Reformed drug addicts are more prepared to be open about what they have seen.  I read a comment by a an ex-meths addict, who said he saw the Stickmen when he was still using it.  This isn’t terribly surprising.  Over the centuries artists, musicians and poets often took to drugs to force open the doors of their subconscious, and delve into what lay below the surface of things.   The decade from 1962-1972 is often called the Creative Revolution, when suddenly all limits were lifted, and an avalanche of creativity and new perspectives came tumbling out.  I read an interview several years ago with one actor who talked about his battles with alcohol.  He said he didn’t regret his drinking days, as it gave him special insights into life which he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not remotely advocating that everybody goes out and becomes an alcoholic or a drug addict.  Far from it.  Forcing open the doors of the subconscious carries untold dangers, and you can make yourself vulnerable to God knows what.  Aleister Crowley once raged at people who dabbled in dark forces “for fun”, saying that they had no idea what they were opening themselves up to.  These aren’t things to be trifled with at all.  To be honest, you can open up your awareness simply by researching the subject, being open-minded, and being prepared to push creative boundaries.  Powerful music and imagery can do wonders for visualisation, for instance.

I do actually think there has been some kind of spiritual shift in recent years, and it is obvious that Something is going on.  We can only hope that ultimately it is for the good of the human race.

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  • Comments Off on “EVERYTHING HAPPENED IN 1977”

Previously on this blog, I have covered some years notable for their strange phenomena.  For instance, 1947 is often regarded as the year when modern High Strangeness, as we know it, began.  It was the year of Roswell, the Kenneth Arnold sighting, the beginning of the Cold War, the CIA being founded, and Aleister Crowley popping his clogs.  Then there was 1963, when the Swinging Sixties truly began, and in Britain there was an explosion of Satanic activity, along with the Profumo Scandal, and the Moors Murderers beginning their vile crimes.

Very recently I was looking on YouTube for documentaries about the July 1977 New York Blackout.  I was reading the Comments section underneath one, and someone had posted “everything happened in 1977.  It’s getting really strange.  If it didn’t actually happen, its genesis was then”.  I found this interesting because 1977 too is often regarded as a bit of a landmark year in the realms of the Unexplained.  For many people it was simply a time of disco music, the rise of Punk, and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.  Ask anyone over 50 about the mid-1970s and we will probably get all annoyingly misty-eyed about the great music, the great TV, and what a lark it all was.  But some truly dark stuff was happening around this time.  For instance, in the USA the Son Of Sam killings were happening in New York, and here in Britain, Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was continuing his reign of terror.

In the style of my 1947 and 1963 pieces, I thought I’d do something similar for 1977, but largely – although not exclusively – concentrating on the Summer months.

4 February – the strange events in a small Welsh town, which were to become known as the Broad Haven Triangle, began on this date, when pupils at Broadhaven Primary School saw a yellow cigar-shaped spacecraft land in the field next to their playground.  Over the course of the next few months many mysteries would abound about this atmospheric corner of Pembrokeshire.  Journalist Clive Harold would compile a book on the case, The Uninvited, which documented strange phenomena, in particular targeting the Coombs family at Ripperston Farm.  ADDENDUM: now here’s another curiosity.  In his book Haunted Liverpool 6 Tom Slemen relates the extremely strange tale of the Huyton Spaceman.  On 22 February 1977 witnesses, including a couple of police officers, saw an odd 9ft tall metallic figure floating over the Huyton area of Liverpool.  Several people connected it with a UFO which they had seen hovering low in the sky over a local primary school.

17-25 May – veteran Ufologist Jenny Randles claimed, in her book The Unexplained: Great Mysteries of the 20th Century, that this week saw an unprecedented level of High Strangeness in Britain.  She said there was a sharp spike in UFO sightings, and poltergeist activity.  There were also phantom big cat sightings, and crop circles seen in fields, although the crop circle phenomenon wouldn’t really take off until the early 1990s.

21 May – Anthony ‘Doc’ Shiels, a notorious self-publicist, claimed that he and his wife, and another couple, had sighted 3 black humps gliding through the mirror-like waters of Loch Ness at Borlum Bay at 8 o’clock that morning.  A few hours later, at 4:00 PM, he claimed he saw a sleek black head break the surface near Urquhart Castle.  His claims were largely met with howls of derision, and photographic evidence was nicknamed the Loch Ness Muppet.

25 May – Star Wars had its world premiere.  It was to become the highest-grossing film of all time.

6 – 9 June – celebrations for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee took place all around the UK.  Punk legends the Sex Pistols released their anti-monarchy rant God Save The Queen to coincide with it.  I’ve seen 1977 described as the year Punk exploded, it was everywhere.  Lead singer of the Pistols, Johnny Rotten, would eventually wind up advertising butter on TV.

8 June – giant ball lightning seen at Fishguard, Dyfed, in Wales.

9 June – a couple were approached on a road near Winchester, UK, during the afternoon by aliens, who informed them that they were concerned about War and wanted to help mankind!  The female witness to this extraordinary event, Joyce Bowler, said she wanted nothing to do with any of it, and it made her feel like a marked person.

20 June – Anglia Television in the UK broadcast a docudrama called Alternative 3, which allegedly exposed a top secret government plan to move members of the elite from Earth to Mars, as our planet is in its death throes.  It was originally intended to be broadcast as an April Fools Joke, but had had to be put back because of a technicians strike.  The programme caused a huge amount of alarm, with people jamming the station’s switchboards demanding to know what was going on.  Alternative 3 has since then achieved a prophetic status, as some of the issues they touch upon in the programme, such as Climate Change, have since been proven to be true.   It’s still an absorbing bit of television, and well worth a watch.

26 June – Jayne MacDonald, aged only 16, becomes the latest victim of the Yorkshire Ripper in Leeds.

26 June – Sal Lupo and Judy Plaido became the latest victims of the Son of Sam shooter, who had taken to targeting courting couples in parked cars in parts of New York.  The couple had just left a disco in Queens at 3 AM, when they were fired at through their car window.  Both victims survived the attack.

1 July – Several military personnel at Aviano NATO base at Pordenone, Italy, claimed to see a bright light hovering overhead at an altitude of 100 meters, at 3 AM.  Whilst this occurred there was a power blackout.  The object was said to have hovered for over an hour.

10 July – a temperature of 48degsC is recorded in Greece, setting a temperature record for mainland Europe.

10 July – Maureen Long, aged 42, was injured in an attack in Bradford, thought to have been carried out by the Yorkshire Ripper.

13 July – the New York Blackout occurred, when a major power failure hit large areas of the city, which was without power for 25 hours.  Widespread criminal activity occurred, including arson and looting.  Many observers often cite this as an example of the thin line between civilised behaviour and people reverting to a primitive state.  And yet similar blackouts in 1965 and 2003 did not see the same level of criminal activity.  It was a combination of factors, of Austerity, of New York enduring a long period of bankruptcy and decay, plus the hot weather, plus having a serial-killer on the loose, which all led to a perfect storm situation.  The power outage was the tipping-point where society went over the edge.  UPDATE: another power outage occurred on 13 July 2019, exactly 42 years to the day after this one, when a transformer exploded.  Fortunately this time there was no violence.  In fact, people reported feel-good stories of New Yorkers helping to direct traffic, and Broadway performers going outside to rehearse on the street.

28 July – An 8 foot white-robed figure was seen beside Clowbridge Reservoir, in Lancashire.

31 July – Stacy Moskowitz and Robert Violante, both aged 20, were kissing in a parked car at Bath Beach, New York, when shots were fired through the car window.  Violante lost an eye in the attack, and Stacy Moskowitz died.

10 August – David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial-killer was finally captured in Yonkers, New York.  The case has many alleged Satanic elements to it, and still causes controversy to this day.

15 August – The Big Ear, a radio telescope, part of the SETI project at Ohio State University, received a radio signal from deep in space.  It became famously known as the Wow! signal.

16 August – the King of Rock N Roll, Elvis Presley, died at his Graceland mansion.  Not only did his death provoke huge levels of public mourning, but also a myriad of conspiracy theories.

20 August – the Voyager 2 spacecraft was launched.

31 August – the Enfield Poltergeist outbreak began in the UK.  It was to continue for the next 2 years, and still causes much interest and debate now.  It is thought to have been the inspiration behind the BBC’s notorious Halloween hoax Ghostwatch in 1992.

September – popular singing duo The Carpenters released their hit single, Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, about alien contact.

Sometime in the Autumn – Prince Charles met Lady Diana Spencer for the very first time.  It was in a ploughed field.  He was 29, she was 16.

16 November – Close Encounters Of The Third Kind premiered in New York City.  Its impact has been huge, and UFO fever went through the global roof.

26 November – one of the most famous broadcast interruptions in history occurred at teatime, when a strange voice interrupted a Southern TV (in the UK) news report to warn viewers of Mankind’s ultimate doom if it carried on down the path it was on.  Largely seen as a clever hoax, but it remains unsolved to this day, and no one has ever come forward (to date) to claim responsibility for it.  I can’t help wondering though, that if the Aliens were genuinely concerned for us, why did they broadcast on a small local TV station?!

As well as all these the Warminster UFO activity was still continuing, and actually inspired a bizarre plot on a daytime BBC radio soap called Waggoners Walk (which I have fond memories of), which had the local residents heading up to Hampstead Heath for a UFO skywatch!  I think its fair to say that UFO fever was gripping everybody in the late 1970s.

 

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  • Comments Off on BOOK REVIEW: THE HOUSE ON COLD HILL by PETER JAMES, + A TRIBUTE TO AMY CROSS

NB: although I began this blog piece purely to review Peter James’s book, it has turned into a piece about haunted house stories generally.  I am always on the lookout for new variations on this theme, and I hope to add any impressive ones I read here.  It has also become a bit of a tribute to prolific horror author Amy Cross. 

I sometimes think the classic Haunted House story is one of the most difficult literary genres to pull off, particularly these days when we’ve seen and read so much in that line already.  It’s getting harder and harder for an author to achieve something completely different, to reinvent the wheel as it were.  And unfortunately Peter James doesn’t really manage it.

The House on Cold Hill begins in the good old traditional Haunted House way, a family moves into a big, decaying old mansion, which they can ill afford, and straight away odd things begin to happen.  I don’t mind old plots like these at all, they are popular for a reason, and I’m very happy to see a new one come along.  On GoodReads I gave the book a 4* rating, simply because it did keep me reading right to the end, and these days I’m grateful for small mercies.  There were some minor eerie moments, but to be honest, nothing that was going to have me looking around me nervously late at night.  Neither did it descend into daft, cartoon-ish violence, which I see all too often these days, particularly with some of Amy Cross’s ghost stories.

The principal characters, of Oliver, his wife Caro, and their daughter Jade, didn’t annoy me, but to be honest, they were probably too bland for that.  Caro in particular was one of the blandest, most cardboard cut-out characters I’ve ever seen in a novel.  She had absolutely no memorable features whatsoever.  She seemed to exist solely to get in and out of her car, and to whine “darling” at the other two.  Jade I couldn’t get a handle on at all.  I couldn’t place her age.  Sometimes she seemed like a little tot of about 5 or 6, and then at others a nearly adult 16 or 17.  Apparently she’s meant to be 12.  The overwhelming impression I had was that her silly parents over-indulged her way too much, but that might be a standard middle-class thing for all I know.   Also Jade seems remarkably unconcerned by everything that’s going on.  Whereas her parents are jumping at their own shadows, she is tucked up at her end of the house, blissfully unconcerned by spectral visitations in her room, or even wandering about the house herself in the dead of night, trying to scare them.  There didn’t seem to be any genuine warmth, emotion or passion between the characters.  If anything they just existed side-by-side.   No one really got angry at all the rubbish that was happening to them, or seemed to overly care very much.  They just got a bit frazzled sometimes that’s all, as if it was nothing more than a slow Internet connection.

Many GoodReads reviewers have complained about the heavy-handed middle-class product placement going on.  Well yes.  Now don’t get me wrong,  I don’t mind reading what  characters in a story have for lunch, or listen to on the radio, it all helps to set the scene, but some of this was a bit Sunday Colour Supplement, or perhaps these days I should say Instagram.  For instance, the family couldn’t just make a cup of coffee, it had to be a particular type of coffee in their new super-dooper coffee machine.  This happened EVERY BLOODY TIME the smug bastards had a cup of coffee!!  And when making a cup of tea, it had to be branded as “builder’s tea”, as if they’re saying “ooh look at us slumming it sometimes, we can serve strong tea in a mug occasionally doncha know”.

Perhaps where the book most failed for me was that it constantly reminded me of other stories I’ve read over the years, so instead of being spooked I was thinking “ah the bed being moved around whilst they slept, now that happened in Nigel Kneale’s short story Minuke“.  Likewise when Oliver finds human remains in the house, it was straight out of The Legend of Hell House, and just previous to that, with the sinister hidden room, was M R James’s Number 13.  At other times I was reminded of Burnt OfferingsThe Haunting Of Hill House, James Herbert’s The Ghosts of Sleath, and Kingsley Amis’s The Green Man (but without the humour).  It was as if the author had diligently done his homework by ploughing his way through a set reading list of Haunted House books, and then decided to throw everything, including the kitchen sink, into his own work.

Another big problem was the ghost herself.  I had high hopes of her when she first began to appear.  She seemed genuinely creepy.  And I find there is something  unsettling about the idea of somebody being walled up alive.   So this should have worked.  But it didn’t.  We didn’t get anywhere near enough time on her story.  Plus she was incredibly resourceful.  I can just about buy that she managed to hack into Oliver’s phone and computer, but why does an 18th-century upper-class lady then decide to start taunting him, using abusive modern language which sounds more like it’s coming from your average (very average) 21st-century Twitter troll?!  That was where our spectral lady descended into pantomime farce level.  I almost expected her to start sending him messages loaded with emoji’s.

BUT, as I said previously, I did manage to read all of it (although I was skim-reading towards the end, as I wanted to get on with something else).  There is a sequel planned for the Autumn apparently, and I expect I shall give it a go.  Reading this though does remind me what an incredibly difficult genre this is.  In some ways Victorian authors had it easier, in that it was probably simpler to scare the beejaysus out of the reader by having some poor wretch wondering around a dark old house with a guttering candle.  Nowadays it is getting much harder to frighten the reader, as they’ve seen it all before.  At least the house didn’t burn down at the end, because that one has been done a few too many times already.

ADDENDUM: soon after reading this I stumbled upon some new horror by an up-and-coming author called Christopher Motz.  Tenants is about an eerie apartment block called Blackridge, which is quite reminiscent of the one in Rosemary’s Baby.  This is even darker and more disturbing than that classic tale though.  The characters in this were lively, unlike the lifeless, middle-class stodge in The House On Cold Hill.  There were also Aickman-ish touches to Tenants, with the apartment block sucking the life out of the surrounding area.  There is a scene where Linda, the central character, visits a local down-beat restaurant which felt positively trippy and surreal.  The story moved at a fair lick, and the ending justified your time.

I’ll close this review with some Haunted House stories I can recommend, some of which I’ve already mentioned.  Some aren’t strictly ghost stories, but they all have a high Creep factor.  If I think of anymore, I’ll add them on:

Hell House by Richard Matheson

The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Ghosts of Sleath and Ash by James Herbert

Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco

The House On The Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

The Green Man by Kingsley Amis

The Possessors by John Christopher

Tenants by Christopher Motz

The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Dennis Wheatley

Minuke (short story) by Nigel Kneale

The Hospice, The School Friend, The Inner Room (& many others, short stories) by Robert Aickman

The Amityville Horror by Jan Anson (yes I know, this one is a controversial entry on the list, but it genuinely unnerved me when I first read it, although admittedly that was a long time ago)

Many of the short stories of M R James

The House That Jack Built by Graham Masterton

The Haunting Of Lannister Hall by Amy Cross.  Another unique slant on the traditional haunted house novel by Amy*.

The Sequel: The Secret Of Cold Hill

The house is no longer there, and a new housing estate is being built on the land.  Needless to say the new residents aren’t going to get the comfortable, cosy life they had bargained for.  In spite of my review of the original Cold Hill, I was looking forward to reading the sequel, and it began in a promising fashion, with a young couple, Jason and Emily, moving to the estate at Christmas-time.  What was very enjoyable about the first part of the novel was that it felt more like a comedy, with Jason and Emily meeting the ghastly, pretentious Weedell-Penze couple, who live over the road.  I loved this bit.  One of my own neighbours is just like Claudette Weedell-Penze (right down to leaving the exterior Christmas decs switched on all night), and she’s been driving me up the wall for the past 15 years, so I could relate to this very much!

If the author had continued in this vein he would have had a hilarious festive comic novel on his hands.  I kept thinking of Joseph Connolly’s novel Winter Breaks, which I read several years ago.  But no, it’s a haunted house story, so we have to have the blasted ghosts popping up and getting in the way.  And that, for me, was the trouble with The Secret of Cold Hill, the ghosts weren’t scary, they just … well sort of kept getting in the way.  Instead of being spooked by the ridiculous wrinkled old spectre in the blue gown, and her silly pantomime antics, I kept thinking “yeah yeah bore off love, let’s get back to the Weedell-Penzes and their prosecco guzzling”.  I did keep on reading to the end, because I wanted to see how it would all pan out, but it all felt like we’d been on this kick before.  Plus all that It Happened, No It Didn’t Happen nonsense becomes tiresome.  It wound up that every time they experienced something weird or disturbing, I’d think “bet that turns out to have not really happened either”.  And really Jason should have punched that utterly obnoxious Albert Frears character, I think every reader would have cheered at that point.

* Who Is Amy Cross?

Amy is an extraordinarily prolific author, she seems to have published about 200 books in under 10 years.  That is quite a rate for anyone.   Very little is known about her, and this has led to one Amazon reviewer speculating that ‘Amy Cross’ may be an umbrella name for several different authors.  This is an intriguing idea, but I like to think it’s more of a case that Amy is one person who simply loves writing!  It has to be said that I find the quality of her stories can vary considerably, but I suppose that is inevitable in someone who produces them at the rate she does.  I think it was Lord Byron who said “it can’t all be stars”.

When she is good though she is one of the most imaginative and unique horror authors currently around, and she deserves a lot more recognition than she seems to get.  It annoys me that fairly bland efforts like Peter James’s book get so much hoo-ha, whereas Amy seems to be fairly ignored by the mainstream book world.  I suspect this is snobbery, pure and simple.  Indy authors are still treated with disdain.  As an Indy author myself these days I could easily get on my hobby-horse about that one, but I doubt there will be much point.  I was chatting to a man once, who, when he found out I self-published, actually gave me a dismissive wave of his hand and turned away!!  Fortunately I don’t come across that level of rudeness very often, and I hope Amy doesn’t either, as she works damn hard.  I suspect if Amy was published by conventional means, she wouldn’t be allowed to give free rein to her magnificent imagination so much, nor be allowed to publish at the rate she does.  It is ridiculous that independent film-makers, artists and musicians are (rightly) respected for what they do, but independent writers are still seen as sad failures.

Information about Amy is very rare.  The only interviews I’ve found with her have been on niche horror fansites, where she comes across as hard-working and self-effacing.  She seems to have built up a devoted following on Facebook, although she only posts on there to mention new releases.  Amy is very much the woman of mystery which many of her characters are.  Her style isn’t going to suit everyone.  I’ve mentioned her bent towards cartoon violence earlier in this piece, and sometimes it can seem as if her characters have a super-human ability to withstand any amount of stabbing and hacking about.   But I like her economical style, the complete absence of tedious sentiment, the fact that her characters rarely exist in a standard nuclear family (many other horror writers could take note of that one, I’m sick to death of reading about Mum, Dad & The Kids), and the dark, surreal undercurrents to every day life which she weaves.

If you are new to Amy’s books, then I can recommend the following:

3AM  This one involves a young woman moving into a near-empty block of flats, whereby some sinister person goes around ringing the front doorbells at 3AM, naturally you should never answer if they do.  This is an earlier one of Amy’s, and is perhaps let down by the fact that the children in it do not speak like children.  BUT having said that, it has some genuinely very creepy moments, and the 3 AM scenes are unsettling.

American Coven  I think this was inspired by a real-life US serial-killer, who kept his victims incarcerated in a cellar for many years.  Very different, and I could really feel for those poor women, holed up for ten years.

B&B  absolutely freakin’ weird novella about a strange guest-house in Canterbury.  Inside it is bad enough, but outside is haunted by a serial-killer who only comes out when it snows.  Probably best enjoyed on a snowy night.

The Body At Auercliff  another haunted house story, one spanning many decades in the life of one family.  At first I didn’t like the way the story kept jumping about from one time to another, but that house had a true Atmosphere all of its own.

Broken Blue Broken White   the first 2 parts of a trilogy, I’m still waiting on Broken Red.  Truly different, this is a sort of mix of Urban Legends and 50 Shades Of Grey. 

The Cabin   very very violent, so not to everybody’s tastes, but intensely disturbing.  A young woman finds herself at the mercy of brutal Dark Web film-makers in a remote Scandinavian cabin.

The Curse of Ah-Qual’s Tomb  this was an early one from Amy, and very different from her usual fare.   A bunch of archaeology students investigate an old tomb in a remote forest in South America, and get more than they bargained for.  I liked this one, because it had a real old-fashioned Adventure story feel about it.

Dead Souls  this is an epics series of novels (I think there are about a dozen in all), I haven’t read all of them, but once again, truly unique.  Set on the island of Thaxos, which is ruled over by the sinister Le Compte family, who are centuries old vampires.  In an interview Amy said she was inspired by old soap operas and 1980s mini-series for the format of this.

Escape From Hotel Necro Even by Amy’s standards, this one was very weird. A young power-couple go for a weekend break at a hotel in Turin, only to find that some grotesque things are happening in the basement.  The strength of this one was that you really couldn’t predict what was going to happen next.  I must admit I didn’t have much hope for it when it started, I thought it was going to be one of Amy’s “quickies”, short and economical, but ultimately disposable.  I was quite wrong.  Amy’s economical style really suited this story.  Some writers would have laboured on forever about the unique atmosphere of Turin, or the strange hotel.  I can’t say much without giving away too much of the plot, but it felt like a cross between an old 1970s spooky European thriller, a heavy dose of the Marquis de Sade’s books, and – bizarrely – one of Dame Agatha Christie’s adventure thrillers.  It’s also an interesting reworking of the sort of themes Amy covered in The Cabin.

The Printer From Hell  I love it when Amy ventures into Dark Web territory, and this is another of those efforts.  Some true modern spookiness.

The Shades  four people are sent to investigate when it appears as though the entire population of the United States has disappeared.  This is Amy at her most surreal.

Stephen  a woman goes to work as a governess in late Victorian times at a remote house, only (of course) to find that everything is not what it seems.  This one had some truly unusual twists to it.

The Vampire of Downing Street  the title story of this collection of short stories is not vintage Cross, in fact it’s all a bit silly, but it stayed with me, and taken as a bit of weird satire about the current state of British politics it does the job!

 

 

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  • Comments Off on The Berwyn Mountains cuttings (see blog post below)

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  • Comments Off on LOCAL NEWSPAPER CUTTINGS ON THE BERWYN MOUNTAINS UFO INCIDENT

Very recently I was handed a pile of old newspaper cuttings from the Welsh edition of the Liverpool Daily Post concerning the Berwyn Mountains UFO incident.  This case is sometimes referred to as the Welsh Roswell.  On 23 January 1974 an earth tremor hit the area, and strange lights were seen.  Since then mysterious rumours about the incident have abounded.  The most dramatic of which was that alien bodies were recovered from the mountain, stuffed into the back of an army truck, and driven down to the highly secretive Ministry of Defence scientific research centre Porton Down, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, southern England.

Anyway I thought I would transcribe one of the cuttings, published in late January 1974, for anyone out there who is interested in the subject.  Here goes:

Scientists were still arguing last night over whether it was an earth tremor or a meteorite that shook most of North Wales 24 hours earlier.  Teams of experts had joined police and an RAF mountain rescue group searching for evidence of any kind in the rugged Berwyn Mountains in Merionethshire.  It was there, near the village of Llandrillo, that ‘an explosion’ was reported on Wednesday night.  In the village itself furniture was moved by the tremor, and pictures fell off walls.  Shock waves were felt as far away as Birkenhead. 

Reports of lights in the sky also came from a wide area, although many sightings happened after the tremor itself.  Police and coastguards now believe that many people, especially in the Isle of Man, actually saw an RAF photo-flash night bombing exercise.  Astronomer Dr Ron Maddison of Keele University, who spent all day scouring the area, said that he was convinced that a meteorite was responsible.  “I’ve never heard of that part of Wales being prone to any kind of earth tremors, and I don’t think there’s any other way of explaining the lights that people have seen”, he said. 

“Today’s search was pretty fruitless, but that’s a pretty bleak part of the world in mid-January”, he went on “We’ll be back tomorrow”.  But at the Global Seismology Unit in Edinburgh, opinions were more in favour of the earth tremor theory.  “The tremor was recorded as magnitude 4”, said a spokesman “A meteorite big enough to have caused that kind of temor would have lit up the sky like daytime, and as far as we know, the lights seen weren’t that bright”. 

The exact location of the centre of the tremor, as judged by instruments, is proving hard to pin down.  Cross-readings vary between 15 and 20 miles from its position first suggested near Llandrillo, on the slopes of 2,500 foot Cader Bronwen.  “I tend to think the centre was nearer the coast, towards Colwyn Bay.  But it will be the beginning of next week before we can say definitely, after we have run the findings through a computer”, said the Edinburgh spokesman.  One theory definitely exploded is that a buried wartime German bomb was somehow set off”. 

Now, also in the pile I was given, was a report, again from the Liverpool Daily Post, headed Mystery Object Baffles Experts.  This was published on 4 February 1974, just a few days after the above incident.  This one reads as follows:

‘The nine-foot long plane-shaped object washed ashore at the base of the Abraham’s Bosom cliffs near South Stack, Anglesey, remains unidentified even after several experts have examined it.  After taking photographs and drawings of the object, members of an RAF team announced that whatever it was it could not fly.  Earlier a bomb disposal squad had said it was not dangerous.  The casing made out of black aluminium has no writing on it except some numbers, but it does contain several plug holes and discs which is evidence that it is full of instruments.  A coastguard spokesman revealed yesterday that it had been found far too heavy to haul up the 150-foot high cliff.  “It has obviously been in the sea a fair time but our main concern was that it was not dangerous.  We believe that it could be some sort of equipment usually towed by a ship.  Several people have been to have a look at it but no one has come up with an answer.  The RAF say that it cannot fly but the wings and tail on it gives it power to climb and dive in water”‘.

The second story is completely new to me, but it reminds me irresistibly of like something out of an old Quatermass film!  You can read more about the Berwyn Mountains incident on the Mysterious Universe website.

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There is an opening scene to one of the old Pink Panther movies in which somebody commits the perfect robbery, when they steal the valuable jewel from a museum.  I was reminded of it when I read about the theft of a Cezanne painting – reputedly worth about £3,000,000 ($4.8 million dollars) –  from Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum on Millennium night, New Year’s Eve 1999.

If you’re going to commit the perfect robbery I guess picking a time when everybody is going to be distracted elsewhere is a good start, and on 31 December 1999 the entire world was preoccupied by the once-in-a-thousand-years Millennial celebrations.

The thief gained access to the Museum by climbing the scaffolding  on a nearby building, and hopping across the rooftops.  At the stroke of midnight fireworks erupted everywhere, and they took advantage of the racket to cut a hole in the roof of the Ashmolean Museum, although one report said they smashed a skylight.  Carrying a holdall containing the tools he needed he then clambered through the hole using a rope ladder.  The most cunning part of the plan was to come next.  The thief let off a smoke bomb to obscure the security cameras.

The smoke bomb set off the fire alarms, and whilst a member of staff was waiting for the fire crew to arrive, the thief grabbed the Cezanne, and shimmied back up the rope, before hot-footing back across the rooftops and eventually disappearing back into the celebrating crowds.  He left behind him his holdall containing his gloves, scalpel and tape.

The painting, entitled View of Auvers-sur-Oise, was very clearly stolen to order.  It was housed amongst a lot of other very priceless paintings by the likes of van Gogh, Picasso and Monet, but it was the Cezanne the thief was after.  No trace of the painting has ever been found since, and it’s probably safe to say it has been sitting in a locked vault somewhere, the pride and joy of some unscrupulous collector.  This in spite of the fact that the story did get a lot of publicity at the time (I remember reading about it on dear old Teletext the next day), and an alert was immediately put out at all sea and airports.

At the time a spokesman for Thames Valley Police said they had no idea when the painting would be recovered, “it could be tomorrow or it could be in 20 years”.  Well, nearly 20 years on, and both painting and culprit are still highly elusive.

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I used to read a lot of erotic fiction back in the day (and by that I mean the 1990s).  It wasn’t unknown for me to haunt the erotic book section of Waterstone’s, usually as fascinated by the other people in there as much as the books on offer.  Girls with feathered jewellery, and yes, old men in raincoats too.   I worked my way through the Victorian and Edwardian classics, including My Secret Life, and another one about corporal punishment – the name of which escapes me now, but it was written by our old friend Anonymous – which did at least give me the idea of us going to Croyde in north Devon for our holidays. I plodded through the complete works of the Marquis de Sade, but found Francine du Plessix Gray’s biography of him to be much more interesting.  I eventually wound up in Lacoste in Provence, where de Sade’s ruined chateau is, so I owe some of my travels to vintage erotica!  I tried my best with Anais Nin, and I respect her achievements, but found her curiously cold, as if she was a bit too airy and abstract for me.  I’m an Earth sign, perhaps I need more meat on the bones, I don’t want silly women going all random and twittery on me, and having affairs with their own dads.

I enjoyed Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy, and loved the way she created a whole sensual new world drawn from old fairy-tales.  When I tried to read the more recent Beauty’s Kingdom though, it completely exasperated me.  I found some of the characters to be total drips, constantly whining and bleating about something or other.  So I thought, perhaps it’s old age coming on.  I can’t be bothered with reading about this stuff anymore.  A few years ago I did get  a bit caught up in all the 50 Shades palava, but that mostly seemed to be because just everybody I knew was reading it, including my 84-year-old neighbour.   But that bored me very quickly.  Ana was a pretentious (“my inner goddess purred”) wimp, and Christian Grey was a ridiculously high-maintenance dullard who, to add insult to injury, had an irritating mother who seemed to keep cropping up all the time when you least expect it.   This might sound controversial, but I believe no captivating male love interest of romantic/erotic fiction should have a mother who keeps appearing on the scene.   God forbid, the mother-in-law character can be a right pain in the ‘arris in real life, I don’t want her appearing in steamy escapism as well.

Get on with reviewing the book you’re supposed to be reviewing, I hear you cry, this isn’t a trip down Memory Lane (well it is partly).  Anyway, to cut a long story short, I suppose I’m saying I thought I was too old and jaded to enjoy erotic fiction these days … so it was a very pleasant surprise to find this book.   I think it helped enormously that because Our Heroine is an air stewardess, the book is set in several different locations, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, USA and Ireland, and she has various adventures in each one.   There is surprisingly little of the Mile High Club about it, but I think, unless you’re on a private flight, I don’t see how that can work these days, considering how we’re usually all jammed in like sardines on most trips.  The Mile High Club smacks of the 1960s and 70s, with spacious flights occupied by rich businessmen and film stars, like something out of a vintage Jackie Collins novel.  It’s hard to equate erotica with flying budget Tenko class somehow.

No, most of Our Heroine’s adventures are on the ground.  She goes surfing in Costa Rica, auditions for a dodgy film part in Los Angeles, and winds up in a strange Irish castle, where, to quote Bernard Bresslaw’s character in Carry On Up The Khyber, the guests are urged to Deny Yourselves Nothing.  This actually had A Story.  Yes! Let joy be unconfined. One of the things I liked about it was that there really wasn’t much in the way of any true unpleasantness about it.  Apart from a dodgy incident on a midnight beach, when she and surfer lover encounter a bent policeman, Our Heroine is in control of all the situations.  She is doing what she wants, however bizarre it might seem at times.  She’s simply enjoying herself, and experimenting to see what she likes.  She’s not out to Save the sad sack men in her life (ruddy 50 Shades again), she has fun with them and then moves on.  The characters aren’t overtly cynical, and the whole thing isn’t riddled with complications, which was a refreshing change.   There is a second story running intertwined with this one, in which a man becomes obsessed with her and tries to track her down, but to be honest, I really couldn’t be bothered with him, so I can’t say much about those sections.

I am looking forward to Part 2 when Our Heroine continues her world travels.

Copyright

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