Category Archives: Fear

She murmured ‘I’m scared’

It had been a youth-club outing to somewhere or other – probably to a pop concert in one of the nearby towns.  We were to meet at the Village Hall.  I could easily walk there but others came by bike.  These were the days when you could leave your bike against a wall and it would still be there when you came back.

Off we went – 20/25 teenage kids and a couple of grown-up youth club helpers; we had a good time; and we got back quite late.  We all got off the coach and set about going home.  It was around 10.30pm.  Jamie and Christine lived in the same close as me – about a five minute walk from where the coach had dropped us off.  Rosemary lived about two miles away, in a smaller village – but she had come by bike so there was no problem there.  She walked with us the couple of hundred yards to the road junction where she would turn right and ride off home while we walked another 200 or so yards and went to bed.

This was the time to say good-night and go our separate ways.  I quite liked Rosemary and gave her a cuddle and a kiss on the cheek.  She clung to me and murmured ‘I’m scared’.

‘Why?’ I asked. ‘You’ll be OK.  You’ve ridden home before and it’s a nice night.’
‘No,’ she murmured, ‘I’ve ridden home in the light but dad has always picked me up when it’s dark – and he’s away on business this week.’

I looked at her, and then looked down the road.  It was only a couple of miles or so to her home but there were very few house between where we stood and there; and absolutely no street lights.  There was nothing for it but to escort her home.  It would mean that I had to walk two ways but what else could a fellow do?   Jamie and Christine had carried on walking when I had stopped with Rosemary and were now nowhere to be seen.  Never mind – a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

‘Don’t worry,’ I said to Rosemary, ‘I’ll walk home with you.’
‘Will you?  Really?  Oh thank you Ben – you’re an angel.’

We set off into the darkness; talking some of the time, keeping quiet at others.  It’s amazing how your eyes quickly adjust as you walk in the dark.  Quite soon it the road was clearly visible but the grass and the hedges on either side remained a dark mass.  Then the Moon broke through the clouds and we had a glimpse of the road edges.

Neither of us had a watch so we couldn’t check the time but it didn’t take us long, it seemed, to reach her small village.  Rosemary said that her house was just up the road, held her bike in one hand while she threw her other arm round my shoulder, gave me a kiss on the cheek, said ‘thank you so much’ and headed off to her home.

I stood there alone for a while, then turned round and walked back homeward.  The moon kept peeping through the clouds to watch over me and it didn’t seem too long before I reached the corner where this had all started.  I turned right, then right again into our cul-de-sac – all ten houses were in darkness; including mine!  No one was up and wondering where I had got to it seemed!

The back door was locked but I had a key and could let myself in. All was dark inside.  I turned on the kitchen light; locked the back door; took off my coat and shoes and looked up at the clock.

It showed a ‘Quarter to One’!  I looked at my watch – I could see it now – ‘yep, that was the time’!

It was a bit late for a 14 year old like me but I shrugged my shoulders, turned off the light and made my way, quietly, to bed.

In the morning my parents said just one thing – ‘How was it last night?’
I replied ‘Pretty good’ and that was the end of it!  Nothing more was said!

To this day I don’t know if they knew I was very late home but didn’t care or that they had both gone to sleep and didn’t care about anything else.

Me?  I never did that again – but I did one or two other things that were not too much different!  Maybe I’ll tell you about these some other time!

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Rifles and more surprises

As I said last time – it wasn’t just the guns that made us stop – it was the men themselves.  Both could have stepped from the pages of a history book. They were short, stocky men with black, pointed beards. Each wore knee breeches and a white lined shirt open at the neck. One wore a broad red fabric belt; the other wore blue. On their feet were heavy leather shoes with large silver buckles. Neither wore a hat and their black hair was swept back and was just long enough to touch the collar. As they reached us I saw their guns clearly. Each had a wisp of smoke coming from it. They were holding match-lock muskets. No one had used those since the middle of the seventeenth century!

We faced the two men – each pair unsure of the intentions of the other. My father was the first to act.  “Buenos días, señores, he said, taking a step forward, his right hand held up, palm outward in the universal sign of peace.  Blue Belt lifted his musket at father’s movement. Red Belt just eyed us both and then returned the greeting – “Buenos días.”

“You give us a strange welcome,” my father continued. “Are visitors always met in this way?”

The two men exchanged glances and muttered something to each other. Blue Belt nodded and stepped to one side, motioning with his match-lock that he wished us to walk through.

“Better do as they wish, Juan,” father said in a low voice. “I don’t know who’s more surprised and nervous – them or us.”

I nodded, too frightened to speak. The two men fell in behind us, guns still held ready for use. As we drew level with the cottage, a voice from behind bade us stop. We stood in silence.  Then we both jumped as a single clear bugle note sounded from just behind us. The sound echoed and re-echoed around the valley. I turned to look and was just in time to see Blue Belt handing a silver bugle to an elderly woman dressed in clothes as dated as his.

He saw me looking and gestured with his musket. “Walk. Follow the road.” Their Spanish was unmistakable, with a distinctive soft, lilt I’d never heard before.

Father started to move. “Come on, Juan. That was obviously a signal to the village. My guess is that there’ll be a reception committee waiting for us when we arrive.”

He was right. When we reached the village there were people lining the streets, watching us walk ahead of the two men. The watchers all appeared to be men, and were dressed in the same outdated style as our escorts. I also noticed that there were no children around. In any other village in Mexico a pavement gathering would bring children all around. But in this strange village of men with ancient muskets and old-fashioned clothes, there were none to be seen.

Our cottage escorts were replaced by two new men as we were guided onward.

Facing us when we reached the square in the middle of the village was a large building with a pitched roof, an impressive façade, and a pair of huge carved doors. The doors were reached by a broad flight of snow-white stone steps. On each side of each step stood a man wearing a shiny metal breastplate, holding an ornate pike. They stood to attention, facing forward, but I could sense their eyes as they watched our every step. At the top of the steps stood three men dressed in distinguished uniforms.  As we reached the foot of the steps the three men turned and went through the doors. Our new escorts motioned us up the steps, indicating that we should follow the vanished dignitaries.

As we entered the building both father and I stopped. After the bright sunlight the darkness inside was absolute. Our escorts evidently realised our difficulty and waited as our eyes adjusted until we could see the three uniformed men seated at a large table across the far end of the hall. From each end of their table extended longer, narrower tables. At each sat six men facing the centre of the three sided box. Our escort – Blue Belt – was among them. It was obviously a gathering of the village elders and councillors.  The hall was cool and quiet. The high roof was supported by massive wooden beams. Narrow windows, set high in the very eaves, let in light, though not direct sunlight. The walls themselves were decorated with flags, standards and pennants, interspersed with polished breastplates and decorated armour; all of sixteenth century design.

I felt a nudge in my back and was pushed forward to stand with my father.

Spanish style houses come into view

Juan and his father had come to an amicable agreement with their porters and on the next morning the porters had prepared their rations and stood and watched as the two headed south.  Juan picks up the story:-

On the second day we started to climb through the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Father continued taking his readings every hour, and I prepared our evening meal while he wrote up his notes.

It was on the morning of our sixth day alone that we topped another scrub-covered ridge and stopped in amazement. Every other ridge we had breasted had presented us with another in the distance. This one walled a cultivated valley. Through a quirk in the geology the valley had steeper sides than any we had seen. Instead of being a dip between ridges it had a finite shape. The far side was a distinct wall of rock. To the east a small river gushed down a steep incline, almost a waterfall, and then meandered gently across the flat valley floor to a lake that lay glistening in the sun away to the west. The banks of the river flanked neat fields. On each side of the river a white road wound through the fields, joining near a small bridge to become a single road leading into a village of white, flat-roofed, Spanish-styled houses.

“The Valley of Quetzalcóatl,” I heard my father murmur. It was then I noticed something else: although the fields looked well-tended, there was no sign of movement anywhere in the valley.

I mentioned it to my father.

He shrugged his shoulders and looked up towards the sun. “The people will be taking siesta now. It will be warmer in the valley than here on the ridge. Come, let’s go down and see if we can meet the dwellers of Quetzalcóatl’s valley.”  With that he hitched his rucksack onto his shoulders and set off down the slope.

After a few moments’ hesitation I followed him. As we walked through the fields we could see stone-lined irrigation channels leading water from the river to every field. “This is the work of skilled men,” father said as we walked. “No Indians I’ve ever known would do this.”

We turned a bend in the road and saw ahead of us a white cottage with orange trees in the garden and a vine with bright yellow flowers growing all over the veranda. Almost as soon as we saw the cottage a man appeared in the doorway.  As he looked around he saw us. For a long moment he stood still; then he went back into the cottage.

“I have a feeling we shall soon find out what sort of people live in Quetzalcóatl’s Valley, Juan,” my father said. “Just stay calm. I have my rifle and pistol if we need them – just pray we don’t have to use them.”

We kept walking and were within twenty metres of the cottage when the man reappeared, closely followed by a second man. Father and I stopped in our tracks – both were carrying guns. “Easy, Juan,” my father warned.

But it wasn’t just the guns that made us stop – it was the men themselves.

Things are no better

Dear Mum & Dad

It’s been weeks now since we came home and found Janine collapsed on the settee.

Since that day – the day they took her to hospital – there has been no change in her at all.  When we ask, all the doctors will say is that ‘her condition is stable’. What on earth does that mean?  She hasn’t moved or flickered an eyelid since they took her into hospital!

To look at her, though, she hasn’t changed one bit.  She is still as beautiful as ever.

I can’t say the same for the flat though!  That has disintegrated into its old state of untidiness.  None of us have the urge to keep up the standards our lovely Janine set.

We are frightened about it all.  All we want is our lovely Janine to get better and come home.

Love

Albert

Strange happening one Christmas in Peterborough

Apologies for the delay in this second story – I have had a battle with certain elements of my computer and Windows 10.  I think I am getting on top of it – so let’s move on:

This second ghostly story is much different to the first one. When I first started the ghost walks this was one of my favourites but it’s quite some time since I told it so here goes: it was on Saturday 9th January 1892 that the Peterborough Advertiser told the story, headlining it as:-
MYSTERIOUS MANIFESTATIONS IN A PETERBOROUGH COTTAGE – THE NEIGHBOURHOOD DISQUIETED BY A NOISY ‘GHOST’.

The opening paragraph reads:
‘Alarming nocturnal noises have compelled a family to dessert their home in Mayor’s Walk, Peterborough, have terrified residents on either side of the house, and have filled the neighbourhood with fear.’
So – what was happening? 22 Mayor’s Walk had become vacant and a Mr Rimes [a worker on the railways], his wife and their three boys moved in. Soon after they took in two lodgers – her brother Mr Want, and a brother-in-law Mr Easy, who both also worked on the railways.
The Advertiser picks up the story, recording that they were: ‘much surprised soon after their settlement in this particular quarter of the city at being saluted at various hours of the night with most unwelcome, and unexpected, rappings at the front door and against the partition wall of the building – noises most unmistakable and unwelcome. The boys – so goes the story – experienced midnight intruders, and on one occasion both lodgers and boys were suddenly deprived of their bed coverings.’
Things got worse – on the Friday before Christmas 1891 the noises were so bad that they woke the neighbours on both sides of number 22. One described the sound as ‘a noise like a cannon going off’. Another described it as being ‘like a giant ripping up a kitchen table and hurling it down the stairs’.
Messrs Want and Easy called upon a Mister Arthur Wright – a friend of theirs who also worked on the railway and was sceptical about the whole story they had told him.  He offered to lodge with them for the night to convince himself of the story. That night ‘the house was carefully locked up, windows fastened, and the occupants of the rooms duly regarded.’ The report says that a few minutes after 12 midnight there was a hum along the bedroom passage followed by a fearful smash – described as being like ‘a giant sack of coal being tipped downstairs’! Wright and all the occupants of the rooms rushed out – but there was nothing to see. The whole passage looked as if nothing had happened!

They then all got together in one room but noises continued. Then there was another crash – described by Mr Butler the neighbour as being ‘like the fall of a house into the passage’. Mrs Goode on the other side of the Rimes’ house described it as ‘like the explosion of a great gun which shook the house and all in it. The noise before it was like that when a boy rubs the string of his toy telephone.’

The Advertiser goes on to tell its readers that: ‘On Friday the family left, and are now living in Monument Street, and whilst Mrs Rimes declares she has had no sleep at night for six weeks, Want and Easy give similar testimony, that for nights and nights they have never closed their eyes, and neighbours corroborate this probability of this evidence. The house, it should be mentioned, has no cellar and no attic, and the noise in the passage and rattling of the interior doors seemed altogether disproportionate to the average strength or movement of any human individual.’

So that’s the end of this spooky story. The Rimes had no more ghostly problems and there has been no repeat of the events for any residents since in this Mayor’s Walk cottage. Oh, and by the way – don’t go looking for the house. It’s still there but the number has changed!
If you want more on this story you can read the Advertiser’s full-length report in the library archives and Stuart’s telling of it is on pages 60-62 of his book that’s available at the Museum, various shops in Peterborough and on-line.

Enjoy

Green eyes

In the middle ages the little village had a reputation for being a centre for witchcraft and black magic. Even now one could understand how the reputation would have grown. The narrow cobbled streets twisted between tall stone houses. Every now and then an even narrower passage led off the streets into dark and secret courtyards. All around the mountains towered. Sheer faces of dark rock rose thousands of feet into the clear blue sky. Progress seemed to have passed it by. Just one road wound through the village, following the valley. Coming from nowhere and leading to nowhere. Cars were few and tourists even fewer.

It had been quite by chance that Peter Jefferson had found the village at all. He was heading north at the end of a leisurely touring holiday when he seemed to lose his bearings. He must have missed a turning somewhere, he had decided. He had driven on for a while and was just considering whether to turn back or not when he reached the village. He found a little bar that was still open and went in for a drink and a bite to eat. The talkative owner had told him something of the history of the village; of the witchcraft and black magic that had been practiced there in years past. Peter had discounted them with a shrug and a laugh, a reaction that seemed to have upset the landlord.

Peter decided that, as long as he was there, he might just as well have a look round. As he strolled through the village he could imagine how the stories would have grown. Even in the bright afternoon sun some corners of the village seemed foreboding. As it does in the mountains in autumn, the dusk started to fall quite early – the depth of the valley accentuating the differences between the bright sun on the mountains and the darkening shadows near the houses.

Just as he was thinking that he should go back to his car and get on his way Peter found himself at the edge of the village. The road out of the village stretched before him across the open valley floor. A little stream flowed along the side of the road. To his right was the last house in the main street.

He stood and looked around. The flat open valley floor swept round behind the house. Little wisps of mist were beginning to gather near the stream in the rapidly cooling air. Alongside the house was a lane – narrow and edged with low stone walls. At the end of the lane was a small cottage. The door was open and he could see in the lighted interior an old woman, seemingly bent with age, and a young girl with very long, dark, hair. They appeared to be busy over some task that he could not see.

For reasons he could not explain he began to walk down the lane toward the little cottage and its open door. As he did so the girl suddenly stood straight and threw back her head with what looked like a laugh – but Peter heard nothing. The whole village appeared devoid of life and of sound. He stood there in the failing light in complete silence.

As he stood there he saw a cat – large and black – sitting on a wall nearby; watching him. Peter stared at it and the cat stared back – green eyes glinting, shining; reflecting the last rays of the setting sun.

Deliberately the cat stood up, stretched and jumped lightly from the wall. It started to walk, almost slink, towards him – watching him with those glinting green eyes. Peter looked up from the cat towards the cottage. The old woman and the girl stood looking out of the door – watching him and the cat. A preposterous thought went through his mind. ‘They look just like an old witch and her child. They were weaving spells when I first saw them – and now they are watching the results.’

He shook himself. It was preposterous. This was the 21st century. It was just the old village, the failing light and the landlord’s tales that were creating the illusion. Despite himself he shivered. Time to go he decided. He looked back at the cat – the big, black witch’s cat. It now stood watching him.

He turned and walked towards the road. He wanted to run but resisted the temptation. As he walked, the cat followed him; stalking him down the lane.

Reaching the end of the lane Peter turned right, heading away from town. Why he did it he couldn’t tell. He just found himself walking toward the open valley in the failing light. Just behind him, green eyes glinting, stalked the cat.

He stopped and shooed it. The cat stopped and gazed back at him. He shooed it again. Again the cat stayed firm – its green eyes staring back. Sudden, unreasoning panic gripped him; panic and fear, and directed toward the cat, the witch cat. He took a step toward it and kicked. He felt his foot make contact and the cat, without a sound, flew through the air and landed on the grass verge.

Panic and fear still gripped him; now it was compounded by confusion. Why had he kicked the animal? The animal that now sat looking at him from the spot where it had landed. Still its green eyes were fixed on him – Peter Jefferson.

Standing and seemingly rooted to the spot, Peter looked away from those eyes; away and toward the little cottage. He could still see the open door, the light and the silhouettes of the two women, young and old, standing there.

He turned his gaze back to the cat. It was moving toward him again – moving in a peculiar way; a menacing way. The movement reminded him of a big, black, squat toad moving slowly, remorselessly across the road toward him; another companion of witches – the witches from the cottage in the lane.

The animal moved closer still making no sound. Terror grew again in his mind. Movement returned to his legs and he kicked again – wildly, viciously. He felt his foot make contact. This time the animal made a noise – something akin to a snake’s hiss. The sheer unexpectedness of it completed the return of movement to his whole body. He started to run, but still away from the town; away from the women in the cottage, away from the animal whatever it was.

The release of pent up fear gave him speed – a frenetic panic stricken dash up the road. He turned to look over his shoulder and the animal was still there – now large, black and Panther-like; bounding along silently and close. As he looked Peter stumbled and started to fall and, as he fell, l the animal leapt; white fangs glinting in the half-light, its green eyes shining, a low chilling growl coming from its throat.

At that moment a bolt of lightning hurtled across the now dark sky. A deep and threatening roll of thunder followed. Another bolt of lightning came from sky to ground, striking a tree that flared and split with a loud crack. Suddenly everywhere appeared to be on fire – yet everything had gone silent and the green-eyed animal had gone.

Peter lay where he had fallen. Then he heard a voice – a deep, clear, quiet voice; a voice of authority.

‘Stranger – what are you doing here?’  Peter looked round. There was no-one.

‘Speak stranger. Speak or …..’ The voice tailed off. The threat, the unknown threat, was ominous.

‘I hear you. Who are you? Where are you?’

Another bolt of lightning illuminated the dark, foreboding, sky.  ‘I ask the questions. What are you doing here?’

Peter looked around. There was nothing; no one. In the background there was a low roll of thunder.

‘I am waiting.’

‘I am here by accident; lost.’

‘Leave now. You will know your way.’

Peter didn’t argue. He climbed to his feet. His car was strangely close to him. He got in. The back seat held his belongings. He started the engine and set off along a road he had not seen before. It was strange to him – but he ‘knew’ it was the right road. It turned left between two sharp-faced hills, and as he did he heard a low rumble of thunder behind him – then nothing.

Beneath a clear evening sky he followed ‘his’ road. In less than 15 minutes he drove into a neat village. In the centre, looking across the market place, there was a hotel.  He stopped and went in.  It had a room available.

‘Where have you come from?’ mine host asked. ‘Have you come far?’

Peter told him of the holiday he had taken and that he was now on his way home. He said that he had thought of staying at the village a 15 minute drive away but it didn’t seem to have a hotel so he had driven along to here.

‘There is no village that way sir’ the hotelier told him. ‘There was one many, many years ago – but it is not there now. That village was demolished, razed to the ground, over 100 years ago. Strange things, bad things, were reported to have happened there. It was not a good place to be – especially for strangers – it was said.’

‘Tell me about it – sometime’ said Peter. ‘Which way is the bar?’

Peter slept surprisingly well that night. In the morning he had a good breakfast and checked out.

‘Thank you Sir. Have a safe journey.  ‘I am sure you will know the way’, he added in a voice that Peter felt he had heard not too many hours before.

It was then that Peter decided that, perhaps, he would not come this way again.