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Archive for October, 2011

A bitter row has broken out between Chief Constable Barrington of Lethmachen’s police force, and senior Social Worker, Ms. Sarah Walsh, over the circumstances surrounding several violent attacks which took place in local Holly Woods.

The row began when Ms Walsh criticised police efforts to find the perpetrator of a recent, brutal attack on schoolgirl Sharon Waite which left the 15-year-old ‘battered and bleeding’, claiming police had “failed to take her [Sharon’s] statement seriously”, “had not learned from past mistakes” and were “still pigheadedly chasing their own tails”.

Chief Constable Barrington responded indirectly at a news conference about the ongoing investigation into Miss Waite’s attack, saying: “I imagine Ms Walsh is referring to the statements recently made by Sharon, and by Alice Grimshaw in the 1968 case of a similar nature, against certain deceased members of this community. I am simply not going to waste police time and tax payers’ money investigating off-the-wall claims made in the heat of the moment by two very confused, traumatised young girls, whose cases are over forty years apart. We have enough on our plates catching and punishing the living,” he added wryly, “without troubling ourselves with the dead as well.” Police are currently looking for an out-of-towner, most likely male and mid-20s, in relation to the attack.

Chief Const. Barrington has urged Ms Walsh to apologise “fully and unreservedly” for her comments, a call now echoed by local politicians. But far from backing down, Ms Walsh hit back yesterday, telling reporters: “Alicewas brutally beaten and abused, found shivering in her own excrement outside the mouth of Holly Woods. That girl told them what happened and no one listened. They [the police] failed Alice, and now they’re failing Sharon. A male out-of-towner? Please. He [Barrington] is the one chasing phantoms. People need to know the truth,” she added, “that Holly Woods isn’t safe for our children because of dangerous, malignant forces – not ‘out-of-towners’.”

Known for its stunning views, picturesque walks and diverse wildlife, Holly Woods has always been a popular site among ramblers, dog-walkers and those seeking peace and respite. Since the 60s, however, Holly Woods gained a sordid reputation when the first of several known attacks took place. All victims to date have been children or youths aged 16 or below – the first, and youngest – Alice Grimshaw – being just eight at the time. The Grimshaw case was one of the first Ms Susan Walsh ever handled as a junior Child Caseworker, which some feel is perhaps why the most recent incident concerning Sharon Waite has sparked such a vehement reaction in the usually-professional social worker.

Councillor George Braddon has now also called for a full apology from Ms Walsh, saying “I don’t know what possessed her to make such ludicrous statements, but she has brought shame on the town, shame on her profession and shame on herself. The police here do a fine job at maintaining law and order,” he added, “a fact she ought to remember the next time she needs them.” She is currently under indefinite suspension while her comments are investigated. A panel will then meet to discuss the future of her career.

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Charity Shop is accused of being the focus for paranormal happenings

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in Lethmachen will be aware that in some aspects it is still just a typical small town, within which local gossip and Chinese whispers flourish. The following story has built slowly over the last couple of years until reaching such a level of  notoriety that it was impossible for this site to ignore, no matter how contradictory or flimsy some of the evidence appears to be.

Located in remote surroundings on the outskirts of town, The Charles Withers Hospice was once the stately home of a Lethmachen landowner who, dying without an heir, donated his grounds to the charity he had established in his name. For over a hundred years now the Hospice has provided high quality, around the clock care to the elderly and Alzheimer’s patients. Although many residents will not be familiar with the Hospice itself, hidden as it is from the passing eye by stone walls and wooded groves, the shop that raises funds for the Hospice has a much more visible presence in the town, situated as it is on the corner of the High Street. However, it is the rumours of invisible presences haunting the Charles Withers Hospice Shop that have necessitated our current investigation.

There have been numerous reports of ghostly sightings on the premises over the last few months, indeed such an uncommon abundance that it soon proves difficult to unravel the strands and separate possible fact from obvious fiction. The following are just a selection of the incidents alleged to have occurred: staff have complained that the cash register snaps shut ‘with a will of its own’ when they are attempting to make a sale, and also that items they have taken out on to the shop floor have been mysteriously returned to the stock room, whilst displays of paperbacks or LP’s frequently seem to have been reordered on the shelves. Customers emerging from the changing cubicle ‘as if through a mist’ share a passing impression that the shop is full of shadowy figures pawing over the ornaments and clothes. One particularly distressed customer claimed that when trying on a tie in the changing cubicle the knot inexplicably tightened around his neck ‘like some invisible hands were fastening a noose’. Others have reported that their moods or behaviours have suddenly altered or become unpredictable since purchasing clothes from the charity shop.

Shop Manager Tina Fray dismisses all of these allegations, and was eager to put forward her version of events. ‘There really is no foundation to any of these stories’ she explains, ‘Everything related to me has either been a misunderstanding, an exaggeration or just simply not true. To be frank I suspect many of these tales were invented and circulated by employees of a couple of local department stores, who shall remain nameless, with the intention of damaging the reputation of this shop. It is sad that such people will resort to attacking a charity, but in these difficult economic times we have been doing a roaring trade, and I think a few of the larger retailers are worried and jealous. You may remember there was a similar whispering campaign against a privately owned toyshop in the town a little while ago. Also, I think in an environment like Lethmachen there is unfortunately a lingering snobbery against charity shops. People still have this outdated idea that our stock is only derived from house clearances, inherited from the poor and the deceased. That’s just not true anymore, culture has changed. All kinds of people donate to charity shops these days, from all walks of life. It’s true there have been problems with the occasional customer or employee who can’t work the till properly, but ask any retail manager and they will tell you that is just normal, everyday working life’.

So is the true scare story the threat to small businesses? I was pleased to find The Charles Withers Hospice Shop bustling with a varied clientele on the mid morning I visited. Customers assured me they always felt comfortable on the premises and had never experienced any kind of supernatural phenomena. However, out on the High Street, attitudes tended to be a bit more wary. ‘I don’t like shopping in there, I think it’s the smell, it reminds me of sick beds’ said Mary Chambers, aged 60. ‘It has got a weird atmosphere’ claimed Steve Rollinson, 43, ‘Too much like a jumble sale, all the stuff looks like wreckage left behind by someone else’. ‘I would never shop in there, I like Abercrombie & Fitch’ said Harry Windsor-Martin, aged 17, ‘Besides, it’s dead people’s clothes isn’t it?’ Clearly the presence of the Hospice Shop on the High Street summons up a few difficult questions for some passers by.  As is often the case, anxiety over our own mortality seems to be at least partly responsible for the wilder claims made about the ghosts amongst the second hand clothes. That is not to dismiss any possibility of supernatural activity, and we will be, as ever, keeping an open mind during our ongoing investigation.

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