Archive for January, 2014

Local residents are plagued by strange thoughts during the small hours…

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Late last night week we were pleased to receive a phone call from Dr Neil Cross. It may surprise some readers to learn that although there are plenty of parallels in the research carried out by this site and by Dr Cross our contact is, at best, intermittent. Both parties would accept we do not always see eye to eye over the causes and explanations of the supernatural phenomena that troubles Lethmachen. Nevertheless, we are always eager to court the good Doctor’s opinions. Detecting the familiar urgency in his voice, a weekend meeting was hastily arranged. Naturally the rendezvous took place at his preferred haunt: Victoria’s Cafe, situated in a quiet back room on the top floor of the Lethmachen Antiques Centre. Once the headmaster of the now disbanded Lethmachen Boys School, Dr Cross took early retirement on the death of his wife, and has since devoted his life to investigating paranormal activity. Gaunt of features, yet with a wiry strength and an almost intimidating fire of moral conviction in his eyes, I learn that what inspired him to contact me on this occasion was concern over an outbreak of insomnia. Having previously read our July 2011 article on ‘Shared Dream Fright’, Dr Cross felt that we may be interested to learn of the happenings on a sedate, leafy cul-de-sac by the name of Quell Gardens, and perhaps even a detect a connection between the two cases. The essential difference in this instance being that Lethmachen residents are experiencing something more akin to a ‘Shared Waking Fright’.

‘Sadly, over the Christmas period there was a death on Quell Gardens’ began Dr Cross ‘The young fellow living at Number Eight, Jeremy Swallow, unfortunately resorted to taking his own life. He had recently divorced and I believe there were the expected custody issues and financial problems. My police contacts inform me that it was suicide by hanging; the body was discovered in a wardrobe in the bedroom. His superior at work notified the authorities when Mr Swallow failed to return to the office on the 2nd January. It seems that Jeremy had remained undiscovered for nine or ten days. In my view this tragedy underlines another deficit of modern society. Neighbours no longer speak to one another, or take the time to investigate an absence. Any sense of community has been eradicated. No doubt the rise of the internet and expansion of home entrainment are to blame, not to mention this ridiculous compulsion for married women to return to the workforce. It makes you fear for the young people. A note was retrieved from the scene. From the synopsis I was offered it would appear the overwhelming atmosphere of isolation and silence was the final straw. I believe the letter concluded with words to the effect of ‘’All those sleepless nights, nobody knew what I was going through, nobody understood what was on my mind”.

As I said, a tragic enough case, but all were content to let it lie. Then early last week I received a call from an old friend of mine, a charming widow by the name of Mrs Bury, who happens to reside at Number Six, Quell Gardens. As Mr Swallow had not lived the area long, and had not yet attended any parish functions, Mrs Bury was not well acquainted with him, although she would obviously offer a friendly greeting if the opportunity arose. Being of a sensitive nature, she was touched by his death, but in no sense traumatized or in deep mourning. Yet Mrs Bury told me she was subsequently having trouble sleeping. “I find myself suddenly wide awake at around three o’clock each morning, and can’t get back to sleep again. I lie there in bed listening to the rain or imagining things in the darkness. And the worst thing of all is what is running through my mind. The thoughts I have! Really quite silly, illogical, and to be honest rather morbid. When morning comes and I am able to look back with a clear head, they really do make no sense, and have no bearing on my life. It’s as if they aren’t my own thoughts at all!” Although Mrs Bury contacted me specifically as she suspected the work of restless spirits, I confided that I could not currently recognise any evidence to support this, and suggested that perhaps her sleeping patterns had been disturbed by the upheavals of Christmas.

It was only as I made to leave Quell Gardens that an incident occurred that forced me to reconsider. Out on the pavement a man collided with me, almost knocking both of us to the floor. Seconds before I had registered his rather unsteady, lumbering gait and announced “Excuse me” as we advanced. As I steadied him I noticed the fatigued, hollow look in his eyes and enquired if he was ill. This resulted in myself escorting Mr Boycott back to Number Ten, where he related a strikingly similar tale to that of Mrs Bury. Over the last week he had suddenly begun suffering from insomnia, leading him to listlessly roam the house during the small hours. “And the thoughts are the worst thing, like a chain I can’t break” Boycott explained despondently “They are not even thoughts I can recognise, it’s like they come from somewhere else. Once I even found myself driven towards the wardrobe, like I wanted to climb in and never come out!” These revelations prompted me to questions a number of other residents and on during each interview the same symptoms, the same complaints were repeated: disturbed sleep accompanied by absurd, unbalanced thoughts that they insist are completely out of character. Perhaps the most devastating aspect of all of this was that each person was suffering in silence, in isolation. None of these neighbours had spoken to each other, shared their experiences’.

My curiosity whetted, I asked Dr Cross for his conclusion. ‘I believe it is highly probable that these poor people are the victims of possession. The residents of Quell Gardens are acting as simultaneous hosts for the restless spirit of Jeremy Swallow. Conductors if you will’. ‘At least they have finally found a sense of community’ I joked, yet Dr Cross responded merely with a fleeting, humourless smile. ‘Do you think what they are actually suffering from is a shared sense of guilt?’ I suggested. Dr Cross paused in contemplation, as if estimating as to whether I would be able to comprehend what he was about to say.  He fixed me with a penetrating, slightly daunting glance. ‘My young friend, we do not yet know enough about Mr Swallow’s background. As reluctant as I am to speak ill of the dead, we must look at the evidence. A broken marriage, financial difficulties, this could well imply domestic abuse, alcohol problems, a bad apple so to speak. I would not be surprised to learn that an evil spirit has been set loose in Quell Gardens’.

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