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Sunday, 26 October 2014

A Ghost Story for Halloween

The damp Autumn evenings are drawing in and Halloween is just around the corner, so what could be more appropriate for my latest post than a seasonal ghost story?  The following creepy little tale was told to me many years ago by my old friend Christopher Gask. Readers of this blog will no doubt recall that Chris and I shared our own creepy little adventure documented in an earlier post entitled "Phantom in the Fog" However, as it was Chris who told me the following story, I feel it is best he should tell it here in his own words.

The Interrupted Journey

A Ghost story for Halloween
By Christopher Gask 

" The following story was told to me some thirty years ago by my brother, who in turn heard it from my father and he was told it by the mother of the young man it concerns. In those days my father worked as a travelling salesman covering almost the entire length and breadth of Lincolnshire, which is how he came to hear the tale. Sadly he has since passed away and I never got to ask him which Lincolnshire village the following events took place in. Apart from this and the names in the story being my own invention, it is just as it was recounted to me...

Billy Gray was about as imaginative as a cheap package holiday. Compared with him dishwater was clear and sparkling. Everyone in the small Lincolnshire village knew what to expect from Billy; The lads reputation preceded him. "Did you see that film last night Billy? Where an alien burst out of that blokes chest!" Was typical of the comments some of his peers in the playground would make to him. "Burst out of his chest? That`s ridiculous, grow up really! "were equally typical of his response.

Billy lived with his mother in a small house just outside the village. It was a crisp autumnal day, the 31st October, to be exact, Halloween and Billy was cycling to a nearby town where he planned to visit a friend. Nothing more was heard about the boy until later that evening when a local girl in the village spoke to Billy who claimed he was on his way home, she reported nothing untoward or strange about him. The next few hours following this are shrouded in mystery and we only have Billy`s terrifying account to go by. But more of that later.
At around midnight Billy`s sleeping mother was rudely awakened by a furious crashing at the front door. The terrified woman threw on a night dress and nervously descended the stairs. "Who is it?" She cried from halfway down. The response was a blood-curdling anguished cry of "Let me in, please God let me in!" Mrs Gray was just restrained from fleeing out the back door by recognition of Billy`s strangled cries. She threw open the door just as it was about to come off its hinges to admit a nightmarish figure just recognisable as her son. His clothes dirty and dishevelled, his hair wild, face ashen and his eyes starting from his head like a caricature of a man in amazement. " Don`t let her get me mum, for heavens sake lock the door!" His mother hastily complied. "Who is it? What happened ? Calm down Billy." But the boys hysteria was not to be placated. "She`s gonna get me, you must help me." The boys ravings were frightening Mrs Gray,in his hysterical state she feared what he was capable of. She managed to sneak to an upstairs phone and call the police, but by the time they arrived the youth was little short of a raving maniac and they were forced to call for an ambulance. It finally took eight brawny arms to get the crazed teenager into the vehicle and restrain him. Finally the ambulance sped off, siren wailing for the nearest hospital.

A few miles into the journey Billy suddenly became even more energised and redoubled his efforts to break free. "She`s here!" he screamed pointing at the back window of the ambulance though he could not possibly have seen through the tinted glass where they were. The ambulance driver who could see noticed that they were passing a lonely road flanked by a churchyard on one side, a dike on the other and overhanging trees on both.

Finally they got their unhinged captive to the hospital where help was on hand and the boy was sedated and pacified. It took a few days for him to return to anything like his old self and a few more before he could be persuaded to impart the tale of what had transformed him from Jekyll to Hyde.

The fateful evening had been preceded by an uneventful day. After leaving his friends he had cycled back to the village where he called at a shop to buy some chocolate, munching contentedly he peddled on until he met a local girl he knew, he stopped and they chatted briefly then he pushed on for home.

The crisp October evening was dark and chill as Billy left behind the few village shops and found himself on a secluded road which he had always disliked without knowing why, the imaginative would have known why. This particular stretch of road was a dark and dismal place, it passed an old churchyard on one side and a forbidding dike on the other, and was flanked by ancient trees which overhung the road and entwined with each other forming an eerie struggle, as if the trees had decided that the road wasn`t big enough for all of them, and they were battling for supremacy.

Of course such a simile would not have occurred to the unimaginative Billy, he only knew that it made the road darker and even he often felt a chill as he rode through and was always glad to emerge on the other side.

Tonight though he was to find himself somewhat delayed.

As he rode on, the only sound that of the bike wheels crunching on the crisp autumnal carpet he discerned something up ahead, an ill defined shape to his left. Billy peered into the grimy darkness. His bike lights with its fading batteries could scarcely pierce the ink-black darkness, but still the figure stood out with faint luminosity, gaining tangibility with every turn of the bike wheels. What the Hell was it? Billy knew this road blindfolded and had never encountered anything like this before. And now wasn`t it moving, coming forward to meet him? Billy was experiencing feelings he had been a stranger to since infancy, maybe not even then. He almost laughed out loud as he discerned a figure in a dress. It was a woman waving an arm to flag him down. Perhaps her car had broken down further up the road, or she had lost her way seeking directions. He applied his breaks and came to a halt as he drew alongside her

 The woman stepped from the side of the road into a small circle of light which Billy`s failing lamp afforded. The first thing that he noticed was the unfortunate woman had only one arm. And then his whole world stopped making sense. For besides the arm the woman also appeared to be missing her head.

The bike he had just dismounted clattered to the floor, he could only stare stupefied as the grisly apparition made straight for him.
Seizing him with her only arm she dragged him with preternatural strength off the road and through a nearby gate. Somehow on the periphery of this nightmare, he was aware that they were in the churchyard. The creature dragged the mute Billy, who was too dumbstruck to resist, into a neglected corner of the churchyard and the unlikely duo stopped abruptly at a certain grave.

As the hapless boy watched the surface of the grave began to move, the earth was pushed aside from within by an arm followed by a female head, both caked in mud from what should have been their final resting place. The eyes blinked then opened wide and focused on their unwilling visitor; the mouth began to open and close as if the thing was trying to regain the power of speech, rusty with years of disuse. At that moment Billy snapped out of his trance and with a strength lent to him by sheer terror. he Broke free and fled like a fox pursed by hounds.

The next few hours were not recalled to Billy. He must have wandered aimlessly around the lonely lanes and fields, his reason almost completely destroyed before he found himself by sheer chance outside his home. This restored him to an awareness of who he was and what had happened to him.

Billy concluded his tale to deathly silence from the awe-hushed audience assembled around his bed. It was a few minutes before anyone spoke. A police Sergeant from among the group turned to one of his constables. "Er...could I talk to you outside for a moment." Once out of ear shot the sergeant told his man. " It seems the lad has suffered some kind of nervous breakdown, but I think a couple of you should check that churchyard if only to help clear up this mystery."

Two policemen were dully dispatched to the scene of Billy`s ordeal. Their first find was Billy`s bike half buried in autumn leaves at the side of the road. The two men, who expected their research to yield this bicycle and nothing more entered the graveyard and made their way over to the long neglected corner. They didn't need to look long for the grave  that Billy had described. Switching on a torch to combat the failing daylight, both men gave a sharp intake of breath as the beam of light disclosed a scene of disarray. A crisscross of footprints, evidently pointed to the scene of a violent struggle, but the grave itself was what made each man feel glad that he was not alone.

The earth had clearly been disturbed, broken and pushed aside as though someone had tried to get in...or out!

Acting on a hunch the more astute of the two policemen, took note of the name on the grave, it read:

Helen Barton, 1933-1963. Not dead only resting

Those words would later echo prophetically in the constables mind, for investigation unearthed a report on a certain Helen Barton, who in 1963, was driving past the churchyard when she lost control of her car when swerving to avoid a cyclist and crashed into a tree on the side of the road. Not only was she dead but the state of the corpse was said to be horrific! Mrs Bartons left arm was severed at the shoulder, but most terrible of all the unfortunate woman had been decapitated.

And the date of the accident? Yes you guessed it, 31 October, 1963.

"Mum just promise me they will burn that bloody church and graveyard down to the ground" Billy had begged after he had recounted his story, but of course they didn`t.

As I said earlier this tale was passed onto me and I haven't been able to specify the exact location. But if you do find yourself on a lonely Lincolnshire road this Halloween, with a churchyard on one side and overhanging trees on both then beware. And if a dimly discernible figure on the side of the road appears to be flagging you down, you had best ignore it and get out of there fast.

Oh, and whatever you do...Don`t loose your head!

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