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Ghost, Spiritual Or Historic Stories For Pubs And Restaurants

Rufus The Funny Ghost

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 46

I’m Rufus, and I want to welcome you here. We might have a chance to get to know each other, while you enjoy your stay, but before we meet, let me tell you a bit more about who I am, and what brought me here in the first place.

I was walking by a house one day, when I noticed that a little girl was staring at me with a look that mimicked both fear and curiosity. I felt embarrassed, I was a total mess, and I probably scared the bejesus of that poor child. I never thought that I could frighten a child, I mean, I am not the best-looking lad, but I can’t even hurt a fly.

However, on that particular day, I was a bit off... I blamed my confusion on a series of events that I caused a few days ago. It all started one night, when I enjoyed one of the fine pleasures in life... wine. Oh, I love a nice glass of red wine, sometimes I love the same glass repeatedly.

Sadly, for my friends, I also love pranks. I never took life too seriously, I figured that we only live once, so we should make the best of it, and what is better than having a good laugh from time to time?

But, back to my story. I was sitting at my desk, drinking a half a century old, bottle of Chardonnay, and smoking a hand rolled Cuban cigar, when I had, what I thought to be, the best idea of a prank. Therefore, I started writing a letter to each and every friend I had, saying that Rufus Grant died in a tragic fire.

Maybe I should have stopped there, but... I like pranks to be realistic. So, I poured myself another glass of wine and, trusting that my insurance will cover the damage, I dropped the cigar on the wool carpet, which was warming my feet. Who knew that wool burned that fast?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crazy, I got up and walked away, but I wasn’t as fast as I would have been if I were drinking coffee instead of wine. I made it out, just in time to hide from the fire fighters.

Now, I couldn’t go home, because I wanted to pretend that I’m dead, so I spent a few days roaming the streets. At some point, I noticed that I wasn’t hungry nor sleepy, so you would think that I would have realised that there is something wrong. But I didn’t, I just enjoyed the energy boost. Three days after my fake death, I went home, and I was a bit surprised to see my family carrying a coffin. They were never the target of this joke, so I rushed to them but... no one could see me, no one but my five years old niece.

I eventually realised that I am in fact dead, and now I have lot of time on my hands. The fact that no one can see me can only be an advantage. What am I doing here? Well... I do need a place to stay, and there are many nice people here. I do hope they appreciate my humour.

The plague

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 37

You might have heard of something called the Black Death.

One of the most devastating and fatal diseases in human history, it swept across Europe in the thirteen hundreds, leaving hundreds of millions of people dead in its wake. Its symptoms included the development of pus-filled sores across the body, the blackening of skin as it deadened and fell off, and the eventual, usually inevitable, death of the afflicted. The disease reached Britain in 1350, and had spread across the entire country by 1351.

A plague of this nature, as you might imagine, brought about any number of legends, myths, and ghost stories. But one particular story persists, one about a young doctor who lived only a few miles from here, and who understood the plague- and it’s deadliness- better than anyone.

The doctor, who went by the name of Frederick Post, began to study the plague as it began to creep across the whole of the British Isles. Tragically, during his study, he discovered that the disease was not only fatal, but highly contagious, and within a matter of weeks he was displaying a handful of symptoms that he recognised only too well. Terrified, the doctor knew he only had a matter of days to find a cure- and, in his desperation to rid himself of the illness, he called on forces outside his control.

Frederick immediately consulted a local healer, begging that the she find a way to save his life. She swore to him that she would find a way to do so, but in return he would need to bring her the blood of three new plague victims in return for his life. In a hurry, Frederick fled back to the city and continued work as though nothing had changed, attempting to hide the increasingly noticeable symptoms of the plague.

Luring plague sufferers into his office, he promised a cure and, when they were unconscious, collected the blood by murdering off those who were already close to death and draining them- amidst the chaos of the plague, no-one noticed a few more corpses on the pile, even if they did have a few suspicious-looking contusions.

Once Frederick had acquired everything the healer had asked of him, he returned to her and Frederick got his wish.

When he demanded that she extend his life, the healer obliged- but, instead of curing him of the plague, cursed him to wander the streets forever as a ghost, still suffering from the agonising symptoms of his disease for all eternity. As she explained to him, all he had asked for was that his life be extended, and his callousness proved that he was not worthy to look after the patients he claimed to treat, but rather should join the ones he had failed in the spirit world.

They were released from their suffering, but Frederick Post can still be heard, very late some nights, trying to find a kind doctor who might cure him of his ailment…


Jackdaw

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 33

Mother was forever a sickly woman, trapped in a cycle of perpetual mourning for a long-dead father I never knew. She rambled around our family’s crumbling pile, another lost thing of past to add to the mouldering collection.

We were close, in our way. With nothing more to do but raise me, she spent long hours with me reading and talking, mostly about my father. In these hours, she always had the glazed, far-off gaze of someone trapped in a memory she did not want to escape. I would sniffle and cry, beg Nurse not to make me go sit with Mother, her musty room and hazy eyes frightening to a child who otherwise only knew bright and shining things.

No one was surprised when Mother became ill, again. It was a part of her cycle of despair: long periods of being bedridden, followed by marathon talks about my father. But this time a special nurse came to care for her. I was ten at the time, and gripped my new-found freedom with both hands, packing my satchel with books to wander across the fields to read without the constant interruption of my mother’s memories.

Caught by the ear before I could get out the door, I was trapped in the house, rambling through the cavernous rooms on my tod. Bored with confinement, I marched back to my room in a strop, threw myself onto the bed and fell asleep.

The throaty scream of a jackdaw startled me awake at twilight.

The windows and doors were closed, there was no fireplace in my room. The bird sat on the metal rail at the foot of the bed, one blue-white eye appraising me as I stared back. It cocked its head and screamed. Terrified I ran across the room and threw open the window, the jackdaw crying out a final time before it flew away.

I dashed out of the room to tell Nurse what had happened. She met me in the hallway.

My mother was dead.

I was rescued from a life trapped amongst the relics by my mother’s sister, Aunt Vivian. A vivacious, lovely, and healthy women who had escaped the family home at seventeen for Oxford and then the world. A great believer in music, museums, and education she set me upon a program to correct the deficiencies of a life lived in isolation. The next five years were an endless adventure across the Capital.

Until the morning I woke to find a jackdaw eyeing me from the top of closet door. It screamed out its warning as I opened the window and begged it to leave.

Aunt Vivian was dead on the landing, lying in a pool of blood still in her party dress from the night before.

Friesians, or the cost of milk

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 32

Joe was a city bloke, milk came from a supermarket, smartphones from China and jeans from Taiwan, that's just the way the world worked.

So he was really surprised to be enjoying his weekend in the countryside, the locals were friendly, the food and drink was superb and the room was as bad as expected. If nobody has trade marked The No Power Shower yet then they should and Sky Sports yeah sure.

Anyway after a wonderful Sunday roast he mentions that he is going for a walk down by the river, the whole pub falls silent and an old bloke who has clearly been there for a hundred years says "It's Friesians' Day, so I wouldn't do that". Of course he wasn’t that concise, there were a few ohs and ahhs and the delivery was quite prolonged but I guess that you can imagine that part.

Assuming that this is a locals' joke he responds with "Don't worry I won't let myself get eaten" and exits before anyone gets a chance to reply, not getting that the reference was to dairy cows rather than beef cows.

Definitely tipsy, Joe walks along the river bank still smiling at the notion of a bovine family of 4 siting down to eat him and complaining that his rump was tough. He comes across a sign that says Danger, No Swimming and determined to show his respect for the Health and Safety brigade he recycles the liquid part of lunch over the base of the sign post.

After this victory for freedom he looks up and about 100 yards away some idiot is driving a herd down this narrow track. In the odd way that time sometimes passes quickly after a few drinks the herd was upon him and he notices something odd, there are a couple bulls, about 50 cows and around 500 newly born calves.

Without knowing how he knows he finds himself in front of a "family", one bull, one heifer and 10 calves. Looking at the bull all he can feel is rage, looking at the cow it changes to bewilderment and deep sorrow, and the calves are just confused, where is mum?

Taking a step back from this emotional onslaught didn’t help, the "family" moved slowly forward in that slow and unstoppable way that cows have. One more step back, and then another, and finally the next step has him toppling backwards into the river.

It was warmer than he had expected and as the current was taking him to the other side of the river he was quite happy to drift. As he drifted around the bend the reason for the sign became clear, there was this ruddy great big weir, the water sped up and the inevitable happened.

A few days later the local newspaper carried a story with an eye witness saying that she saw the deceased walking down by the river, he appeared to stop suddenly and started walking backwards as if being pushed, but she was too far away to help when he went into the river.

Some may say that this is a fair price…

Run

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 27

What I most remember about that night was the cold which blew through the cracked window pane and my husband, Robert.

We had married just as the bombs began to fall. Robert was stationed in France with the British Infantry. I was a nurse at Great Ormond Street and lived in the smallest room of a boarding house on Bloomsbury Square. It was only one rung above a cot in the underground at Russell Square, but it was mine.

It was a restless night. More than the cold, there hadn’t been a letter in three days. Even with the war on, I had received a letter, a postcard, a little something every other day. You could set your watch by my Robert. I would see women on the wards, their sick child in bed beside them, a worn telegram or notification letter clutched in their hands. My letters were tied with ribbon, safely tucked under my pillow back in my room.

I was laying in bed, staring into the dark when the floorboards next to the bed creaked. I grabbed my pedestrian torch from the bedside table. Because of the Blackout the beam was covered with the piece of brown paper, so the light wasn't much, but it was enough to see there was no one else in the room. I clicked off the beam and lay back down.

A weight settled on the end of the bed. I clearly heard Robert's voice say, "Run."

I shot up, standing next to the bed with the torch in hand, the hardwood floor so cold my feet ached. When the beam of the torch feel on end of the bed, my Robert was sitting there, blooding coursing down his face, a gapping hole where his brown hair had been.

The torch clattered to the floor in my panicked dash towards the door, where Robert was waiting. "Dress. Leave. Run."

It was the worst kind of waking nightmare, my husband's ruined face before my eyes regardless of which direction I turned, all the while saying, "Run. Run. Run. Run. Run. Run."

Crying, I threw on clothes and grabbed my coat. I fled through the front door of the house and into the street with only my handbag. As I turned back toward the front of the boarding house, Robert was standing on the front steps, still mouthing, "run" on an endless repeat. The air raid siren started to wail. I ran to Holborn where I eventually fell asleep sitting up against the wall, wedged between two strangers.

The next morning I staggered out of the station in a daze, haunted by the nightmare of the night before. I didn't have to walk far to see the smouldering wreckage of the boarding house, its Georgian bricks blown into the street.

There was a man standing in the street looking lost, the notification letter in his hand.

I walked up to the man and said, "I think that letter is for me."

Christopher Marlow, Doctor Faustus, and the Greatest Elizabethan Actor

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 26

Hauntings are the recurring appearance of a spirit to the living, and the question of what a spirit wants is always foremost in our minds. Are they here for good or evil? Do they need to take care of some unfinished business or right a wrong? Are they trying to tell the living something that will lead to resolving an injustice or simply advance the well-being of a loved one?

Though modern sightings, if properly recorded, can be analysed, what about the myriad tales of occurrences that have taken place in centuries past? Only you can decide if this tale of a ghostly inhabitance is true.

The mysterious and untimely death of playwright Christopher Marlowe, 29 years of age, has been baffling historians for centuries, though it was reported to be the result of an argument over money.

Allegedly, Marlowe worked secretly with Sir Francis Walsingham’s intelligence service under the direction of Her Royal Majesty Elizabeth I, and it was because of this service that the Privy Council intervened on his behalf when the authorities at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge refused to award him his Master of Arts degree based on rumors that he intended to become a Roman Catholic priest.

Six years later, in 1593, he was to appear before that same council for the crime of blasphemy, likely associated with one of his works, The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, his dramatised version of the Faust legend which involves a scholar’s pact with the devil. There is no record of his having appeared before that council, however, and several days later, he was stabbed to death by one Ingram Frizer.

Marlowe clearly depicted his own persona into the character of Faustus.

• The church held a large influence over Marlowe’s thinking, and the ideas of God, Heaven and Hell plagued Faustus throughout the play.

• Both Marlowe and Faustus were greedy and lacked common sense.

• Both men were educated scholars.

• Ironically, the death of Doctor Faustus was violent like the death of Marlowe, who could not have known how he himself would die.

Upon the first performance of Doctor Faustus in 1594 (the first performance after Marlowe’s death) by the Lord Admiral's Men's Repertoire at the Rose, it is reported that the lead man, Edward Alleyn, “was disoriented and vague with his lines”. He seemed to the audience to be ill-rehearsed and coarse.

In the first act, the character Faustus has decided to become a magician, for in doing so, he believes, he’ll “gain the spirits as his slaves and accumulate unimaginable wealth”.

Witnesses in the audience say that Alleyn was almost lethargic in delivering his lines, but upon declaring his desire to have the “spirits as slaves”, a shudder took over his body and a vague light could be seen to surround him, at which point he “arose like a great titan in stature and with a preponderance of grace and eloquence”.

Some believe it was the spirit of Christopher Marlowe who took over Alleyn’s body and caused him to become the greatest Elizabethan actor to ever live. Alleyn performed other plays written by varying playwrights but none were so masterfully performed as those written by Marlowe, and he was always exhausted when a performance ended. Word of the apparition spread among the towns and caused great numbers of attendees to be in awe of Alleyn’s performances, but not for the reasons he supposed.

Perhaps Christopher Marlowe had stayed to prove to the Privy Council that his play would be popular among the people. Or maybe he was compelled to bring his own quality to the character on the stage. One thing is clear, however. Those who witnessed the “possession” of Alleyn all say the same thing. It was the voice of Christopher Marlowe who delivered the words of Doctor Faustus.

The Case of Valentina Andrecozzi and the Olde Bell Tavern, Fleet Street, London

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 23

The ghost is such a complicated phenomenon that one or two relatively simplistic explanations cannot hope to account for the whole range of variations within the subject. An investigation into the numerous ghosts and hauntings around the world must necessarily include why they occur and our willingness to believe in the supernatural.

As always, ghosts live in the borderland between this world and the other.

Born in Putignano, Italy, as a child Valentina Andrecozzi liked to play in the karst caves, creating stories inspired by the ridges, towers, fissures, and sinkholes formed by the eroding landscape. Her friends would sit before her for hours, spellbound as she wove tales of ghosts, spirits and apparitions. Everywhere she went people were captivated to her magnetic personality.

In 1871, her family moved to London where she grew to be a plump woman, a bit madcap, with a boisterous sense of humor, great energy, and a talent for profanity. Her bawdy speechifying was fueled by all the fanciful details of her life as she commonly held court in the pubs and taverns in Fleet Street, and those who knew her well were always surprised at her ability to mesmerise a crowd.

Her untimely disappearance occurred on Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday (Martedi Grasso or Mardi Gras). This was the day when everyone overindulged in rich foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. After this typical night of tippling and rabble rousing, she left the pub and was never seen again.

Her route home was predictable. She would walk along Fleet Street to the Strand, Westminster, and so to Ludgate Circus and on to Ludgate Street (what is now Ludgate Hill), where she would turn into one of the small alleys in which her flat was located.

Her friends and “followers” searched for many days but could find no trace of her.

In 1909, an anonymous letter appeared in the London Times suggesting that there was a woman in an unmarked grave near St. Paul’s Churchyard. Along with this were these words:

"I cannot feel the sun. I cannot take in air. Darkness faces me every day, and no one comes to find me." The letter seems to complain of some accident that has happened, but it does not specify the subject or cause of it.

The hauntings on Fleet Street began about a year after Adrecozzi’s disappearance and continued every night for about four years. As hacks and inkies (printers) frequented the pubs, particularly the Olde Bell Tavern, many complained of a woman, probably a down-and-outer, who accosted them with tales of injustice, and sometimes talked of “living in the graves” (referring to the graves at the Church of St. Bride’s).

Recent activity (2012) to repair the crumbling stonework of the old church has disturbed the ground, and the haunting of this area of Fleet Street by Valentina Andrecozzi is said to have begun again.

R. Fintan Drost, a professor of paranormal activity studies at Queen’s University in Belfast had this to say:

“The disappearance of Valentina Andrecozzi at the height of her grandeur was as if her whole “kingdom” had sunk into the sea.”

As it happened, Andrecozzi left the Olde Bell Tavern on Shrove Tuesday night and, being tipsy, walked toward the church and passed out, stumbling into an open grave. In the morning, the hole was filled with dirt, with no one aware that she lay there.

For all the naysaying of science, there are those who still hope that the remains of Valentina Andrecozzi can be identified.


The doomed bride

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 18

I was happy to finally have a weekend for myself, after several months of hard work and with every other free minute spent with friends and family, I realized I haven’t done anything to calm myself, to clear my mind for a long while.

So after my day was over I texted everyone that I was taking off to Banff National Park and that I was leaving my mobile phone at home. I didn’t want to risk any disturbance on my small trip, that much I deserved, but I did take my lap-top, so they could send an rmail in case something really bad happened.

I enjoyed watching nature from the train window, but soon it got oto dark to see anything, so I decided to watch a movie. I had a DVD that my sister had given me ages ago, with words: ”It’s amazing, you should watch it! It’s animation, but it’s perfect!” I liked animated movies when I was younger, but now as a grown man I really wasn’t sure if I should waste my time on it. On the other hand I had some free time so I decided to give it a shot. “Corpse bride”… doesn’t really sound like a story for kids.

The movie was over, as well as the journey, I got off the train, took a walk, and reached my destination, “Banff Springs Hotel.” It looked so magnificent, beautiful but also a bit creepy.

Perhaps it had been a bad idea to watch a movie with dead people, where the main character had the same name as me.

But, when I entered the hotel there was nothing spooky, besides being a living museum this place looked like a palace. It was a great choice to come here, I had come too late for dinner, so I went to my room and Thank God, for 24 hour room service.

Midnight had just passed, when I was wandering around the hallways, I could almost feel like a king, all alone in a magnificent ambience. Also I felt so good that I could finally hear my inner voice talking to me.

It’s really great to be all by yourself for a while.

That’s when I felt cold breeze on my neck.

I thought it must be a drift, but all windows seemed to be closed. “Oh, well” I thought “this is a huge place, who knows what is left open.” I was walking toward the stairways, when I saw a mist, it was weird, it came out of nowhere, it became even weirder, once it started to take a shape. I saw a bride, I thought how this has to be a dream, inspired by the movie I’ve seen. But, I was awake. I was certain, she looked at me. I thought she’ll approach me, but she didn’t, she simply went down the stairways, she floated, somehow, very soon, she disappeared.

I can’t say I felt a fear, but I wasn’t very relaxed, either. In the morning I asked some of the workers about what I’ve seen, they told me how apparitions are often seen, but never dangerous, so I felt a lot better.

Someone else would leave, I guess, but I decided to stay. In a way, I felt fully welcomed.

The Woman in Black

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 17

I woke in the wood with no idea how long I had been there. The thick trunks of the ancient oaks loomed over me as I squinted against the brightness of the afternoon sun. My legs shook. Warm blood oozed from a gash at my temple. Each pulse of pain from the wound dimmed my vision to a pinpoint, edges a warm black which exploded with colour as the pain eased. I shuffled in a slow circle to find myself facing a high bank of dark earth and rough tree roots, exposed when the hill had fallen away.

A streak of slick mud marked the spot where I had been thrown from the public path into the wood below.

I crawled up the hill using the exposed tree roots as handholds, hands scraped raw on the rough bark.

A cold shadow fell across me, obscuring my sight as I reached for the next root. Blinded, mouth dry I up toward the shadow to see a beautiful woman in a costume from some BBC period drama.

"Help," was all I could croak out.

There was less than a metre between where I clung to the side of the hill and the soles of her shoes. She turned to the right and walked away.

Tears ran down my face as I heaved myself onto the path to lay in the dirt coughing and crying, eyes closed to welcome back the blackness which did not come. I lifted my head to see those same shoes come to stop centimetres from my nose.

She was a vision in a black silk mourning costume and elegant hat, the veil thrown back. She sucked the light from the landscape around her, the center of a black hole in which she was the only star. Though the face and upper chest exposed by the square neckline of her bodice were easily twenty years younger than my own, her hands were gnarled hooks. She pressed a twisted index finger to her full lips and shook her head "no", then gestured for me to follow.

I wanted to leg it but had only managed to crawl to standing by using a tree trunk for support. I clung to the tree, throat too dry to shout for help. I followed; staggered from trunk to trunk, stumbling in the footsteps of the woman in black. My trackies covered in muck, shoes leaden on my feet, my white vest covered in dirt and blood. Every few metres she would stop and look back over her left shoulder, that destroyed index finger pressed to perfect lips. A shake of her head "no". Then she would walk on.

There was no rustle of the leaves, no sound of steps on the dirt path. She hustled around a blind curve and I lost sight of her through the trees but stumbled on to turn the same curve in the path.

A wave of frigid air punched me in the face. The whisper of traffic on Heath Street thunder after the silence of the wood. A uniformed copper ran toward me, his mates on his heels. Though he shouted, I could not understand what he said.

"Did you see her? The woman..." My voice cracked, legs sagged, fingers talons in the copper's uniform sleeves.

"Who?"

"The woman in black."

I woke was in the hospital. The woman in black stood at the foot of my bed, those ruined hands wrapped around the rails. With her sharp nails she beat out a "click, click, click" in perfect time against the metal as she stared me down. She smiled, her teeth a rotted henge, shook her head "no", then walked through wall into the next bay.

There times when the world fades away to silence. I see a flash of a black silk skirt, a glimpse of a midnight hat rounding a corner, hear the click of sharp heeled boots on the pavement behind me or the smooth rustle of shift of silk skirts in the breeze.

I know she is waiting for the moment when she can say, "yes".






Bright Young Things

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 10

Gardner was known in our quiet village as a man with a peculiar interest in ghosts. I would see him sitting in the window of the pub as we walked past on the pavement, a drink in his hand, looking quite the gent. My mother, a woman deeply afraid of anything not contained with the walls of her home, would bow her head and walk in the street if she caught sight of him. With a quick little shuffle she would step off the pavement, grinding the joints of my hand in her white knuckle grip. I would turn and wave, stumbling over my feet as my mother dragged me down the street behind her.

He would always tip his hat and smile.

Our village had the basics: green-grocer, butcher, chemist; but by the time I was a young man, you had to travel for proper kit. Saturday morning half the village would walk to the station for the early train into town. Though by that time it had been several years since Mr. Gardner had been able walk further than the shops near his home.

I have no idea why I stopped. I stepped off of the pavement and onto the porch without a thought, pounding on Mr. Gardner’s door like I had a right to be there. Had my mother known she would have pitched an epic wobbler, pinging off the walls like some demented pinball only to take to bed with “nerves” after.

He wasn’t the least surprised to find me banging down his door, seeing’s how he opened it with a hand-written list and a fistful of notes.

I returned to Mr. Gardner’s home that evening, skint but loaded down with books and packages from across London. He met me at the door with a smile, doddering as he led me from the front to a half-buried kitchen table at the back. I left him his things and was well on my way to the door when I turned back. “Why? What got you started in all that?” I pointed to the bags and packages from Treadwells, Atlantis, Watkins and half a dozen other places I am never able to remember.

He grinned. Over tea he told me the story. “I had a beautiful car. A 1962 Ford Anglia. Lovely little thing. I was driving along Longcross Road with the windows open, nice summer’s day, when I came ‘round the corner to find myself head-on with Delage Tourer packed with bright young things in their finest. Three of them were standing with their heads and shoulders above the windscreen, all in fresh, new uniforms and evening suits, scarves blowing in the wind. And they were singing. I swerved onto the verge and came to a bumping stop just to see their car weave across the road inches from my fender and slam into a tree. Before I could get out of the car they had disappeared.”

“Come on, now. You’re just taking the…”

“No,” he held a trembling hand in the air, “I swear it. Never drove after that. Every time I came near the car I would see that Delage Tourer smashed against thatt tree, those bright young things scattered across the macadam and then just… gone.”

It became a routine. Every other Saturday I would stop, take his list and notes into town and get a story in return. Eventually though I would drift off, first college, then university. I was a grown man, back in the village to for a long put-off visit, tugging my own uncooperative son down the pavement when I saw Mr. Gardner again. I stared at his unlined face as he brushed passed, his wool suit fresh in the summer heat.

I stopped dead on the pavement, turned my head and waved.

He tipped his hat and smiled.


Chindi: Ghosts of the Navajo

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 9

In Navajo culture the Chindi is the spirit of the deceased which remains in this world after death. Formed by last breath to exit the body, the chindi is the dregs of the deceased’s spirit -- the parts of his or her nature which could not be brought into balance with the world.

Allowing death to occur in outside in the open air, as is traditional Navajo practice, can give the chindi space to disperse without causing harm. However, even those deaths which take place outside can occasionally form chiindii, or sandspouts. These sandspouts are the result of evil spirits. These spirits are believed to be able to bring on heart problems or even carry a person away from home and are to be avoided.

Deaths which occur indoors are believed to trap the chindi. The trapped chindi haunts the surrounding the objects. A chindi may infect the structure and the deceased’s possessions. These haunted structures are abandoned, the possessions either abandoned with the structure or destroyed, and contact with the body of the deceased is avoided. Special care is taken to honor the burial customs to avoid incurring the wrath of a chindi which may be lingering around the body.

The deceased’s name will no longer be spoken, only to be referred to in general terms such as “father”, “mother”, “sister”, or “brother” to avoid ghost sickness which can be bought about through contact with a chindi called to the victim of ghost sickness by use of the deceased’s name, contact with the any of the infected possessions or by use of the building where the deceased died. Those unfortunates which have not heeded tradition and find themselves consumed by ghost sickness are said to suffer from hallucinations, nightmares, depression, and paranoia – said to be caused by the chindi’s drawing the suffer to join the deceased in death.

To rid sufferers of ghost sickness, Navajo perform a three day ceremony known as the Enemy Way to counter the effects of the chindi and to liberate the victim of ghost sickness.

Those Navajo who follow the Witchery Way, or the Corpse-poison Way, are believed capable of infecting their fellow Navajo with ghost sickness, and may do this to those who have wronged them in some way. Most practitioners of the Witchery Way learn their craft from a relative and, in Navajo tradition, are usually male. They can induce ghost sickness by feeding a person a piece of corpse or powdered corpse bone, preferably made from fingerprints or the parietal, occipital or temporal bones of the skull.

For those cursed with ghost sickness by a follower of the Witchery Way, the effects of the corpse-poison are immediate. The physical reactions can include the tongue swelling, tetanus, and fainting. A victim may also develop a wasting disease, his or her health fading as he/she slowly dies. As the witch has brought the curse upon the victim, no medicine, dance or ritual (including the Enemy Way) is effective in recovering the victim’s health.

Nemesis The Hellbound Cat

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 4

There is one unmistakable kite mark of quality in a place and that’s a cat. Be it library, café, prison or of course a pub then a cat is an unmistakable sign of a homely comfortable welcome. That and someone is keeping an eye on the local mouse population…..a murderous eye.

Now there used to be a cat here, a fierce old one-eyed Tom by the name of Nemesis. No one knew quite how old Nemesis was; he’d been here longer than anyone remembered. Maybe even before the pub had first been built, before man had first brewed beer…it would be easy to picture Nemesis squaring up to a velociraptor before mankind had ever set foot upon the earth. Certainly Nemesis appeared after the notorious local highway man in the 17th century Bad Ned was sentenced to death by the local judge Nasty Neil. Who himself hanged a few months later.

Nemesis demanded only two things of the pub and its regulars.

A bowl of raw meat once a day and no dogs, there would have been a third rule about no petting or stroking, but even the most affectionate drunk would look at the thick fur and yellow fangs and think better of laying a hand upon his fur.

And as for dogs, Nemesis disliked them and the few times they arrived the battles could be heard from several streets away. So Nemesis was left to sleep by the fire his bowl of raw meat and an occasional poorly guarded pint of beer. Only the most foolish rodent would dare his lair so there wasn’t much work for him.

And this situation would probably have carried on for as long as Nemesis was living upon this earth.

If Nemesis was ever truly alive….. To peer into the eyes of Nemesis was to see into the eyes of an ancient, evil intelligence. One that perhaps belonged to a highwayman or maybe the hangman, who hanged them,

If only he hadn’t met Mr Pickles, in an encounter that was to prove fatal for Mr Pickles. Mr Pickles was a pure bread Chihuahua and the exact size of a well-fed rat. Mr Pickle’s owners (or as they preferred to be called his parents) brought him to the pub one fateful Tuesday.

Pickle’s parents weren’t the kind of people to be put off by a mere sign reading

“No dogs.”

And laughed at the one that read

“Beware of the cat.”

And laughed even harder at the one that read

“No really beware of the cat.”

Mr Pickles lived exactly three seconds after Nemesis spotted him and thought

“That’s a particularly cheeky looking rat sauntering in.”

All that was left was of poor Mr Pickles was his pink diamante collar, which is a shame as it didn’t suit Nemesis even slightly.

Well, enough was enough; the occasional scratching or piece of malodorous poop was one thing, but the crime of homicide (as the devouring of small dogs is called) was too much. Mr and Mrs Pickle wrote to the council and a death warrant was issued for Nemesis.

On the day the animal control officers descended upon the pub, the clouds gathered, the rain fell and thunder and lightning struck.

To this day none of the officers will speak of how Nemesis met his end or how he fought. But of the three of them that were there that day, two of them had their hair turn white. Except Chris, who was bald as an egg and his girlfriend say the fluffy hair on his bottom turned white.

Nemesis may no longer patrol here. But to this day no mouse dare enter Nemesis’s lair and you’d be best advised to leave the dog with the neighbours.


He Died On Stage

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 2

As a haunt of such well-known comics as Plastered Pete and Sloshy Josh we have a long association with comedy, but surprisingly the quality was not the equal of the glory days of music hall. Time passed and live comedy became a victim of first radio comedy, then TV, then You Tube with clips of guys getting hit in the crotch.

But comedy has never left us, where once crowds of hundreds would pack in to hear obscene songs about clergy men’s daughters it changed in the 80s to an open mic. comedy night. Here the desperate and the drunk would chance their courage in front of a surly audience of the ill-tempered and the un-amused.

Laughs were few and far between and even professional stand-ups were proud to win a few laughs and a meagre round of applause.

Until one night, a group of people from Cuthberts, Cuthberts and Simpkins a local firm of accountants decided to come for a works night party. Amongst them was Terry the office joker, always with a humorous tie with a rude pattern on it, a Hawaiian shirt and a joke he’d misremember from the telly the night before.

As he sat down the compere, a down at the heels fellow called Jeff stood at the mike and called out there was a spot going that night. Well, Jeff’s colleagues good-naturedly elbowed him and encouraged him..…perhaps not all that good-naturedly, maybe they thought that to look a bit of a prat on stage might shut him up a bit?

Terry reluctantly agreed and as the evening rolled on he took a few pints of Dutch Courage until it was his turn and he climbed onto the stage. Strangely the audience seemed more crowded than it had earlier, he turned to face the audience and to his horror realised it was also works do for the local funeral directors. They’d invited their friends from a regional conference of undertakers, 200 pale faces floated with grim expressions above black suits and ties.

Terry suddenly realised he hadn’t heard any laughter for the last hour and he wanted to run, but the path back to his seat had vanished in the sea of severe expressions. He was trapped in the spotlight, unwillingly he grabbed the microphone and told a joke, then another. Then he started on about how women were a bit like dustbins, which he thought was controversial and sexist but the audience were silent, the silence one might feel if one was buried alive and woke suffocating in a claustrophobic wooden coffin.

Alas, his best mate Jeff couldn’t help, he was powerless, trapped by the barmaid who was laughing at a couple of his jokes and falsely giving him the impression she found him attractive, in spite of him being bald, potbellied and whiffing slightly of pound shop deodorant.

Terry began to cry and the poorly earthed microwave started to fizz, he said the fatal words that would be his epitaph “This isn’t comedy it’s a cry for help.” At which point the audience burst into uproarious laughter, if Terry had had one less pint of cooking lager that would have been the end of the evening, as opposed to the end of it all.

He was so surprised that he rather over wet the microphone and the audience stood and cheered at his amazing punch-line which seemed to involve his hair standing on end and catching fire.

To this day someone might tell a joke, sometimes two and but you get to three you can just smell burning hair and it get to four Terry might just decide to help you with the punchline.

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