Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Down The Local.....

Over the years there have been many jokes aimed at the regularity of which W.M.G.C. members seemed to find themselves investigating allegedly haunted public houses... In truth, the group have - over recent years - developed a definite tendency to avoid such sites, mainly due to the practical side of investigation and the myriad restrictions that these sort of premises (albeit inadvertently) put on group requirements and so forth.

Looking back through the groups history to take a look at some of the lovely watering holes that we have visited the past, we discover that the latter part of 2003 seemed a definite 'high point' with regards to such forays! (or, perhaps, 'soirees', as some might try to intimate.... despite the fact that the W.M.G.C. are all, strict tee-totallers, of course!! honest.....!!!!)

Anyway - ahem - it transpires that, during the time period mentioned,the group had cause to carry out investigations at three separate pubs in the Walsall area...

On Saturday the 20th of Sept. club members staged an all night vigil at the Littleton Arms public house in Walsall.

News of ghostly happenings at the site were first sent to the group in mid-June of that year by Littleton friend and regular, Gillian Ponter. While manager Sue Gull and her staff had only been at the pub just over 18 months, they – and a number of their customers – were certainly no strangers to peculiar happenings at the Hatherton Road site.

Two of the pubs regulars claimed to have seen the figure of an old woman, in a grey cardigan and pinny, standing at one end of the bar on separate occasions. Both of these sightings were mentioned independently and neither witness was aware of the others experience until afterwards. A mixture of poltergeist-like effects have also been reported at the site, including: interference with pub equipment; footsteps; a disembodied voice; uneasy feelings and, under a previous owner, a staff member being mysteriously locked in one of the cellar rooms…..

Accompanying group members during their stay was manager Sue Gull and husband Michael, intrepid barmaid Kelly, Gill Ponter and partner and a small group of Littleton friends. Also present was ‘Walsall Advertiser’ reporter, George Makin. (*George’s subsequent article, concerning events at the Littleton and our investigation, appeared on Oct. 2nd 2003).

At the time of the investigation, the Littleton was invovled in something of an epic struggle with Walsall Council regarding the proposed demolition of the historic watering hole as part of the ring road widening scheme. Despite a valiant effort from pub management and regulars, the site was sadly raised to the ground within a few months of our visit.....

On October the 25th, an all night investigation was carried out at The Wheatsheaf public house, just outside Walsall town centre. Situated at the junction of Birmingham Road and Grove Terrace, the building is regarded as one of the oldest, extant, licensed premises in the Borough.

Then managers, Ian and Nancy Matthews, took over the pub in June 2002. The couple, who admited that they had always been sceptical when it came to paranormal matters, were soon to experience a host of inexplicable happenings….

Mrs. Matthews told us that they often heard the sound of footsteps and banging doors in the bar area, late at night. She described the steps as sounding like ‘those of a man, with what appears to be a child running around him as he proceeds across the room…’

Electrical / pub equipment has also been interfered with, including: lights going on and off; the pub alarm tripping on a weekly basis without reason (always at 3am); gas being turned off in the cellar; kegs mysteriously being unhooked, etc.

The strange movement – and sometimes destruction – of objects was a constant puzzle to the Matthews’. Drinks were moved (much to the chagrin of customers, no doubt!) and, some while ago, the glass from five or six framed pictures was found shattered on the bedroom carpet. A skirt, which Mrs. Matthews had folded away carefully in a bag on top of a wardrobe, was mysteriously found downstairs, draped over a till in the bar. Upon checking, the bag was found to be still folded on top of the wardrobe….!?

On one occasion, Mrs. Matthews was standing talking on the stairs leading to their living quarters when her friend commented on the noise being made by the pub’s two Great Danes running around upstairs. Mrs. Matthews informed her friend that the dogs were actually elsewhere in the building and jokingly suggested that the sounds might be paranormal in origin. Just after this was said, the pair found themselves fleeing the scene in terror when they clearly heard footsteps mounting the top of the staircase and beginning the descent towards them….!

Only days prior to our visit, one regular reported having briefly seen the figure of a man in what appeared to be R.A.F. uniform walking through the pub and Nancy Williams discovered a series of wet footprints in the bar area as she was cleaning……

Our overnight visit was conducted in the presence of Managers Nancy and Ian and a close friend of the Matthews’, Neil Melville. Some of the recordings made during the investigation contained inexplicable noises, including: a faint rustling sound; clicks; running water and the sound of muffled movement (of some kind).

And finally - the W.M.G.C.'s 'Halloween' investigation for 2003 was carried out at the Alcatraz Rock Club in Cemetery Road, Willenhall.

News of the Club haunting first reached the group in mid-September when one of the venue’s managers – Sandra Evans – wrote in to tell us about it.

From the very first time that her husband, Bob, stepped into the building, he had a feeling that someone was watching; not in a threatening manner, but definitely a ‘presence’ of some sort. Since that point, he believed that he frequently saw a shadowy, tall figure on numerous occasions, usually moving from the toilet area towards the staircase. Several friends and workmen who helped prepare the club for opening also claim to have seen the figure.

On one occasion, a female customer standing near the bar actually felt someone reach from behind her and touch her breast! She instantly jumped and turned round to find that no one was there..... Her husband, who was standing nearby, heard the commotion and looked up to see what he describes as a figure wearing a long cloak – like a priest’s cassock – standing nearby.

Within the space of a week, the lady concerned had also seen the mysterious figure, standing at the far end of the bar room where the club’s stage is situated. She also said that it appeared to be wearing a cloak….

Other reported activity includes: lights switching on and off by themselves; electrical problems; feelings of being physically ‘touched’ - one girl having had strands of hair lifted off her face while standing in the ladies toilet - and chairs moving of their own accord..... even with people sitting on them!

Apparently, the club building – which appears to have started out life as a lock factory around 120 years ago - used to be associated with a nearby Catholic Church in the 50’s. Local legend has it that a rogue priest with an eye for the ladies frequented the site and it is possibly his ghost that has been seen(?)

Our visit to the site was carried out in the presence of staff member, Kalvin Challener and Club regular, Terry Jones. Unfortunately - as with the bulk of our investigation - the group were in for a quiet night and didn't experience anything that might have been construed as potentially 'paranormal in nature'......

So, there you have it..... while pub based investigations might be very much a 'thing of the past' these days, there is plenty of reference material from the groups non-too-distant history to draw from.....

If you enjoy stories surrounding haunted hostelries - perhaps you've had a related experience yourself - just drop us a line and we'd be happy to 'dig' a little more!!

Best wishes to all,

The W.M.G.C.

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