Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.31: The Horsingdon Pentagram

From Horsingdon Hill, overlooking Northwich.

I thought this might constitute a fitting overview, as it were, of the first month of strange anecdotes and psychogeographical forays into the occulted hinterlands that are Horsingdon, Northwich and Southcote. In addition to which, I recently discovered recently Chris Street's crious book London: City of Revelation. Therein he claims that, along with the well-known triangle which Horsingdon Hill forms with Burn Hill and Harlow-on-the-Hill, these hills also form part of an immense pentagram - completed by Belmont Hill, Hobbs Hill and St. John's Hill, with Harlow-on-the-Hill now reconfigured at the centre of the glyph. Further mysteries, no doubt, remain to be unravelled as I delve further into the strange geometries of the region in the coming months.

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.30: Dead Sounds, Lost Tapes

The dead sounds of Radio Horsingdon. Most notable for its Nightime Northwich late night call-in show, which ran every Friday night from 1990 until the station ceased broadcasting in 1992. Whilst the show was initially driven by topics drawn from the week's news, in an episode which aired in mid-1991, the host Simon Grant decided to ask local callers to recount their paranormal experiences. This particular episode proved to be immensely popular, and quickly set the tone for the show until the station finally closed its doors. Grant himself admitted to having a long-standing interest in paranormal phenomenon - and in particular the seemingly extensive history of paranormal events that had plagued Horsingdon. 

In fact, the eventual fate of Radio Horsingdon would be bound up with Nightime Northwich. The day after a particularly terrifying episode, where callers recounted some of their terrifying encounters with various entities and spectral forces supposedly haunting the woods around Horsingdon Hill, the local press reported that one listener - a young man who had been dealing with long-term mental health issues, and who lived In the vicinity of the Hill - had become so perturbed by he content of the show that, tragically, he was driven to take his own life.

Somewhat disturbingly - and an aspect of the case which has led some commentators to suggest that there was something more to the young man's death than suicide - his body was discovered hanging from an elm tree in the very same woods which had been the focus of the previous night's discussion. Even more curious is the fact that this particular elm tree was one which, according to local folklore, had long associations with the history of witchcraft in the region.

In the scandal that followed, Simon Grant was forced to resign from Radio Horsingdon; the backlash which followed led to a steep decline in the station's popularity, such that it was shut down after its owners presumably felt that it was no longer a viable commercial venture.

Nightime Northwich was never syndicated, and as a consequence is not widely known outside of Horsingdon; even so, it has acquired a cult reputation as well as something of a hauntological afterlife, with online communities trading analogue recordings of episodes originally made on cassette tape by dedicated listeners. There are also other less-creditable tales found on equally less-reputable sites recounting the terrible things that have overtaken those who listen to those cassette tapes.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.29: Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon

Revisiting some photographs taken during a Summer field trip two years ago, I noticed the unidentified aerial phenomenon in the top left-hand corner of this shot, taken whilst looking out over Northwich from the top of Horsingdon Hill.

In recent years various pressure groups have demanded full governmental disclosure regarding the nature and origin of these phenomena. That such a view might be considered guiless at best is an understatement, for I am of the belief that, whatever their ontological status, these things are as much intrusions into - and disruptions of - consciousness and enculturated systems of classification as they are physical encroachments into (and distortions of) our world from...elsewhere; as such, the naive assumption that these phenomenon can be reductively explained in terms comprehensible to bipedal hominids with slightly larger-than-average brains - or the equally naive assumption that someonesomewhere, knows what is going on - fails to countenance the fundamental chaos and disorderliness that characterises this and every other world.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.28: Oxley Mansions

Oxley Mansions (located on Southcote Lane and not far from Burn Hill) was purchased by high-end property developers a few years back, and subsequently transformed from what was once a dilapidated wreck into luxury flats. A listed building (for reasons that no one can quite understand), the exterior still retains something of its prior grim demeanour - the architectural hangover from a time when the building went by another name: Oxley Secure Psychiatric Unit.

In the post-war period, it was becoming apparent (at least to those administering the provision of the National Health Service in the borough) that Horsingdon evidenced an extremely high instance of severe mental health issues amongst its population. In comparison to other local councils in the Greater London area, levels of violent crime in which the disordered mental state of the perpetrators was determined as a principal factor, were also noticeably higher. To address this issue, a number of psychiatric units were created throughout the borough. Oxley Secure Psychiatric Unit was established in a building that had belonged to the Boreham family, but had lain empty since James Boreham's death. The building was eventually acquired by Horsingdon Council by way of a compulsory purchase order.

Given Boreham's usavoury reputation for involvement in various forms of diabolism and witchcraft, it is perhaps unsurprising that Oxley Secure Psychiatric Unit had a troubled - and indeed troubling - history. With close links to Northwich Park Polytechnic's Department of Psychology - and in particular with the department's controversial Anomalistic Psychology Research Centre - it hasn't taken conspiracy theorists long to connect rumours regarding clandestine government-sponsored projects within the old Radiophonics department to other, wilder speculations: namely those concerning secret experiments of a highly bizarre nature, supposedly conducted upon the unwilling inmates of Oxley Secure Psychiatric Unit.

Regardless of the truth of the matter, many residence of the area would claim that the psychic residue of so many violently-disturbed minds have left their mark on Oxley Mansions, such that none of the locals would consider living in the place (even were they able to afford to do so). There are those who keep alive the tradition of the Black Bowers who also give credence to tales of secret government experiments, hinting at their own participation in projects involving unsettled minds who had been touched by - and who as a consequence had become conduits to - Those Who Wait.

There are times when I find myself half-believing such tales, for there is something about the region that seems to call to the Outside.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.27: Horsingdon Council Civic Centre

Completed in 1934, the builders of Horsingdon Town hall opted for a blocky, modernist and unwelcoming style of architecture - one which, over the years, has appropriately mirrored the indifferent and disinterested more of governance characteristic of Horsingdon Council's bureaucratic endeavours. In a futile attempt at contemporizing the building, the local council have also recently 'rebranded' it as 'Horsingdon Civic Centre'.

As if that alone could erase the strange and disturbing histories that have seeped into the very fabric of the place: stories of incomprehensible directives issued by a council official about who no record exists; or internal documents sent from an archive in a corridor whose location cannot be found on any plan of the building; then there is the standing order forbidding council employees - on pain of summary dismissal - from entering any of the building's sub-levels.

At night, the Town Hall is an empty husk barricaded behind rusted chain-link fencing, replete with warnings about patrolling guard dogs. Knowing the wall of grinding slackness and ineptitude behind which Horsingdon council operates, no one would typically pay much attention to such warnings. But then no one from the locale area who is in their right mind would dream of tresspassing into the hollow, empty corridors and silent meeting rooms of the old Town Hall. Tales of what council employees, working late, have on occasion happened to encounter whilst walking down a certain hallway is the least of the reasons why the building is avoided at night.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.26: Boreham Tower

One of the remaining elements of the old Boreham Estate in Boreham Park is this tower, set somewhat apart from the ruins of the old mansion. The door to the tower is firmly padlocked, and entry into the tower is forbidden by order of Horsingdon Council. The windows have been replaced by large single slabs of black stone - whether this was part of the design of the original building, or the consequence of a later renovation, no one seems to know.

However, in 1987 a surveyor friend of mine was employed by Horsingdon Council to check the structural integrity of the building subsequent to the wider damage wrought throughout the borough by the Great Storm of that year - and who was, as far as I am aware, the last person to enter the tower. Whilst the building was, so he told me, otherwise empty and unremarkable - except for the curious  character of parts of the internal architecture's arrangement (about which he seemed unable to elaborate) - there were nonetheless a series of strange symbols etched in silver on the inside face of each of the slabs which stood in place of windows.

There were two additional details regarding the matter which my friend also found extremely unusual: firstly, that the council members with whom he dealt seemed extremely agitated at the prospect of structural damage having been done to the building; and secondly, the fact that not only was he accompanied on his visit to the tower by a group of policeman (who loitered somewhat nervously outside the structure the entire time he was there), but also by a priest, who shadowed him closely throughout his examination of the building's interior.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.25: The Burning Men

There is a very strange story pertaining, in part, to Northwich Fire Station. In 1958, 5 members of the Horsingdon Fire Service on duty at the station were called out to deal with the aftermath of a small explosion at Boreham House - an explosion whose epicentre appeared to be the boiler room in the cellars beneath one corner the building. The damaged portion of the house was suffused, according a report lodged one of the firemen on site, with a 'poisonous glow' and accompanied by 'odd sounds coming from below the house', which rapidly subsided.

Whilst the house was believed to be uninhabited, a badly-burned man dressed in a set of charred overalls was discovered near the wreckage of the explosion, presumed tto be the caretaker of the property. The victim's injuries were so horrificly severe that, apparently, he was hardly recognisable as a human being.

This individual was taken by ambulance to Northwich Park Hospital, but was not expected to survive the night; he was subsequently left, unattended, in a private room set off from the other wards on account of his horrific appearance. At around 3 am, a shaken hospital porter reported to one of the nurses on duty that he had witnessed the horribly-burnt patient leave his room, and make his way down a nearby service room which was part of the hospital's extensive basement system. He went on to describe a sequence of events whose denouement was, frankly, incredible. What he initially thought to be the patient turned out to be a faceless, quasi-anthropomorphic mass of some grey organic matter. According to the porter, the thing turned to him briefly, 'spoke in a language which hurt my ears with something that wasn't a mouth', before 'melting' into the concrete surface of one of the service room's wall - its final transition from this world accompanied by a sudden burst of sickly blue light. Only a pile of ruined overalls was left in the thing's wake. As for the nameless individual who had been taken to the hospital in the aftermath of the Boreham House explosion, no sign could be found.

Not long after, the porter who claimed to have winessed this wholly remarkable and unnatural event died of a painful and drawn-out illness, the symptoms of which were described by the doctor treating him - who, as it happens, had overseen the welfare of troops involved in some of the early British nuclear testing in Australia in 1952 - as similar to those produced by radiation sickness.

All of the men who had attended the aftermath of the explosion at Boreham House also succumbed to various aggressive forms of cancer within two years of the incident. There is a horrible rumour that their ghosts are sometimes to be encountered in the tower of Northwich Fire Service, howling silently and mindlessly, as if trapped in some hellish otherwold and desparately seeking a merciful release.

Repairs to the damage to Boreham House were undertaken at the behest of the legal representatives of the Boreham family. Medical statistics indicate a notable spike in cases of cancer and leukemia amongst residents of the surrounding area over the next two decades.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.24: The Incident on North Horsingdon Lane

North Horsingdon Lane runs to the top of Horsingdon Hill. On clear nights, the hilltop is the haunt of amateur astronomers, and is also has reputation - as I have noted previously - of being something of a local UFO hotspot.

At approximately 3.05 am on the morning of November 21st 1975, Samantha Lea - a seven year old girl from the Northwich Park area - was discovered by a passing motorist, wandering in a highly distressed state along a stretch of the lane close to the base of Horsingdon Hill. The subsequent police investigation revealed that the girl had probably been taken by her mother, Jennifer Lea, to the top of the hill an hour or so earlier in the family car. The car was indeed discovered in the parking area at the hilltop, but without any sign of the missing woman. The girl's father, Simon Lea, claimed to have been in bed asleep when the incident occured, and so was unaware of his wife's actions who, he also claimed, had been suffering from mental health issues.

Jennifer Lea was never found; a few weeks after her disappearance, Simon Lea was charged with his wife's murder and - despite the lack of any concrete evidence - ultimately convicted on that count, committing suicide in prison (although under what can only be described as extremely suspicious circumstances) two years into a life sentence.

It remains unclear as to what happened to Samantha Lee in the aftermath of so much tragedy, although I have it on good authority that, not long after the conviction of her father, she was taken into custody by representatives from the Ministry of Defence. Exactly why the MoD would take an interest in the girl is a matter of speculation - but for one intriguing and rather disturbing aspect of the case: the policewoman tasked with interviewing Samantha regarding her mother's disappearance noted that the little girl, who was clearly in a state of shock, would only repeat, time after time, the same chilling refrain: 'why are spacemen hurting my mummy?'

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.23: The Black Horse

The Black Horse was my local pub prior to its closure some five years ago. Increasingly, Horsingdon and Northwich  have seen an erosion of their traditional pub culture. The gentrification of these areas - given the relatively ease of access they offer to central London - has led to the appearance of a whole slew of gourmet burger restaurants and boutique cocktail bars. Most of which, fortunately, have met a timely end due to the recalcitrance of long-term residents with regard to what they have been told by Horsingdon council is the inevitable march of progress.

Even so, things have changed. The pubs of Horsingdon, Northwich and Bridgewater were once sites of communal affirmation: spaces in which residents could assert their unique local identity via collective rumination over those stranger events which had all too-often intruded upon their daily lives. Now the pubs are half-empty and listless, reverberating with the fragmentary echoes of the past.

The Horsingdon Triangle has, however, never entirely released its grip on these hollow places, always seeking to insert its enweirded and unsettling influence into the local narratives surrounding them. Thus it is recounted that The Black Horse closed shortly after the then landlord killed his wife and children before committing suicide - apparently on account of something he discovered in the cellar of the pub. It is said that after disposing of his family (some say in a horribly ritualitic manner), he then managed to simultaneously hang and disembowel himself in one of the upper rooms of the building. For the past five years, the lower levels of The Black Horse have remained boarded up, such that the building's interior is largely inaccessible (no doubt awaiting renovation and transformation into a local supermarket or somesuch).

How could it be, then, that the other night I witnessed a praeternaturally-pulsing light emanting from the window of one of the building's attic rooms?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.22: Burn Hill

Blackbird Hill forms part of a nature reserve which can be found a few miles toward the southern end of Eastcote Lane, just outside the bounds of Northwich. The hill is heavily wooded and quite ancient - a space characterised by a mood of quiet desolation. It used to be known as Burn Hill, on account of its being the location at which a number of witches were executed In 1678. In England at the time witches were typically hanged and not burnt; but apparently on this occasion the local community felt the need to enact an absolute and irrevocable erasure to ensure that no necromantic ressurection of the flesh was possible, reducing the accused miscreants to ashes on account of the heinousness of their crimes. Exactly what these were - outside of the accusations of blasphemy and maleficarum  - is a fact upon which the historical records remain silent.

The folk that continue to live in the vicinity of Blackbird Hill have not, however, entirely laid this particular (and largely forgotten) episode of English history to rest: strange, whispering shapes are still said to stalk the woods at night, making sacrifice in their own small way to Those Who Wait; and if one knows where to look, there remain to this day the worn remnants of what were once squat megaliths, still yet bearing the marks of veneration of ancient and nameless gods.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No. 21: Aberrant Signals

Northwich Park campus transmitter. 

A closer view. 

Whilst no longer operational, the nearer one is to it, the more likely one is to enter its Zone of Interference. To do so is to experience first-hand the stranger signals which intermittantly punctuate and interrupt the pedestrian radio transmissions by which the inhabitants of the Horsingdon Triangle daily try to secure and reaffirm the comforting conceptual order of their world. 

This ia an order they mistakenly believe takes precedence over the fundamental tumult and disarray of things; a disarray which constitues what Spare once described as 'the chaos of the normal': whispering echoes of the titanic shapes wallowing in the silted darkness of those infinite void-seas which press against our own small corner of the cosmos; reverberations of the lurch, pitch and keel of alien monoliths cast adrift upon the oceans of space-time - mindlessly buffeted by the star-winds across the gulfs which separate galaxies - until they edge past our solar system; the murmurings of Those Who Wait as they writhe restlessly beneath the Horsingdon landscape in an epochal, dreamless, deathless sleep; the white noise of Northwich and Horsingdon's pre-palaeolithic and pre-linguistic ghosts, muttering in inconceivable, gutteral modes of communication that predate the human cognitive revolution of seventy milennia past; the silent howl of a horned, winged and faceless thing that squats upon the gravestone of a witch who was hanged 200 years ago, and buried in unhallowed ground in the churchyard of St. Ormund's.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.20: The Terminal Stairway

This short concrete stairway was constructed during recent renovations to the pedestrian bridge that links the platforms of Southcote Station. The stairway gives access to and terminates at the edge of an old brick wall uncovered during the building works.

There is no arch or doorway at the intersection of wall and stair, hence nowhere to go. However, a sheet of tarpauline is firmly affixed to the portion of the wall against which the stair abuts. The reason for this remains unclear, although I did hear from a member of the station staff that something of interest was discovered upon or near that particular section of the wall during the renovation works. This had subsequently been carefully scrutinised by anonymous individuals who my informant believed were 'officials'.

The pathway between Southcote and Nortwich Park stations - A favoured haunt of The Shanklin Man and supposed point of intersection with The Secret Alleys - runs directly behind the wall and stairway.

What this all means I am not, at this moment, in a position to say; but it may be that the esoteric geographies and enigmatic architectures of Northwich and Horsingdon may one day offer a new and unsettling understanding of the structural relations that hold between our world and the other inconceivable universes which often press so forcefully upon it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.19: Shanklin Alley

Shanklin Alley opens on to a rough pathway running parallel with the rail tracks which extend from Southcote Station to Northwich Park Station, just over a mile away. Few make use of the alleyway. Fewer still avail themselves of the path which extends from it. For this particular locale is considered to be one of a number haunted by a spectral presence known locally as 'The Shanklin Man'. No ordinary aparition, The Shanklin Man is believed to traverse the Norwich suburbs using 'The Secret Alleys': a lattice of occulted pathways which only intersect with our world at very specific locales - of which the actual path between Southcote and Northwhich Park is one. 

For those having claimed an encounter with it, The Shanklin Man is uniformly described as a hunched, crooked figure in worn and ragged trousers, and with an equally ragged anorak with a grimy, fur-rimmed hood. It is said that The Shanklin Man's hood is always pulled up close around its head. It is said that when one encounters the Shanklin Man, it is always facing away from you. It is said that when it hears your breath, hollow with fear, The Shanklin Man will turn slowly - ever so slowly - meaning to reveal its face to you. It is also said that you should not dwell on the unearthly phosphorescent glow that creeps around the edges of its hood as it begins to turn to look at you. It is also said that on no account should you remain long enough to allow that to happen. 

Who, indeed, would want to come face-to-face with the inhabitant of a wholly alien realm in a quiet, lonely alleyway, in the darkest part of the night?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.18: The Body in the Underpass

A short but poorly-lit underpass beneath Norwich Park Station links the residential portion of the Northwich suburbs to Northwich Park itself, which edges on to the grounds of the hospital and nearby university campus. There are more than a few odd tales regarding unearthly encounters in the darkest recesses of the underpass; these are, however, typical of the kind of invented spectral narratives often attached to those socially-uncolonised spaces which somehow manage to exist within the guarded confines of suburban modernity.

What I do know (I was shown the photographs by a source within the local police force) is that on a morning in November 2009 a body (which remains unidentified to this day) was discovered in the underpass. The story was kept out of the local press on account of the twisted and contorted nature of the cadavar. The Horsingdon Triangle has known its fair share of bloody murder over the years, so the discovery of the body itself was not the cause of the secrecy. In this instance, it was the peculiarly -distorted state in which the body presented itself that was the issue: a state evidently not due to mutilation or violence - at least of any ordinary kind; indeed, there was no blood at all in or around the crime scene (if this was indeed what it was); rather, the decision not to release details to the press was on account of a once-human body having been remoulded into a new and inhuman form at the behest of some unguessable power.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No. 17: The Black Door

Sweeping post-Thatcherite reforms to - and the subsequent increasing privatisation of - the British education system meant that one of central London universities was able to acquire Northwich Park Polytechnic in the late 1990s. Along with the closure of 'less profitable' departments, this also resulted in significant renovations to campus buildings.

The Black Door exists as part of a modern annexe attached to what used to be the Department of Radiophonics - now the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (or P-CheM in the institutional parlance). A mystery surrounds the doorway insofar as no one within the annexe has been able to determine its internal point of entry - an unassuming redbrick wall (matching the building's external decor) stands at the point on the inside of the building where the doorway should, apparently, be located. Measurements have indicated, however, that a significant amount of dead space does exists between this internal wall and the outer portal. Adding to the mystery is the fact that none of the university porters are aware of the existence of a key to this particular door.

Interestingly, attempts to view the plans of the building - in no small part because of other architectural irregularities that exist across the campus - have been blocked at every turn, with the University's senior management team citing 'special provisions' and reasons of security as vague rationales for the lack of transparency. The has, however, been a certain amount of idle chatter regarding the possibility of the Dept. of P-CheM having been in receipt of a significant amount of government funding - funding relating to a range of apparently classified projects. If true, faculty members remain understandably tight-lipped about the matter. Despite the speculative natur of these claims, is difficult not to ponder their significance in light of almost identical rumours that had been circulating for decades concerning the now-defunct Radiophonics department - not to mention the fact that P-CheM inhabits the same physical space that was once occupied by Radiophonics. One might be forgiven for entertaining the possibility that Radiophonics never, in fact, went away...

In the mid-2000s, I used to work as a part-time as a lecturer for the Department of Cognitive Science, teaching courses in cross-cultural psychology and cognitive anthropology. There I heard other rumours - ones that intersected with my own anthropological researches into the Horsingdon Triangle - that P-CheM staff had been taking an unwarranted interest in the history and folklore of the Black Bowers of the region. For now I can only speculate as to whether or not this has any relevance to the enigma of the Black Door.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.16: Boreham House

Boreham House is situated about 200 yards away from the entrance to Boreham Park. This was the Boreham family's main residence after the destruction (by fire) of Boreham Mansion, which had been erected within the park during the 18th Century. Sir James Boreham - the last surviving member of the family - who until his death in 1937 resided in what was later to become Boreham Park Library, had acquired an extensive collection of antiquities from around the British Isles (most dating back to the Roman occupation of Britain and earlier). during his lifetime, most of these were stored for the most part in Boreham House. As noted previously, Sir James Boreham had extensive connections amongst British occultists. Crowley visited him on one occasion, but it seems even he was aghast at Boreham's excesses, and at the occulted depths he had plumbed in search of secret knowledge. In his letters, Roland Franklyn notes that he tried, unsuccessfully, to gain access to the house during his stay in the Horsingdon area. He also claims to have heard heavy, uneven footsteps coming from within, as well as witnessing the outline of something huge and misshapen appearing for a brief moment at one of the upper windows - something, he claims, which exhibited only the vaguest resemblance to the human form.

After Boreham's death, the house remained unoccupied until it was bought by persons unknown a few months back. In recent weeks, lights have been seen in the upper floor of the house, but no one has seen the new tenants. Notably, the re-occupation of Boreham House appears to have coincided with renewed activities in the graveyard of St. Ormunds. My investigations into this matter continue.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmission No.15: The Endless Thoroughfare

Most of us, I am sure, have had the slightly disorienting experience of losing our way within a territory with which we are all too familiar: those moments when the geography we have become accustomed to grows strange and crooked, as if, unexpectedly, we have - if only for a brief moment - crossed over a threshold to behold the reflection of our world in an entirely alien one.

There are roads and avenues in Horsingdon which, on certain mist-shrouded evenings, appear to extend into infinity. Fairway Avenue off Southcote Lane is such a place. A thoroughfare between Southcote Station (one of the public transport links between Horsingdon and central London) and Northwich Park University campus, it is a favourite shortcut for students after a night out in the Capital. The old polytechnic transmitter pylon overlooks and aligns directly with Fairway Avenue at the Northwich Park end.

A friend of mine who works at Northwich Police Station told me of the time, a few years back, when a vagrant found wandering aimlessly and mindlessly along the avenue turned out to be a student who had been reported missing from Northwich Park campus in 1978.

Other tales have been told regarding pedestrians using this route who, despite having travelled it many times before, nonetheless failed to reach their destination safely or with their wits about them. Then there are the other tales - the ones that the local police don't like to recount - of those travellers who failed to reach their destination at all.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.14: The Other Broadcasts

From Boreham Park, one can just see the transmitter pylon that rises from what used to be Northwich Park Polytechnic. At one time the pylon array belonged to the Polytechnic's Department of Radiophonics, until the Poly was colonised by one of Central London's universities and the department was closed down. Whilst no longer operational, rumour has it that this is the source of the rather unearthly and spectral signals - including what appears to be the Horsingdon variant of a numbers station - that sometimes interrupt the local radio broadcasts. In any case, regardless of what these analogue hauntings are, no one has yet been able to determine their origin. Rumour also has it that, back in the 50s and 60s, the transmitter array was used as part of some clandestine government project.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.13: The Witch in the Wall

What could be more ordinary than the service entrance to a local community centre? Yet this particular small corner of the Horsingden Triangle - near the intersection of Hallowmere Road and Eastcote Lane - has haunted the people of Northwich for decades. If one takes the time to review the local newspaper archives, a notable pattern of unresolved disappearances in this very specific part of Northwich emerges. The most recent was at the end of October 2008, when two council workmen assigned to carry out maintenance work at the community centre parked their van in the driveway. Two days later, the van was still there - but no sign of the now truant workers.

The lore which over the years attached itself to this nameless cobbled alley meant that, for a time back in the 1960s, it was a favourite place for children to dare each other to go. The idea was that you had to walk down the passageway until you came to the shadowed recess at its very end. This, in the popular imagination, had been cast as the habitation of yet another of the area's witches: Mother Rudge, the Witch in the Wall. That was until 1973, when a number of children also disappeared, having last been seen in the vicinity of the alleyway. The local kids have tended to avoid the area ever since.

Somewhere I have a faded colour photograph which shows a confusingly disordered pattern of lines - which look as if they are trying to formulate some impossible geometry - etched in red chalk across the inverse corner of the wall at the end of the alley. I recall that the diagram in the photograph resembled something I'd seen in a book - a book which as a child I had once borrowed from Boreham Park Library, and which had caused me nightmares.

The community centre also stands a short distance from the Witching Tree on Hallowmere Playing Fields. The fact that both have associations with the witchlore of the area seems significant; but I have yet to ascertain whether there is in fact any connection between the two.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.12: Black Bowers

This house, which can be found in a street not far removed from Northwich High Road, is marked by one of the increasingly rare Black Bowers which, a few decades ago, were a more common sight within the Horsingdon Triangle. Typically, A Black Bower would be erected by many households outside their front door on All Hallow's Eve, symbolising a doorway between worlds - 'marking a welcome to 'Those Who Wait'' as a local resident once explained the custom to me. Apparently this was less a genuine invitation than a propitiation of whatever visitant might come calling if were the offer of a welcome not made - especially on that night of the year when the skein separating the world from the Outside becomes porous.

Less commonly, other inhabitants of the region would display a Black Bower permanently outside their abodes, marking their status as what were once called cunning folk - but of a more disreputable demeanour. These were the people you'd go to if something long-lost needed finding, or if a maiden needed wooing, or a rival needed hexing - or if you wanted to speak with the dead. These were the folk who were seen to have a singular attachment to 'Those Who Wait': folk of uncertain ancestry, rumoured to be the product of unnameable couplings, and who ghosted along the margins of things; never trusted and always feared, they were nonetheless seen as a necessary part of the order of things - and thus grudgingly respected; folk who never saw the full span of their days, whose lives never ended well, and who invariably departed this world under a pall of suspicion and under circumstances both uncanny and violent.

This house is one I shall take pains to avoid in the future.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.11: Northwich Park Hospital

On the same day I took the photograph showing an object of unknown provenance in the skies above Horsingdon Hill, I also had an opportunity to take this photo of Northwich Park Hospital (the park itself is in the foreground) from the platform of Northwich Park Station:

Note what appears to be a cluster of aerial objects in the left hand corner of the photograph, and the strange, otherworldly tentacular striations (one of which appears to be reaching over from behind the hospital) in the right hand corner:

The hospital itself is currently subject to ongoing investigation (regarding an abnormally high incidence of unexplained deaths amongst its patients over the past few years); a friend of mine who used to work as a porter there also has some unusual tales to tell about the place and, since resigning from his post after one extremely peculiar incident, now refuses set foot in the building. But that is a tale for another time.

In his book on the history of mortuary customs in Europe since the Middle Ages, Phillipe Aries notes that, with the advent of modernity, death has been increasingly relegated from the public domain. Where once the process of dying was a collective affair involving the whole of one's village or local community, today it has become privatised and detraditionalised: an experience desaturated and hidden from view. Now so much of our dying occurs within the walls of clinical institutions that it is difficult not to think of them less as places of healing than as the boundless habitations of innumerable hollow spectres. And such things only gather at places where the barriers between worlds are already stretched thin.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.10: Bridgewater Spiritualist Church (Redux)

I wandered past the Bridgewater Spiritualist Church last night after my visit to Boreham Park Library. The building remained quiet and unlit on this occasion. However, after taking the above photo, I noticed a rather odd character standing nearby, staring at me. After walking off, I realised that he had begun to follow me. I took a detour into a nearby pub, and could see him loitering outside through one of the hostelry's grimy windows. After a few minutes he went on his way. I think he may have been one of the people I encountered at the Witching Tree the other week.

Earlier today, I rang the church on the pretense of inquiring about attending their Saturday evening services, but was informed that, whilst I was welcome to attend services, none had ever been held during that time.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.9: Boreham Park Library

Boreham Park Library is a short walk from St. Ormstead's along Southcote Lane, and sits eithin the grounds of Boreham Park itself - whose landscaped gardens (sadly now in a state of disrepair) date back to the 18th Century.

Although the library is a rather uncouth mock-Tudor building, it used to have a rather extensive section on the occult and the paranormal, and it was here during the 1970s that I discovered the work of Lovecraft and Kenneth Grant. The library also held what appeared to be an almost complete collection of the more salacious titles published by Ultimate Press which, I'm rather ashamed to admit, I did occasionally borrow.

Horsingdon Council recently sought to close the library as a result of government cuts - unsuccessfully so, as local residents successfully campaigned to keep it running (although currently it is only open three days a week). This hasn't been the first time the library has been the subject of local controversy.

For a short period in 1973, Boreham Park Library was closed due to the unexplained disappearance of the branch's librarians, who was last seen heading into the extensive cellar system below the building (which apparently is used as a storage facility for various council archives, as well as for some of the Horsingdon Council Libraries' rarer acquisitions).

Roland Franklyn also took an interest in the library during his time in the Horsingden area, noting in his letters that the cellar system supposedly concealed a walled-up arch of Roman origin, as well as linking to a much older tunnel system, part of which connected to St. Ormund's Church. According to Franklyn's investigations, James Boreham - who built the house as his personal residence in the late 19th Century - was involved in a local witch cult which had links with similar groups in the Severn Valley.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.8: New Church, Old Gods.

Passing the somewhat imposing redbrick edifice that is Bridgewater Spiritualist Church yesterday evening whilst on one of my customary nocturnal rambles, I was surprised to note that the lights of the church hall were on. A faint chanting seemed to be coming from within. The church, which I believe Roland Franklyn made reference to in his letters, was originally built by a Baptist denomination in the late 1940s before being bought by the Spiritualists in the 1960s.

But there are things far older than Christianity which flounder in the nameless abysses beyond Time, and to which the residents of the Horsingdon Triangle still, on occasion, make obeisance.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.7: Signs and Portents

A photo of the crest of Horsingdon Hill, as viewed from the top floor of a friend's house.

I took this a few days ago, but at the time failed to notice anything in the sky above the hilltop. I have no idea what the black oval object near the top righthand corner of picture might be.

There is a history of strange aerial phenomena being sighted near or from the hill dating back at least to the earliest Anglo-Saxon settlement of the area. Since the 1960s, Horsingdon Hill has acquired a reputation as something of a UFO hotspot. As it goes with such things, it is hardly surprising that Horsingdon Hill is bisected by a ley line. Whatever they may be, such manifestations and intrusions are an inevitable by-product of the fault-lines in reality generated by places such as Horsingdon Hill: where the barrier that circumscribes this world grates and wears thin against those which partition off the many other worlds which invisibly surround ours.

A place where, as local accounts have it, the rites have been howled through at their season.

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.6: Operator Symbol

I returned to Hallowmere Playing Fields and the site of the Witching Tree earlier today to take a clearer photograph of the tree itself:

Then I discovered this:

A variant of the Operator Symbol at the edge of the fields.

In the same way that it seems to intersect with a multiplicity of other invisible and less comprehensible worlds than this, it is also often the case that the Horsingdon Triangle intersects with mythographies other than its own.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.5: She Who Waits Beneath the Witching Tree

Yesterday’s ruminations were, in part, the consequence of a recent - and rather unnerving -  incident. Whilst out for a stroll on the evening of the Winter's Solstice, I witnessed a small group of people huddled around the Witching Tree. On my passing, they stopped whatever activity they were engaged in to stare at me, after which I hurried home. None of the faces I recognised, but it was dark. The following morning I returned to the tree, noticing a patch of earth that had been disturbed near its base where, it transpired, a small clay statue of grotesque demeanour had bern buried, wrapped in the hide of a hare that had been tied with gut:

The following characters have been inscribed onto the hide in some blue substance:

In light of this, there is a scrap of local playground rhyme that I remember from my childhood, and which now takes on a rather unsettling aspect:

'Knock once, knock twice, and again makes three
For she who waits 'neath the Witching Tree'.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions 4: The Witching Tree

There is a tree that stands at the uttermost edge of Hallowmere Playing Fields.

I have overheard the older patrons of my local pub (which overlooks St. Ormund's) refer to it as the Witching Tree. When pressed on the matter, they refuse to say more. I have lived in the Horsingdon area for the better part of my life, and my family settled here three generations ago. But even that is not enough to erase my outsider status - a status consolidated by the fact of my departure from Northwich in the late 1980s, only to return 10 years later. An act of betrayal in the eyes of older residents.

It may seem strange that within (sub)urbanised Greater London, the seemingly archaic traditions of witchery endure; but no city truly possesses its own unique, modern character - each is just an conglomerate of older villages and outlier communities that, over time and out of necessity, have forged an artificial unity. Nonetheless, boundaries and buffer zones remain: each borough and district retains own dialect, regional culture, local history, and unique folkways and customs - all alien to outsiders (who may live no more than a street away). Identity remains tied to the specific dictates of cartographical, historical and mythological tradition.

Besides which, here in Horsingdon we are only even a crow's flight away from a rural spectrality against which the barrier of the M25 is powerless  There are also older and even worse secrets mired in the sewers and hidden catacombs beneath the capital's hub.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.3: Hallowmere Playing Fields

Hallowmere Playing Fields are located a few hundreed yards up the road from Hallowmere House (both stand along Hallowmere Road). Until the 1970s, the field was a piece of undeveloped public land which was also the site of a copse, at the centre of which was a small pond ('mere' of course being the Old English word for a shallow lake or pond).

The Hallowmere, as it used to be known, was popular amongst local dog-walkers. However, after the mysterious disappearance of a number of dogs in the vicinity, alongside claims in the local press that cowled figures had been seen entering the copse at night. At this point in the 1970s, the British tabloid press (notably the execrable - and now thankfully defunct - News of the World) were responsible for manufacturing a moral panic, claiming that traditional British values were being eroded by a wave of witchcraft and devil-worship that was supposedly sweeping the nation.

As a consequence, it took little effort to persuade Horsingdon council  to cut down the copse, drain the pond, and redevelop the land as playing fields. This also occured around the time that the Church of Starry Wisdom was evicted from St. Ormond's.

As an aside, I am reminded of events which supposedly occured in Clapham Wood in West Sussex (not far from the A27) around the same time, where devil worshippers and various paranormal interlopers were held responsible for the disappearance of a number of dogs, and even the death of the local vicar. Interested readers are directed to Toyne Newton, Charles Walker and Alan Brown's The Demonic Connection.

An acquintance of mine, who happens to be part of of the Sodality of Shadows (a loose network of writers and esoteric practioners, all of who have links with London's occult underground - and about which I shall say more in the future), has also previously undertaken occult investigations in Clapham Wood.

Having delved somewhat deeply into the local history archives of Horsingdon Central Library, I have yet to uncover any additional information regarding the matters of either Hallowmere Playing Fields, or St. Ormond's Church - or whether, indeed, the two events are in any way related. However, I will note that a portion of the minutes relating to council meetings covering this period are no longer available For public scrutiny. I have not yet received a response regarding my queries about this - nor do I expect one to be forthcoming anytime soon.

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.2: Hallowmere House

Hallowmere House stands midway between my apartment and St. Ormund's Church.

For a time the building was a guest house. Occultist Roland Franklyn, author of We Pass From View, rented the tower rooms for a period in the mid-1960s whilst investigating some of the mysteries of the Horsingdon Triangle. Apparently Franklyn was particularly interested in the history of St. Ormund's.

Franklyn also maintained extensive connections throughout the occult underground, and had been in correspondence with the leaders of the Church of Starry Wisdom shortly before his death in 1967.

Juxtaposed with the progressive modernity of the new builds which surround it, Hallowmere House is mired in a dubious history of murder and madness which many new residents are unfamiliar with, and which the old ones would prefer to forget. Like other houses of its kind, it possesses foundations of a less tangible sort that have, perhaps, delved too deeply into the more dismal folkways and less pleasant mythopoeic currents of the local landscape. As a consequence, Hallowmere House has acquired something of a liminal character, demarcating a point of transition and a line of division between this world and the many other nameless and unilluminated ones that surround it. I suspect that is what drew Franklyn to the place. Its reputation for being haunted probably isn't helped by the fact that it is now a hospice.

While passing the building one cloudless winter night, I saw a pallid figure standing at the window of the uppermost room of the tower, staring silently into the starry void above. Its face held an expression of what I can only describe as horrified expectancy. I walked on quickly, as one is apt to do on such occasions.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.1: The Church on Southcote Lane

Some 15 minutes walk from my apartments stands St Osmund's Church (incidentally, Osmund is the patron saint of madness). Built in the 1840s, the church is situated on Southcote Lane, not far from Northwich High Street. It has remained untenanted for some years, but there are have been persistent rumours of strange lights and noises emanating from the within the church steeple...

...and of loping figures that lurk about the cemetary after dark.

The building is currently owned by Horsingdon council, and over the years has been home to number of unconventional religious denominations. You will note the bright spotlights attached to the walls of the building in tne photos below:

These were erected by the local council in the late 1970s, subsequent to a scandal involving an American evangelical sect known as the Church of Starry Wisdom, who soon after were evicted from the premises. I have it on good authority that after this incident, Horsingdon council moved to pass a by-law ensuring that the lights remain on at all times between the hours of sunset and sunrise. My investigations into the matter are ongoing.

The Horsingdon Transmissions: Prologue

The Horsingdon Transmissions is a daily blog documenting the praeternatural goings-on in my particular corner of North West London, at one time known locally (for those of us old enough to remember) as the Horsingdon Triangle - although with the steady gentrification of the region, this term is now less-well remembered, and you won’t find it on any map (at least not the ones that Horsingdon Council have made publicly available).

The Horsingden Triangle constitutes a geographical area broadly circumscribed by a triumvirate of hills: Harlowe Hill (with its curious hillside graveyard); the witch-haunted Blackbird’s Cross (also know as Burn Hill); and Horsingdon Hill itself - once the site of an Iron Age hill fort, and from where, on a clear day, one can see the Home Counties of Surrey, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire (the villages of Dedham and Witchford are also, on occasion, visible from the very top of the hill). As I write, I can see from the window of my study Harlowe Hill, as well as the dreary outline of Northwich Park Hospital which rests at its base. An outpost of one of London's universities (where I once taught undergraduate courses in anthropology) sits next to the hospital.

As to the nature of the project, The Horsingdon Transmissions is comprised of  a melange of weird psychogeographical perambulations, eldritch fakelore, folkloric horror, unspeakable pseudo-myth, blasphemous local unhistory, aberrant half-truths, hauntological allusions, and Lovecraftian ostension regarding the parishes of this curious region - namely the (sub)urban zones which fall within the Horsingdon Triangle: Harlowe, Northwich (of which I have been a resident for most of my life), and the area around Horsingdon Hill itself. Whilst the borough of Horsingdon is now substantially urbanised, these Transmissions aim to tease out some of the shocking and unspeakable truths which lurk beneath the region's ancient landscape (albeit concealed by the prosaic veneer of metropolitan modernity), ultimately tracing an esoteric network of frightful correspondences that have spread further throughout the capital, perhaps revealing something more of the occulted Lovecraftian history of London - as well as some of the diverse horrors which lurk below the Dead-But-Dreaming Spires of Middle England.

The influences that underpin The Horsingdon Transmissions are many and varied: the folk horror of Tales from the Black Meadow,  Hookland and Arthur Machen are certainly evident, as are Ramsey Campbell's Cthulhu Mythos tales of Brichester and the Severn Valley. Cold War conspiracies - as reflected in the speculative sci-fi horror of Nigel Kneale - have also shaped the social history of the region, where the blocky architecture of military installations stand side-by-side with the remnants of ancient barrows. These elements also dovetail in often-unexpected ways with both the nihilistic corporate horror of Thomas Ligotti, and the sonic folk horrors of Matthew Bartlett. Similarly, the episodic horror of podcasts such as The Black TapesTanisWelcome to Nightvale - as well as Mr. Jim Moon's wonderful Hypnogoria – have also left their mark upon Horsingdon’s landscape. The Transmissions also offer hauntological reflections on how the spectre of 1970s creepy nostalgia continues to assert its influence on the uncanny topographies of contemporary British culture; indeed, I'd almost go as far to say that, in order to fully understand modern British horror, one needs to have experienced not only the griminess of that decade, but to have encountered first-hand the horrific televisual allure of British children’s television of the time. The 70s was also marked by a boom in popular paperbacks dealing with UFOs and the paranormal – topics that are also deeply entangled with The history and landscape of Horsingdon. In any case, if some or all of these things appeal to you, then you may find The Horsingdon Transmissions of interest.

Most of the places described in The Transmissions are very real – and the vast majority of accompanying photographs documenting them have been taken by me during my irresponsible wanderings throughout the alleyways, cul-de-sacs and green spaces of the borough of Horsingdon. The names,, however, have in many instances been changed in order to protect the unwary. As an additional proviso, The Horsingdon Transmissions is a work in progress: I have a busy daily schedule, so blog entries are written relatively swiftly, often with only a single quick editorial sweep before publishing. This means that grammatical and spelling mistakes may be more common than I would like – for which I seek your indulgence, kind reader. When and where possible, I do try to go back and re-edit earlier posts with a view to cleaning up wayward grammar and the like. However, this is not always possible – and my current intention is to subject all of the entries to further revision when the year is out, perhaps making the revised entries available in another format.

Followers of my previous daily blogging project – 2016's Lovecraftian Thing a Day - can rest assured of one thing: the spectre of that particular endeavour will continue to haunt this new project, as undoubtedly strange artefacts and curious tomes will reveal themselves as part of the year’s unfolding narrative. Die-hard fans can  anticipate its return in 2018. But for now, welcome to the first broadcast of The Horsingdon Transmissions, wherein you may find that there are some sounds which you can never unhear...

My Special Collection

Lovecraftian Thing a Day: Epilogue

Well now, that was quite a journey. Thanks to all of you who have been reading regularly and liking  my posts on Facebook - and thank you for putting up with my appallingly pastiched use of Lovecraftian language! The question now is: what next tor Whispers from tne Ghooric Zone? Return tomorrow to find out.

Have a Happy New Year, and be seeing you!