MY LAST GHOST-WALK Bill Bayley
I have done lots of ghost-walks in my time. It's a bit of fun, people like to be a tiny bit scared, when it's safe. I have done it for kids, and for adults. Of course, you have to keep the ghastly bits out of the kids' walks, although they seem to love lots of gore and horror these days, especially the girls. Whatever happened to “Sugar and spice and all things nice”? That went long ago, and it's all “Snips and snails and puppy-dogs tails”, and worse, now.
The evening of my last one was Hallowe'en, the best night for ghost-walks. Everyone is keyed up for something happening then, the atmosphere is right. This particular night was as perfect as it gets, no moon, pitch black, with wisps of mist to show up the spooky beams of light under the street lamps. I was doing this one with the Twittering Wizard group, a chap I used to know who did it for kids for fun, as much to keep them from Trick or Treating and scaring old people out of their wits as anything. We had a group of about fifteen kids aged between 8 and 16, so Jim said not to do too much really scary stuff, to protect the 8-year-olds. The way we used to do it was that I would lead them round the usual 'haunted' spots, whilst he would go on ahead and make weird noises and appear in various costumes. It never fooled anyone really, but it added scary fun, which was the point of the ghost-walk. So Jim in his normal garb, black cloak, wide-brimmed hat and shoes with twinkly lights on (that's normal for Jim, he was a wizard, after all), gives them a talk, and some goody-bags, then goes away to get ready for his first appearance as a ghoul later in the walk. So I start the story of Amy who was accused of witchcraft and imprisoned in the Town Hall, and I'm just getting them hooked when a bloke in a car pulls up, winds his window down, and shouts, “Hi, Jody, you comin' to the Horse later? We're all there, girl. Whatcher say. Eh?”
I tried to ignore him, but Jody was up to his car with her mates, and my audience was distracted. I politely asked the bloke in the car to move on. At least, I thought it was polite, but he took exception to my request. “Wanna make somethin' of it, do yer, pal? Come on, if yer want it!”
I told him I was over seventy, and was of a peaceful disposition, and only wanted to continue with my ghost-walk. “Oh, very lah-di-dah, I'm sure,” he sneered. “I'll go when I'm ready and not when you tell me, mate.” I walked on with as much dignity as I could muster. I noticed the kids now numbered only ten, we had lost the older ones to the chav in the car.
In the dark part of the High Street, one kid stopped, and said “Urrrgh! I stepped in dog-poo!Can you get it off?” All the other kids gathered round making revolting noises, then one scraped something nasty onto another, and suddenly pandemonium broke out. They were screaming and running about shouting “He's put dog-poo on me!”, and such things as to indicate that the poo was being distributed, mostly from the boys to the girls, so as to make lots of trouble.
I managed to get most of the kids calmed down eventually, but three girls had gone off sobbing to tell their Mums. The seven remaining walked reasonably quietly with me into the dark passage called Yewtree Lane. I was about to start my story of 'The Fairies of Yewtree Lane' when I saw a glowing figure approaching. Aha, I thought, Jim has done his change of costume, so I called out, “Look, everyone! A ghastly ghoul is approaching! Everyone shout 'BOO'!” So that's what they did. The figure did not run away, as I expected, but came right up to me. “Are you in charge of these children, Sir?” asked a deeply menacing voice. It was one of our PCSOs, a plastic policeman.
“I'll ask again, are you in charge of these young people, Sir? If so, I want a word with you.”
My heart sank. “Yes, officer. I am in charge here. Sorry about the BOOing, we thought you were a ghoul. Oh, sorry, no disrespect, you understand. What's the trouble?” As if I didn't know.
One of the Mums had phoned them to report the dog-poo incident, and no, it wouldn't happen again, and yes, I was aware of my responsibilities, I promised to take extra care. Three more went home at that point, they were scared to be in trouble with the police.
I walked on with the four remaining kids. Where was Jim? I got to the dark part of the Lane when I saw it. A hideous blue silently screaming face, slithering towards me, oozing blood. I ran.
I woke up in this hospital. The men in white coats say they'll let me out when I'm better. But I've done with ghost-walks. You see, Jim was back at the Twittering Wizard. It wasn't him at all. But the four kids I had left with me had a Hallowe'en that they will never forget. Nor shall I.