There is a small village in North Lincolnshire called `Flixborough'. Although it is a beautiful and quaint little village, sadly it is more memorable for a terrible disaster in 1974, when a chemical plant called `Nypro' exploded, killing 28 people and seriously injuring 36.
Just a few years before this terrible event, my uncle, a gamekeeper on a nearby warren there, had an experience which chilled him to his very bones.
Uncle Steve (now sadly passed) was a bold and fearless man and thought nothing of tracking armed poachers in the dead of night, through the inky darkness of the fir wood.
He used to laugh at the notion of ghosts, UFOs and tales of alien encounters. But the chilling experience he would have one day, would fuel a subsequent passion for the paranormal, which would stay with him for his entire life.
It had been snowing heavily, at least for a week before this day On December 27th, 1970. The snow was a few of inches deep and the only tracks being his, rabbits, and other creatures of the wild.
He noted in his diary that there was a very slight albeit cold wind, on that day, blowing towards him.
I can picture him, head covered by a trilby hat replete with a pheasant's feather, tipped downwards and revealing only his raven black beard. Oh yes, and he had a 12 bore shotgun under his arm.
It was different in those days.
And he was a gamekeeper. It has to be said though, that if this was today, and you chanced upon him whilst on a lone walk in the woods, you would be forgiven for walking the other way. You would have been wrong to have done that though. Although he was fearless and strong, he was a man of nature with a passion for all living things. He would have given you a firendly nod as he passed you by and if you had paused to make conversation, he would have welcomed it.
After arriving at the warren, Steve checked on the pheasants and then decided it was too bitter to hang about, and so decided to make his way back home again.
It was still light.
When turning to come home, he had planned to follow the road, towards the River Trent, But about 30 yards down, he felt an inexplicable urge to turn round and go back towards Flixborough and then turn on to `Wood Bottom' at an alternative spot. He always stressed, when telling this story, that `to this day' he had no idea why he changed his mind.
Close to this location and on his route, there is a concrete rail bridge, which is still stands and is in use, to this day. He had only walked a few yards, approaching the rail bridge, when he suddenly felt very uneasy and felt the hair on the back of his neck, stand up.
What happened next is documented in his diary. I have paraphrased it here but the details are accurate.
Steve was approaching the bridge, adjacent to the Nypro chemical plant, when he was suddenly pulled backwards by his coat with such incredible force that he was thrown to the ground! Thinking it was a poacher, he jumped to his feet and spun round with his 12 bore shotgun raised, ready to scare the attacker with it. But he was very surprised, not to mention a little unnerved, to see that there was no one there! No footprints in the snow apart from his own - and there was nowhere for anyone to hide.
Steve wasn't one to mince words and suffered fools rather poorly. His temper raised at this unwarranted attack by an unseen assailant, he swore at the empty space in front on him before turning around. He quickening his pace and continued under the bridge and eventually he arrived at the first track, before turning towards the river. All the time, he felt that "something was on me; following me; watching me".
A few minutes later and he was pulled over again. Once again he swung round, cursing loudly with gun ready but of course, once again there was nothing there, just the sense of something `very powerful and terrifying'. It felt almost like it was "breathing down my neck".
Once he got back onto his feet, he picked up his pace further; although resisting the urge to break into a run for fear of showing this invisible force, how fearful he was.
He continued a little further and for the third time, it pulled him backwards, throwing him into the snow and sending his gun and hat flying into the snow.
By this time he was done with any notion of fighting and picked up his hat and gun and broke into a sprint.
Still very shaken and out of breath, he staggered to his aunt’s house in the nearby village of Burton, where he was told that he was `white as sheet', and as though he had `seen a ghost!' Steve didn't drink alcohol but his aunt made him sit down and drink a glass of brandy, in hope it would calm his nerves. I remember her telling me that she had never seen him in such a state, with his hands shaking as he held the glass.
On the anniversary of the attack, for many years, Steve went back to the spot; taking a dog once; knowing that animals are sensitive to these things, but there was nothing but the tranquility and peace of a beautiful place.
What could it have been? A poltergiest? A demon? An alien? an inter-dimensional being? Why was it so aggressive to Steve? Was it a precursor; a warning of the terrible events to come in the Nypro disaster? Was it good? Or was it evil? Plenty would have an opinion on it but without further evidence or hard science, we will never know.
Flixborough does have quite a history though. Mentioned in the Domesday book as `Flichesburg' the parish was home to the discovery of an Anglo Saxon settlement by archaelogists during the late 80's and early 90's. These ancient places are frequently mentioned in folklore and in modern day accounts of paranormal events.
For those interested in more details about the Nypro Disaster, I can recommend no better place to visit and pay respect than the The Glebe Blog. This is first-hand accounts of being amongst the horror of that terrible day.
Matt Cage & Denham Crow - June 2013
All works copyright of Matt Cage & Denham Crow 2013, with exception of certain photos which are attributed to owners, below. (If it works right! Apologies if not.)