Ghost Punting

CambridgeIt’s been a while since we went ghost hunting with fellow writer L K Jay and Cambridge had been planned since last year so this weekend we finally managed to meet up and travel to Huntingdon. It’s three and a half hours from Cardiff, which meant waking at an ungodly hour – 5:45 a.m. It should be illegal to be up at that hour. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad, if we hadn’t still been awake at 2:00 a.m. The week before any trip will always be a bad week for sleeping, due to pre-trip/packing anxiety. We’re pretty sure it was Red Bull driving General Pinkinton. Either that or we’re great at driving whilst asleep 😀 When we stopped at the Services, some guy shouted “I like your suspenders!” at Cat – she was wearing bright orange and black stripy tights. We refused to acknowledge him, so he kept shouting it then he and his mate stood way too close behind us on the escalator. One centimetre closer and we would’ve kicked them back down the escalator. We try to avoid human contact and being space invaded by strangers is the fastest way to having our fists lodged in your oesophagus. Listen dickwads – if you are too stupid to realise that suspenders are a belt worn around the waist to hold up stockings and are not in fact tights, then we are not even going to waste the energy it would take to flip you the bird. These guys are the reason the Eugenics debate still rages.

Then the junction we wanted to get to Huntingdon was closed because of an accident. The entire stretch of road was blocked off, leading to us being diverted. Somehow we still managed to get there. After arriving in Huntingdon, we dumped our stuff, grabbed our cameras then caught the bus to Cambridge. We were fascinated by the weird bus road – it was a specialised bus route with strips of road separated by large rectangular gaps filled with weeds and grass. We thought perhaps the council couldn’t afford to fill in the road properly, but it turns out they were car traps to prevent cars from using the road. On our journey we passed fields owned by Ministry of Defence. One of the fields had cows in it. So we concluded that a herd of cattle is actually protecting our country. They must be some kind of super soldier. We have to congratulate them – it’s a great disguise. It will totally fool any enemies.

016As we got to King’s College in Cambridge, we saw students in their mortar boards and gowns. It was graduation day, which meant we couldn’t get into any of the colleges to do some ghost hunting. L K Jay’s an ex Cambridge graduate so her Cam card is like a key to the city, but today they’d changed the locks. We always manage to visit a place on the same day that some big event is on that we didn’t know about it. It’s a gift. There was also a scavenger hunt, so there were runners clutching maps trying to fight their way through the crowds. We were tempted to tackle one of them and steal their map so we could navigate through the crowded streets, but we didn’t fancy our chances of outrunning them.

Then as we reached a section of shops, we heard a fire alarm blaring. Everyone was being evacuated. A little while later when we returned, the road was closed off and there was a fire engine parked up. It turned out to be a bomb scare.

We definitely picked a fine day to visit.

008We visited a haunted bookshop, which is haunted by a little girl whose presence is always detected with the scent of violets. The bookshop is tiny and smells of old books. We would have liked to stay there for a while, but you could only really get three people in there comfortably, so we didn’t have the room to explore properly. We went to see a haunted photography shop, where people have seen a ghost standing on the stairs. We made our way to Peterhall, the oldest college in Cambridge. There used to be a shadowy figure that lurked above the gate. Anyone who saw it supposedly committed suicide. Priests performed an exorcism in the 1960s and there haven’t been any sightings or suicides since. Right by Peterhall was a hidden graveyard. Naturally we explored it.

021As we were in Cambridge, we had to have the full experience, so booked to go on a punt ride. You can hire the punts and control them yourself, but that sounded like a recipe for disaster, so we decided the safest thing for everyone would be to have a guide. We didn’t bring a change of clothes, so didn’t particularly want to end up in the Cam, delighting the other tourists. Our guide, Max, was great and told us lots of interesting facts about the bridges and the colleges. The whole time we were there, we were desperate to see someone fall into the Cam (don’t judge, we know we’re bad people) and on the way back, we got our wish. Well, Cat did. She was lucky enough to witness a man falling off the punt into the river 😀 We’re hoping the camcorder captured the momentous occasion, but if it didn’t, there’s plenty of footage of ducks and geese for you to enjoy.

CambridgeIn the evening we went on a ghost walk around the city. Cambridge has a lot of ghosts so we didn’t get to hear about all of them. During the Black Death, Cambridge’s priests were dying and the townspeople were terrified that without a priest, the dead’s souls would be at unrest. So they built a college to train more priests. It was a spooky building and is apparently haunted by Reverend Butts (no laughing at the back). He hanged himself and was found by one of the choir boys, with his dog lying beneath him, apparently waiting for help to arrive, rather than fetching help. There’s now a statue of the dog. Though to be fair, our boys also would have sat there, rather than gone for help. The cats would eat us. It’s also haunted by a man and woman. He was a student, she was the daughter of someone important (it’s been a tiring time, so forgive our bad memories). They’d met for a clandestine tryst in her room. When her father came home, she stashed her lover in the linen press. Her father told her they were going on holiday to their country home, her bags had been packed and the carriage was waiting. The college was then locked over the holidays. Three weeks later, she returned home and when she opened the linen press, her rotting boyfriend fell into her arms. There wasn’t a handle on the other side. She died not long later and her father went against her wishes and buried her away from her lover. But their ghosts now meet up at night and walk hand in hand until dawn when they go to their different churchyards. The guide thought it a romantic story. Yes, we also find the idea of your decomposing boyfriend falling into your arms highly romantic. Mills and Boon is filled with that sort of stuff.

075Turned out, near where that college stands, used to be a ditch to protect the city. It soon got filled with rubbish, rotten food and you guessed it, bodies. Then they filled it in. We were basically standing on a giant grave. And some of the houses are now sinking into the ditch. Can’t help thinking someone should’ve drawn the ditch on a map years ago. Then just to add to the random things that seemed to stalk us in Cambridge, our bus out got held up by someone being put in the back of an ambulance. It seems we might have jinxed this historic city.

On our way home we seemed to drive right into the storm that is heading for the UK tonight. Pinky is not good in high winds. He was like a pink pinball being buffeted along the motorways. Crossing motorway bridges or passing lorries turned a normal drive into a fairground ride. A weekend of accidents, ghost hunting, people falling into rivers and a bomb scare. Cambridge will definitely not be forgotten!050