Haunted Merseyside - Timeslip to a Civil War?

With Tom Slemen

I’ve changed the name of the people in the following story as well as some minor details for legal reasons, but the rest of the account is as it was actually reported to me and is backed up by research and statements of several people involved in the bizarre incident. 

In the mid-1960s, two petty criminals - Terence Burroughs of Huyton and Jack Bradford of Fazakerley – were being transported the 49 miles to HM Prison Kirkham after being convicted of burglaries, when one of the prison van’s tyre blew. 

While the guards were distracted, Jack Bradford, who possessed an extraordinary gift for opening any lock with hairpins, somehow unlocked his and Terence’s handcuffs and broke out of the van. The category D prisoners ran off, but Terence, being a heavy smoker, was soon out of breath and was quickly captured. 

Jack bolted into a field near Bickerstaffe with two guards closing in on him, and he (unrealistically) believed he could perhaps make it to a road where he could try and flag down a passing motorist. He saw a huge stone with a rounded top that resembled a giant pebble embedded in the earth, and he wondered if he could hide behind it. 

Jack looked over his shoulder at the guards in the distance, and hid behind the stone. Unknown to Jack, from the viewpoint of the guards, they saw Jack vanish into thin air as he ran – because, for some reason, that stone was not seen by them.
Jack waited behind the stone, panting and then he swore and told himself, “Oh, give it up, you idiot!”

He expected to hear the big boots of the guards tramping nearer – but they never did, and Jack peeped out from behind the stone – and saw the guards – and the van and police escort car in the distance – had gone. 

This was the first indication something very strange had taken place. Then Jack noticed the unbearable heat. It didn’t feel like the month of March – more like a Spanish July. 

Jack took off his jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. He walked four miles north, crossing the Leeds and Liverpool Canal via a bridge, and came to a cottage where an old man pointed a shotgun at him. Jack assumed the man knew he was an escaped prisoner but the man asked a curious thing. 

“Are you a royal or a republican?” he asked. “I don’t get what you mean?” answered Jack, his hands in the air.

“Are you for the king or for the republic soldiers?” the elderly man asked, his hands shaking as he pointed the double barrels at Jack.

“The republic?” queried Jack, and the man said, “Yes, the commonwealth, simple question.”

“What happens if I give the wrong answer?” Jack asked the man. “I blast you to kingdom come,” was the chilling reply.

“You look like a royal,” said Jack, evasively, and the white-haired man seemed angered and yelled, “No I’m not!” “Good man, good man!” Jack shouted back, “Republican – like me,” he added, not even knowing what he was saying. The man lowered the shotgun and asked Jack who he was and what he was doing, trespassing.

“Bird-watching, honest,” said Jack, and the man accused him of being a spy for the royals. Jack suddenly charged as the old man started coughing and seized the shotgun. He assured the oldster he was not a spy, removed the shotgun cartridges, and went with him into the cottage. Inside the house, the old man made coffee, and talked of a war. Jack seemed puzzled. “War? What war?”

The old man shocked Jack by telling him that the whole of the country was in the middle of a civil war, with two main factions battling for supremacy; the Royals (who supported the monarchy, who had now fled the British Isles), and the Republicans, who were against the monarchy and were fighting for Britain to become a republic. 

London was no longer the capital, Jack learned, because something terrible had happened to it, but trying to get the old man to explain just what had befallen the capital was very difficult. 

Jack decided the old man was crazy when the latter described “UAVs” - what we would now call drones – unmanned craft with flame-throwers, machine guns and all sorts of weapons – that often swooped on his cottage, looking for royal supporters. 

Jack sneaked out of the cottage, and seeing twilight was falling, he continued travelling north towards Rufford. He had a harebrained plan to somehow make it to Fleetwood, where his brother-in-law lived. 

Later, Jack crawled under a hedge and used his rolled up jacket as a pillow, and he started to doze off in the summery warmth – but sometime later he was awakened by what sounded like machine gun fire. He saw formations of lights in the starry sky pass overhead, and some of these lights exploded. 

Jack somehow got back to sleep, but when he awoke, he was so cold, he felt numb. He crawled from under the hedge, and there coming down the road was a police car. He was so stiff with the cold he couldn’t run, and he was recaptured. 

When he was released, Jack visited the cottage north of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and he could not find the old man, and no one had heard of him. It eventually dawned on Jack that he might have perhaps somehow gone forward in time – to a future when the country was split by supporters of a republic and pro-Royalty partisans. 

Jack tried to find that standing stone he vanished behind – but was told by locals such a stone had never existed. 

• Haunted Liverpool 34 is out now on Amazon.

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