Feature

THE DOPPELGANGER

The following strange story was told to me many years ago by a prominent theatre director. I have had to change a few names for legal reasons.

In the 1960s, Jeremy Richards, a Huyton-born artistic director of a theatre in Liverpool – was looking for a certain type of actor to play the rôles of three separate characters in a very expensive production, and so, auditions were held at the Rodney Street offices of Mr Richards, and one particular actor really impressed the latter; his name was Jonathan Gladwin, and he seemed to become the three separate characters during the auditions.

Gladwin, however, turned out to be temperamental and he also had a drink problem, and was eventually fired by Jeremy Richards.

A less talented actor replaced Gladwin, and after the opening night of the new play, Jeremy Richards and the theatre’s company of actors enjoyed thunderous applaud from the audience, and there was a standing ovation.

Jeremy and most of the actors later left the theatre and celebrated at the Philharmonic pub – where a stranger walked up to Jeremy and yelled, “Stay away from my wife!” before knocking him clean out.

One of the actors, a man named Fairspear, ran out of the pub, seized the assailant in a headlock and dragged him back into the bar, where Jeremy was regaining consciousness in the arms of two actresses.

The restrained man who had KO’d the director growled: “I’m not a violent man, but I saw him making love to my wife in a car in the drive of my house!”

“And when was this?” Jeremy asked, getting to his feet as he rubbed his jaw.

“The night before last!’ said the enraged husband, whose name turned out to be Ted Wallis.

“I have been in rehearsals with these actors every evening for the past week,” replied Jeremy, “And they will all vouch for me! How dare you accuse me of having an affair with your wife!”

Mr Wallis was released by Fairspear, who stood between him and Jeremy. The husband fumed: “I saw you with my own eyes before you threw my missus out the car and drove off! When I finally got your name out of the wife, I recognised your photo in the newspaper!

“Then someone is playing a joke on you, and perhaps they gave my name because the blackguard resembles me!” Jeremy retorted.

“Just be a man and admit to it!” Mr Wallis lunged forward but Fairspear and another stocky actor threw the irate man out the door, where he promised he’d return with a shotgun if there were was any more ‘carrying on’ with his wife.

“How extraordinary,” Jeremy said with a faint smile, “talk about mistaken identity,” he went on, and the barman gave him a large brandy on the house to treat his shock.

On the following morning at eleven, Jeremy telephoned his friend – the famous actor Rex Harrison (a fellow Huytonian), enquiring whether he would be available for a musical he had in mind – when there was a heavy knocking at the door of his Cressington home. It was a detective and a constable.

The detective was following up reports of a serious shoplifting incident at a well-known department store in Liverpool – and many witnesses – including a policeman and a certain professional gentleman – had identified the thief as none other than Jeremy Richards.

“But I haven’t left the house once this morning,” Jeremy protested, “and who is this professional gentleman who says he saw me shoplifting?”

“Your former doctor, sir, Mr Quaritch,” the detective replied, adding, “and there were six other people who saw you in the store as well.”

Jeremy had talked to the newspaper delivery boy at 8am, and his milkman, and his star witness – the former judge who was his next door neighbour – had seen Jeremy smoking his pipe on his doorstep around 10am – when his lookalike was shoplifting in town.

No charges were brought, and Jeremy wondered who was setting him up – first as an adulterer, and now as a shoplifter; the person would have to be a good impersonator...or a gifted actor.

It had to be the actor he had dismissed from the play – Jonathan Gladwin! He had an uncanny knack for imitating people. He’d obviously donned a wig and used make up, and dressed just like Jeremy – and he could replicate anyone’s voice.

Yes, it all made sense now – the disgruntled actor was getting his own back for being sacked.
The last Jeremy had heard of Gladwin, he was living in digs over a shop on Renshaw Street, but no one in the acting company could trace the spiteful performer.

Not long after, on Valentine’s Day, the mimic proposed to two former girlfriends of Jeremy Richards at different restaurants on the same evening, and these two women had said “Yes” – and now each of them refused to believe Jeremy’s far-fetched tale of the twisted imposter out for revenge.

Each of the girls threw their rings at Jeremy and turned the air blue with insults. The infuriating impersonator even withdrew a large sum of money out of Jeremy’s bank, and so now it was a matter for the police.

But the police discovered that the suspect – Jonathan Gladwin – had moved to Edinburgh, days after being sacked by Jeremy – where he had been arrested three times for being drunk and disorderly, and he had not travelled back to England since.

A week later, Jeremy returned from an evening stroll, and was at the gate of his Cressington house, when a familiar voice asked: “Excuse me sir, is it 8pm yet?”

Jeremy turned – and came face to face with his exact double – same face, same build, even the same clothes, only the skin seemed a shade darker, and rather off colour – but otherwise it was the mirror image of Jeremy.

The director hurried into his home and bolted the door.

He heard footsteps walking away, and he never saw or heard from that creepy imposter again.

* Haunted Liverpool 29  is out now on Amazon.

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