I wake up, the world is still spinning, the room has empty vodka and rum bottles scattered across the floor, the fake blood setting under my nails for the next four days, face full of smudged eyeliner, and an ever present desire to just stop existing for a day or two.
Halloween has turned into that yearly event in which both my liver and my wallet hold hands and think “How are we going to make it through this?”. A week long event of house parties, trudging down town, and drinking enough alcohol to satisfy Lichtenstein as a whole.
And I find this perplexing to a degree because Halloween has already undergone a drastic evolution, at least with me.
As a child it was the all about the silly costumes, the trick or treating and the weeks supply of sweets, and an apple to get through, the Halloween parties were filled with apple bobbing and listening to the Monster Mash.
As a young teenager you get a bit more of a sense of adventure with such a time of year. Too young to make a night out happen, and too old to appreciate apple bobbing, you’re forced to think outside the box and go ghost hunting or some shit like that.
Then as an adult you lose that sense of horror and wonder and just replace it with alcohol, or at least heavily incorporate alcohol into proceedings, instead of apple bobbing you have….apple cocktails? Instead of trick or treating you get a round of shot roulette and hope to god you don’t get the black sambuca. And instead of analysing the sheer amount of sweets you have on your bed, you’re instead throwing away your bedsheets because of the blue dye stained from the Smurf you bought home last night.
This is the reality in which I now apparently live in, maybe in a few years time Halloween to me will be watching my future son/daughter don their superhero outfit for the first time, and stealing their sweets when they go to bed. Until that day however I’m fine with replacing a packet of Haribo Starmix with a Woo Woo Cocktail.
However, going back to the days in which drinking wouldn’t diminish me as a human being, I was in that ‘Let’s be adventurous this Halloween’ stage.
Now, it’s time for a bit of Plymouth folklore.
In one of the corners of Plymouth lies Radford Woods, a serene little retreat with quite a beautiful lake next to what I can only describe as a pint sized castle.
Once upon a time, 19th century time, the occupants of this castle had a daughter, who loved some bloke who either lived in the woods, or hung around in the woods a lot. Either way, she probably should’ve just got a hobby instead of pining after woodsmen.
Forbidden from seeing her true love, she apparently decided to make a Disney movie out of it, break out of the castle, take a boat and sail to him.
Not quite perfecting a calm lake and a rowing boat, she capsized the boat and died, and to this day she haunts the woods looking for her lost love. Known commonly as The White Lady.
Also, for some fucking reason she’s a swan in the daytime.
Our story takes us to 2004.
Myself and Nathan. Who I share a YouTube gaming channel with (Check us playing horror games by clicking this link) now routinely ‘investigate’ these woods but find pretty much nothing each time.
2004 however we were incredibly close to finding much, much more.
We had at this point in school all heard the rumours, and all been into Radford woods, but only in the day time.
Given it was Halloween we decided it’d be the absolute perfect time to go into the woods under the moonlight.
We all met up at about 9pm. Which was late for a bunch of fourteen year olds I guess, and especially late for said fourteen year olds to be swanning around in some creepy woods.
Myself, Nathan, Luke, Mike and James were set. All with our little flash lights, and Nathan taking the cautionary approach by taking an actual steel fucking pipe as if it were the starting weapon of our own personal horror game.
Things were creepy for a bit, but mostly it was a case of us just minding our footing and making sure we didn’t trip over any rocks or loose tree branches.
Joking and pretending we’ve seen ‘things’ we lap the woods a little bit to find a whole load of nothing.
Not wanting to end this trip of a disappointing note we decided to take drastic measures.
Now the pint sized castle, was completely sealed. Boarded up with steel with no means to wedging over. However, we figured we could at least take a peek by looking through a window over a ledge.
It was quite treacherous to a degree, to get to this window we’d had to hop over a wall, hug said wall from the other side for a few feet just to get a glimpse through a fucking window that was barred up.
Nonetheless we gave it a go. Shining our flash light through the windows we still couldn’t particularly see. Luke, clutching the straws of optimism tried to move the bars themselves.
And it worked.
The bars hoisted upwards giving us access to the window, we all looked at each other, huddled on our little ledge and pondered on whether or not it was a good idea to go in.
Throwing caution to the wind we thought fuck it, and went inside. Teamwork becoming the essence as I held up the bars as the rest of the crew went in, Luke and Mike then held up the bars from the inside as I squeezed past them. “Mind the toilet” Luke said.
“Toilet?” I questioned, confused and wondering if I heard correctly. But sailing so, my foot nearly went inside an old, thankfully empty, dried out toilet.
The floors creaked with each timid step, every creak sounding like it could possibly be it’s last until it gave way.
We moved into the next room. A large square one, completely empty minus a table on the far side, and……..An Action-Man flash light on the floor.
Which I fucking shit you not, was still lit.
“Haha, what the fuck? I completely forgot Action-Man even existed!” I exclaim whilst going to pick up the flash light, in true horror movie style it died just before I went to touch it.
In hindsight, why none of us were horrified, or at least a bit dubious on the fact that the flash light was still on is beyond me.
The table in question has a load of burned out tea lights on it, again for some stupid reason we thought absolutely nothing about it.
Just under the table for some reason was a shit load of barbed wire all bunched together.
To me, horror is best left to the imagination. When playing a game or watching a movie, the true fear lies in wondering just what is round the corner. What’s lurking in the darkness?
The amount of times I’ve been relatively creeped out during a horror movie, only to be let down by the big monster reveal is phenomenal. Especially with whatever the fuck that stupid prick in Insidious was meant to be.
With that said, the horror elements you can appreciate in film and gaming culture become a lot more scary when you’re the protagonist of a real life would be horror, and as predicted the minds start playing tricks on you. I was constantly questioning myself on what I saw in the corner. Then I was for some reason adding hypothetical situations to the mix.
“Okay, so what do you guys think would be scarier, if we just come across some dead bloke, a bloke who’s alive and acknowledges us in whatever way, ORRRR a bloke who’s alive, but just completely oblivious to us, and is just staring catatonically into space”
I had already decided that option three would freak me out the most as I then started to look out for this fictional thousand yard stare man.
Holding onto the walls, being extra careful with our footing we discovered a spiral staircase. James and Mike decided that they didn’t want to risk going upstairs, Nathan decided to take watch for some reason, leaving Luke and I to check out the upper part.
It was a giant, huge, empty room. The floor felt as if it would collapse at any second, and just at the end of it, attached to a wall was a life jacket, Which let’s face it would’ve been quite handy for The White Lady. Live and Learn I guess.
Treading carefully on the soon collapsing floor, our hearts simultaneously go into a state of overdrive as the overpowering sound of bells chimed heavily all around us.
“WHAT THE FUCK?”
At this point I doubt anybody in the history of the world had run down a set of spiral stairs quicker than Luke and myself. We didn’t even question what was going on, just bolted.
We were greeted with a hysterical Mike, who had somehow found an old school fire bell system, in which you rotate a crank and it sets a load of bells off. I’d have probably appreciated such a little gizmo if I wasn’t at the time close to cardiac arrest.
Deciding enough was simply enough we left the castle.
Repeating the process of our break in, only in reverse we returned to the woods, this time however a Police car was present. “Oh fuck”
“Hi lads, what’re you up to?” the policeman enquired sticking his head out the window.
“Oh, we’re ghost hunting!” I blurted out trying to remain cool and poised.
“Hahaha, alright then stay safe!” he replied. All in all it was quite a pleasant encounter but we suspected that they were onto us.
We then heard dogs barking, and for some reason we assumed they had set police dogs onto us (I’ve no idea why) so we sat near a bunch of rocks in the dockyard for like, fifteen minutes.
Deciding the coast was clear, we all head off. James had pretty much run off into the night, Luke and Nathan wanted to explore more, so myself and Mike just pottered by the lakeside.
Minutes later, Luke and Nath ran back in a panic claiming that they had saw some sort of white smoke. The closest sign we’d had gotten to a ghost that night, and we bailed, left, and went home
Fun fact though? A few months later in the local paper, it had turned out that our pint sized castle, was actually being used as a drug den, and they had found like £500,000 worth of cocaine inside.
So you know, there’s one fucking giant bullet dodged right there.