Tales from Storyteller: My shaggy dog story

Torbay Weekly

Now that the clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in, the spooky season is in full swing, it's time to settle down around a roaring log fire and share our own ghost stories. Let me begin...

My favourite experience took place at Sorley Tunnel many years ago.

Some of you may remember it as a children’s adventure centre that was situated between Kingsbridge and Loddiswell.

Its main feature was a half-mile long abandoned railway tunnel that lies on the old Primrose Line, shut down in 1963 by Dr Beeching, and known as Spooky World in the theme park.

My attention was first drawn to it when an article appeared in the local paper, reporting the findings of a visiting medium.

She had gone there after hearing it was haunted.

A young lad, visiting with his parents, had been confronted by the spirit of a boy, roughly his own age, who had emerged from the tunnel wall to give him a warning not to mess around on the railway track!

When his parents caught up with him, he was in a state of shock.

They had seen him talking to someone, but not where he’d come from or disappeared to!

Taking their son to the park reception area, he told the owners what he had seen, even being able to make a drawing of a small boy in flat cap, shorts and braces.

The picture had been kept on file, and when the medium arrived, she claimed communication with a similar spirit, even making a drawing comprising the same details as the previous witness.

Sensing a possible investigation, I paid a visit to the centre offering my services.

The owners were more than happy to let us have a look around, even suggesting we set up some Meet the Ghostbuster events where their visitors could interact with us, view the equipment and join in trying to experience something.

We did this over several weekends, and in return we were allowed access at night to see what might happen after dark. It was quite an eerie feeling standing in the centre of a long dark tunnel, with just a pinprick of daylight at either end.

Individuals braved it alone, some did it in pairs and eventually the whole group went in together.

The main activity reported were stones being thrown, not dropping from the ceiling, but skittering across the stony track bed as people stood there in silence knowing there was no one else present that would be behind this phenomenon.

These proved to be interesting times, but sadly, shortly afterwards, the centre was closed down, the owners wanting to take their ideas abroad.

Years later, when I had a new set of group members attending my TIP meetings, I wanted somewhere interesting to take them, where they could try out their psychic skills.

I happened to be passing Sorley Tunnel one day, when I thought I would try my luck and see if there was still access to the tunnel.

As it happened, it was still the same owners, things hadn’t gone to plan, and they were still here but with a closed attraction.

They remembered me, and were more than happy to let me bring my group to visit their tunnel again.

So, a date was set, invitations sent out, plans were made and anticipation was high as to what awaited us this time. As for myself, I was to get an experience I hadn’t bargained on...

On the evening of the allotted night, I arrived ahead of the main group, with a couple of friends, to make some last-minute preparations.

Once done, the owners kindly allowed us to wait inside their farmhouse for the others to arrive.

As we were ushered into the hallway of their property, I had a clear view into their front lounge area, and behind the sofa I could see a white and black object lying on the floor.

My first thought was that someone had left a fluffy jumper there, but, as I watched, a little fluffy head raised up with floppy ears, and I could see it was a dog lying there.

Next minute, a cat ran into the room from an inner door, jumped over the dog and settled down on the back of the same sofa.

Registering them as family pets, I proceeded into the front room, where my other friends were busy making fuss of a big black Labrador stretched out in front of a roaring fire.

After watching them for a while, I said to the owners: “Why aren’t we making a fuss of your other dog?”

They looked at me with sad faces, and said that they did have another dog, but she had died ten days ago, and they had just buried her in the garden.

Puzzled, I moved towards the sofa, and started to say, “but what’s this behind...” my words cut short when I saw there was no longer anything lying there!

The owners explained she was the mother of the one in front of the fire, and behind the sofa had always been her favourite place to lie in the evenings.

I mentioned my jumper theory, but they assured me the place was immaculate, as they were still hoping to sell the property.

The only conclusion I could come to, regarding the non reaction of the cat, was that it was so used to seeing the dog there, that it was totally accepting of it being there in spirit as well.

Therefore, I too had just seen a ghost! The owners showed us a portrait of their beloved pet, and I was able to confirm that was what I had seen, except she was black with white flecks and I had seen her in negative, white with black flecks...

That was a very special moment, knowing I had been able to bring proof to our hosts, that their departed dog was still with them, and to comfort them over their loss.

For me, personally, it was a first, and it made me think that working in the company of mediums and psychics was starting to rub off!