Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Beware! Dead (Local) Celebrity Séance - part 1: Willy E. Wilkonson

Some months ago, Beware! had a chance encounter with members of the Blackpool Society of Psychical Investigation (BSPI), whilst attempting to avoid an angry car park attendant (That's a long, boring story which you can read about in the local press. - Ed). By chance, we had stumbled upon their attempt to contact the spirit of a long-dead local celebrity, Willy E. Wilkonson.

Hypno The Rapy, Scourge Of The Northwest, Killed By Fridge

A fridge. (Photo: Magi
Media. CC BY-SA 3.0)
Wilkonson had spent several years in the town performing as a magician, but when variety acts fell out of fashion in the mid '80s he reinvented himself as a hypnotherapist. However, a series of sexual assault allegations led to the town's main newspaper, The Blackpool Standard, coining the nickname 'Hypno the Rapy'. Wilkonson's career never recovered. Not long after, Wilkonson was killed whilst walking through Blackpool, when he was struck by a fridge pushed from the top of a town centre carpark. Although never charged, a rival hypnotherapist, Benjamin Shortpike, was popularly thought to have murdered Wilkonson in retaliation for bringing Lancashire hypnotherapy into disrepute. Shortpike died not long after, in equally suspicious circumstances, when he fell from the same carpark onto the fridge which was being delivered to replace the one which had killed Wilkonson.

séance. (Public domain.)
The BSPI's séance was a relatively quiet affair. No other media were present, and our being there was unobtrusive. The séance was being conducted in the function room of Blackpool's Adelaide Grande Hotel which the BSPI had rented for next to nothing in return for promising to run up a healthy bar bill. The Adelaide had been the venue for Wilkonson's final public appearance, the final night of his ill-fated 'I Can Feel You Feel' Lancashire Tour in 1986, and the investigators had hoped to exploit that connection in order to bring about Wilkonson's ghostly attendance at the séance.

Blackpool, England's New Ghost Convention Centre

Although the séance was pitched as "a bit of local colour" with which the local press could fill a half-page article, the reality was viewed rather more cynically. The Adelaide was performing badly and closure seemed imminent. Furthermore, the town council was considering compulsory purchases to redevelop vast swathes of Blackpool's centre but the Adelaide's owners had sentimental ties to the property and they were keen to prove its value to organisations viewing Blackpool as an important conference location. Around this time, a Northwest events organiser was considering Blackpool for the International Symposium of Paranormal Research, and they wanted a venue with 'history', so the Adelaide's owners put in a formal bid.

Séance Of The Century

BSPI's Chris Morris in front of a photo
of Hypno The Rapy – though it might be
Terry Jones and Michael Palin.
(© BBC. Used without permission.)

The following is our transcript of the séance. We have indicated instances which we believe were staged or faked, ad-lib-style, and those which actually did seem to be genuinely unexplained, phenomena. Personnel are as follow:

B!: Adrian Darvell and Gwilliam Mêlée lumped together for ease of reading, but occasionally initialled.

JB: Jeremy Brooke, BSPI
CM: Chris Morris, BSPI
RC: Rebecca Cully, BSPI

SK: Sarah Kettering, Adelaide Grand Hotel
MK: Mike Kettering, Adelaide Grand Hotel

B! reps enter lounge area of the Adelaide, and take a seat in a booth at the edge of the room. In the booth immediately to our left, BSPI personnel are already set up. Extra chairs and tables have been pulled over to their booth to support various electronic paraphernalia connected with their ghost-hunting exploits. GM of Beware! heads to bar for one bottle of Magners (the only cider they serve) and one orange juice. Blackpool is a quiet town; he is served swiftly and returns to the B! booth.

[A brief conversation occurs involving both parties. B! is introduced to the digital audio recorder by JB, and we agree some ground rules, namely that we will not engage with any paranormal entities encountered during the séance, unless requested to do so by JB, CM or RC of BSPI. B! would witness the séance but would act for the most part as impartial observers.]

CM: Okay, let's get going. Mike, can we get the offerings?

SK appears with a mug of soup and some disappointing-looking bread on a mismatched side plate, and places it on the séance table. CM throws a condescending look and points to the next table. SK picks up the items and places them unceremoniously on the other table.

CM: I guess there's nothing wrong with a false start. [Leans into mic] Becks has the specific offerings for our target spirit. Becks, if you would.

RC places an odd assortment of objects on the soup table.

CM: [To mic] Let the record show that Becks has placed objects connected with our target spirit, William Wilkonson, on the offering table. We have a pair of unlaundered trousers, retrieved from a charity shop bag left at the front of Sue Ryder following a house clearance, a TV remote from the same bag and a tank from the fridge which was responsible for his death.

JB: It's a compressor.

CM: What?

JB: It's not a tank, it's a compressor.

CM: Okay, compressor... Right, the offerings are, er, offered, and we'll start with an opening prayer of protection to get things off in the right direction. In the name of God, Jesus Christ, The Great Brotherhood of Light, the angels Michael and Gabriel, please protect us from the forces of evil during this spiritual connection. Let there be nothing but light surrounding us and let us only communicate with powers and entities of light. Protect us, protect this hotel, the people in this hotel, Blackpool in general, and let there only be light and nothing but light. Peace and love! [Makes embarrassing peace sign] AMEN!

JB: [Whispers] We're supposed to be holding hands.

CM: [Places hand over mic; whispers] Look, spirits aren't going to give a fuck if we're holding hands or not and the microphone can't see it. Okay? Okay!

RC: [Cutting in] We reach out to any spirits in the vicinity and ask them to offer a sign of their presence.

JB: Lights are supposed to be off.

CM: Doesn't matter. SPIRITS!?

Lights flicker. AD notes absence of bar staff during this. Inaudible muttering.

CM: Thank you. Can you do that again?

Lights flicker, as if on demand. Again AD notes absence of staff. MK peers from behind bar area.

CM: Thank you again. We're now gonna try to ascertain which spirit, or spirits, are currently present. We extend a hand of warmth to those spirits and appreciate them giving their energies to this séance. Spirits! Please indicate the method by which you would like to communicate.

A loud bang is heard, seemingly from the direction of the bar. At the same time, the sound of a table of chair leg scraping on the ground is heard. Confused expressions from the BSPI guys.

CM: [Whispering] Did one of you kick the table?

JB: [Baffled expression] Er, no. I, er, heard the knocks, though.

CM: [Whispering] I thought we weren't doing table tipping?

JB: [Whispering; signalling with agitated nods and angry eye-staring] It's whatever the ghost wants, right?

CM: [Shrugs] Well, whatever. Spirit, you have indicated you will communicate using 'spirit knocks'. We ask you to use one knock for 'yes', two knocks for 'no', and three knocks for 'don't know'. We also ask you to use a series of knocks to specify a number. Do you agree?

There are a few seconds of silence, towards the end of which the BSPI guys look slightly uncomfortable. Eventually, there is a single knock. Not surprisingly, it comes from the direction of the bar.

CM: Er, thank you. Will you confirm that you answered 'yes'?

Less waiting, now. There is a single knock. CM looks relieved, but then the table they're sat at slides about a quarter inch towards him.

CM: Thank you, spirit. [Whispering angrily] Seriously, Jeremy, are you kicking the fucking table?

JB: [Raises eyebrows and widens eyes, then looks at mic. Whispers.] We. Are. Re. Cording.

CM looks unsatisfied by this response. RC shoots sympathetic look to JB and then an embarrassed smile to B!. B! react with professional indifference, because, well, we're professionals!

JB: Maybe we should, y' know, go after an identity?

CM: Yes! Yes. Okay. [Adjusts the desktop mic] Yes. Identity. I... den... tit... teee.

JB: [Whispering] Chris? You okay?

CM: Hm? Yusss... Right, identity. Spirit! Are you male?

One knock.

CM: Thank you... Sir. Are you... local?

One knock.

CM: Thank you. Are you recently departed? [CM places hand over mic] What? Who wrote these? They're awful. Jez, is this your handwriting?

JB: No, it was that intern you were fu—— [JB is cut off by a loud knock]

CM: Well, I suppose if this is all I've got... [Clears throat] Did you die peacefully?

Two knocks.

CM: [Leaning into mic] Let the record show that the spirit responded with two knocks. Two knocks for 'no'. Two knocks for dead, unpeaceful.

The table jerks a half inch away from the group. The legs screech on the floor.

CM: Fucking hell, who's doing that?

AD to GM: [Whispering] This guy's losing the plot!

RC: Shitting hell, Chris, tone it down. No one's doing this – unless you've got your foot on the table!

CM: Don't be ridiculous.

JB: Christ, guys, can we take five? I'll cut the interruptions later and make it sound like one hit. Chris, why are you so fucking uptight? I can fix the audio.

CM: If it's not convincing, the online community will roast us. I don't want those 13 O'Clock bastards getting any mileage out of this. They'll screw us bad. Scepticism is back in, remember.

JB looks awkwardly towards AB and GM.

JB: This is normal for audio. All the best ghost shows do it. Zak Bagans practically admits to it!

AD googles Zak Bagans on phone, realises he's a hack. At this point AD suggests to GM that he get a couple of extra drinks from the bar.

AD: I've got an idea. Back in a sec.

AD takes the Beware! dictaphone – well, a dictaphone app on an iPhone – to the bar with him. Barman (MK) takes a little while to reappear.

AD: Missed your cue, there, mate! Can you tighten it up? It'll take us ages to edit.

MK: It's not easy from over here. I can barely hear what you're saying over the extractor, even with this prompt list.

CM appears at the bar as MK hands AD his change. AD overhears CM as he carries drinks back to GM...

CM: (To MK) What was he talking about?

AD: (To GM) Leave the drinks! We've gotta go!

To be continued [insert spooky music]...

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