On Dark Histories, we hear the words of people lost to history, echoing through the writings of labourers, servants, judges, juries, maids and mistresses exactly as they were written in decades and centuries past. This one way communication with history is always limited by it’s very definition and no matter how much we dig, we can never ask the writers what were they feeling as they wrote each line, and whilst we judge them by the information they give, we can never invite them to ask what they make of the people and things of today in our alien, modern world. In 1984, an Economics teacher living in the small rural village of Dodleston found he had the opportunity to do exactly this, when he was thrust into a strange link that tied him across centuries with a past inhabitant of his home via an early model personal computer and it’s word processing software EDWORD. Both accused the other of trickery, poltergeist activity, witchcraft and devilry, but eventually, a bond between the two was formed. Cross-century communications are never easy, however, especially when the future gets involved.
Webster, K. (1989). The Vertical Plane. London: Harper Collins.
Hall, William J. & Petonito J. (2018) Phantom Messages: Chilling phone calls, letters, emails and texts from unknown realms. Disinformation Books.
Out of this World. (1996). BBC One Television.
Mercurius Politicus (2010, 1 November). Ghost in the Machine [Article, comments]. Retrived 14 June, 2019, from https://mercuriuspoliticus.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/ghost-in-the-machine/
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The Dodleston Messages: Ghost in the Machine
On Dark Histories, we hear the words of people lost to history, echoing through the writings of labourers, servants, judges, juries, maids and mistresses exactly as they were written in decades and centuries past. This one way communication with history is always limited by it’s very definition and no matter how much we dig, we can never ask the writers what were they feeling as they wrote each line, and whilst we judge them by the information they give, we can never invite them to ask what they make of the people and things of today in our alien, modern world. In 1984, an Economics teacher living in the small rural village of Dodleston found he had the opportunity to do exactly this, when he was thrust into a strange link that tied him across centuries with a past inhabitant of his home via an early model personal computer and it’s word processing software EDWORD. Both accused the other of trickery, poltergeist activity, witchcraft and devilry, but eventually, a bond between the two was formed. Cross-century communications are never easy, however, especially when the future gets involved. This is Dark Histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.
Dodleston, a small rural village on the border of Wales and England with a population of around 700 that lies on the Northern end of the border of England and Wales, 30 miles south of Liverpool and 45 miles South West of Manchester. It’s the sort of small English village that you might drive threw without registering it at all. The red brick village hall harkens back to a place lost in time whilst the local pub, school and chapel breathe life into the old country roads. By the time you’ve read and registered the welcome sign by the side of the hedge lined road upon your arrival, you’re already leaving. It’s residents live in a mix of small, quaint village cottages, converted farm buildings and modern new builds that extend the village out along the two roads it rests upon, the T-juncion of which mark the centre of village life alongside the village store. In 1984, Ken Webster lived in Meadow Cottage, one of the older, brick buildings that sat in a small terrace alongside three other cottages, just off of this central junction. Directly opposite sat a much grander old building, surrounded by high hedgerows, second only in size to the local school which sat next door.
Meadow Cottage was quaint, but in dire need of restoration. A task that Ken Webster was smack bang in the middle of undertaking as the winter of ’84 threatened over the horizon. The stone walls were cold and bare and after extensive restorative work, were finally ready to be decorated. The building had, in previous months been less of a home and much more of a building site, but finally, things were beginning to be a little more liveable. Ken was an Economics teacher at the nearby Hawarden High School in the larger village of Hawarden that sat 11 miles to the North-West, on the Welsh side of the border. In late Autumn of 1984, he lived in Meadow Cottage with his Girlfriend, Debbie Oakes and their recent visitor, Nicola Bagguley, an English teacher recently returned from 3 months in Africa who slept in the spare room, which doubled as a small practice room and home studio for Kens musical pursuits. Downstairs the house consisted of a larger living room that took up the front of the cottage and a small kitchen and bathroom that extended from the back of the house.
The first sign of anything strange in the cottage came in late August, when a series of small, spindly footprints appeared on the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom at the back of the house. They appeared to walk directly up the wall, all the way to the ceiling and worse, they appeared to resemble a pair of feet with six toes. Ken had dismissed them as grubby marks in an old house, but there was something disconcerting about them all the same. Now, as autumn began to fade into winter and paining work was underway, it was finally time to cover up these marks along with the myriad others that had appeared throughout the renovation work. As fresh paint layered over the weathered concrete, the downstairs took on a new lease fo life and at long last, began to take on an air of homeliness. The next day after the paint had dried, however, Ken was disgruntled to note as he passed through the kitchen to the bathroom that the mysterious marks had returned. They had shifted slightly and had picked up dust from the floor that made them appear like totally new marks, rather than the old ones, seeping through the fresh layers of paint. After a quick inspection by Ken, Debbie and Nic, it was put down to a peculiar curio, nothing more and they were swiftly painted over once more in the hopes that the adage ’out of sight, out of mind’ would ring true. This time they didn’t return, but they left an uneasy feeling in Ken and signalled the beginning of a series of events that would last well beyond the current renovations.
With the footprints gone, thoughts moved on to more positive happenings within cottage life, however, over the next days and weeks, strange events only seemed to intensify. Cans, drinks bottles and various other small household goods were routinely found, stacked in the corner of the kitchen, the precarious towers extending upwards of four feet high. The trio would go out to eat in the local pub, or shopping in the nearby industrial park, only to return to new and ever more inventive structures, balancing away casually in the kitchen. It was quickly decided that one of Kens music buddies were playing games, sneaking around and building these small towers to mess with the inhabitants, but still, it didn’t help to put an end to the unease that had formed in the background atmosphere of the small cottage since the footprints had appeared and every night before going to bed, Ken began a new routine of double checking that all the locks on the doors and windows were tightly secured. As it happened, due to the age of the place, security was not altogether tight, but he did what he could to make life as difficult as possible for any would-be intruders and tower stackers. If it really was an intruder rather than a friend, there were further concerns, as now the house had become more liveable, new decorations and possessions filled the small kitchen and living room and inviting a robbery by continuing with such lax security was not a wise thing by any stretch. The kitchen had also recently been the recipient of it’s newest feature every weekend, when Ken bought home a BBC microcomputer, borrowed rom the IT department of the high school he worked at. He thought it might help both Debbie and Nic, who could utilise the word processing software for writing up plans and sketches related to their new projects. Nic had become disillusioned with teaching and was looking at branching out into new, theatrical territories and the machine could come in handy for script writing purposes. Every weekend, Ken would slope out of the IT department and stash he bulky machine in the back of his car, setting it up in the kitchen table for the weekend.
The BBC ‘Model B’ was a bulky thing compared to computers today and would make its Monica of “micro” seem ironic to those not old enough to remember the early days of personal computing. Its characteristic black and red keyboard, sitting below a black screen with illuminated green text, all housed in a clunky beige box was, however, something of an icon for its day. External disk drives as wide as the monitor themselves acted as storage, holding a cool 160kb of data, all powered by 32kb of ram and a blazing 2mhz CPU. In 1982, when it was released, this was impressive stuff and it opened up the doors to computing for an entire generation, but to call it limited by todays standards would be a collosal understatement. Chiefly, the borrowed BBC was used in Meadow Cottage as a word processor, utilising EDWORD, a basic writing software designed for use in schools that could save and print written documents.
In December of 1984, the trio at Meadow Cottage headed out to visit friends in the nearby housing estate. As they shut off the lights and closed the front door, no one seemed to notice that the BBC was left powered on, it’s blinking green cursor sending an eerie, stuttering glow out into the room in metronomic fashion. When they returned later that evening, it was much to there surprise, that they discovered that not only had the computer been left on, but that someone had been using it in their absence. There on the screen written in the characteristic green hue, shining out of the monitor,
“Ken, Debbie, Nic,
True are the nightmares of a person that fears.
Safe are the bodies of the silent world.
Turn pretty flower turn towards the sun
For you shall grow and sow
But the flower reaches too high and withers
In the burning light.
Get out your bricks
Pussy cat pussy cat went to London to seek fame and fortune
Fatih must not be lost
For this shall be your redeemer.”
The file was saved to the floppy disk that sat in the drive under the name KDN, whilst the text itself, as if to aid the creepy tone, were written with random, disjointed capitalisation. Immediately question flew throughout the three onlookers, who were naturally disturbed. None claimed the missive as their own and the implications didn’t bear thinking of. Clearly security needed tightening in the cottage, and fast.
December continued on into New Year, Nic returned home to visit for the holidays, but came back to the cottage after the celebrations faded and a gentle thaw settled in, the promise that spring was on it’s way. By February, Nic had long since returned and life was getting back to the normal routines as the new school term kicked into gear. Normal routines were one thing, but normalcy was still a way off in Meadow Cottage, however, as things continued to stack in the kitchen, the small towers seeming to centralise around an open brick pillar in the kitchen. These continued to pop up throughout January and February and what had started as an uneasy peculiarity had slipped into so common of an occurrence as to shift into apathy and gentle amusement at the sight of every new precariously placed pillar fo tins, bottles and cardboard packaging appeared. Ken was, by now, fairly certain that some of his musician friends were playing games and he allowed it to continue without much care. At the end of February, as the weekend mercifully called to bring respite from a particularly long week of teaching, Ken set up the BBC once again on the kitchen table. It was a much needed couple of days away from the school and on Sunday, Ken, Debbie and Nic took off or the day on a country drive. When they returned to the cottage that evening, the light mood took a sever dive, as once again, it appeared someone had been using the computer in their absence. The cursor blinked, knowingly on the screen and Ken fired up the disc drive to see if anything had been saved. There in the index was a small file named “REATE”. The writing was all in capitals and appeared to forego any use of punctuation. Stranger still, it seemed to all three that it was written in an old form of English and many of the words were obscure or simply unrecognisable. It read,
“I WRYTE ON BEHALFE OF MANYE
WOT STRANGE WORDES THOU SPEAKE, ALTHOUGH, I MUSTE CONFESS THAT I HATH ALSO BEENE ILL-SCHOOLED. SOMETYMES METHINKS ALTERACIONS ARE SOMEWOT BARFUL, FOR THEY BREAKE MANYE A SLEEPES IN MYNE BED.
THOU ART GOODLY MAN WHO HATH FANCIFUL WOMAN WHO DWEL IN MYNE HOME, I HATH NO WANT TO AFFREY, FOR ONLIE SYTH MYNE HALFWYTTED ANTIC HAS RIPPED ATWAIN MYNE BOUND HATH I BEEN WRETHED A NYTE.
I HATH SEENE MANYE ALTERACIONS (LASTLY CHARGE HOUSE AND THY HOME), ’TIS A FITTING PLACE, WITH LYTES WHICHE DEVYLL MAKETH, AND COSTLY THYNGS, THAT ONLIE MYNE FRIEND, EDMUND GREY CAN AFFORE, OR THE KING HIMSELVE.
’TWAS A GREAT CRYME TO HATH BRIBRED MYNE HOUSE.
This message, though obscure and difficult to read in its entirety, gave off an entirely different to vibe to Ken.
“Whatever it meant, whatever Debbie or Nic felt about it, it sang to me. It wasn’t a coldness or dark apprehensiveness on this occasion. After the initial shock I became absorbed by it.”
Back at school, the story of the message had done the rounds of the staff room. Most though tit thoroughly amusing and some eyed the printed text with a layer of fascination, but it was Peter Trinder, the head of the Sixth Form at Hawarden School that really took the odd words on the page. One lunchtime he approached Ken and asked hm sincerely if it was a hoax, or if Ken had written it to stir up a story for the other teachers. Ken assured him he had done no such thing and that it was, as far as he was aware, a message left not the computer, written by an unknown and entirely mysterious author. Peter was fascinated by the language of the communication, he had spent a brief time going over the words used and cross referencing them with the Oxford English Dictionary and was fairly convinced it was written in a genuine, Early Modern English hand. He asked Ken to keep him in the loop and if possible, if messages were to appear in the future, to pass them on to him so that he could study the makeup of the thing and try to track down where and more importantly, when, the dialect was originating from. Ken agreed.
A week later on the Evening of Saturday, February 9th, Ken sat down with his friend, John Cummings to write a reply on the computer. The whole thing was utterly bizarre, but if they were to get to the bottom of it, a period of plain along would have to be adhered to. Besides, even as a hoax, thought Ken, it was undeniably intriguing. They crafted a reply asking question after question in the hope of discerning something of the author themselves,
“In the reign of Queen Elizabeth the Second.
Dear LW, Thank you for your message.
We are sorry for disturbing you. What would you like us to do? Did you live in a house on this land about 1620? Do you want us to tell you more about our time? Why write a poem? Who is Edward Grey? Is he related to the Egerton family? Do you have a family? Is the King James or Charles Stuart? What is the charge house? Was this village called Dodleston in your life and how many families lived here? Thank you very much for your messages. Thank you for not making us afraid.
Ken, Debbie and John.”
The trio saved it to disk and left the computer, cursor flashing with the frail hope that a reply would come. That afternoon, after John had returned home, Ken and Debbie set out to eave the house unoccupied for a time in the hopes that it might facilitate a reply and facilitate it did. When they arrived home, a new reply had been left.
“’TWAS AN HONESTE FARME OF OKE AND STONE
IT IS HELPFUL THE YOU SHOULD TELLE ME ABOUT THY TYME
DOST THOU HATH HORSE?
EDMUND GREY, BROTHER OF JOHN GREY LIVES AT KINERTONE HALL
THE KYNG OF CORS, IS HENRY VIII WHO IS SIX AND FORTIE
I NE WOOT OF KYNG JAMES
MYNE CHARGE HOUSE IS A PLACE OF LOORE
LW 28 MARCH ANNO 1521.”
It was a troubling reply as far as Ken was concerned, in more ways than one. Quite aside from the strangeness of communicating with an apparent intruder in cryptic messages. The facts concerning the history were all wrong. In 1521, Henry VIII was only 30 years old. Still, Ken passed the message on to Peter, as requested and a few days later, Peter too confirmed that Kinnerton Hall was not even built until the late 17th Century and he had been unable to find any mention of Edmund Grey in any records. The small flash of excitement inside the cottages inhabitants that the messages maybe, just maybe, were really written somehow by a ghostly visitor from 16th Century England faded and the reality, that an intruder was potentially breaking into the cottage and leaving the messages kicked in. It was disconcerting to say the least. The following weekend Ken once more borrowed the BBC from school, however, this time it was intentionally for the sole purpose of receiving messages from the mysterious LW. He would get to the bottom of this somehow.
That weekend, the writer wrote once again, this time, though, he chose to sign off with his full name, Lukas, rather than just the mysterious LW of previous missives. In the message he wrote of his wifes death, the name of some of his acquaintances and strangely, the quality of their cheese. For Ken and Peter, however, these were all testable snippetts of information that could be cross referenced in records, maps and in the census to see if they could nail down a time frame from which the writer was claiming to be writing from. One of the pieces of information that stood out to Ken was when Lukas mentioned his house to be made from Red Stone. During the renovation work, a builder had dug up several red, sand stone blocks in the garden extending out from the house. Were they the foundations of an earlier building that Lukas had lived in? Further, it appeared that Lukas himself seemed to think that Ken and Debbie were intruding upon his house and he had his own misgivings about them. Peter studied this new message and thought the dialect was very possibly stemming from the West Country. He asked Ken to include a reference to Bristol in his reply, and sure enough, when Lukas wrote back once more, he confirmed that he had grown up in Bristol and signed off with his full name, Lukas Wainman. With this, Ken, Debbie and Peter had all the information they needed to look him up in history and discover if he truly existed or was simply a figment of an overactive imagination, tugging the three along.
They decided to take stock. So far, they had learnt of little, bu the authors name, Lukas Wainman. Many of the details he had offered up were chronologically unsound and Peter had found one or two uses of words which were dangerously out of period bu up to 200 years. Still, Peter himself was impressed in the main, given the speed at which the replies came and the overall consistency of the language. A bigger concern was the untraceable names that were mentioned, though they also reasoned that if everyone had been simple to find, then this too would have leant itself to the whole thing being a hoax, or prank, given that the culprit could have looked up a whole host of simple to find, geographically and chronologically correct names for insertion into his wild fantasy world. All the time, the strange activities in the house, such as the stacking of objects, was now dubbed by Ken and Debbie as some form of poltergeist and had begun to cause a strain on the atmosphere. Debbie had decided to rent a house away from the cottage where the couple could at times, sleep easier.
“The house on East-Green was a makeshift house furnished from a skip, the whole thing a DIY nightmare: fake panelling, a plastic bath, the toilet at the wrong height for the bathroom floor. But it had a bed in which we could sleep at ease. Comfort and security. It was not home but a very welcome shelter against the rising swells and cross-currents of our anxieties.”
And still, Ken would book out a BBC computer every weekend to bring home and allow Lukas to write his peculiar messages. Duly Lukas complied with the schedule, confirming that he was sure that Ken and Debbie were, at least to him, encroaching upon his house.
“I KNOWEST NAT WER THOU CAME OR WITHER WIL YE GO NOR DO I HATH ACCOUNTYNG FOR WY YOW BEEST IN MYNE HOME BUT THOU ART A GOODLY VYSTER AND YOW MAY ABIDE AS LONG AS YOW LYK.”
He also wrote of how his servant believed him to crazy, or some kind of savant and suggested that Ken and Debbie were all in his head. For Ken and Debbie, Lukas was either long since dead and communicating from some form of afterlife, or Lukas was still alive and somehow their presents had colidded, linking them over 400 years. After Peters ongoing analysis of the writing had seemingly confirmed a level of legitimacy in the texts, Ken was now beginning to believe less and less in a hoax and more and more in the possibility that they just might be communicating with a real man, living in the past. As much as it was difficult to believe, and stretched all possibilities, he could not deny that the replies were coming to the computer and faster and more frequent, so that the concept of a hoax or prank was becoming equally as absurd. In previous messages, Ken had spoken briefly of cars and modern inventions, and as a test, he took a clipping from a magazine of a Jaguar XJ Coupe and placed it on top of the computer along with his next message to Lukas. Debbie was asleep upstairs and so Ken went out for the evening to meet with friends and upon his return, he once again saw that Lukas replied. Lukas spoke of the picture of the car,
“MYNE GOODLY FREEND I HATH FOND THY CART PORTREYING BUT ’TIS A CROOD THYNG FOR WITHOUT MYNE HORS IT SHAL NAT GOONE FARR.”
Somehow, the photo had been able to be discovered, just as Ken had hoped. Upon further inspection, the photograph was left charred and brittle. Lukas had commented on the picture itself too, questioning what kind of wood the paper was made from, and had for some strange reason, included the recipe for “Pumpes with pastry and peas”. More importantly he told Ken that he had studied at Jesus College in Oxford, supplying a host of authors and texts that he had read and also gave the name of the local lawman. These were all further things they could research and verify. Another thing that Ken took note was that this message had come when Debbie was left at home, asleep in the upstairs bedroom. Though Ken had left for the evening, the lights had been left on whilst he was away. If this was just a prankster, they were beginning to get awfully bold in their methods. For the past few weeks, Ken and Debbie had, as it happened, been hearing footsteps walking over the kitchen roof, however, when they checked to see who was there, they could never spot a likely culprit. At least, there was never any signs of a would be intruder and nothing else in the area that could have caused any knocking that they could mistake for footprints.
That week whilst at school. Peter approached Ken and brought bad news. Whilst some of the information from Lukas most recent communication concerning his schooling had been confirmed through records, much of it was either impossible or contained inconsistencies that devastated the veracity of the messages, the college that Lukas claimed to have attended had not yet been built in Lukas time and there were some errors in the Latin he had written. Peter and Ken decided to forge forwards with their replies and to not let on to the writer just how much of the backstory of this Lukas character they had researched. Ken confrontation would not do, rather he thought it best to play it gullible in order to get to the bottom of what was going on. February had turned to March, spring was due and still the mystery footsteps, the bizarre stacking and the messages continued.
On the 10th March, Lukas wrote again, only in this message, the tone was different. Lukas appeared angry at Ken, his message, as translated to modern English by Peter, read as follows,
“Mt friend, pray what strange demon are you? I am so confused. You are goodly, I feel, but your lies frighten me much. You said you are alive, but this is not so. I have no wish to accuse you but you said also that you are an educated man and that you know of my friend Erasmus but you do not mention my misspelt words. If you were alive, you would say you know not of Jesus College.”
Lukas then questions many modern things, such as Kens previous description of Electricity, and ends the message by saying,
“It is not I that make you afraid, it is you that makes me afraid.”
A slow dawning of understanding unfolded through Kens mind. He placed himself in Lukas shoes and thought of the fear that he and Debbie had been feeling of Lukas. Off course, as far as Lukas was concerned, Ken was some kind of Demon or Witchcraft. Ken deduced that it would naturally, therefore, lend Lukas to test him, just as ken had tested Lukas by asking so many questions to specific details in his life. Lukas had intentionally been leading them all astray by inserting obvious errors into his answers, protecting his own information and testing Ken and Debbie at the same time. Ken promptly replied in an effort to allay Lukas fears and the reply came back from Lukas that gave real answers to those he had previously intentionally obfuscated. He had schooled at Brasenose college, he said, not Jesus College. Several days later Ken and Debbie visited Peter to supply him with the latest message. Peter was thrilled and the trio considered there next move. Peter suggested to Ken that he get in contact with The Society for Psychical Research in order to have the whole thing legitimately investigated. The SPR were founded during the late Victorian period and have, until today, attempted to investigate and study all manner fo phenomenon with a degree of academic rigour and scientific method. Ken, though reluctant at first to open the whole affair up to such public scrutiny, eventually capitulated and Peter began looking into the process. For Debbie, an investigation could not come soon enough. Two days later, whilst sitting in the lounge, she had her own encounter with the poltergeist activity which only continued to sink the atmosphere in the cottage further.
“On this night, the disturbance manifested itself as small tapping noises on the door to the kitchen, which I kept bolted when I was alone. It made me edgy but I put some music on and they seemed to disappear. When all was quiet, I took a look under the for into the kitchen to check if the coast was clear int he hope that I could go and make a coffee. Sure that all seemed clear, I put the main light on, brazenly barged into the kitchen and made a drink. No problems.
I came back into the lunge and sat down with the coffee. At that instant I felt a prickly coldness against the left side of my face and neck and something pulled at my hair. I thought it was my collar at first, until it persisted another four times then stopped, it happened so quickly I wasn’t sure what to think until a few seconds later I felt a slight pressure gripping my shoulder was unbearable.
I knew someone was to the left of me but could not see at the corner of my eye – I turned round and nothing was there. I ran outside the house and waited for Ken to return – the cold, damp rain didn’t bother me as much as the house.”
If this was not enough to freak out the most ardent sceptic to their current situation, Debbie had also begun having dreams of seeing Lukas in the kitchen of the cottage. The dreams were extremely vivid and though ken suggested that Debbie was letting the communications with Lukas get to her deeply enough to affect her dreams, they found a chalk mark on the open brick pillar the next morning spelling out Lukas’ name in a scrawled script. Debbie decided it was enough for her and took to sleeping in the East Green rental property more and more, rarely choosing to stay over at the cottage whenever a get-out was possible. Thankfully the SPR were prompt in their reply. They were interested in the story so far, but explained to Peter that before they could commit, they needed them to eliminate some of their more pressing concerns. This meant they wanted security at the college stepped up and at least one testimony from an outside source who could sit with both Deb and Ken to ensure that neither were writing the messages themselves. Whilst Debbie and Ken arranged for some of Debbies family to stay over at the cottage in order to verify for the SPR that they were not involved in the messages creation, Peter visited Brasenose college in Oxford to see if he could find any records of Lukas in the Alumni. His trip ended in failure and once again he found nothing but a brick wall. There were no records of a Lukas Wainman ever attending the school. When they wrote this in a message, Lukas gave the name of several of his fellow students they could further look up if they wished. Peter found some relief in this, as the records for the college were incomplete and so one or two could easily have slipped through the cracks of the page, but the more names they had to check, the less likely they were to hit dead ends in their research. On the 4th April, however, a reply came from Lukas which shook up the research once more. Lukas had involved a friend of his own and had spoken to him of the messages he was receiving from Debbie and Ken. This message came from said friend and he let slip a vital piece of information,
“The fashion of our time is such that I will not give my own name, nor Lukas’s true description and name.”
If what he said was true, then Lukas was not, in fact, called Lukas at all. He had been using a nom de plume all this time. All the searching for Lukas Wainman had been for nothing. It did, however, explain precisely why they had found nothing.
Enter The Society for Psychical Research
In April, the SPR called Ken to arrange a visit and discuss the case. There was still the small quibble they had with the lack of distinct proof that neither Debbie or Ken was involved however, and so, in mid-April, Debbies mother and brother followed through in their earlier promise and arrived at the cottage to stay for the weekend. Ken had borrowed the BBC from school again and set it on the usual table. Ken and Debbie wanted everything to be as close to the usual circumstances as possible. Debbie stayed in the lounge with her family, whilst Ken visited friends for the evening. Debbies mother wrote the following testimony for Debbie and Ken to pass on to the SPR.
“My son and I arrived at Meadow Cottage at approximately 7:45pm on 15th April, 1985. A few minutes later a friend of Mr Websters called at the front door for something. After a few words were exchanged between my daughter and the caller he left and we three – my daughter Debbie, my son and myself – went into the kitchen.
We checked the windows and doors in the kitchen and bathroom. The back door was locked with a chain on the inside. The windows were closed, including the skylights though we did not have time to check if they were locked. We then gave our attention to the computer. All previous entries on the disc were inspected; Debbie typed a few lines on to the screen and as far as we knew there was nothing entered after that.
I felt cold at times and at one stage was shivering, we all kept our coats on as there was no fire in the hearth. We went to the kitchen again at 9:00pm…. And we all saw a new entry displayed, starting with a poem. We were short of time and I was unable to understand all that was entered at the time, but did manage to read and understand one or two lines. We then left the cottage.”
Ken also arranged with the mechanics teacher at Hawarden high school to come over and give further testimony as more proof for the SPR. By now the story had become quite a feature at the school, and so Frank Davies was more than happy to come and be a part of it all. On the Monday 22nd April, Davies arrived to sit with Debbie and Ken for the evening and see what occurred.
“At 8:00pm a noticeable drop in temperature occurred which lasted some two or three minutes. The coldness did not seem to be due to any air movement, though there must have been some as the fire was burning gently in the grate. After a few minutes the room temperature became comfortably normal again.
On returning to the kitchen we observed a new message on the computer. The message was from someone calling themselves John and it told us that the sheriff had put Lukas in prison, apparently for communicating with us, Debbie appeared genuinely concerned at this turn of events.”
So Ken and Debbie now had two testimonies for the SPR, but just as Davies had stated, the situation with Lukas was apparently dire. Lukas had, it seemed been arrested just as Davies had said. Talk had gotten out and circulated the village that Lukas had been communicating with some kind of demonic spirit in his house and had promptly arrested for witchcraft. Ken and Debbie deduced from previous messages that John, who was now writing to them informing them of Lukas’ bleak fate was the local sheriff. Alarmed, Ken eventually wrote back to John informing him that he would need to speak with Lukas if the device they were using to communicate was to be seen by the sheriff himself. Somehow or another the sheriff was communicating without himself being able to touch or see it apparently. Whatever, these problems could be sorted out later, for now, Ken and Debbie focused on getting Lukas out of this difficult predicament. Equally as surprising was that this line of action seemed to work, as the next message they received was written again by Lukas, though he seemed downtrodden and dejected, resigned to a difficult future that lay ahead for him. During this difficult period of communication, Lukas however, did write one thing which above all else was even more curious.
“YOW SAID YOWR TYME BE 1985 METHOUGHT YOW WERE ALS FROM 2109 LYK YOWR FREEND WHOM DIDST BRINGE LEEMS BOYSTE PREY.”
The “Leems Boyste” was Lukas name for the computer which Peter had already roughly translated as “box of lights”, much more alarming was the mention of 2109. Lukas thought they were from the year 2109, “like there friend”? So Lukas had been visited by another person before the communications had even started and this person was, evidently from even further into the future. At a loss at where to go with this new information, Ken decided to do all he knew to do when it came to the BBC. He write them a message, titled “Calling 2109”. Sure enough, 2109 responded, though the answer was so cryptic that it gave them little new understanding of this new development.
“Ken Deb Peter
We are sorry that we can give you only two choices.
1.) That you either have your predicament explained in such a non-rhyme way that you may have instant understanding but cause what should not be to happen, or
2.) Try to understand that you three have a purpose that shall in your life time change the face of history, we, 2109, must not affect your thoughts directly, but give you some sort of guidance that will allow room for your own destiny. All we can say is that we are all part of the same god, what ever he, it is.”
If things were strange up til now, they were nothing after this new message. Time was complicated enough when it slipped one way, but here it began to ebb and flow, back and forth in ways that were truly bizarre. There were now two lanes of communication open to Ken and Debbie in Meadow Cottage, one that lead to the 16th Century and another that lead, apparently, to the 22nd. Things were starting to get a little out of control for the humble BBC model B that sat blinking its green cursor away innocently on the kitchen table.
Meanwhile, the librarian at Brasenose college in Oxford had been busy unearthing the list of books that Lukas had mentioned in a previous message. Peter had left the task with the librarian on his previous visit and he now received a letter confirming not only that all the books existed, but that they were all contemporary to the 1520’s. On the 14th of May, the SPR also contacted Peter and arranged to meet with him, Ken and Debbie at Peters house. On the night of the meeting, two investigators, John Bucknall and Dave Welch, showed up to talk through their stance and where they intended to take the investigation. It quickly became apparent to ken that both were extremely skeptical and they admitted as much, when they confirmed that until they could eliminate them, Ken and Debbie were the primary suspects for a hoax. They then went to the cottage, set up a recording booth in the upstairs rear bedroom, trailing microphones out the rear window and pointing into a crack in the skylight, in order to record, as discreetly as possible, any sounds originating in the kitchen. They then sat in the lounge with Debbie, taping up the edges of the doors and sent Ken out to the pub for a couple of hours and then… they waited. By 9:30pm, two and a half hours after the test started, they tore off the tape, entered the kitchen and checked the computer, but there was nothing. Disappointed, they arranged to come back and try again on another evening, but Ken was deflated. Peter on the other hand, invited the skepticism, relaying to Ken that it was only reassuring that they were doing their job correctly. Ken reluctantly came round.
May also saw the poltergeist activity intensify further to new levels. One morning, Debbie arrived at the cottage to find all of the furniture in the living room stacked against the wall,
“I dropped Ken off at School after spending the night at East Green then drove over to the cottage to feed the cats. It was 9:00am. It was not until I walked up the path to the front door that I sensed something was very wrong. Perhaps it was the cats sitting on the garden wall watching me rather than circling my feet as they usually do which prompter’s this unease. I turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open. In the living room I came face to face with a six foot high pile of furniture. It appeared to me in that instant to have been tossed by the little finger of a giant. Instantly I took a step back and out of the door and slammed it shut. The cats still watched me in silence from the wall. I didn’t know quite what to do.”
One thing she did do was to take a photo of the chaos. It was not only furniture, but all the appliances too, as the cooker was pulled away from the wall, doors swinging open on its hinges.
On the 3rd June, the SPR returned. This time they forewent with the complicated microphone setup and simply taped the doors and windows, then went to the pub where they ate and drank for the evening, returning to the cottage after three hours. Ken and Debbie stayed outside whilst John Bucknall and Dave Welch entered the kitchen alone. Once again, they were met with a blank computer screen. No messages.
On the Lukas front, Ken and Debbie still hadn’t heard much from him. It was transpiring that he was effectively locked in a prison cell, awaiting trial for witchcraft, a fact they deduced from rough conversations with the sheriff. One day at school, one of Kens colleagues suggesting threatening the sheriff, they were after all, from a suspicious time and already held a certain level of trepidation when dealing with Kens messages. Surely this would be easy? Ken was unsure, but thought it perhaps worth a shot. Time was running out for Lukas and he felt a certain level of responsibility for landing him in the predicament he was now in. He sat down at the computer and wrote,
“Lukas is a good man and should not die. We are not devils but we have power. Lukas must not die, but must be set free to return to his house, then we will speak with you as friends. We too are fearful for your soul if Lukas does die at your hand.”
Upon reading the message, the sheriff very quickly backtracked on the incarceration of Lukas. Unsurprisingly, he was fearful of the messages warnings upon his soul and he arranged for Lukas to be released immediately. The next message they received on the computer was from Lukas himself. Their triumph was short lived however, when they discovered from Lukas that later, in July, Lukas had been having trouble with a local named Grosevenor. Grovesnor was a local landowner and had taken an interest in Lukas land whilst he as in prison and now he was released, he was still not backing off from pushing through a purchase on the land. Lukas informed Ken and Debbie that in November, he was to be evicted. If this was to transpire, then it effectively stamped an end date on the communications.
The SPR continued their investigations, arranging similar pub-based vigils as the first two, taping the doors, going out for drinks and returning to find nothing. They tried on the 24th June and a few days later for a fourth time. Ken sensed however, that this time, their enthusiasm for the case was on the wane. It was time for a holiday. In August, Ken and Debbie took a week away from the cottage to refresh their minds and get a break from the intense happenings of the previous nine months. When they returned, they decided to ask Lukas about the poltergeist activity, as a thought had been rolling around their minds whilst they had been away. When they arrived home, Ken sat back down at the computer and asked,
“Do small platters and nik-naks move without your touch?”
Lukas soon wrote back, confirming that they did, and further, that it was not him that had been tormenting Ken and Debbie. They both had been blaming one another for the activity since the start, but now it appeared as if neither were the culprit for the other. They conferred over the matter and concluded that it was more than probable that it was the suspicious author calling themselves 2109 and they both wrote of their own distrust of this character. Lukas then asked ken that if it would be possible to move the BBC into a certain position in the kitchen, he thought it might help to conceal it in his own and may even allow him to divulge more information about himself. 2109 had previously warned both that they should not relay details about each other, but if they could communicate without their interference, then perhaps it could be possible. Ken also decided to try leaving out paper and pen, to see if Lukas would be able to write on that, in the same way he was able to see the earlier photo of the car. As it turned out, Lukas was able to do so, and when they later checked the kitchen they found a scrawled page of writing in rough, spidery hand. Lukas had signed his name Thomas and left cryptic clues as to his surname,
“You have my name in your book, it is also the place fo peters house.”
Peter lived in the nearby village of Hawarden where Ken taught, and right from the start, they had considered a local by the name of Thomas Hawarden to be the communicator. Excitedly, they visited Peter with this new information and confirmed that Thomas Hawarden had been a student at Brasenose college in 1530, until his expulsion in 1538 for “expunging the name of the pope”. They finally had the name of their man, and it bolstered Kens spirits that he was a real man in history, seemingly confirming everything he had told them until now.
The Bizarre ramblings of 2109
In September, 2109 decided to insert themselves into the narrative far more aggressively, and equally as bizarrely. On the 3rd September, Ken woke to find the computer, pulled up and placed in the bathroom, on the marble work surface in the kitchen was a message left in chalk.
Frequency by +2 energy
What else other
Than sound and
It was utterly peculiar and held zero significance for Ken. 2109 also wrote messages on the computer, apparently quite upset that Ken and Lukas had gone behind their back to conspire against them.
“KEN DEB PETER
WE HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE YOU HAVE LUKAS WAINMANS TRUE NAME. IF THIS IS CORRECT YOU MUST SAY SO SO THAT WE MAY RECTIFY THE PROBELM IMMEDIATELY BEFORE IT IS EXCEPTED.”
They also alluded to the concept that it was them that allowed the communications between Ken and Lukas to continue at all and that it was, perhaps all an experiment on their part. All told, Ken found 2109s tone rather distasteful and as such, chose to minimise his conversation with them. SPR however, were relatively interested in what they had to say and spoke with ken to suggest a new route for their investigation. If they could ask 2109 a series of ten questions by writing them onto the computer without Ken or Debbie knowing their contents, this could, effectively, eliminate them from suspicion. Ken, reluctant as always to communicate with 2109 at all, eventually agreed to the experiment and on Monday 23rd September, Dave Welch bought the questions to the cottage, writing them onto the computer screen, then after 45 minutes, deleting them and waiting for a response. None came. At least, none came immediately. Four days later, on the 27th, 2109 responded to the SPRs questions,
DAVID, YOU INTERFERE WITH COMMUNICATION. NEST TIME YOU DECIDE TO PERFORM YOUR LITTLE EXPERIMENT YOU MUST BE CLEAR. FROM HERE, WE SUGGEST YOU TRY SOMEONE ELSE TO SIT WITH DEBBIE.
YES WE ARE WHAT YOU WOULD CALL A TACHYON UNIVERSE BUT YOUR UNDERSTANDING IS INCORRECT. WE ASK NOTHING MORE OF YOU THAN TO CARRY ON AS YOU WOULD PREFER. WE WILL HAVE JOHN PRESENT IF GIVEN CHOICE OR YOU MAY BRING ANOTHER AS MENTIONED. NO, IT IS NO CONCERN TO US THAT THIS IS NOT PROVED. WE WILL GIVE YOU A PLOTTING OF A STAR NEXT TIME. WE MOVE AT A SPEED SO THAT WE COVER EVERY POINT IN YOUR TIME AND UNIVERSE. WE HAVE NO FORM, WE FEED OF A NEET ENERGYTHAT YOU WILL NOT HAVE HEARD OF.
Ken relayed the message to Dave Welch over the phone, who seemed less than interested, but arranged to ask further questions. This time, they would like to place the questions onto their own computer and if possible, to take away the computer from the Cottage to check it for hacks or bugging equipment. During this time, Lukas continued to write to ken, often using pen and paper, which by now he had become quite adept at utilising. As November approached and the time left for the communications dwindled, Ken and Debbie decided to ask Lukas, as much as they could to clear up any of the misunderstandings they had suffered in the past messages. Lukas and Ken surmised that 2109 had very probably tampered with some earlier messages in order to obfuscate certain facts that they didn’t wish one to tell the other. It soon became obvious that this had been the case, and now Lukas re-edited his earlier messages to re-establish his originally intended meanings. It also became apparent that not content with simple edits, there were some earlier messages from Lukas that they had received which were faked by 2109 in their entirety. This, conveniently, cleared up many of the errors that Peter had found with one or two of Lukas out of place phrases. Despite these physical, pen and paper communications, the SPR appeared to Ken to be quite tired of their investigations, which were by now, routinely leading nowhere. In fact, unbeknown to Ken at the time, Dave Welch was more or less through with the whole affair. He had been skeptical from the outset and as the investigations continued, he saw nothing to change his opinions. With the lack of interest from the SPR, it was now once again, time to take stock of the situation. Ken, Debbie and Peter met to talk of where they should go next with the whole thing and Peter suggested contacting the local newspaper in order to get the story out into the public to see if any new leads of an interested researcher might come about. The Chester Observer took on the story and published the pice on the 22nd December, 1985. The story straddled the fence and presented a relatively neutral outlook on the Ken and Lukas saga, interestingly tough, the writer had managed to track down Dave Welch and John Bucknall of the SPR investigation. They told the press quite plainly why they had lost interest in the case,
“We did not get a specific answer, we got a generalised commentary accusing us of not believing in what was going on, we got waffle.
Clearly, if this case is a hoax, then the two teachers are prime suspects. I believe it is also possible that a third party was responsible. I would have loved to prove it was genuine, it would have been the most unique phenomenon ever recorded.
Something or someone is doing it, it was not the job of the SPR to point the finger.”
Just as Ken had suspected, the SPR investigators had been deeply skeptical all along and never took anything from the computer as serious replies to their questions. Strangely though, when Ken contacted the SPR to obtain the records of the case, he was told that none existed. John Bucknall had very recently left the organisation and could not be contacted and Dave Welch was not even registered as a member of the SPR. As communications with Lukas neared their end, Ken and Debbie took some time away to collect their thoughts. 2109, however was keen to help. A message arrived on the computer with the name and contact phone number of a reasonably local researcher that they thought could help.
“WE ASK YOU TO DO THE FOLLOWING: THERE IS A BRILLIANT RESEARCHER (UFOLOGIST… WE KNOW YOU DON’T LIKE THE WORD!) HIS NAME IS GARY M ROWE, HIS IDEAS DIFFER SOMEWHAT TO YOURS BUT NEVERTHELESS HE CAN HELP YOU WITH A COUPLE OF YOUR PROBLEMS.”
Gary M Rowe, it turns out, was a UFO researcher living in Rhyl, in Wales. He was the founder of a group called “Forward to Aquarius Paranormal and Physical Research Organisation”, and co-founder of the “Welsh Federation of Independent Ufologists.” When he received the call from Peter, he too immediately swung towards the skeptical bent the SPR had adopted,
“I was certain that this was simply a wind-up. Some pranksters heard about my research into the weird and the strange, and therefore assumed I must be gullible and easily fooled.”
Nevertheless, he resolved to visit Dodleston to see what the situation was and to see what he could do to help. The group met up at first in a small, rural pub to make their introductions and to sound one another out. If Gary was skeptical of Ken, it was nothing for how Ken felt about Gary. Gary arranged for Ken to leave a sealed envelope on top of the computer, but they must not open it and read it themselves. 2109 was fairly pleased with the whole concept and promptly responded, telling Ken to print the document, seal it away in an envelope and not to read it himself, but to deliver it back to Gary. Dutifully, he went about the business, just as 2109 asked. Ken had, unwittingly become the middleman for a series of communications between Gary and 2109 and when Gary replied back, it was far from what one might describe as normal.
“I am instructed to apologise but in any event, I would have done so of my own volition. There will be a letter hopefully this weekend. I am also instructed to apologise to Ken and Debbie. I must try and answer your last letter. It would appear that you are more important than I had realised in the scheme of things. Gary.”
Whatever message Gary had received from 2109, it had affected a sharp about face in his skepticism. And still, as the mysterious communications continued with 2109, Lukas continued to write. As time ran out and Lukas planned to leave, Ken asked him how he originally came about the computer in the kitchen. Lukas explains that one night, a strange green light began to emit from his chimney breast and upon closer inspection, a man stepped out of it. He told Lukas not to fear and to keep his faith and be strong. When he left, Lukas found what appeared to be a computer, or at least some form of the same computer that Ken had in his own kitchen. He also wrote of how his words appeared on the screen and that he didn’t type at all, rather he merely needed to speak to the machine and the words would appear in a sort of 1980s spectral dictation. On the 21st March, Lukas wrote his final communication, it spoke of his future plans and of how he would write a book about his experiences writing to ken. Peters translation is as follows,
“My true fellows and sweet maid,
Grosevenor has said that Thomas must go. I know it is for the best because the people of Dodleston are very wary of me; Grosevenor says they will burn my old farm down and that except for him al the village despises me – at least that is his view. It is good to know that all will change and there are true men to follow like Ken and Peter; though 400 years is a long time and there is much to happen to mankind. It is sad that men must learn righteousness from their ugly ways believing that they have to look for truth in ruthlessness and never follow a path that is for truth. I pray for my Fellowes at night that they are never imprisoned because of their love for their brother Tomas. Are we not true men? I say, “Woe to all you men who are not true for you are marked by God, Hew will not have your company but you will walk with the beasts of Tartuss forevermore – Yes you that have no worth in this life.” I know that I mustn’t sorrow for I cannot put these feelings to paper, but you must know that I weep and am emotional, I find it hard to write. Perhaps you will come to Oxford. Now I think there is no danger for me there, for I hear the King is very sick and all is quiet in the church. I shall go by boat from Chester to Bristol, there I will buy. Horse for mine will not go on a boat – it is as scared of water as it is scared of fives. I also weep for him. I shall try to make my stay at Brasenose though I know I was expelled many years ago. I will write my book about my brothers and maid and of the end of Lukas and the little puppy and of our love for one another.
One day you will all sit down at my table for wine and meat by the river in Oxford where we shall read each others books and laugh and we shall speak of truth and good men, watching Oxford change together for evermore.
In your time my book is old, but I shall not go to my God until it is written then we will all be truly embraced. My love to you all. I shall await you in Oxford. Tomas Hawarden.”
This was followed by one last message from 2109,
“There is another person to come, they will be the help we need. You will know them when they come. Thomas did eventually write his book and soon died shortly after, he placed it in a secure place, it shouldn’t take too many years to find it, though he wrote it in Latin with the help of a friend that he met in Oxford. The inscription reads “Me writs this in the hpe that mine flaws will one day find this book, then may over lands be not see distant.”
We will finish now, you have a lot of work to do!! There is no need for you to write back as we will have gone.
Thank you for your cooperation.
So Lukas wrote his book, though placed it in a secure place. When the book comes to light, all of this, ken thought, will be validated in one swift strike. The cursor on the BBC blinked on the empty screen.
After the events of the Dodleston messages, ken went on to write his own book on the events and then… Nothing. All fell quiet around Ken and Debbies story for several years. The investigation of the SPR was well and truly over, if not entirely buried and Gary Rowe, the ufologist had taken his sealed envelopes and scarpered. Ken, Debbie and Peter were left with a binder full of messages, both from Lukas and 2109 that totalled over 300. Life more or less continued quietly and Ken seemingly embraced it. In 1996, when BBC Television picked the story up for inclusion on a programme titled “Out of this World”, though they cooperated with the producers, they only appeared briefly and with their backs to the camera and voices distorted. Writing shortly after, he said,
“I return to Guy Lyon Playfair, who concluded: “It may be the wisest course to follow after obtaining positive evidence of any kind in any area of psychical research is to make use of it for personal enlightenment, and therefore to keep quiet about it!” Now, just over ten years after our own adventures, it sadly seems good advice. Meadow Cottage was important to us. It is sufficient.”
The same program took a Sample fo the messages to be analysed by a scholar in Early Modern English, Dr Laura Wright, of Cambridge University. When asked if she thought it was a hoax, she replied,
“If it’s meant to look like Early Modern English writing, it doesn’t even look close.”
And when asked if she thought it may have been hoaxed by someone with experience in the scholarship of Early Modern English, she damningly replied,
“No.. If somebody had a background in Early Modern English writing, their hoax would look a lot better than this.”
They also took a 500 word sample from both Kens book and the messages and compared the styles, finding that there was a correlation in sentence structure between the two that placed them in the same percentile, suggesting they were written by the same hand. Ken naturally spoke out against these findings, defending himself by stating that the BBC only took a tiny sample of one message. Peter too spoke of the writer of the messages and of how he thought a hoax more than just simply difficult.
“Who could devise such documents using the dictionary backwards by searching out recondite terms and then checking every word used not only for its meaning but also its form in a particular period? The amount of effort involved in this process beggars belief. Even if the process of composition in this way by some modern hoaxer is conceivable, there was very frequently no time in which it could possibly have been carried out. Moreover, of course, we are looking only at the “how?” And and leaving out he bigger questions of Who? And Why?”
Ufologist Gary Rowe has since too spoken out about his own involvement, brief as it had been,
“If this story had not been made public or turned into a book, I would never have spoken about it to another living soul. I sincerely wish it had not.
For me, the Dodleston messages are not a story or a book. Instead to is part of my life. One that has profoundly impacted everything I thought I knew.It changed me forever. The information gained came at a high price. I wish I was at liberty to discuss my communication with 2109.
I am not a wealthy person. I believe this information I sit on could make me rich and famous. I believe I was selected due to knowing that I am a person who can be trusted to keep this secret sacred. The secret has it’s own, built-in evidence.”
And Gary, along with various other characters from the story, have since crawled out of the shadows to speak more in various message boards across the internet. Writing in the comments section of a blog post in 2017, some 31 years after the fact, Gary wrote,
“I am not some away with the fairies wishful believer. I investigated with professional detachment not bothered what I would find. Fake or Fact. I left no stone unturned and used cutting edge science to get to the truth. In fact, I believe it was the first computer controlled psychic investigation recorded in the world. I don’t care two hoots if nobody ever believes it. I know it really happened. It changed my life forever. It is going to change yours. The book should/will one day be ISBN recorded under the History section. It is a monumental historical marker in the Ribbon of time.”
He goes on to insinuate that a misprint that names chapter 23 in Ken Websters book as chapter 7, is perhaps, not a misprint at all, rather an intentional orchestration by 2109. Debbie herself has also chimed in on the Paracast podcast forums, where she replied to a thread discussing Ken Websters book, stating that her and Ken were still on the trail for Tomas’ book, as well as the identity of Tomas himself. She also pointed out, quite firmly that both her and Ken were not interested in giving any public interviews about the entire affair as the media had not been kind in their treatment of the story in the past, presumably meaning the BBCs involvement with their analysis of Lukas messages.
In the end, at least until Tomas own book is found, we are left only with Kens book to tell us the story of the Dodleston messages and we must make our minds up from that. It is a story which, despite all its fantastical elements, it fosters a healthy cult following of fans of the story as well as researchers who continue to try and make sense of not only Lukas, but just who and what 2109 were and what there words meant.
Comparisons of ken and messages, seems weird since the messages are bonkers?! If them the facts then that’s that, but I find it hard to believe and actually side with ken on this one.
Gary on message boards not giving any definite answers so he can’t be proved definitively wrong. Answers every question with a question and trying to be cryptic.
Time slips are great.
Kens writing is DREADFUL and he’s fucking annoying. Sounds like an angsty teenager. Constantly doing things against what he’s saying.