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In the center of Coventry where Lady Godiva took her ride—all too clearly in the flesh—two vacationing ladies were motoring down a road alongside an embankment that used to be the scene of a cycling track. The track went steeply and straight downhill toward a concrete wall that separated it from railroad tracks, with a curve at the bottom. As the tourists drove along in broad daylight, with nothing more occult on their minds than which Roman fortification to visit next, they were first amazed to see a cyclist riding hellbent down the embankment—and then terrified when he missed the bend and headed straight into the wall. Moments later, cyclist and bicycle lay smashed below.
The ladies drove off to the nearest police station to report the horrifying accident, but when police arrived at the scene there was nothing there. The newspapers picked it up and an elderly gentleman called in to say that around the turn of the century a cyclist whose brakes failed in the course of a race had lost his life in a similar manner. The ladies said nonsense, they could see him plain as day, wearing goggles, knickerbockers and a cloth cap.
Motorists around Markyate have frequently been startled to see the figures of two young men dressed in cricket uniforms standing at the roadside about five miles outside Luton where, in 1958, a bus transporting a cricket team home from a match was involved in an accident that proved fatal to two of the team's members. By the time friendly drivers stop to offer the boys a lift, they have vanished. And in Whitby, Yorkshire, motoring can be even more of an adventure, for a poltergeist known as Hob causes travelers to skid into ditches, turns signposts around and lets air out of tires.
The poltergeist is defined as an invisible, mischievous, frequently malignant and always uproarious ghost who likes to hurl crockery across rooms, dump his victims out of bed and send furniture flying. Maple cites the case of a family that lived in a trailer with an uninvited phantom who "ran amok every night, terrorizing the occupants with fusillades of crockery and other flying objects and rocking the caravan until it all but fell off its wheels." When the Bible verses and prayers of a local priest failed to oust the lively spirit, a teen-ager tried his hand at exorcism. "It is evident that the poltergeist was not devoid of the finer instincts," writes Maple, "for whenever the boy sang hymns the disturbance subsided, but if he changed to pop tunes the poltergeist went absolutely berserk."
The Crown pub at Pishill near Henley entertains a ghostly fencing Jesuit named Father Dominique. Landlord John Davies has had two experiences with the ancient monk. Upstairs over the bar there is still a priest hole where clerics were forced to hide during the days when Elizabeth I was persecuting Catholics. Father Dominique, it seems, became enamored of a lady who frequented the place and subsequently died in a fencing duel protecting her name.
"Twice, when I have been upstairs in my rooms opposite the priest hole," said John Davies, "there has been a knock on the door. When I say, 'Come in,' thinking it's one of the locals, the doorknob turns slowly and the door opens slightly, but when I go to have a look, no one is there.
"Not long ago four of us held a seance in the room just outside the pub proper. We rested our fingertips on the edge of glasses on a table, and those glasses really took off. First we asked, 'Is there someone here?' The answer was yes. 'Is it Father Dominique?' Yes. 'Can we see you?' Yes. 'Where?' The glasses spelled out 'in the corner of the pub.' " John Davies paused dramatically. Well? "No one had the nerve to go have a look."
Father Dominique is considered a good and gentle ghost and no one minds having him around, explained Davies. "Too bad he mucked up the fencing."
Years ago, at the Marine Grotto near Sunderland in the north of England, a landlord was drawing off a pint of ale when he heard a strange noise. He went to investigate, leaving the full tankard on the bar. On his return the pot was empty, although the bar was deserted. Since that day a full tankard, always the same one, is left on the bar at closing time, and various managers over the years confirm that it is always found empty each morning.
Many of the pubs in small villages have indoor skittle alleys. At the Holman Clavel Inn just outside Taunton, there is a rain pipe fastened to the wall alongside the alley that conveys the old wooden balls back to the player. The skittle alley has been there as long as anyone in town can remember and it goes full blast most evenings until closing time. What bothers tourists who rent the bedrooms above the pub is the sound of skittles being played at three o'clock in the morning. They complain of pins being scattered and balls clattering down the rain pipe. Said the barmaid, "It's our ghost, Charlie the Skittler." Whether Charlie plays a solitary game or has a companion no one knows, for the score is never posted.