Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Findings: Bedford
Location: a set of financial services offices in a built-up area of Bedford, just off a major road that runs through the town centre. The building has been selected on account of reported paranormal activity, none of which has been reported to Archy.
It’s a sunny afternoon in midsummer, and Archy and a small research and film team have been asked to come to these offices to investigate some unusual phenomena.
It doesn’t take long for Archy to detect something. As he walks round the offices, he almost immediately reports that he can ‘hear’ a baby crying. No-one else present can hear it. Looking round, he ‘sees’ a young girl, dressed in rags, probably from the 1700/1800s, sitting in a corner, cradling a baby. The baby appears weak and sickly – ‘not long for this world’, as Archy puts it.
Archy pauses and then grimaces. He hesitates, unwilling to put into words what he’s sensed. He knows the baby has been fathered by the girl’s own father – he says he can see him, a malevolent presence, sitting in the corner. Archy wishes he could do something to help, but knows he can’t.
The atmosphere then suddenly changes. The previous scene has apparently dissolved, as Archy says, “I’ve got a young lad here now – looks like he’s from the 1940s. He’s wearing short trousers – grey flannel – grey socks, falling down – and a green V-necked pullover.”
He pauses, before going on, “I can see rubble all around us, as though
the place has been bombed. This lad’s searching through the rubble, really upset. He’s panicking and telling me he’s looking for his cat – and his sister.”
Another pause and then, thoughtfully, Archy says, “I’m not sure this was caused by a bomb, you know. There was some kind of explosion … but not a bomb. It would be easy to just put all this damage down to a bomb – but it wasn’t.” Archy stops, and then says, “And I don’t reckon this young lad finds his sister – or his cat. Sad.”
Investigation: The reason Archy’s research team chose this location for him to visit was because the owner of the offices had reported hearing a baby crying in the upstairs office when she’d been alone downstairs whilst working out of hours. This had apparently been going on for many years. Archy had no prior knowledge of this, so it was noteworthy that he should have reported hearing a baby crying.
With regard to the second reporting, research at the Local History Library revealed that an aircraft had crashed on this site during the 1940s, causing damage to the neighbourhood. As Archy comes from Somerset, he had no local knowledge of the Bedford area, so couldn’t have known about this event.
(Pictures painted by Ann-Marie Weaver on basis of description given by Archy).
“The plane that crashed in the Greyfriars area, I can visualise it now! There was a church, I can’t remember it’s name and that plane almost came, I didn’t actually see it but I saw a lot of the reports, it came down sideways and it hardly did any damage. It went in like a passage way between the church and the houses. I think if I remember rightly the plane was an Airacobra.”
From: Wartime memories of a Policeman in Bedford Part One — Policing in Bedford 1939-1942: Part one of an oral history interview with Mr. Arthur Thomas ‘Tom’ Clarke conducted by Jenny Ford on behalf of Bedford Museum