Supernatural Staffordshire: the phantom Victorian schoolboy spotted on a railway line

Each week our supernatural expert reveals haunting tales from across the county.

More and more people are contacting me to talk about their own supernatural experiences – Id like to think the tide has turned and discussing the paranormal is less taboo than it used to be.

I would encourage everyone to do a simple experiment. Ask just five friends, in private, if they believe in the paranormal and have they had a paranormal experience.

Thirty-four per cent of the UK population believe in ghosts – that’s a huge 10 per cent more than believe in god.

So why is there still a stigma about people who openly profess to believe? Perhaps it’s to do with peer pressure, society and the media among other factors.

Just recently I was having a drink with a friend and the topic of the paranormal came up.

He doesn’t believe, categorically. However, we ended up chatting for a number of hours over various “what ifs” and found some surprising common ground once the initial barriers of conventional understanding had dropped.

“I would rather a mind opened by wonder, than one closed by belief,” is possibly my favourite saying, because it’s true.

Believe in it or not, the paranormal is a fascinating subject.

The diversity of experiences and depths of emotion it put us through run the full spectrum – from enlightening to absolute terror.

In 1989 Gareth was 19 and living at Barlaston.

Growing up he would spend lots of time walking around this beautiful area, surrounded by open fields and picturesque streams.

“It was an amazing time in my life” Gareth, now 47, said. “Me and my friend would go for long walks, all around Cocknage and Barlaston.

“We would roam through the fields, around the large lake at Barlaston and sit on Barlaston train platform before they fenced it all off – it was a magical time.”

One evening in July Gareth and one of his friends made their way down to Wedgwood Lake and then past the cricket club, finally coming to the white train crossing building and to there destination of the railway station.

“We used to get some sweets and drinks and sit talking about crazy things that you think about at that age, ghosts and UFOs were a big favourite of ours. We had some amazing conversations,” Gareth recalled.

Darkness had begun to fall, the station platform was still, not even the slightest breeze was blowing as some litter and a few leaves sat motionless on the black and white painted wooden platform. A rabbit ran across the empty tracks in the distance.

“That’s when we saw him, a small boy about 10-years-old who ran across the track right in front of our eyes.” Gareth told me.

“He came out of nowhere. One second he was running across the track, the next he had gone. But for the short amount of time we could see him he looked solid – like a real boy.”

Gareth described the boy as wearing old-fashioned Victorian clothing including a flat cap.

“We both saw him as clear as day and when he disappeared we both nearly jumped out of our skin,” he said.

Both boys got up immediately and ran from the station back towards Wedgwood Lake.

“I’ve seen my friend from that night recently at a reunion and he still remembers it just as I did, although he has never mentioned it to anyone as he thinks people will mock him”

Many more people will experience ghosts and other paranormal events tonight just as Gareth did that night back in 1989.

Homeless families housed in Pontins holiday camp because of immigration as council reveals waiting list for new homes reaches “breaking point”

Flintshire Council is using Pontins to house homeless families (Image: Getty Images Europe)

A council is using a holiday camp to house homeless people because the system is “at breaking point”.

Flintshire council uses the Pontins Holiday Camp in Prestatyn, north Wales to put locals up in an emergency as pressures on the housing waiting list grows.

According to local authority officials, the number of people waiting for a council home across the county since September has grown by a third.

Clare Budden, the council’s community and enterprise chief officer, said: “There are currently just over 1,600 people on Flintshire County Council’s waiting list for housing.

Clare Budden says the holiday camp is sometimes used where emergency accommodation is needed(Image: @ClareBudden/Twitter WS)
The camp in Prestatyn is being used to accommodate larger families (Image: Daily Post Wales)

“This compares with just over 1,200 at the end of September 2016 demonstrating the growing need for social housing in the area.

“The council occasionally uses Pontins at Prestatyn for short stays to accommodate people in need of emergency accommodation say after a fire or where rented accommodation is deemed unsuitable for health and safety.

Cllr Bernie Attridge, the authority’s lead member for housing and deputy council leader, said pressures were mounting on the housing service.

The homeless service is at breaking point

The camp is being used as the authority’s homeless service reaches “breaking point” (Image: Redferns)

“Pontins is only used to put larger families up in an emergency where bed and breakfast would not be appropriate and they need cooking facilities.

“There is increasing pressure on the council house waiting list which is being caused by austerity and demand seems to be outstripping supply.


‘Mystery beast’ is feasting on sheep in Scotland

For the past five years, farmers living in an area of northern Scotland have noticed that their sheep have fallen victim to a perplexing unknown predator.


A resident of one of the villages who has been tracking the incidents says that an astounding forty of the woolen creatures have fallen victim to the mystery animal in just the last five years.

According to Jim Johnston, each kill appears similar in that the sheep’s skin seems to be swiftly pulled from the animal and its body subsequently devoured with little more than bones left behind.


Lest one suspect some kind of cattle mutilation situation, the evidence suggests that the sheep were lost to a natural predator, albeit one that remains unidentified and apparently quite powerful.

Based on his observations of the downed sheep, Johnston marveled that whatever killed them possessed a monstrous bite that easily broke their bones.

Strangely, a similar series of events took place in the late 1970’s in the area and locals believed they were the work of one of Britain’s infamous ‘big cats’ said to roam the country but rarely seen.

Johnston suspected that may be the case with these recent sheep deaths, but is not entirely convinced just yet.

For now, farmers in the area are advised to keep an eye on their ewes and report anything strange they might see.

HE’LL KILL AGAIN’ Victim’s sister warns American strangler dumped on UK after Brit aides campaigned for his release is still ‘a danger to public’

A KILLER who strangled a girl in the US is now in Britain after parole chiefs ruled he could be freed only if he was deported.

London-born Dempsey Hawkins, 57, spent 38 years in jail after murdering the teenager when he lived in New York.

His supporters included the British Consulate and a Cambridge University criminologist. But his victim’s family blasted the move.

Martin Dempsy

US Murderer Dempsey Hawkins has been released in the UK after parole officers denied his freedom nine times

Victim’s sister told of her fears that the killer will strike again.

Parole chiefs in New York ruled Dempsey Hawkins was not fit to be released there but could be let out on condition he was deported to the UK.

When he was 16 he strangled his 14-year-old girlfriend Susan Jacobson with a shirt and stuffed her body in an oil drum.


Dempsey Hawkins

In 1976, then-16-year-old Dempsey Hawkins strangled his 14-year-old girlfriend Susan Jacobson with a t-shirt and pretended to help her family search for her

He then pretended to help searchers look for her while keeping them from finding her.

London-born Hawkins, who was taken to America when he was six, arrived at Heathrow in January with letters of support from the British Consulate.

Immigration officials handed him a British passport and backers welcomed him with him a copy of Tennis Whites and Teacakes, a collection of poet John Betjeman’s writings.

Cambridge University criminology research associate Dr Ruth Armstrong supported his release and he now works as a server in a Mexican restaurant run by her husband in the city.

But Susan’s sister Barbara Reno told The Sun: “I think he’s very capable of killing again.

Dr Ruth Armstrong

University of Cambridge’s Criminology Research Associate Dr Ruth Armstrong supported Hawkins’ release

“I pray that I’m wrong, that he’s changed and that will make something positive with his life because my sister never got the chance to lead hers. But I’m very fearful that he’ll commit another crime.

“He has a bad soul. He has lied and manipulated from day one. While he was in prison he spun a ‘woe is me’ sob story, as if it was some kind of love story and he was heartbroken.

“He was a very convincing liar. He had us all fooled for so long.

Dempsey Hawkins

Parole chiefs claimed Hawkins’ freedom was ‘incompatible with the welfare and safety of the community’ but eventually decided he could be released on condition he was deported to UK

“We’re concerned about the safety of the people in the community he’s been released into.”

Family friend and retired NYPD cop Mark Corrao added: “This man has been dumped on you people. The family feel powerless. Everyone in the UK should be alerted and know what happened.”

Hawkins, now 57, was Susan’s first boyfriend. But their relationship hit the rocks when Susan, then 13, had an abortion.

On May 15 1976 Hawkins lured her to an underground bunker, killed her and hid the body in a 55-gallon oil barrel.

Dempsey Hawkins

Hawkins lured Susan to an underground bunker and killed her when their relationship hit the rocks after she had an abortion

He diverted investigators away from the scene while pretending to help Susan’s parents and six siblings search for her.

He then fled Staten Island to live with his US Air Force dad in Illinois but was hauled back for trial in February 1979 after her body was finally discovered.

Hawkins was jailed for life with a minimum of 22 years for second degree murder.

Dempsey Hawkins

Hawkins was jailed for life, with a minimum of 22 years

Interviewed in his cell in 2011 he said: “It was a warm day. I had taken off my shirt. With the arm of the shirt, I put it around her neck, as if to kiss her, and I just started squeezing it.”

A panel at Woodbourne Correctional Facility denied him parole nine times after he became eligible in 2000.

They ruled his release would be “incompatible with the welfare and safety of the community”.


Since returning to the UK, London-born Hawkins has been working in the Mexican restaurant owned by Dr Armstrong’s husband

But his fortunes changed when lawyer Issa Kohler-Hausmann, an associate Professor of Law at Yale, took up his case.

She contacted Dr Ruth Armstrong, who has a special interest in the rehabilitation of criminals.

Dr Armstrong arranged for him to meet with workers from Prisoners Abroad, which provides support for convicts deported to Britain.

Dempsey Hawkins

The family of Hawkins’ victim have warned he is still a danger

Last May Hawkins won an appeal court ruling for a new parole hearing. In August he was denied freedom in the US for a tenth time — but the panel said he could be conditionally paroled if he was deported to Britain.

It cited recent good conduct, positive letters from the British Consulate General and support from human rights group Reprieve.

But it also set out why he would not be fit for release in the US.

Dempsey Hawkins

Family friend and retired NYPD cop Mark Corrao claimed everybody in the UK should be warned of Hawkins’ crimes

It said there were “disturbing inconsistencies” in details he had given about the killing.

It added: “In short, you still seem capable of deception regarding criminal thoughts and behaviour.

“Your actions exhibit a cruel deliberation and contempt that prompt us to find that your release in the United States would deprecate the seriousness of the crime as to undermine respect for the law.”

Dempsey Hawkins

There have been claims Hawkins still seemed ‘capable of deception regarding criminal thoughts and behaviour’

Dempsey said: “I’m in a dream state right now. My job is going to be to find a better job. Something to do with writing.”

And he told a male reporter: “If it’s alright with you I would rather not speak about it. I appreciate your questions but I really don’t have anything to say.

“I appreciate you stopping by, it’s always good to see good looking people around here, but I’ve got things to do and really don’t have anything to say.”

Dempsey Hawkins

Hawkins claimed he is now looking for a new job, and wants to do something to do with writing

The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and Department of Justice declined to comment on the case.

Ms Kohler-Hausmann, Dr Armstrong and Prisoner’s Abroad all did not respond to requests for comment by The Sun.

But Tory MP Peter Bone told us: “I entirely sympathise with the family of the victim whose view is that he should never be released.”

Giant human skeleton found

MALACCA: A historian claims to have discovered skeletal remains of what is believed to be a larger-than-usual man in a cave in Pulau Upeh, off the coast here.

Mohd Fuad Khusari M. Said, who was appointed by the Malacca go­vernment to search for new historical sites, said he discovered some bones partially exposed above the ground in Pulau Upeh.

He also found two other unusually large graves some 1.2km outside the cave.

The graves measuring about 5m by 0.5m are located about 15m to 20m away from each other.

Historical find: Mohd Fuad’s assistant Azman Wahab at the large grave site in Pulau Upeh.

“I have reported the findings to the authorities because we have no right to excavate the site without permission,” he told The Star yesterday.

He said the discovery could be proof to validate claims that early settlers in Malacca, including du­ring the Malay Sultanate, were large in structure.

The historian, who has 10 years experience in archaeological stu­dies, said based on the size of the skull and the length of the bones, the remains could measure between 3m and 5m long.

Mohd Fuad said the length of the skeletal remains matched the large graves of Sultan Ariffin and seven warrior brothers in Pulau Besar.

“There was no excavation work at any of these grave sites, thus the tales of the giant settlers remain a myth.

“However, the research on this latest find could help prove or disprove claims that giant-sized men roamed Malacca a long time ago,” he added.

He said there were historical records of sightings of giant races, dating back to the Mayans, and even as recently as 1871 when a newspaper reported the finding of some 200 giant skeletons in Cayuga, Ontario, Canada.

“So, it’s not strange to have sighting of giants in this part of the world and we need to carry out an in-depth research into such claims,” said Mohd Fuad.

There have been previous findings of “gigantic graves” in Pulau Besar here, believed to belong to Muslim religious leaders from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, India and Java, who came to Malacca to spread Islam during the early days of the Malacca Sultanate.

Institute of Historical and Patriotism Studies of Malaysia chairman Prof Datuk Wira Dr Mohd Jamil Mukmin said that the graves were huge compared to modern ones.

“These could probably be due to the size of those buried in those graves, or they were dug larger than usual as an honour to them for spreading Islam in this part of the world,” he said yesterday.

He said Pulau Upeh was once a base for Javanese religious leaders who travelled to the Port of Malacca to conduct Islamic classes for the locals and traders in the 15th century, while the giant-sized graves in Pulau Besar mostly belonged to those from Yemen.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said he had been informed of the latest finding in Pulau Upeh.

“Yes, we have commissioned the historian to provide facts about undiscovered historical sites and research was ongoing for the latest discovery of the giant-sized remains,” he said.

Idris said he was told that vill­agers from the mainland had placed tombstones on the graves a few years ago.

Malacca’s Barisan Nasional’s social service centre director Amir Hamzah Aziz said the story of a mysterious giant’s remains in Pulau Upeh had been circulating since the 1990s.

“Many claimed to have sighted the remains there, and if it is true, we must preserve it for the future generation,” he said, adding that there could be some truth to claims that the early settlers in Malacca were much larger than the current population.

Watchdog discovers toy dolls are recording your conversations and uploading them to police


When giving gifts this holiday season, be strongly advised that certain toys will upload your child’s unique voice and personal information — to the same military and law enforcement database which helps authorities identify criminals.

Indeed, these toys — which could record any conversation occurring nearby, and also fish for specific information from unwitting children — constitute the latest in surveillance by home appliances and gadgets known collectively as the Internet of Things. And this insidious, extraneous spying has several watchdog groups sounding alarm bells in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

Genesis Toys’ My Friend Cayla doll and i-Que robot — Internet-connected toys using voice recognition technology to interact with children — can answer questions by converting speech to text and retrieving information from Google, Wikipedia, and Weather Underground, CNN reports.

But what has the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the Consumers Union on edge is that the “toys subject young children to ongoing surveillance,” in violation of privacy and consumer protection laws — and, worse, the nature of the company Genesis Toys employs for that purpose.

“Nuance Communications,” the aforementioned groups state in a complaint to the FTC, “represents itself as a leader in voice technology, including speech recognition software and voice biometric solutions that allow a search of the company’s 60 million enrolled voiceprints for a voice match from recorded conversations to be performed within minutes. Nuance markets its technology to private and public entities and delivers its voice biometric technology to military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies.”

“Both Genesis Toys and Nuance Communications unfairly and deceptively collect, use, and disclose audio files of children’s voices without providing adequate notice or obtaining verified parental consent,” the complaint continues.

Cayla and i-Que have slightly differing companion applications, but Genesis collects users’ IP addresses and both require downloading and connection to the user’s mobile device via Bluetooth technology. As the complaint explains:

The companion application for My Friend Cayla requests permission to access the hardware, storage, microphone, Wi-Fi connections, and Bluetooth on users’ devices, but fails to disclose to the user the significance of obtaining this permission. The i-Que companion application also requests access to the device camera, which is not necessary to the toy’s functions and is not explained or justified.

That Richard Mack, Nuance vice president of corporate marketing and communications, reassured the public the uploaded information is not sold or used for advertising or marketing purposes should be of little comfort to consumers wary of the perfidious surveillance state. Even so, Cayla comes equipped with pro-Disney marketing propaganda in references to Disney movies and Disney theme parks — the doll says her favorite movie is Disney’s The Little Mermaid, for example — which children cannot distinguish as advertising.

Perhaps most notably, not to mention nefariously, CNN reports,

The Cayla doll also has a mobile phone app that asks children to provide personal information, like their name and their parents’ names, their favorite TV show, their favorite meal, where they go to school, their favorite toy and where they live.

EPIC and the other watchdogs have requested an investigation into Genesis Toys and Nuance Communications by the FTC and to have Cayla and i-Que pulled from store shelves.

“The FTC should issue a recall on the dolls and halt further sales pending the resolution of the privacy and safety risks identified in the complaint,” asserted Claire Gartland, director of EPIC’s Consumer Privacy Project. “This is already happening in the European Union, where Dutch stores have pulled the toys from their shelves.”

EPIC also notes this complaint is one facet of a concerted effort to ban such privacy-invasive and surveillance-laden toys from the marketplace. Last year, Senator Edward Markey and Rep. Joe Barton were joined by Rep. Mark Kirk and Sen. Bobby Rush in introducing the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2015 (H.R. 2734) to update existing children’s online privacy law to include greater protections for kids.

Markey penned letters to Genesis and Nuance demanding immediate compliance with strictures delineated in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The Internet of Things has long been a cause for concern for privacy advocates and delight for surveillance hawks, as predictions the surveillance state will be willingly welcomed into people’s homes through the convenience of interconnectedness prove true time and again.

However, while it might be one thing for hapless adults to dismissively toss privacy concerns to the wayside, to have the voiceprints and information of children as young as three-years-old uploaded and likely stored by a company with military and law enforcement ties is a whole other animal.