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Fleetwood Mac - An early experience of an apparition on the road

Identifier

022902

Type of Spiritual Experience

Inter composer communication
Hallucination

Number of hallucinations: 6

Background

Despite the very detailed evidence, it is impossible to work out from this what this thing was. Lethbridge would have said it was a ghoul, so we have added this classification.

 

A description of the experience

Science and the Spook – Dr George Owen and Victor Sims

The Haunted Pop Group - A Ghost at Cobham?

THE four members of a "pop group" (a musical and vocal group specializing in the presentation of popular music and songs) called the Peter B's, their leader being Mr Peter Bardens, saw an appearance which very much puzzled them, while they were returning on the A3 to London in a van (driven by Peter Bardens) after an engagement at the Bird Cage Club in Portsmouth. Mr Dennis Bardens (Peter Barders's father) of 3 Horbury Mews, London, W11, took a tape-recording of their evidence (on 27th November 1965) and kindly provided us with a transcript.

Peter Bardens (aged twenty-two) said they were all four sitting in the front of the van and leaving Cobham about 2.30 a.m.

Though there were mist patches in some places on their route, it was a clear (but not moonlight) night at Cobham. As they went round a bend a figure came into view on their side of the road.

“We all saw it simultaneously and, on the realisation that it wasn't an ordinary guy, Mick [Michael Fleetwood, the drummer] sort of screamed. He [the figure] was walking towards us, along the pavement, but he wasn't looking at us. I think Mick got a longer look at him than we did, because I was sitting on the inside. I only caught a flash of it, but I realised that it wasn't an ordinary bloke because he was abnormally big and radiating a kind of pale light; and there were no sorts of lights around, except the ordinary street lamps, which are pretty dim and which could not have produced that effect for an ordinary bloke.
He was a big figure, going on for seven feet. The hands were down at his sides, pointing slightly outwards, as if he were almost marching, except that his arms were parallel and it seemed to be not so much walking as gliding. It wasn't above the level of the pavement; it was on the pavement, and appeared to be gliding, staring fixedly in front, just looking ahead, not at us or the van.  The eyes looked to me as though they were probably closed. The whole thing seemed to be a greyish-whitish-yellowish colour.
All four of us realised that it wasn't an ordinary bloke, you know-that it was something horrible. I shuddered, and gripped hold of the steering wheel, I temporarily lost my mind.
Mick screamed, and was sort of semi-hysterical and the other two were a bit shocked. Mick started shouting for me to drive on faster to get away from the thing, while Pete [Peter Green, the guitarist] shouted at me to turn round so that he could get another look at it. But my instinct was to get the hell out of it.
I didn't get such a good look at it; I just knew that it was not very nice. It resembled a man in his fifties. The face made the most impression; there was a big body; it looked just like a great, long overcoat going down to the feet almost. Or it could have been a kind of shroud. It had some hair but I have no detailed recollection of it.”

Mr Michael Fleetwood, the drummer (aged eighteen), when asked how far away the figure was when first sighted, said:

“It appeared to be at about fifty to one hundred yards, judging by the time it took to actually see it, to register and then pass it. I was sitting on the left-hand side of the van farthest away from Peter [Bardens] who was driving. And suddenly we were going along normally, we weren't talking about anything which suggested this in any way; and just suddenly I looked up and saw a very tall figure. It could have been about 6 foot 9 inches, nearly 7 feet high, and it had what I would assume to be a very very long coat nearly down to the ground and it was light grey, slightly fluorescent; it seemed to have a light of its own against everything. I was the only one in the back seat of the van.
Thank goodness Peter didn't see its face, you know. I screamed, really screamed; I was absolutely petrified.
The face was so vacant-looking; that was what was so terrifying. It was just a face and it was quite an old face; it could have been about sixty. It was walking straight ahead on the right-hand side [i.e. on the left-hand side of the road relative to the direction of travel of the van] coming towards us on the pavement. It was walking very stiffly in quite a military sort of way. Its arms were moving very deliberately in a sort of straight fashion. It was going straight along and its face-I really saw its face and it was really expressionless-looking straight ahead, forlorn, quite drawn. I didn't see the eyes, but I saw that where the eyes were there was a sort of darkness. He didn't have a hat on. The hair was short. The whole figure, including the head and the hair was this light colour, this light fluorescent grey. But I don't recollect that I could see through it. His overcoat or robe was the same length as a field coat, almost down to the ankles.

Mr Peter Green, the guitarist (aged nineteen), confirmed that he saw the solid figure of a very tall man, walking as though gliding along very smoothly and staring straight ahead without expression. The figure seemed not to notice the van although it passed close to it. He did not at first consciously think of the figure as being odd or inhuman until the others became excited.

It didn't dawn on me straight away but the only thing that made me think it was way out of this world was that it was staring straight ahead and it was so late in the night.  We passed him right by and he was just staring straight ahead all the time.
It wasn't really his appearance but just the way that it was walking, very slow and heavy, and like I say it didn’t really dawn on me [till afterwards].
It was a very blank old thing, very light. A tight long macintosh he was wearing seemed to be catching all the street light, so it did look very light. It seemed to have an odd complexion about the face, definitely an odd complexion.  I wouldn't say definitely it was a ghost, because there are a lot of weird out, it could have been one. [weird: someone of ultra-bohemian habits, tramp or "beatnik".] The walk was very unusual like something out of a Frankenstein film-great strides-the arms moving very steadily. The macintosh was buttoned up. I couldn't actually see the eyes.
Mike was upset but only gave a weak scream. Peter [Bardens] only just about saw it as it got to the side of the window-it just sent a sort of shudder through him.

The transcript of the evidence reads much less dramatically than the live recording sounds. The latter indicates genuine fear and horror.

We interviewed the boys, including David Ambrose (bass guitar player, aged nineteen), in London on 21st July. Their testimony agreed in all respects with the earlier statements. David concurred with the others in describing the figure as blank, staring, expressionless, of a peculiar pale colour, very tall, walking in such a rigid way as to seem almost gliding, and swinging its straight extended arms in an extremely mechanical and robot-like fashion. They agreed that the night was clear and that the figure was bizarre and unusual enough to be uncanny and frightening.

We enquired from the Cobham police as to various elementary possibilities. They had no record of any fancy-dress ball or party that night. No fair or circus was under canvas in the vicinity. No patient was listed as missing from any mental hospital or ordinary hospital. Indeed there are no hospitals in the district, or monasteries.

Local tradition testifies (somewhat faintly) to the following ghosts. One is that of a lady-in-waiting to the Empress Matilda who lost her footing on the stepping stones over the River Mole and was drowned. Pain's Hill is nearby, celebrated as one of the earliest examples of natural landscape gardening on a large scale. Laid out by the Hon. Charles Hamilton, son of the Earl of Abercorn, it has extensive grounds extending into the parish of Cobham, along the Mole Valley. Hamilton used to pay a "hermit" to live in artificial grottoes, and there is, or used to be, a belief that he still roams at night.

The Rev. S. E. B. Barrington, the Vicar of Cobham, told us that Field Marshal Lord Ligonier was buried in Cobham church. The church is some way from the Portsmouth road and the boys would not have passed near it. Jean Louis Ligonier, a French Huguenot, joined the British Army in 1702 and eventually rose to be Commander-in-Chief. As the first general in the regular Army to treat his troops as better than cattle his memory is still held in affection and respect by the Army. Though not immortal in the flesh he was almost so living to the age of 90, and until the last few months leading a gay and vigorous life.

We sent the boys a reproduction of the painting of Lord Ligonier in the National Portrait Gallery.  Two of the boys felt unable to render an opinion; one saw a slight resemblance and one thought there was a strong likeness.

Comments

An apparition can only be distinguished from an actual real human being if it appears or vanishes abruptly, is transparent or luminous, or incomplete (e.g. headless), or in other ways grotesque (like the Mephistophelian figures seen by some psychotic patients), or is identifiable as the likeness of a person in another place or no longer in the land of the living.

As the strange pedestrian seen by the Peter B's was recognisably human it would be unwise to disregard the possibility that he was indeed human, though albeit most peculiar. The lack of awareness and mechanical style of progression would suggest a person in a "twilight state", i.e. with clouded memory or consciousness, somnambulistic or in an anamnestic fugue, or possibly in a state of epileptic automatism (psychomotor epilepsy).

The fact that the Cobham police had no knowledge of such a person in the vicinity is hardly relevant because sufferers from loss of memory or from locomotor attacks can traverse great distances undetected. Thus some of the peculiarities of the figure seen could be explained away relatively easily, though the failure to produce and identify an actual candidate for the role tends to reduce this "explanation" to the status of an attempt to "explain away".

But we think considerable weight must be attached to Peter Bardens's testimony.  We found him a calm and very intelligent young man, indeed with a somewhat cautious and judicial cast of mind. Leaving aside the exceptional height of the figure, Peter Bardens saw it as "radiating a kind of pale light" quite inexplicable in terms of reflection of the general level of illumination, the ordinary street lamps being "pretty dim" and incapable of producing "that effect for an ordinary bloke". It should be noted that in consequence of their vocation the group are well accustomed to travelling at night in all circumstances of weather and lighting, and see numerous persons abroad nocturnally.

Weight must, we feel, be given to his remarks that "the whole thing seemed to be a greyish-whitish-yellowish colour" and that "it was something horrible", and "not very nice".

Mick Fleetwood confirmed that Peter had visibly shuddered and agreed that "it" appeared to be "light grey slightly fluorescent; it seemed to have a light of its own against everything".

Peter Green gave an account of the figure distinctly less extraordinary than those of Peter Bardens and Mick Fleetwood, but he confirmed that "it did look very light. It seemed to have an odd complexion about the face, definitely an odd complexion".

As mentioned above, Iuminescence or absence of normal colour tones are diagnostic features distinguishing apparitions from ordinary human beings………..

Oddly enough, when we interviewed the group we found that Peter Bardens and Mick Fleetwood had never experienced anything remotely paranormal, but Peter Green who had given a comparatively muted description of the figure, had in his childhood encountered a case of apparitional haunting.

Postscript

…………  we were startled but fascinated to get the following letter from a lady at Worplesdon, near Guildford.

I do hope you will not mind my writing to you but on reading your article of 11th December I felt duty bound. Somewhere in the early 1920s my sister, a friend and myself decided to go for a walk as it was such a beautiful evening. The hotel where we worked was closed, so I fancy it must have been a Christmas night. We walked towards Cobham. When we were almost half-way up the hill, at a place we called Sandy Lane that led off the hill on the left hand side, we suddenly saw this figure just as those lads described it. To this day it makes the cold shivers run down my back. It had the long coat or cloak. We were so terrified we turned and ran for all we were worth.
I have never forgotten the incident. We thought he came out of the wood, but were not sure. We never talked about it as we should not have been out. I have never heard anyone refer to it, but I was very interested to read your article; also the description the lads gave was so real to me that I lived it all over again.

The source of the experience

Fleetwood Mac

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Ghoul

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References