Earlier this month I led a poetry pub crawl round ostensibly haunted pubs in Chester. I wrote a poem for each pub we visited.
The Cross Keys is one of its oldest pubs set within the old Roman Walls of the City. All the pubs we visited attempted to drum up trade with bullshitty supernatural stories. The Cross Keys’ effort was the least convincing in an already weak field. My research material claimed: ‘In recent years, the Pub has had several new Landlords take charge but these appear to have not lasted very long – is this due to the current economic climate or could the reason be because of something paranormal in the building?’
Paging Mr Occam… paging Mr Occam… please proceed to Chester equipped with your wonderful razor.
The current Landlord and his staff have had several unnerving experiences such as hearing voices, the feeling of being watched, the sound of opening doors when no-one is in the bar and even an unexplained banging on an outside door which cannot be reached from the street.
That’s my favourite one, actually. You can imagine someone banging: ‘Help! I… I think I’ve been locked in here! Can anyone hear me? Help!’
Up in the bar: ‘Hmm… what’s that unexplained banging?’
2nd person: *shrugs* ‘Probably something paranormal in the building. Just ignore it.’
I’ve worked in several bars and they were all supposedly haunted and all the disappearings and bangs turned out to be thieving bastards and pissed people. You never see that chalked on an A-board: ‘Chester’s Largest Concentration Of Thieving Bastards And Drunks – plus Real Ales!’
I wake up on Sunday morning to discover
my boxer shorts hanging from the lightshade.
Pictures of the Queen’s face have dematerialized
from my wallet and my phone is gone.
The room sways;
A pallid, sunken-eyed convict stares back at me
from the mirror; there’s garlic mayonnaise
on the DVD remote – I mean, I think
it’s garlic mayonnaise
I float into the bathroom,
an unholy moaning issuing from my throat
and the stench of death
hanging in the air. A half-eaten kebab floats in the sink
like a drowned Ophelia
and an unexplained banging fills my skull.
They say ghosts don’t realise they’re dead,
that they stagger through the modern world confused,
unable to find their friends.
My cuticles are cracked and dry,
the taste of wormwood on my tongue.
I’d love to go into the light, but it hurts my head.
I can do a lot better than this poem – buy my debut collection, Pub Stuntman, by way of proof.
You can also download my album of spoken word and sweet music. It’s called Jesus Buys Me Cigarettes.