Monday, 31 October 2016

Top Hat and Tales

It’s Halloween and despite the unseasonably mild and sunny scene that I’ve just witnessed, All Hallow’s Eve cannot pass without a Voodoo Street blog. 

Halloween 2016

It’s our favourite time of year but not particularly for the commercial trick or treat traditions inherited from our American cousins. 

Our weekend Halloween celebrations had a uniquely British flavour; a night time steam train journey into the darkness with moonlit fields as the vista…

There's something out there!!  View from the Severn Valley Steam Train of Arley Station

Pagan decorations…

Pumpkins and my familiar

...and feasting on a menu courtesy of the autumn harvest (think pumpkin soup and apple crumble).  Of course no Halloween would be complete without an open fire (never mind that it’s 17 degrees outside – lose some layers!) and a ghost story.  So, today seems as a good a time as any to share the story behind our logo – specifically the top hat.

Special Edition Sugar Skull version of our Logo Sticker online now

 In the 1950s my long departed grandfather was given an aged leather bound bible and a top hat by an acquaintance.  The items had originally been discovered in an old hearse the acquaintance – a wheeler-dealer – had acquired.  As a father of six (five of them boys), he was always looking for ways to keep his family entertained.

It seems impossible to believe, but long before the days of console games and iphones, kids could find entertainment in a dressing up prop and the top hat fitted the bill.

The hat was passed around but pretty soon was relegated to the back of a dusty cupboard.

The family lived in a terraced house in Wordsley, which was then a village bordered by fields.  
Photo of Wordsley, credit:  The Francis Frith Collection

1950s Wordsley.  Photo credit The Francis Frith Collection
Pretty soon after the top hat arrived, unexplained happenings occurred.  The passage of time and fading memories have resulted in only a few clear events now being recounted, but I have grown up with these stories and no matter which relative you speak to, the stories are consistent.

One spring day the family were outside in the back garden.  No one was inside the house.  One of the upstairs bedroom windows was open.  The weather conditions were calm.  Taking a break and sitting on a bench, something caught my grandmother’s eye.  A glass perfume bottle rose up, framed in mid air by the window and then appeared to be tossed outside, as though thrown by some invisible hand.  The ledge was a good few inches below the window.

On another occasion, on a clear moonlit night, one of my boys heard someone knocking on the back door.  His bedroom window had a clear view of back door entrance, but as no one was outside, he lay down again, only to hear footsteps walking away.  Again, peering out of the window, there was no one to be seen.

In the ensuing weeks, there were other incidents, unexplained, but unremarkable; bumps in the night, things going missing.  That is until one particular evening.  It was a Saturday night and the family were asleep.  Around 4 am, the family dog, a very clever Poodle called Mitzi, began to howl.  There was then a deafening crash, which raised the roof, the family and the hairs on the back of their necks.  Running down stairs, a scene of devastation greeted the family. 

Credit:  Occultopedia
The damage has been described as the result of someone…or something…sweeping their hand purposefully in one direction across the wall and the fireplace below.  All of the ornaments and pictures on the wall above the fireplace were smashed or swiped to the corner of the room.  The dog was distressed, but there was no sign of an intruder.  My Mom still vividly remembers the scene when she visited her then boyfriend (my Dad) early the next morning and recalls how shaken everyone was.

In the clear up operation, the hat was discovered in a cupboard and thrown out with other broken or unwanted items…not out of superstition, just as part of a general sort out, but, nevertheless, there ended the supernatural activity.  

My Dad is a complete sceptic and this has been a bone of contention between us over the years, as his logic didn’t always fit with my youthful enthusiasm for all things unexplained.  However, he stands by this story to this day.

So when finalising our Voodoo Street logo, aside from the Voodoo connotations associated with a top hat, this story was instrumental in our logo’s creative influences. 

Happy Halloween and sleep well!

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