Standalone episode. It's Halloween 2022 and no ghost story can be scarier than the actual world, Jess has a go at writing one anyway. Grab some hot chocolate, settle into a comfy chair, and for extra effect put on some headphones. There's also more of the usual nonsense about Halloween.
Acting Haunted - Read by Amanda Gaisford
Excuse the Jess is a fictional story told over each season.
Written & Performed by: Jacquie J Sarah
Produced by: Deliciously Bright Productions
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Hello and welcome to my Halloween 2022 podcast. If you didn’t listen to season 2, why not? But also, don’t worry. I won’t be following anything up here. I mean it’s not like you often uncover an attempt to defraud a company, get people sacked, fall in love (yeah I know I skirted around that one before, but it makes no odds now), get smacked in the face, and make yourself economically poorer. I mean that may or may not have happened, you’d have to listen to find out. This episode is a standalone. All I will say is I have moved, I’m working, and have started to see someone, it’s very early days and that’s it because we have a lot of talking about spooky stuff to do. Also, I have written a Halloween story especially for this podcast which I am both excited and terrified about. The first time I have put my fictionally work out into the world. I even have a special treat. I am not reading the story. Thank me later, but back to spooky talk.
Sahwin or Sown or even Shavnah, last year I landed on Sown but I am not sure if that’s correct, which is why every episode ends with the disclaimer that the internet can lie, is the ancient gaelic festival that marked the end of harvest season and the beginning of winter. It is where many of our Halloween traditions come from. At this time it was believed the veil between the living and the dead were thin. Special bonfires were lit as they were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers. Food and drinks were put out for the Pagans gods to make sure the livestock survived the future. Mumming which were a groups of male amateur actors and guising which were children dressed in costumes, were part of the festival from at least the early modern era, whereby people went door-to-door in costume reciting verses in exchange for food. Divination was also a big part of the festival and often involved nuts and apples. In the 9th century the Western Church endorsed 1 November as the date of All Saints' Day, and 2 November later became All Souls' Day. It is believed that over time Samhain and All Saints'/All Souls' influenced each other and eventually syncretised into the modern Halloween. When you are celebrating Halloween, just remember you are following the traditions of ancient old men.
Edgar Allen Poe in The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether said.
"Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see."
I’ve recently had a conversation with someone about my Halloween special. I was asked whether the I truly believed that I could have seen a ghost as per my Halloween special last year. As you will know, because you definitely would have listened, I explained how I was given a private tour around a so called haunted house. The woman told me the history of the house while playing tricks on the other people in the group. Then the group organisers told me that there wasn’t another employee in the house. When you put it like that, I probably was a victim of a wind-up. Seriously though I was asked the question of how I could possibly think it was a ghost. If you listened you will know I didn’t come to a conclusion. That wasn’t me being enigmatic to make it more spooky, the truth is I couldn’t say 100% one way or another. A poll published in May 2022 SpiritShack Ltd, yes a company that makes money off people that believe in ghosts, stated that 50% of those polled believed in ghosts. They had a new spin on it, which was more people believed in ghosts than they do trust the government which was just 1 in 5. I know what you’re thinking, that high, but let’s go back to the ghosts. Of the 50% that believed in ghosts only 23% were scared of them. Women were much more likely to believe in ghosts (54%) than men (32%). And Catholics were most likely to believe in ghosts (64%), followed by Christians (53%), agnostics (42%), and atheists (37%). Another survey, this time going back to 2017 gave a different picture. The BMG research study stated that 33% believed in ghosts, 21% haven’t made their mind up and 46% were non believers. The problem I find is in the people who staunchly believe and don’t believe. If I tell someone who believes then I have 100% seen a ghost and that the simplest explanation is the best. If I dare raise it with non-believers, after writing me off as a lunatic, they state of course it was a wind up. Now the question is if they were winding me up is what did they want to achieve? An organisation paid someone to scare one person. Why? To tell others, which I did, on a podcast years later, that doesn’t make much business sense. It wasn’t like I was a journalist, or something that could have advertised it. To scare the group. Yes, that would work. Except the actual tour guide didn’t go along with this. You see it’s not straight forward and because people will just write this off, I can’t always discuss it. I have another explanation though and the answer is we don’t know. If clever scientists can believe in multi universes, maybe one day they can have an explanation of ghosts. Then who will look stupid – yeah probably me.
Writer Charles Adamms, creator of the Adams Family said, Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.
In the UK it has been a turbulent few months. Boris Johnson was finally ousted and labelled the worst PM of all time, mainly because he was. I mean Thatcher was actually turning in her grave believing no one could topple her, that’s me trying to keep with the Halloween theme. The Queen went to her final destination, just two days after confirming our new PM Liz Truss. Yes for two whole days we had two women as the head of state both with the same name.
Record scratch sound
Hi it’s Jess. A Jess that is a little more in the future than the Jess who was speaking to you just now. One that was so naïve to think that by the time this podcast came out, that we would still have the same PM. I can confirm that our current PM is Rishi Sunak, I think. I mean by the time this is published, it could be anyone. It’s nothing to do with the British public anymore. It’s scarier than actual Halloween. Anyway, let’s go back to whatever nonsense past Jess was talking about.
Record scratch sound.
Forget all that because the most heart breaking part was the TV programme Neighbours was taken off the air. A quick history for the uninitiated by the UK history. The Australian TV soap began in 1985 and was cancelled six months later only to be bought by Network 10 and started to be shown again in January 1986. In October 1986 it started to be shown by the BBC in the daytime. There were two showings a day, once in the morning and again at lunchtime when people like me used to watch it. Legend has it that the then BBC controller Michael Grade was told by his daughter to move it to 5.35 because her friends kept missing it so in January 1988 Neighbours had an early evening showing. At its peak 16 million people watched it, more than the population of Australia. Even in the late 2000’s it was averaging 3 million viewers and frequently the highest rated daytime programme in the UK. Thanks to the fact they had a summer hiatus, we eventually caught up. In 2008 the BBC rewarded viewers loyalty by letting Channel 5 buy the rights to the programme replacing it by an utterly pointless game show called… Pointless. Neighbours was then broadcast on Channel 5.
So Neighbours from my point of view. Neighbours was event viewing for my friends and I. Sometimes we would watch it in the lunchtimes, sometimes the evenings and sometimes even both. I stopped watching it after university because I had a job and wasn’t home to watch it so cannot comment on the quality recently but the old days, now they were good. The programme was ridiculed in British press as a bit of a joke. This rubbish Australian soap. It’s not weird though because they are wrong about so much. The story began focussing on the Robinson family led by the matriarch or the grandmother Helen Daniels. After the death of her daughter, Helen looked after the family led by Jim Robinson played by Alan Dale of ER, X Files, West Wing, 24 and so many more fame. He died of a heart attack on the kitchen floor, it was sad. He was in it for years though. He had two daughters Julie and Lucy. I couldn’t tell you who played them as they were different actresses over the years. He also had two sons, Paul played by Steffan Dennis who was still in it at the end, although I believe he took a long break from it and Scott who is played by some guy called Jason Donovan. I say that but there were two actors who played Scott too. Is it sad I know that? Anyway Scott’s friend was Mike who was played by Guy Pearce who is famous for LA Confidential, Memento, The Queen’s Speech and so much more. Then next door was Shane and Madge. Madge had a daughter who wasn’t in it in the beginning but we soon met tom boy Charlene played the gorgeous Kylie Minogue. Honestly, when Scott and Charlene got married it was the biggest thing ever. They were too young but against all odds they married and lived happily ever after and we know that to be true. The best part was we knew that Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue were a couple in real life and they proved it by bringing out the pop ditty Especially for You. Now if I sound childish when talking about all this, that is because I was a child when all this happened. Also sadly, I haven’t looked any of this up, this is all off the top of my head. Then there was Mrs Mangel who’s name made its way into British parlance to mean anyone who was a busy body. Madge married Harold Bishop who died and later came back to life.
The programme had a huge cast list over the years that included Margot Robbie, Jesse Spencer, Russel Crowe, Natalie Imbruglia, and Liam Hemsworth.
The final episode was event television and broadcast in the UK on 28 July 2022 and the night before in its native Australia. I began watching it again about two weeks before the end so I had at least an inkling of what was happening. It had the perfect blend. Sorry. They managed to bring endings to current storylines but managed the nostalgia for people who were dipping in for the final time. Former cast members like Margot Robbie, Jessie Spencer, Natalia Imbruglia, and Holly Valence appeared as their characters briefly. Scott and Charlene turned up for no reason anyone could tell but hey, they were still there. Other characters who had died appeared as a moment of contemplation for the character of Susan who briefly imagined what life would be like if they were still there. The best of all though was Guy Pearce coming back as Mike for few episodes and completed the storyline that began back in the 80’s between Mike and plain Jane Super Brain. What’s all this got to do with Halloween I hear you ask. Well it’s a death of sorts. We have to mourn the loss of this programme that was with us for so long. If you want a more tenuous link, go to Youtube and watch Neighbours Vs Zombies where the cast get caught up in a non canon apocalypse where the dead, including dead cast members, came back to life and destroy Erinsborough. There’s another point too. It is from this seemingly little show that was not deemed worthy of keeping after six months, that grew into a phenomenon that changed daytime TV in the UK and spawned some fantastic careers. Which is kind of a metaphor for life about starting small, ignoring the critics, and keeping going, etc. You get it.
This is from William Hughes Mearns, "Antigonish"
"Last night I saw upon the stair, a little man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. Oh, how I wish he’d go away…"
Here are some spooky facts.
1. Halloween is considered the 2nd largest commercial holiday in the US with Americans spending approximately 9 billion dollars.
2. There is a Halloween bread in Ireland called barmbrack or just "brack." It is a sweet loaf typically contains raisins. It should also contain a trinket which tradition dictates that whoever finds it will have good luck for a year. Assuming it doesn’t break their teeth.
3. With Hocus Pocus 2 just came out on Disney Plus, did you know that the original Hocus Pocus wasn’t marketed as a Halloween film and was released in the summer of 1993. It’s also the first Disney film to contain the word virgin.
4. New York City throws the biggest Halloween parade in the US which averages 2 million spectators and I really want to go.
5. In Germany it is a tradition to hide your knifes on Halloween nights so returning spirits won’t get injured. I bet Germans listening are going, not a thing.
6. The 1962 song Monster Mash was banned by the BBC in the UK because it was deemed too Morbid. It didn’t become a hit here until 1973.
7. The 2017 film version of Stephen King’s It is the most commercially successful horror film of all time in terms of gross earnings in the US.
8. The other nine in order from 2 to 10 are: The Sixth Sense, Jaws, Ghostbusters, The Exorcist, IT Chapter 2, Get Out, Halloween (2018), Scary Movie and What Lies Beneath.
9. The witch’s costume was still the most popular in 2021 in the UK.
10. Black and orange are the colours of Halloween for a reason, orange is the symbol of strength and endurance, the fact is the colour of pumpkins must be totally a coincidence. Black is a symbol of death, acting as a reminder that Halloween once was a festival that celebrated the spirits of the dead.
I don’t know who is more insane, people who write this stuff or the one that reads it out on a podcast.
Wednesday from the Adams Family after being asked where her costume was… "This is my costume. I'm a homicidal maniac. They look just like everyone else."
It’s time for me to release my Halloween story into the wild. Nervous, me? Press pause, get a hot drink, curl up, put some headphones on and listen to my sort of Halloween ghost story. Acting Haunted.
Acting Haunted – Original Ghost Story
The satnav told me I was still 20 minutes away which meant two things; not only was I late but Xavier Bell would be doing all the PR for our paranormal investigation that night. I flicked through the channels on the radio and as sure as I would state ‘ghosts don’t exist’ that night, there was a DJ talking about’ spooky Halloween stuff’ as he called it. I listened as the DJ said, ‘With me on the line I have psychic investigator and star of the hit podcast Ghost Sleuth-Hounds, Xavier Bell. ‘
I was instantly put back into a bad mood. Star? All Xav did was turn up, dick around, and go home. It’s me that’s always organised everything, set up the recordings, guided the recordings, sent the recordings to be edited, and then got them out to the world. We have equal billing, but, of course, he’s the star! Xav was immediately on form. His physic BS knows no bounds and within seconds he was talking about physic phenomena, residual emanations, and paranormal eso- erotica It’s esoterotic but it’s always made me laugh when he says it wrong, so I haven’t told him. I am mentioned as the staunch disbeliever and spoilsport ‘Nina Fidel’. I take it. At least Xav doesn’t taunt me in the press as much as my former co-ghost hunter and late husband did. I don’t miss that.
Xavier went on to explain that he was currently at Westbo Theatre ahead of our investigation that night and with the reputation of being the most haunted theatre in the country, he was sure it was going to be a night that would change his life. I was sure it wasn’t.
‘You’re late,’ Xav called to me as I pulled up into the theatre car park.
I ignored him, it’s usually him. I could see he was chatting to a tall man who must have been in his mid-50’s. It was Rich the caretaker and the coward who wouldn’t be staying with us in the theatre for the night because he was scared. I saw he was a little starstruck by Xav though.
I walked over and said hi to them both. Xav was excited to be there. Xav is still young at thirty-two. Let’s see how excited he is when he’s forty-eight and has to spend a night in a cold theatre.
Rich told us he would take us into the theatre, but I asked him to wait until I got the equipment. I went back to my car and picked up a large backpack and a case to take with me.
‘Don’t worry about helping,’ I yelled at Xav who comically reached behind and said.
‘It’s my back, Nina. It’s in half.’
It will be, I thought, as we silently followed Rich into the theatre.
Westbo Theatre is infamous for a performance tragedy. In 1932, during a production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, three massive stage lights fell simultaneously killing 8 cast members and injuring another 3. Legend has it on the anniversary of that fateful day, the 30th of October – (they couldn’t even wait another night to make it Halloween and infinitely more exciting for my podcast) - those 8 cast members roam the theatre looking for other actors to finish the performance. Why they didn’t just knock the theatre down was beyond me but here we were spending the night there in the hope of communicating with dead actors. What had my life become? Other facts, it’s a small theatre and, as predicted, very cold.
The tour was a quick one. A couple of dressing rooms, stalls, circle, balcony, bar, backstage, and the stage itself. We were made to walk quickly because Rich wanted to be out before it got dark because, and I quote, ‘It’s spooky enough in here on a normal night!’
After Rich left, Xav graciously helped me move a table onto the stage and I set up the recording equipment while Xav took pictures. I put on the headphones to do a sound check and heard…
I froze and immediately threw off the headphones. Seconds later I shrugged it off. I’d imagined it.
‘There’s something here Nina, I’m telling you,’ Xav said and took a seat opposite me.
‘Like every other place we’ve been,’ I countered and put my headphones back on.
‘You’re so cynical. Remember there are more things on heaven and earth, Nina, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’
I smiled. ‘Learnt that at theatre school? Same place you learnt to react to nothing at all.’
‘How can I prove it to you?,’ Xav asked in earnest.
‘If you can tell me in all seriousness that in our 102 investigations, you have actually seen a ghost.’
This was a conversation we’ve had before, approximately 101 times probably. It’s good for a sound check and practise for the actual podcast. I know he hasn’t seen a ghost; he knows he hasn’t seen a ghost, at least in the places we’ve been. Although we were running out of so-called haunted places to go, we’ll end up in your house next.
Xav said nothing and we started to record the introduction.
When we had enough material for the first section, we put on our radio mics, I picked up the recorder, and we agreed to go to the dressing room. I went first and I heard
‘What’s wrong?,’ I said and spun around.
‘Why did you clap?’ Xav replied as a question.
I glared at him as if to say don’t start and I…..
(FX of a huge slam on the stage)
I jumped; Xav leapt towards me.
My heart was pounding but I recovered quickly. ‘For listeners, a backdrop just landed on the stage.’
‘It’s active here,’ Xav said, his voice wobbling.
‘I’m going to speak to management about safety,’ I said harshly but I could see his face and I was confused and then a little scared.
We continued talking on the short walk to the dressing rooms, all the way Xav talking about little things he was picking up and seeing, but there was nothing there.
We entered the dressing room, and I asked Xav if he was picking anything up. Then I heard
I chose to ignore it. I considered that there could be a glitch in the equipment. Xav continued to chat about what he thought was there and asked how I was feeling. I told him that the room we were in was cold, small, and the light was casting shadows. As I said it, I swore one of those shadows turned to look at me.
‘Shall we turn the lights out?’ Xav suddenly suggested.
‘Are you out of your mind?,’ I protested.
Xav smiled, ‘What are you worried about, you don’t believe in ghosts.’
‘Neither do you.,’ I replied, and it annoyed him.
‘The things I’ve seen Nina, you can’t even imagine.’ He flayed his arms around like he was a magician dragging out a crap illusion.
‘Is there a ghost here, in this room, now? I demanded.
Xav looked around as if searching, as if he believed there could be, and then shook his head.
He smiled at me.
‘We could have already been killed tonight, this place is dangerous,’ I told Xavier who conceded.
‘Let’s just pretend the lights are out.’ I said and he let out a long breath of relief.
I’m going to be editing this episode, I thought.
We walked out of the dressing rooms and into a hallway, the walls of old brick work had peeling paint. It’s a dank, depressing place even with the lights on.
‘There’s a cold spot here, Nina.’ Xav pronounced, ‘Feel it.’
Xav yanked my arm as if there was a magical spot where it was cold.
‘It’s freezing all over,’ because it’s October and because there’s no heating in this part of the building.’ I uttered but I involuntarily shivered.
Xav looked straight at me. ‘There’s something here.’
‘Yes, an air vent or draft,’ I said and went past him.
I felt Xav’s hand on my shoulder and spun back around. I was annoyed again.
‘What? What?,’ Xav asked, and I saw a shadow go past in the corridor behind him.
The truth hit me.
‘We are being set up. The theatre has arranged for someone to be here to get another 15 minutes of fame. If Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters wasn’t enough, now they want to get in on my podcast’
‘Our podcast,’ Xav interrupted
I ignored it. ‘This is ridiculous.’
He shook his head at me, but I ignored that too.
‘I’m getting the equipment and we’re going.’
Xav was utterly confused. ‘We can’t, we’re due here all night.’
‘Not anymore,’ I stated. Xav followed me back to the stage, where I scooped up my equipment, marched towards the theatre entrance. They were the big heavy brown doors that older theatre seemed to have so I reached for the handle ready to give it an almighty pull.
There was nothing. The door wouldn’t open. I checked and the door was deadlocked. We were locked in.
‘Who the hell does he think he is?’ I yelled, and Xavier was nervous.
‘It’s okay,’ Xav said but he’d never seen me like that or knew about my crushing claustrophobia either.
I grabbed my phone and rang Rich. It went straight to voicemail, and I yelled.
‘Nice try, but get your arse back here and open this door NOW.’
‘You’re really stopping this?,’ Xav asked.
‘And to whoever is doing this, as soon as the caretaker gets here, we’re going,’ I called out.
Xav was utterly baffled. I told him that he could move on from this but if it was found out that I had uncovered a plot to cheat and never did anything about it, it’d be me who was in trouble. I was too old to change careers.
I checked my phone and there was nothing from Rich.
I looked over towards the bar. ‘Drink?,’ I asked Xav
‘Always,’ was the reply.
We grabbed a bottle of whiskey and two glasses and sat in the bar area. We sat in silence for a few minutes, then Xav suddenly spoke.
‘It’s a shame because I love being in a theatre.’
‘We could go back into the auditorium,’ I told him. Maybe sit in the circle, nowhere near that stage.’
Xav’s face broke into a smile, ‘I’d like that.’
We picked up our glasses and the bottle, climbed up the velvet carpeted steps and entered the nearest door to the dress circle.
It was cold and dark in the auditorium. I looked for the house lights but couldn’t see them. There was some light from the stage below, so I accepted that was it, for now.
Xav handed me a small glass of whiskey and we clinked glasses. The cold was oppressive, and the liquid was welcome as it slid down my throat. Xav was looking around.
‘There’s something here,’ Xav whispered, and I felt his nervousness.
I was 100% convinced that it wasn’t because Xav was seeing any ghosts though.
‘What are we going to do about the podcast?,’ Xav asked.
‘We’ll use the beginning, and then record an ending elsewhere where we say how we were set up.’
Xav nodded and poured me another glass of whiskey.
His face was visibly upset, and I finally felt my heartbeat slowing down.
Xav knocked back his second glass and poured another one.
There was more silence and then…
‘I’m scared of the dark,’ Xav announced.
‘But you’re the one who wants to turn the light off wherever we go.’
Xav nodded, ‘yes, it makes me really nervous.’
‘Not all the ghosts then,’ I replied.
Xav drank and poured another glass for himself, his fourth.
He turned to me and there was terror written all over his face.
‘There is such thing as ghosts,’ Xav said thoughtfully.
‘And if there aren’t, you don’t have a career,’ I said.
‘And if there are, you don’t.’ Xav did have a point.
I realised I’d have to get light from somewhere, the dread I felt was rapidly increasing.
‘I’m going to the control room and putting the lights up.’
I went to move but Xav grabbed my arm. ‘Do you have to go?’
‘I won’t be long,’
I went upstairs and tried all the doors. One finally opened; it was the control room. Using the light of my phone, I found the switch on the wall and lit the room. It calmed my nerves slightly. I saw the control panel and slid all of the controls up. Light flooded the auditorium, and a huge spotlight illuminated the stage. I watched as Xav visibly relaxed but poured himself another glass of whiskey anyway.
He urged me to get out of there.
Anger surged in me, and I rang the caretaker again. It went to voicemail. I left a message that I was phoning the police.
Was I really phoning the police though?
I looked over and saw his face. Then I caught sight of the stage with the backdrop smashed into it and I realised that’s exactly what I was doing. I made the quick phone call to a disinterest police operator and then took another look at his face. It was sheer panic. There must be a fire exit, I thought. We were going to find it and go
I moved faster down the stairs than you would imagine my middle-aged body could manage and raced towards the dress circle.
As I reached for the door handle I heard Xav scream, and I flung open the door.
‘Nina,’ he cried, and the bottle of whiskey smashed to the floor.
‘Run,’ I yelled.
And he sprinted towards me.
I reached out but as I did, he was suddenly yanked backwards as if someone or something was dragging him.
The low-level terror I had felt became huge and overwhelming. I could barely breathe.
I rushed towards him but was suddenly stopped. Cold hands pulled my arms behind my back but there was no-one there and I realised the scream I heard may have been me.
Suddenly music came from the stage and actors appeared. Actual actors, except they couldn’t be actual actors because they weren’t there a second ago.
I started to flail against the invisible force, and I screamed to Xav to fight it.
It looked like Xav was winning and starting to gallop towards me, but this was suddenly stopped as each of his arms started to be lifted one by one as if two invisible people had hold of him.
‘Help him,’ I cried.
But Xav was lifted off the ground and screamed as he seemingly flew backwards through the air.
Then stop! and Xav was stranded, feet off the ground in front of me. And I knew, I knew that he was in big trouble.
Xav was suddenly lifted over the rail and disappeared from my sight.
I tried to move but felt myself being lifted off the ground. I screamed again but the force suddenly stopped, and I fell to the floor.
I got up, dashed to the rail, and look down over the top of the balcony to the ground. My attention was caught by a terrified Xav who was being dragged down the aisle by two of the actors, towards the stage.
I tore out of the dress circle, down the stairs, and to the front door. I started banging it loudly, but I’m not sure if anyone could hear me through the thick doors, they definitely can’t see me. The thought of what I must do made me sick.
I ran back to the theatre stalls and saw on the stage how the ghostly figures were pushing around a terrified Xav who shouted to me.
‘I told you there were ghosts.’
‘Well done,’ I yelled back and felt I was within my rights to leave him there. Cursed to spend eternity with this bunch of actors who, from what I could tell, were not even that good.
An actor started screaming in Xav’s face and he cowered. I bellowed at him to run. It was like Xav didn’t hear. So, I tried again. Nothing.
I hurtled to the stage. ‘Come with me, NOW.’
Xav finally moved, finally charged towards me.
‘Nothing dead can hurt you,’ I announced but that blatantly wasn’t true. We were both in grave danger.
I ran to the side of the stage to go down the steps into the stalls, but
Lights smashed to the floor, and I jumped out of the way as my path became blocked.
‘Katerina,’ a dead actor called to me. The ghost wrapped his arms around me, and the coldness of his arms made my heart stop. I felt his weight against me as he spun me around in a dance and I couldn’t fight him. I tried so hard, but I couldn’t.
Then he’s there. He grabbed the ghost actor, and I was released.
I saw Xav about to be grabbed by a group of actors and I froze. If I do this then… this is it… the rest of my life… but I still reached out.
‘Grab my hand,’ I yelled, and Xav immediately did.
We darted backstage and it was dark. We struggled to find a way out but suddenly a door lit up.
We went through it and were out in the corridor that runs alongside the stalls. It was bathed in light. I felt relieved. We were okay. I looked to Xav with his pale face so full of stress. I felt bad for him. I felt worse for myself though.
Suddenly I heard banging on the door behind us and I looked to him. We were still in danger. We ran.
Ran down the corridor. Ran towards the front door to the theatre. I frantically started banging it. I could see our ghostly friends coming up behind us, moving slowly and then more quickly. I started to look around for anything that would help us move these heavy doors. But there was nothing, and all I could see was the ugly faces of the actors moving slowly and gleefully towards us.
There was no way out and I started banging the door frantically again. Please someone be out there. Please someone listen. I spun around and the ghosts were practically upon us. I moved my back to the door, I breathing so slowly, and the same ghost reached out to me again.
‘Katerina’ the actor said, inches from my face.
I turned my head to the side to save the last centimetre he was away from me. This was it. This was how it would all end.
My feet completely disappeared from beneath me and I fell fast and painfully to the floor. I looked up.
It was the police and the caretaker.
I looked back towards the theatre, and it was empty.
It was light before I was allowed out of the theatre.
I breathed in the dawn air and realised how dangerously close I had been to death. My own, that is.
I watched the police talk to the caretaker and they weren’t looking at me. I was free to speak.
I looked towards Xav. ‘I’m so sorry.’
Xav nodded as the crew passed with his body in a bag.
Luckily there was CCTV, it looked like Xav had leapt over the circle balcony. The angle blocking the floating. I was nowhere near him.
His back and neck were broken in the fall.
‘This is who helped us,’ Xav said as he looked towards my husband.
‘Xavier, Peter – Peter, well, you know Xavier.’
They started to talk. ‘And she pretends she doesn’t believe in ghosts,’ Xav grinned.
‘Said the man who failed to spot one in every one of our investigations.’ I retorted.
He looked at me. Peter that is.
‘Mate, she saved your life letting you into her energy.’ Peter told Xav.
‘My death you mean,’ Xav stated.
Nine months later and the podcast has had record number of downloads, every episode. The last one Xavier and I did part recorded at the theatre, part recorded by me afterwards topped the charts for weeks. I’ve started to discuss with eminent, professional ghost hunters that something happened that I can’t explain but that it couldn’t have been ghosts. I’ve been offered good money to continue the podcast which means I can employ a team so won’t need to do a huge amount of work myself. It’s almost perfect, apart from those two idiots wittering on in my ear, all day, every day, and every single night
I had just spent the day talking to interested parties to be the new Xavier in the podcast. None of them have been good enough though according to Xav and Peter. They’re not clever enough, funny enough, spooky enough, they’re basically not them. When I made the decision on my own and rang the lucky new ghost sleuth-hound, they’re thrilled. I see the disappointed look on his face, my husband, ex-husband’s, deceased husband, whatever I’m supposed to call him. I should just call him the one that will haunt me for the rest of my natural life. Xav told me he was with Peter, that I’d made a huge mistake and it was typical of me. And I realised he was right.
The new ghost sleuth-hound asked me what should we do first.
‘Do you fancy going to Westbo theatre?’
End of Story
That’s enough from me about Halloween, thank you so much for listening. It just leaves me to say, please come back. I am not needy or anything but do what you want. Also, a lot of this stuff is from the internet, and did you know; the internet can lie. If you would like to do a random act of kindness, please give this a five star review on Apple of Spotify podcasts. Nothing else will do. You can find me on Instagram @excusethejess and maybe just maybe, let’s do this again soon.
Excuse the Jess was written and performed by Jacqueline Davies. The story of XX was performed by Amanda Gaisford. For full credits, visit the website ExcusetheJess.com or click on the episode website on your podcast provider. It is a Deliciously Bright Production.