What follows is testimony from a resident of Leicestershire, recorded some years ago.
I was fishing as a boy, crouching by the water’s edge, totally absorbed by the dark shadow flirting with my hook bait. The wind was up and so frequent ripples kept me from tracking the shadow perfectly, but I was sure something big lurked beneath the surface. If I could hook it and reel it in, I was certain it would be the biggest fish I’d ever landed.
Annoyingly, a low branch behind me kept knocking into my shoulder during the stronger gusts. Tap, tap, tap. Irritating, but I knew the minute I turned to deal with it my float would slide under and I would miss a bite. Any keen fisherman knows that this is always what happens – Sod’s law I guess. So, on I watched. Tap, tap, tap.
However, despite my vigilance, the shadow came to nothing and my float and the bait beneath remained undisturbed. Numb with inactivity, I stood, stretched, and then turned to deal with the annoying branch behind me. But there was no low branch. In fact, no tree or bush or anything tall enough to make contact with my shoulder anywhere nearby. As the wind suddenly died, a sense of foreboding rose in my chest and I had the sudden urge to leave. I collected my gear and got out of there sharpish.
Weeks later I was telling a friend what had happened and where I’d fished. It was a small pond on Leicestershire farmland, well-hidden from the local lanes and footpaths. Years before, it had served as a watering hole for a farm’s grazing animals and was fed by a tiny stream which ran along a shallow fold in the landscape.
My friend told me that he knew the pond but no one ever fished there because it was known to be haunted. He explained that, during the Second World War, a German pilot had bailed from his stricken aircraft nearby. Severely burned and injured, the pilot stumbled along the stream to where it met the pond. It was a windy day and the noise of the wind silenced his slow, agonising shuffle. The pilot could just make out a small figure crouching by the waterside: a small boy engrossed by his fishing.
Unable to speak because of his trauma, the pilot tapped the boy’s shoulder in hope of assistance. The boy turned and, horrified by what he saw, leapt up and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him.
Upon arriving at the nearby farm, the boy relayed his terrifying experience to a herdsman who, realising what must have happened, rushed to the pond to try and help the pilot. Tragically, by the time the herdsman arrived, the pilot had succumbed to his injuries and was lying dead in the spot where the boy had been fishing.
Buried according to wartime practices, the pilot’s spirit is said to linger on at the pond, desperately searching for someone to help him. Should you ever fish there alone you may just get a tap, tap, tap on your shoulder.
Jack Croxall is an author, screenwriter and blogger living in Nottinghamshire.
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