At book-signings, and after illustrated talks on the paranormal I have presented, people have told me about a certain supernatural character. I have also learned about his sinister antics through letters, emails, and sometimes from listeners to radio shows I have appeared on as a guest. All of these stories seem to dovetail to create the impression that there may be a weird, inhuman prowler at large in Liverpool, mostly on nights of the full moon. This person never ages, and has, if the stories are true, been around for many decades. Furthermore, he is seemingly still going strong today. The earliest report I have of this bogeyman dates back to 1967. That year, on the Tuesday night of 23 May, there was a full moon. Dawn Whittaker had recently turned fifteen years of age, and on this moonlit night at half-past ten, Dawn and her school friend of equal age, Nancy, were sitting on a sofa, engrossed in The Forsyte Saga on BBC 2. Dawn’s five-year-old brother Malcolm was sitting on the floor, playing with his Lego bricks. He asked his sister where mummy was, and without turning her attention from the telly, she told him that mummy and daddy were at a party and would be back later.
Then Malcolm went into the kitchen and hurled the Lego plane he’d constructed into a sink full of dishes, cups and cutlery that should have been washed hours ago. At 11.15pm when the Forsyte Saga ended, Dawn decided to go and make some cheese on toast, and she found Malcolm standing on the draining board next to the sink, looking at a tap gushing into the bowl full of foam and washing-up. He’d squeezed a considerable amount of Fairy washing-up liquid into the bowl, and was enjoying the froth of bubbles swelling up from the sink. ‘Malcolm! What have you done?’ Dawn wanted to shout at him but her sleepy little brother looked so cute sitting on the drain board, watching the mess he’d caused.
Nancy entered the kitchen and saw the chaos Malcolm was causing in the sink. ‘Dawn, he should have been put to bed hours ago,’ she said, and warned, ‘Your mum and dad will go mad when they see him still up.’
Having no ventilation grille in the kitchen, Dawn opened the kitchen window and lit the gas jets of the cooker’s toaster with a Swan Vesta match. The family had no fridge, and so Dawn went to get the cheese and bread from the larder off the hallway, and Nancy followed her. Seconds after leaving the kitchen they heard Malcolm let out a scream. The girls looked at one another in shock for a heart-stopping moment then ran back into the kitchen to see Malcolm being dragged out of the kitchen through the ten-inch gap in the window. His little legs were kicking as he slid slowly out into the night. Dawn grabbed at one of his legs and the top of his shorts and tried to pull him back, but someone with strength was pulling him away from her. Dawn saw what looked like a ‘dark red hand’ with long tapering fingers around the boy’s waist. Malcolm was screaming hysterically. Nancy grabbed hold of the toddler’s other leg and a tug of war ensued between the unseen baby snatcher and the teenaged girls. Dawn climbed onto the draining board and pulled at her baby brother with all her might, and suddenly she yanked him back through the window, and she saw he had no pullover on. The would-be kidnapper had pulled it off. She cradled her crying brother in her arms as Nancy climbed onto the window ledge and looked out through the gap in the window at the backyard of the St Domingo Vale house. The yard was silvered by the moon’s light, but Nancy could see no one outside and heard no sounds of anyone running away – so she assumed that the man who had tried to make off with Malcolm was hiding somewhere close and probably watching her, and that possibility froze her blood.
The window was slammed shut and the lights were switched on in every room. Nancy bolted the front door and she sat on the sofa with Dawn. Malcolm sat between the girls, crying, and asking if the ‘bad man’ had gone. Dawn asked her brother if he knew the man who had tried to take him and he shook his head, cried and asked for his mother. There was no telephone in the house and so Dawn couldn’t contact the police. She and Nancy just had to sit tight until Dawn’s parents returned. The tense atmosphere was even further heightened that night when a programme, called The Witches of Alderley Edge – about witchcraft and supernatural goings-on in Cheshire - came on the telly. Around half-past one, Dawn’s parents returned from the party, and Dawn told them about the attempted abduction of Malcolm, who was now climbing up his mother in tears.
Dawn’s father, Harry, dismissed his daughter’s account of the kidnap, saying the abductor was probably just ‘that weird lad’ – a 14-year-old problem child named Mick – who lived in the next street. Nancy said that Mick, who lived next door to her, was in Wales on holiday with his older brother. All the same, Dawn’s parents never took the attempted abduction of Malcolm seriously. That night, Dawn’s father walked Nancy home to the next street, and the girl was on edge as she looked about. The full moon’s eerie light conjured up all kinds of bogeymen in her imagination. When Harry returned, he told Dawn to get to bed, and she went up to her room, but found she couldn’t sleep.
She heard Malcolm crying next door. He was sleeping with mum and dad tonight, as he was a nervous wreck, and had nightmares about the stranger trying to snatch him for weeks.
At around three that morning, Dawn dozed off for a few minutes, but a noise awakened her. She had the overwhelming sensation that someone was watching her through the gap where her heavy thick curtains never met. She slowly got out of bed, and as she crept across the floor, she heard a faint sound outside. She froze and listened. Silence for a while - and then a motorcycle passing through the neighbourhood, somewhere in the distance.
Dawn reached the curtains, and slowly opened them about an inch – and a pair of eyes looked through the window at her. The rest of the face looked very dark and mulberry coloured – and that unnatural colour, coupled with the fact that the Peeping Tom was at a first-floor window that was twenty feet off the ground, caused Dawn to let out a scream. The man dropped from the window and there was a soft thud in the street below, followed by the faint padding of someone nimble-footed running off into the night. Dawn burst into her parents room, awakening poor Malcolm, who had been through enough that night already. Dawn’s mother was out cold from all that drinking at the party, and she had to shake her snoring father three or four times before he grunted and opened one eye. He was furious at her seemingly far-fetched account of the ‘dark red’ man at the window, and at the top of his voice he told his daughter to ‘grow up’. All the screaming and shouting started Malcolm off again and he started crying, and then patted his mum’s sleeping face to wake her up. Dawn went back to her room, slammed the door, and threw the curtains open. She hoped to see the weird prowler, because she wanted to punch him for making her seem like a crackpot. She saw only the moonlit backyards and rooftops. Nothing stirred in that static nightscape, not even the usual alley cat that was to be seen roaming the tops of the walls most nights.
The next day, Dawn told Nancy what she had seen, and her friend said they should stay up and see if the bizarre-looking stranger turned up again. Dawn asked her mother if Nancy could stay over, and her mother said she didn’t mind, but Dawn’s dad said no. he didn’t want the girls staying up all night, waking up Malcolm after all the hysterics of the night before. Dawn told Nancy: ‘Leave your house at around one o’clock in the morning and go down the entry. I’ll be watching from my window, and I’ll go down and let you in through the backyard door.’
Nancy was understandably reluctant to go ahead with this hare-brained plan of Dawn’s but her friend talked her into it in the end. Just after one in the morning, Nancy sneaked out of her house, closing the door as softly as she could. She stared at the eastern sky over the rooftops. The moon looked as if it was still full, but it was in fact now just past its full phase and on the wane, yet its lunar radiance still lent a spooky aspect to the neighbourhood, and transformed inanimate things that, by day, would not evoke a second glance, into menacing entities of the peripheral vision. Nancy hurried along the street, and crept down the alleyway. A large black Alsatian dog stood there, facing the other way as it growled at a smug cat perched on a backyard wall. The girl was terrified of dogs, and she quickly turned around and expected the dog to come after her, but the Alsatian was obviously too spellbound by its feline enemy to have noticed her. Nancy had to go the long way round to Dawn’s, and that meant venturing into the dark end of the street, where a lamp post light was always out for some reason. There had been quite a few break-ins down this end of the street, and some believed it was the burglars who were smashing the lamp post lights to facilitate their night-work.
A strong sweet smell hung in the lukewarm air, and it became more pungent as Nancy reached the mouth of the alleyway. She passed a dustbin, and imagined the scent was coming from it, but when she lifted the lid of the bin it was empty. At that moment, she heard a noise somewhere in the alley. She looked behind, but there was no one there. She broke into a trot down that alleyway, and all of a sudden a fierce-sounding dog started barking furiously behind one of the backyard doors. Its barks set off another yard dog further down, and that in turn set another alley hound howling. In the middle of this nocturnal cacophony, Nancy happened to glance over her right shoulder when she saw a shadow of a man on top of the alley wall; a silhouetted figure in tight-fitting clothes running along with her – only he was running with a remarkable sense of balance along the backyard walls. Nancy went numb with fear and she couldn’t breathe, never mind cry out. She never looked up again, because she hoped the man hadn’t seen her notice him, and she believed he might just give up the chase. She reached the backyard door of Dawn’s house, but Dawn was expecting Nancy to come from the other direction, and so, she was looking the wrong way, and never saw her friend. Nancy tried to open the door but the bolt was on, so she rapped on the door, and luckily for her, Dawn heard her and came down to let her in. Those few minutes, as Nancy stood waiting for her friend to let her in the yard, were the most terrifying minutes of her life. The backyard door opened, and terrified Nancy was still unable to speak – but Dawn didn’t even notice. ‘Guess what I got from Cousins today for me and you?’ Dawn whispered and smiled. She closed the yard door and bolted it as Nancy walked uneasily to the kitchen door.
‘I got us a sandwich cake; you like them don’t you Nancy? I made some corned beef sarnies as well.’ Dawn was saying.
As soon as the two girls were inside the kitchen, Dawn suddenly noticed her friend was speechless and wide-eyed, and she asked her what was wrong. When Nancy said that a shadowy man had run along the tops of the backyard walls as he followed her, Dawn went cold. She made sure the kitchen door was bolted, and then she took Nancy upstairs to her room and carefully closed the door behind her so as not to awaken the household. There on the bed, illuminated by a lamp on the bedside cabinet, there was a folded pink and white gingham tablecloth, and upon it, there was the sandwich cake from Cousins the Confectioners on Oakfield Road, which Dawn, in a thoughtful mood, had bought earlier in the day with her babysitting money. On the next plate there were four corned beef sandwiches, and two bottles of orange-flavoured Zing, Dawn’s favourite soft drink.
The girls sat eating cake and drinking lemonade, and by two in the morning, Nancy had calmed down. She began to wonder if there was some rational explanation for the man running along the wall. That part of the street was hardly lit and there had been break-ins round there, so perhaps the wall walker was some burglar casing a place? That seemed a very weak explanation. Burglars kept a low profile and stayed in the shadows; they didn’t run along backyard walls to attract attention and risk breaking their necks in the process.
Just after two, there was movement on the landing outside Dawn’s bedroom. It was her father, getting up to go to the toilet. The bedside lamp was promptly switched off and the girls never spoke while they could see the landing light shining under the bedroom door. As soon as Dawn’s father returned to his bedroom and the closed the door behind him, the girls started talking again. Instead of putting the lamp back on, Dawn opened the curtains and let the moonlight fill the room. She then lifted open her sash window by about eight inches. A few minutes later, something startling happened. A black and white police panda car came tearing down the road outside. It decelerated and came to a halt outside of Dawn’s house, then quickly reversed up the road. The weird-looking man in the skin-tight clothing came running down the street, from the direction of the panda car. Passing under a lamp post, Dawn and Nancy caught a glimpse of him and shuddered. He had a prominent straight nose, a thick head of dark hair that sprouted straight up, and he wore a pale tee shirt, skin-tight dark blue trousers and possibly black plimsolls. In that brief moment as the girls glimpsed the agile runner, they noticed his face and forearms were of a reddish colour, and Dawn immediately thought of the dark red hand around Malcolm’s waist as he was pulled out of the kitchen window – and the red face she had seen at her window the night before. Dawn and Nancy leaned out the window and watched as two young policemen ran after the weird red-skinned man, but effortlessly, he outran the officers of the law, putting a phenomenal distance between himself and his pursuers, and the teenaged girls gasped as they saw the distant silhouette of the fleeing figure run vertically up a wall, only to vanish in the darkness. This is one of the ‘impossible’ traits of the prowler that is found in every account I have heard or read about him. The police eventually gave up looking for the hyper-agile visitant, but Dawn and Nancy kept up the moonlight vigil. Nancy put her empty bottle of Zing on the window sill and stuck her head out into the cool night air. Just after 3am, Dawn went to the toilet. The bedroom door was ajar and Nancy sat with her back to the window, looking at the light from the landing shining into the room. She wished Dawn would hurry back because she was getting a little uneasy being on her own with that weirdo on the loose. Then Nancy detected that very same strong sweet aroma that had greeted her nose when she was in the back alleyway earlier, and her stomach turned over with fear. The empty lemonade bottle fell off the window sill, startling Nancy, and when she turned she saw a hand – a pale maroon coloured hand – reaching for her. That hand had knocked over the Zing bottle. Before Nancy could let out a scream, Dawn came back into the room, and she ran to the window and tried to slam it down on the arm but it vanished before she could trap it. Nancy’s hysterical screams insured that she would never again have a sleepover at Dawn’s house. Dawn’s father said if he ever saw that girl on the premises again he’d physically throw her onto the street by the scruff of her neck. The girls never did find out just who or what the stalker was, or why the police were chasing him that night. Perhaps someone had tipped off the law after seeing him lurking on the backyard walls that night. For years, Dawn and Nancy lived in mortal fear of seeing the uncanny stalker, and Nancy in particular suffered nightmares about him until her premature death from a rare illness in 1974.
There was one further encounter in 1967 with the red menace, and, like the previous incidents, this appearance took place during the night of a full moon. It was a warm Friday night on 21 July, and at 8pm, 12-year-old Paul Smith was playing hide and seek with his brother Charlie, who was six years his junior. It was Paul’s turn to hide at the home of his Uncle Leonard on Thomas Lane, Knotty Ash. The two boys were being looked after by their uncle until 9pm, when Mary, their mother (and Leonard’s sister) was due to pick them up straight from her work. Tonight, Mary, a nurse at Broadgreen Hospital, had to work late, and ironically, her husband was in the Northern Hospital recovering from gallstone surgery. Nine o’clock came and went, and there was still no sign of Mary, and at around a quarter to ten, a full moon rose over Liverpool, and Paul Smith seemed spellbound by it. He gazed out the window as his 6-year-old brother dozed off on Uncle Leonard’s lap. At 10.20pm, Mary called at the house, and as her brother went to answer the door, Paul hid behind the long curtains in the living room. ‘Where’s Paul?’ Mary asked, as soon as she came into the living room.
‘He was here just a moment ago,’ Leonard looked around and began to panic. He saw the curtain moving slightly in the breeze, and remembered that the window was open behind it to ventilate the warm stuffy room. Leonard worried that his nephew had climbed out of the open window and gone into the back garden, but the mischievous boy was grinning as he stood behind the curtain, listening to the distress his absence was causing.
What would subsequently be described as a ‘pinkish’ coloured hand reached through the open window and quickly clamped over the child’s mouth with considerable pressure. That hand was ice-cold. Paul felt another freezing hand grab him by the throat, and both hands began to pull at the child, who bit the hand that was pressed at his mouth. The hand was released, and Paul cried out. Leonard rushed forward and threw the curtains apart to see a strange-looking man standing there with Paul wriggling in his arms. The stranger had pink and black patches all over his face and arms, like some unsightly jigsaw pattern of contrasting skin. The patches looked just like the pied markings of a cow or a black and white mongrel dog. The freakish-looking man wore a pale green tee shirt and dark blue jeans.
In a heartbeat he released Paul and with lightning rapidity he ran off into the gloom of the late summer evening. Paul became so hysterical he almost suffered a fit. Leonard later remembered how he had seen faint shadows on the curtains as he watched television earlier that evening, so perhaps the prowler was spying on the uncle and the children for some time, just waiting for the opportunity to strike.
In 1971, a figure with ‘a red blotchy face’ was seen peeping through the window of a house on Toxteth’s Thirlstane Street one night at 11pm. That same night a bizarre silhouette of a wiry-looking man was seen running up walls and a tree in Aigburth. It’s not known exactly when these two sightings took place so it’s impossible to discover if there was a full moon out that night.
In June 1973, on the night of a full moon (which could put the date between the 15th and 16th of June) a gang of children on Prestbury Road, West Derby were chased by a man with jet black hair, a prominent nose and a vivid red face. When one of the children pointed the man out to his father, the figure ran off, and jumped clean over a parked car as it made its escape.
In October 1977, ‘about a week before Halloween’ according to a female witness – children playing on Higher Lane, Fazakerley, saw a man jumping in huge leaps near the Open Air School, Brookfield Drive. A young woman named Sandy, who saw the figure close up said his face was ‘all red like the devil’. Sandy dated this incident as happening ‘about a week before Halloween’ (31 October). In October 1977, a full moon fell on the 26th.
After a hiatus, there were four reports of a prowler with some type of facial skin condition or disease looking into the back parlour window of a house in Clubmoor throughout September 1987. On the three further occasions when the occupier of the house, a stocky 40-year-old man, saw this prowler, he would rush outside into the back garden wielding a cricket bat, but on each occasion the prowler somehow left the garden within seconds. It’s not known if there was a full moon out on any of the four occasions when the prowler was at large.
At 1.45am on the Wednesday morning of 15 February 1995, a Dingle taxi driver named Tony was driving down Prince Alfred Road in Wavertree, when he saw the car of his friend Graham parked up near the Bluecoat School. Thinking this was odd, Tony pulled up alongside the car and saw his friend looking through the window at the park opposite, which was Wavertree Playground, also known locally as “The Mystery”. Graham said he had been driving homewards down the road fifteen minutes ago when he had seen a figure running at a phenomenal speed across the moonlit park towards the Smithdown Road side. Graham kept watch, to see if this superhuman runner would emerge from the shadows of the trees, and about thirty seconds later, he watched in disbelief as the distant figure came running across the park, only this time going in the other direction. Graham estimated that the runner must have been moving at a speed of about forty miles per hour. Tony smirked and then said ‘No one can run at that speed. The speed limit for any runner is thirty miles per hour, and you’d have to be at an Olympic-level of fitness to do that -’
‘Look!’ Tony interrupted, and pointed to the park with an excited look on his face.
There indeed, was a man, running in incredible bursts of speed, back towards the directions of the bowling greens. Tony’s jaw dropped. Graham had not been exaggerating at all. There was a figure running at an impossible velocity, and what’s more, this ultra-athletic individual began to run in a curve, and headed towards Tony and Graham, which unnerved the two men somewhat. Tony started the engine of his taxi and swung the hackney vehicle ninety degrees right so it pointed at the advancing figure. The cabby then put his headlamps on full, and the dazzling long beam lit up a tract of the park and revealed the eerie high-speed runner squarely with the blinding light. The entity darted left, avoiding the beam, and retreated in a north-western direction, bearing towards the athletics centre. Tony’s hackney was blocking the road, and the driver of a mini coming up from Grant Avenue slowed and beeped. Tony turned the cab around and told Graham he was driving to Wellington Road to see if he could catch up with ‘Speedy Gonzales’. Graham told him to be careful, and then drove off home. Tony drove along the Wavertree High Street, and turned left at the set of traffic lights onto Wellington Road. As he travelled down this road towards the railway bridge which runs across from Rexmore Way, Tony heard several thumps on the roof of the taxi, as if someone had thrown something soft at the roof, like sods of earth perhaps. There was no sign of the weird runner, so Tony swung the hackney cab into a u-turn at the next junction (at Lawrence Road) and drove back up Wellington Road. As the cab passed Fairbank Street, Tony could not believe his eyes. Something got off the roof of his taxi and shot off up the street and vanished round a corner. This happened so fast, the figure was just a blur, and the experience thoroughly spooked the cab driver. Tony drove to his home in the Dingle and woke up his wife Sharon to tell her what he’d seen. She said he’d been working nights too long, and Tony said his mate Graham had seen the extraordinary man as well. Tony deliberately drove around the Wavertree area for the next three nights, hoping to spot the fleet-footed maniac, but was disappointed to see nothing. The night Tony and Graham saw the running figure was 15 February, and Tony remembers that date specifically because he gave his wife Sharon a belated valentine present that day. It turns out that 15 February 1999 was the night of a full moon, which is either coincidental, or, it means that the superhuman prowler goes by the lunar phases.
In 1999 I received a letter from a woman in her early fifties named Patricia, who, with her teenaged daughter Lauren, also encountered something unearthly in the aptly nicknamed “Mystery” Park in Wavertree. Patricia lived on Crawford Avenue, near Penny Lane, and one humid Friday morning around 1.15am in August 1999, she left the house of her friend on Wavertree’s Eastdale Road with her 17-year-old daughter Lauren, and headed home up the High Street. Lauren convinced her mother to take a short-cut home via Wavertree Playground, and Patricia said that the long tree-lined path that runs straight as an arrow for a quarter of a mile (402 metres) to Smithdown Road looked too dark and secluded. ‘The moon’s out, it’s not dark mum,’ said Lauren, and they were soon walking down the long path through the park. There wasn’t a soul about in the park at this hour, or so mother and daughter thought. The trees that stand on each side of the long path through the park are old and gnarled, and their thick branches protrude over the pathway. Lauren happened to glance up at one of these overhanging branches when she saw a man sitting in the tree. He wore dark trousers, a pale tee shirt, possibly white, and his face was mottled with dark patches. Perched on a thick branch, the strange-looking figure was gazing down directly at Lauren and her mother, and he leaned forward slightly – as if he was about to jump on them. Lauren couldn’t speak, she was so frightened, and she pushed her mother along.
‘Hey, steady on will ya?’ Patricia said, annoyed at the sudden quickening of her daughter’s pace and the disrespectful shove.
Out the side of her mouth, Lauren suddenly whispered: ‘There’s a weird man in the tree behind us.’
Patricia slowed down and looked back. ‘Where?’
‘Don’t look back!’ Lauren hooked her mother’s arm in her arm and almost dragged her along.
A figure dropped from the branch behind the two females and hardly made a sound as his feet hit the tarmac surface of the path. All Patricia recalls is Lauren screaming, and a mad rush forward and the next thing they knew, they were both trying to squeeze through the gateway of the park at the same time. Patricia and her daughter were so hysterical, they can’t recall if the man in the tree followed them. Patricia’s screams drew the attention of two young men returning from a wine bar on Smithdown Road, and these two lads bravely (or perhaps foolishly) ran into the park in search of the prowler, but he was nowhere to be seen. If it was the phenomenal runner seen by the taxi driver and his friend four years before, perhaps the prowler simply ran from the scene of his aborted attack at high-speed. I have heard of a similar prowlers lying in wait in a certain tree in Sefton Park over the years, but these reports may be nothing more than urban legends. All the same, if you’re out on the night of a full moon, or if you’re indoors and idly gazing out your window, beware of the prowler.
© Tom Slemen 2010.