On the night of Sunday May 25, 1975, 32-year-old Frank Launder sat in bed with Thelma, his wife of six months, watching Kojak on the little black and white portable telly at their home on Sherwood Drive, Bebington.
The American cop show was nearing its dénouement and the time was close on 11pm.
Frank, who had just started work in a local chippy, started to doze off, when his wife grabbed his arm and said: “Frank! Who’s that?’
“Who’s who?” a startled Frank asked. Thelma said: “Some woman just shouted your name right outside the window.”
“Frank”, came the faint voice from somewhere outside in the night, followed by words the couple couldn’t make head or tail of.
Frank got out the bed and said: “Sounded like Mrs Geach…” and pulled back the curtain a few inches, but saw nothing on moonlit Sherwood Drive.
“That sounded nothing like Mrs Geach,” Thema maintained “and what would she be calling you for?”
Mrs Geach was a neighbour who lived a few doors away.
“I haven’t a clue,” Frank replied. He yawned and went back to bed, but as he was patting his pillow, Thelma said: “Turn that telly off, it’s giving me a headache.”
Frank complained under his breath, hauled himself out the bed and switched the portable off.
Thelma turned off the beside lamp on her side of the bed and didn’t even say goodnight.
She turned away from Frank and lay there in the darkness as the silvery luminance of the full moon leaked into the penumbral duke blue bedroom.
A whirligig of the usual thoughts spun through the waning hypnogogic vestiges of Frank’s consciousness as he ever so slowly drifted off towards sleep.
The main thoughts were concerned with why was Thelma so cold towards him.
He’d only been married six months and it felt like six long years.
And then he was gone.
He awoke to the sounds of Thelma shouting at him – and he was standing in his bare feet on his doorstep in his pyjamas – holding the neck of his acoustic guitar.
It was still dark.
“What – what happened?” Frank asked, stepping into the hallway.
“You’ve been sleepwalking, that’s what happened!” snapped Thelma, stomping up the stairs in her bare feet.
“You should see a doctor about this!” she added upon reaching the top step.
“Sleepwalking? With a guitar?” asked Frank with a quavering voice, naturally full of concern – but Thelma didn’t seem to give a damn where he’d been; she was just upset at having her precious sleep disturbed.
Frank turned on the hallway light and looked at the soles of his feet. There was mud on them. Where the devil had he been?
He looked into the lounge and saw the clock; it was 1.40am. Frank showered and tried to recall what had happened.
He could only remember thinking about how cold and uncaring his wife was before he had dozed off. After that – nothing.
He got into the bed and talked to the back of Thelma’s head.
“I’ve never walked in my sleep before; what’s caused it?”
“Did you lock the front door?” Thelma asked without turning to him.
Frank said he hadn’t.
“Lock it from now on and leave the key with me so you can’t leave the house,” Thelma said “and try and get some sleep. I’ve got to be up for work at eight.”
Frank didn’t have to be in the chippy till 4pm so went to the library and read up on sleepwalking.
A tramp sitting at a table reading a newspaper said to him: “Ah, the dozing stroller.”
Frank glanced away from the medical encyclopaedia and the vagrant came over to him and said: “You were sleepwalking last night – I saw you.”
“You did?” Frank put the book down and asked: “Where was I?”
The tramp coughed, then replied: “I followed you, squire – you went into the cemetery, and you sat by a gravestone playing a guitar, singing and that. You’ve got a good voice.
“Then you went out of Bebington Cemetery and you sat in a garden on Sherwood Drive.”
Frank was so taken aback by the tramp’s information he was stuck for words for a moment.
“I didn’t wake you, like,” said the hobo, “highly dangerous if you do that to a sleepwalker; the shock can kill them.”
Frank tried to smile, but it looked painful. He looked about to see if anyone was listening in but the Library was almost empty. “I was singing, you say?”
“Yeah, it was something about telling someone you love them in a song,” the pauper recalled. In a flash, Frank recalled a song he knew – it had been a hit the year before by the late American singer Jim Croce – I’d Like To Say I Love You in a Song.
He had often played that to a girl he had known since his childhood – Laurie – a friend he’d lost touch with and a girl he should have married.
That night, Frank went to bed – and woke up in Bebington Cemetery.
There stood Laurie – glowing like a ghost.
“I loved you, and will wait for you forever,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
Then she vanished.
Frank discovered Laurie had died six months ago from an illness and been buried in Bebington Cemetery, so close to his home.
His marriage to Thelma didn’t last long.
The couple agreed to divorce in 1976.
Frank never remarried.
On some nights, guitar in hand, he would softly sing I’d Like To Say I Love You in a Song at the graveside of his lost love.
Author: Tom Slemen, who is a Liverpool writer, known foremostly as the author of the best-selling Haunted Liverpool series of books which document paranormal incidents and unsolved or unusual crimes. Check his Books on Amazon here.