On the polar afternoon of Tuesday 9 February 1971, a 15-year-old Gateacre girl named Sandra was returning from school when she heard footsteps behind her.
She turned and saw that man again. He looked as if he was in his early twenties, and he was crossing an unusually deserted Station Road as he hurried towards her with a faint grin on his face.
She’d seen him waiting outside her school yesterday afternoon, and he’d been standing in the queue behind her at the newsagents last Saturday. She’d first noticed him a fortnight ago when she was swimming in Woolton Baths with her best friend Lynn. He hadn’t even been in the water, but had been watching Sandra from the balcony.
Her house was only twenty yards away now. Sandra glanced back, peeping out of the hood of her coat, and she saw him briefly look at her before he overtook her, whistling the recent Dave Edmunds hit, ‘I Hear You Knocking’.
Upon reaching her home, Sandra knocked, but there was no answer, and then she remembered her mother telling her that she’d be home late from work today. Sandra’s father wouldn’t be home until five.
The girl fumbled for the keys in her coat pocket as she watched that man walk on down Station Road. She opened the door, nudged the cat aside with her foot and closed then slammed the door shut. She went into the living room, peeped out from behind the net curtains and scanned the road.
The full moon was hanging low in the sky, adding an eerie aspect to the empty street. The telephone in the hallway started to ring, startling the teenager. She hurried to it and picked up the receiver. ‘Hello?’ she said.
‘San-drah!’ a man’s voice sang to her, ‘I love you!’
Sandra’s heart palpitated. ‘Who’s that?’
‘Listen Tosher, you’re a bit of alright – have you got a fellah?’ asked the stranger. Sandra thought the voice sounded young – perhaps belonging to someone under twenty-five.
‘I said who are you – ‘ Sandra was saying when the unknown caller interrupted her.
‘Oi!’ he exclaimed with a chuckle in his voice, ‘You’re no bigger than sixpence worth of chips, Sandra, so don’t go talking to me like that love or you’ll get my winklepicker up your backside!’
‘Dad,’ Sandra shouted, pretending her father was home, ‘there’s a strange man on the phone here, saying he’ll kick me!’
‘Your ‘arlfellah’s not home yet, love,’ laughed the creepy caller, adding, ‘you can’t kid a kidder.’
‘My dad is home and he’s going to phone the police right now!’ Sandra told the nuisance caller and slammed down the handset. She picked it up and started to dial 999, and a voice said, ‘Sorry love, the police are off today. Phone back tomorrow.’ It was that sinister cold caller, putting on a voice. ‘I’ll be round to yours in a mo,’ he said, and hung up.
Sandra dropped the handset and left it dangling from the table as she rushed to the door and put the bolt on. She went into the kitchen to make sure the window’s casement stay was secure, and then she went to the telephone and listened – there was no purring sound; she felt as if the weirdo had somehow blocked the line so she couldn’t call for help.
This was 1971 and there were no mobile phones Sandra could use to call the police. She drew the curtains and wondered if she should go next door and tell old Mrs Simpson. There was a noise outside. The cat ran into the hallway and looked at the door.
Someone was trying to get in. Sandra froze. The front door was being shaken now. Then there was a loud ran-tan-tan on the brass doorknocker. ‘Sandra!’ came a familiar voice. It was the girl’s father, George. Sandra unbolted the door and opened it. In came her father and mother. They’d both been let off from work earlier than expected.
‘Why have you got the door bolted?’ her dad asked, taking off his overcoat.
Sandra didn’t know where to start, but she said: ‘Dad this weird man called me and said all sorts of horrible things and said he’d kick me up my backside and I – ‘
‘Be one of your barmy friends at school,’ George told his daughter, then turned to his wife and said, ‘Anyway as I was saying, fourteen hundred people have objected to them closing Gateacre rail station…’
The parents didn’t seem to care about Sandra’s ordeal. In those days, stalkers were called pests, and when Sandra told her mum Janet about the man who seemed to be following her everywhere, she smiled and told her daughter: ‘He’s probably just in love with you, pet; it happens.’
Then someone started leaving things on the doorstep almost every morning. Little teddy bears, roses, a bracelet, and even a ring (which Sandra’s uncle – an antiques expert – dated to the 1930s).
Sandra told her best friend Lynn about the ‘admirer’ and Lynn said: ‘Sandy, it mightn’t be that man you keep seeing everywhere – it could be someone else. How does he know your telephone number? You said it’s ex-directory. I think it might be the postman. He’s out early and he could be leaving the things on your doorstep. Could even be the milkman.’
‘It’s not them, Lynn,’ Sandra replied with a shake of her head, ‘but that’s a good point you made – how does he know my number?’
On the following Saturday, ‘Sandra and Lynn were out riding on their bikes when they saw that young man Sandra had suspected of being the pesterer, and Lynn decided to go and ask him straight if he was the man plaguing her friend, much to Sandra’s annoyance.
‘Why would I want to bother her for? The man replied, looking Sandra up and down. ‘She’s just a kid,’ he said with a sneer, ‘and a plain-faced one at that!’
As the accused man walked off in a huff, Sandra glared at Lynn, then rode off, close to tears. That Saturday evening Sandra had to mind the house as her parents went to the pub, and Lynn kept her company. At 9pm the telephone rang and Sandra answered it.
‘Hello Tosher, it’s yours truly,’ said a creepily familiar voice, ‘and I think it’s time we met. I’ll be round in a mo.’
Again, when Sandra tried to dial 999 she couldn’t get through, and Lynn told her to go and stay at her house in Childwall. ‘He’s said he’ll call round before but he never turns up,’ Sandra told her worried friend, ‘it’s as if he just likes scaring me. I’m that sick of all this, I wish he would call so I could give him a bunch of fives!’
Lynn saw someone walking along outside through the window. In the brief glimpse she had of the shadowy person, he looked tall and seemed to be heading for the front gate. Seconds later the girls heard someone at the door sing Sandra’s name.
‘Sand-rah! It’s me!’ Sandra clung on to Lynn in fright as she stood in the doorway of the living room, gazing at the silhouette in the window of the front door.
A tall slim man of about thirty came through that door as if it wasn’t there and he walked a few feet into the hallway before he halted. He held a rose. He wore a blazer with deckchair stripes and light-coloured trousers. His shiny black hair was parted in the middle, and he smiled at the terrified girls and said, ‘We meet at last!’
Sandra and Lynn simultaneously screamed and both turned and ran into the living room. Sandra bolted to the window and opened it, and she climbed out into the garden as Lynn screamed, ‘Get off!’ The ghost had touched her arm.
The girls scrambled over a thorny hedge and ran across Mrs Simpson’s garden with the ghost following. The hysterical teenagers did not stop running till they reached the pub where Sandra’s parents were drinking with friends.
The girls were not believed but when Sandra’s mum and dad came home they found a single rose on the hallway floor and a sweet smell hung in the air. There were no more anonymous calls after that night and no more gifts were found on the doorstep.
The ring, bracelet and teddy bears the ghost had left also inexplicably vanished. The identity of the obsessive ghost that had stalked Sandra remains unknown, but I wonder if he’ll take a shine to someone else…
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.