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HAUNTED WIRRAL: A drive with the Reaper

WELCOME to Haunted Wirral, a feature series written by world-famous psychic researcher, Tom Slemen for the Globe.

A sobering tale this week ...

A Sunday night in August 1979 will remain embedded in Gene's memory until his dying day.

Upon that day at 11:55pm, Gene swiftly drank his last vodka and tonic, left a public house in Thingwall and walked unsteadily through heavy rain to his Ford Cortina in the pub car park.

He'd been drinking with friends at the pub since 7pm and now, dangerously over the limit, was to embark on the journey home to Noctorum.

After stalling the vehicle as he was leaving the car park, Gene switched on the car radio, quickly restarted the engine and was soon travelling up Barnston Road.

Not only was he drunk, Gene was also speeding along as the rain lashed down.

Suddenly, he noticed a man in black standing at the roadside, about two hundred yards up ahead of him.

The figure looked like a policeman to Gene, so he slowed down and quickly turned down the volume on the radio.

The car neared the silhouetted figure, and Gene was able to see that the person standing at the roadside was a black man, dressed in a black suit and a black polo neck sweater.

He raised his arm as Gene's Cortina approached.

The high intake of alcohol had made Gene feel quite charitable and he did what he normally would never have done when sober - he stopped for a hitchhiker.

The man in black had entered the vehicle, yet Gene was certain that the passenger door had been locked. The stranger slammed shut the car door and relaxed back into his seat.

"Where do you want to go?" Gene inquired, with a slight slur in his voice.

"The roundabout, up ahead," the stranger answered, speaking in a low voice, without even turning to face the driver.

Gene clumsily fumbled with the clutch control, and as the Cortina shuddered and moved off, the man announced: "I have to pick a child up as well."

"You what?" Gene muttered, confused.

The man turned at last to face Gene. "I am death."

Gene realised that he had foolishly let a stranger into his vehicle and he had obviously picked up a man with a mental issue. Gene immediately started to think of ways to get rid of his deluded passenger.

"You die tonight, Gene," the man said. "And you kill a child at this roundabout."

Gene desperately wanted to let the man out.

He attempted to brake, but the car refused to stop. The gear stick was somehow locked in position, as was the steering wheel, which refused to turn, even a fraction of an inch.

Gene swore, fear and panic rising up inside him, as he kept trying to stop the vehicle.

No matter what Gene did, the speedometer stayed at a steady 55 miles per hour.

He took his foot off the accelerator pedal completely, but the car continued to speed along, heading straight towards a junction.

Beyond that was the long stretch of Arrowe Park Road - then the roundabout.

Beads of sweat formed on Gene's face and forehead, and an icy chill coursed through his body.

It all felt like a nightmare.

He contemplated jumping from the vehicle and tried the door handle, but like the steering wheel, it refused to budge.

Gene then noticed the car radio; instead of blaring pop music, it was now playing dreary funereal organ music.

And then, in the windscreen of the doomed Cortina, Gene could clearly see the faint images of two coffins materialising.

One of the coffins was small and Gene understood that it must be that of the child he was about to kill in the accident.

With terror gripping his heart, he let go of the wheel and turned to the man who was undoubtedly the Grim Reaper himself, and pleaded for mercy.

"What about my children? My wife and kids?" sobbed Gene, verging on hysteria.

But his desperate words fell upon deaf ears.

Not a trace of mercy could be detected in the poker-faced personification of death, who simply replied: "At the back of your mind you knew this would happen.

"You knew that drinking and getting behind the wheel of a car would come to this one day, so you obviously think nothing of the people you are going to leave behind.

"Please, I'll do anything," Gene begged, staring in dread through the swaying windscreen wipers at the dark and dismal road ahead.

The ghostly coffins then appeared to melt away to reveal the crying face of a distressed little girl. Gene's insides churned over. It was the face of his seven-year-old daughter, Emily.

The man in black said: "When you die, your wife gradually gets over it, and she marries again.

"The man she marries ends up beating her, and also abuses Emily. Emily starts drinking, and she also ends up as an alcoholic."

The blunt delivery of such an awful scenario tormented Gene to breaking point. "Please, let me have another chance," he cried.

The Grim Reaper said nothing.

Up ahead, Gene could make out several cars which were proceeding round the roundabout and heading to various exits.

He could clearly see a Give Way line on the road ahead, but still was unable to stop the car.

As it hurtled towards the roundabout, out of control, three boys suddenly ran out of a field opposite and raced across the road. The last boy was just not quick enough, and in a second he was caught squarely in the headlights of the speeding Cortina.

He turned and froze, his eyes wide in complete horror. Through the blinding glare of the oncoming headlights, the boy thought he saw two people; the driver, with his hands over his face, and the dark outline of a passenger. "No!" Gene screamed.

In that moment, the hand of the mysterious passenger grabbed the wheel before Gene's eyes could even register the action.

The wheel was jerked to the side, and within a heartbeat, the car swerved and so narrowly missed the boy, that the atmospheric wake of the Cortina nearly knocked him off his feet.

There was a sharp, gut-churning screech of tyres, and the Cortina suddenly shuddered to a halt along Church Lane - minus one passenger!

The stranger in black had vanished. Gene shakily parked his vehicle and jumped out.

The rain had stopped, and he started to walk homewards, a sober man.

The three boys who had foolishly hurried in front of the Cortina ran after him.

"You nutter!" shouted the boy who should have died under the wheels.

Gene told his wife about his unbelievable encounter with Death. She had never known him to lie, or to hold the remotest interest in the occult, so she believed his strange tale.

Haunted Liverpool 34 is out now on Amazon