ONE afternoon, I gave a talk about ghosts to a group of schoolkids at a library in Liverpool.
Afterwards, a spellbound schoolgirl asked me: 'What's the oldest ghost ever?'
The innocent question set me thinking. Anne Boleyn's ghost is allegedly still being seen, 469 years after her death in 1536.
An apparition said to be that of Boudicca is regularly seen in Lincolnshire.
I also remembered the strange account of a heating engineer named Harry Martindale, who was working in the cellar of the medieval Treasurer's House in York in 1953, when he was startled to hear a trumpet call.
Mr Martindale watched in absolute terror as a Roman soldier marched through a wall, followed by an officer on horseback with about 16 other soldiers trailing behind him.
Mr Martindale cowered in a corner as he watched the eerie scene and noticed that the ghosts were marching thigh-deep in the cellar floor.
He later discovered the Romans had been marching along a road which ran under the treasury. This road had long been buried, which explained why all the ghosts - with the exception of the horse-mounted officer - were visible from the thighs up.
But were there older ghosts? On Wiltshire, a woman once reported seeing crowds of figures dressed in primitive garments erecting megaliths, which would date the ghosts to at least 1,500 years before the arrival of Julius Caesar.
Could there be even older ghosts? Well, how about ghosts of prehistoric animals?
Since written records began, strange creatures such as the Surrey Puma, the Beast of Bodmin, the Yeti and the Loch Ness Monster have been reported. What if the unidentified big cats are sightings of the long extinct sabre-toothed tiger, which has not roamed Britain since the Pleistocene Era?
Perhaps through some kind of timeslip, the beasts of long ago can occasionally invade our time-space continuum. This would explain how the puma always seems to vanish into thin air when it is hunted.
Could the Loch Ness monster, which was reported as far back as 565 AD, be a plesiosaur that sometimes crosses into our epoch from the Jurassic era?
Sea serpents are reported all over the planet but no-one takes them seriously.
Delamere Forest is so old, it has scars from ice-age glaciers of 10,000 years ago and its origins go way back into the mists of time. Rumours and reports of strange animals in Delamere Forest can be dated back to the Romans.
The Romans cut a straight road through the forest to connect the fortress town of Chester to the salt mines of Northwich. The Romans reported hearing the loud roar of an unknown beast and frequently found deer and wild boars torn apart.
There were also stories that some soldiers went missing trying to find the strange animal. At this time, Delamere Forest stretched right up to the southern banks of the Mersey.
In the Middle Ages, there were reports of a monster at large in the forest. It was described as a dragon with grey and black scales which ate sheep, deer, wild boar and even some of the locals.
Some reports say the creature used to take to the river near what is now Ellesmere Port via a seaside cave.
The reports of something at large in Delamere Forest have continued throughout the centuries. In 1882, a solicitor and a Justice of the Peace signed affidavits stating they had seen a lizard-like creature, 200ft in length, swimming through the coastal waters of Liverpool Bay, heading inland. This same year, there were reports of a large animal in the north of the Delamere Forest.
In April 1974, six people encountered an enormous animal which looked like a sabretoothed tiger. The official explanation was that it was nothing more than a fox but four of the witnesses were wildlife experts and were insulted by the explanation.
One hot summer afternoon in 1985, three people saw something which sent them running for their lives. A Mr and Mrs Taylor, of Halewood, were hiking through the forest when they came upon what looked like an overgrown elephant in a clearing.
This animal was in the shade and it gave off a terrible stench. The Taylors suddenly stopped in their tracks when they saw that the animal had a head like a dinosaur.
It just looked like a small Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The thing was asleep and it was breathing slowly, making a snorting sound.
Suddenly, a man came on the scene and shouted: 'Oh my God.' He turned on his heels and ran off.
Mr and Mrs Taylor held on to one another, turned around and walked away, trembling. They heard a thud behind them and started to run. They never looked back once.
They met a park ranger and told him about the incredible encounter - he didn't look at all surprised but just shook his head.
That same month, strange howling noises were heard in the forest and someone or something snapped the trunk of a thick tree in half.
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