Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Mysterious Life of Harry Franklin

The following diary entries were gathered together by forensic scientists and detectives following the recent supernatural occurrences in the small market town of Oundle. The diary entries were written in the early eighteenth century. This is about a man called Joseph Franklin, who died many years ago. He was born with what is now known as schizophrenia. This got worse as he aged, and led him to go crazy due to stress from working at The Ship Inn. He was hated and feared by the local community. He confused the children who bullied him as a child with the four children that lived in the village when he was a man. In his imagination, he conjured up a man who was his son, and believed that the village children bullied him. He put all his anger into his imaginary son. What you are about to read is entirely confidential, and none of the evidence has been tampered with.

JOSEPH FRANKLIN’S DIARY

27 February – Got back late from work tonight. The pub was full until about three o’clock this morning, when finally the last stragglers began to stumble home. Its almost four now, and my eyes are drooping. But I am forcing my self to write this, in fear of forgetting what just occurred after a nights sleep, and also out of habit. I heard a dragging noise in Harry’s room, and then a banging noise. Elizabeth was fast asleep, and with fear of her being awoken, I went over to Harry’s room. This was not the first occasion where he has kept me up at night, but Elizabeth is a deep sleeper. I stumbled along the corridor in the dark to his room. I reached for the doorknob, but as it was so dark I couldn’t see it. A foul smell was protruding from the room. So strong it was, that I began choking. Suddenly, the banging inside the room stopped, and there was a quick dragging noise inside the room. I flung the door open. Harry was lying on the floor, bleeding from his head. I ran over to him, picked him up in my arms and kissed his head
“Oh son, what on earth happened?” I spluttered through my tears. The blood was crimson red, running along the cracks in the floorboards. Harry’s body felt warm on my cold hands.
“I…I…I” Stuttered Harry “My eyes are hurting Daddy. Why is there blood on your hands?” He asked, innocently. I managed to clean up his head quite well with a warm clothe, and carried his limp body back to bed. I have decided that I will speak to him in the morning. I watched his motionless body drift back into a deep sleep, and then left him.

ELIZABETH FRANKLIN’S DIARY

28 February - Joseph has been acting strangely all day, and when I confronted him about it in the early hours of this morning, he shrugged it off.

JOSEPH FRANKLIN’S DIARY

28 February – Another late night. Harry has kept me up a lot of the night with his weeping. I tried to calm him, but in vain. He’s a lost cause, my Harry is.

29 February – My son. My beloved son. Why would he bring himself to do such a thing? It is the early hours. Last night I heard continuous screaming from Harry’s room. I stormed in, and screamed at him to be quiet. He has never been this loud. He was standing on the windowsill when I flung myself into the room, I saw his body go limp, and I saw him falling, and falling until he was out of sight. Then I heard a thud. And all because he was rejected from society. I loved him. It was their fault. The kids that bullied him when he was a child, and when he was an adult, that’s why he killed himself.

JOSEPH FRANKLIN’S DIARY

2 March – I’ve overheard some strange noises from Harry’s room. Amongst these noises have been the same noises I heard two nights before Harry took his own life.

ELIZABETH FRANKLIN’S DIARY

2 March – Slept perfectly last night. Joseph was restless though, as he often is. He has been acting very strange recently.

JOSEPH FRANKLIN’S DIARY

7 March – The noises have stopped. Finally.

FOUR YEARS LATER

JOSEPH FRANKLIN’S DIARY

29 February – I have heard noises in the sitting room. Harry’s old room. Dragging noises. I can’t remember exactly what they remind me of, but not of a good memory.

THOMAS PEACH’S DIARY (10 Year Old)

29 February – We all went back out to the old barn today. It was AMAZING. We built a huge tower with the hay bales, and we all jumped into the pile of hay underneath. Toby twisted his ankle doing it, but other than that nobody got hurt this time. My leg’s better from last time though, which is good.
Mother did catch us though, and she wasn’t happy at all. For some reason she got very nervous that we were playing in the barn. She saw a man outside and told us to look down. I lowered my head, but managed to get a small glimpse. There was an old looking man in an overcoat standing just outside the barn, with a smile on his face.

29 February (later) - Mother just put me in my bed, but I can’t sleep. I lit my candle and am now sitting at my desk. The night is cold, and the moon is bright. The wind is blowing against the window, and it is as if somebody is trying to break in. My shadow is dancing about my room, as the candle flickers. Hello Mr Candle. The air in my room feels damp, cool and uncomfortable. My room has a murky stench, somewhat like newly polished wood. My candle was just blown out, and I am now sitting in the dark room. The floorboards below are creaking. I have a sense of foreboding. Goodnight.

JOSEPH FRANKLIN’S DIARY

29 February – Harry died four years ago today. Rest in Peace my son. Closed the pub early tonight, but didn’t go straight home... With Elizabeth gone I am completely alone. She left me, she said that I was crazy.

THOMAS PEACH’S DIARY

1 March – Toby’s body was found hung up a tree... He was tied with a rope at his feet and then hung upside down. And his insides had been ripped out, and blood flowed down his body. He’s only nine years old... The details are too gruesome. I can’t contain myself. Who would do such a thing, I feel sick. My mother seems to have an idea of who it was. I can’t write anymore. My best friend was just killed...

1 March (later) – Georgina has gone missing. I have tried so hard to hold myself back, but the tears continue to roll down my face.

3 March – Today was Toby’s funeral. I was the only person my age who was invited. It was such a solemn event. The man that we saw after playing in the barn, the day Toby was killed, was there. He just stood there, like a statue.

Later – Georgina’s been found. Well you could say she was found... You could also say half of her was found. Just parts of her. The top half of her body was found in the Nene River. Her blood turned the water crimson red. A man called Joseph Franklin found her with her face mutilated, and parts missing.

ELIZABETH FRANKLIN’S DIARY

5 March – The events that have happened in Oundle are absolutely horrific. Who would have done such a thing? In such a small town, it could be somebody I am very close to. Such a horrible thought that is.

6 March – Joseph has tried to contact me, but I don’t want anything to do with him anymore. I have filed for a divorce. He hit me, and he seems to think we used to have a son, who he says killed himself. I can’t stand him anymore. Things with him have got out of hand.

FOUR YEARS LATER

THOMAS PEACH’S DIARY

24 February – It’s my fourteenth birthday today! Mother and Father brought me a new copy of the Bible. Natasha brought me some fudge too! Mother and Father are uneasy though. I don’t know why. They received a strange envelope in the post today.

CHARLES PEACH’S DIARY

24 February It is Thomas’ fourteenth birthday today. We received a strange envelope in the post addressed to Thomas, but we decided to open it first, before he saw it. It was wet, and had a horrible stench. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened it. I looked in, and inside lay a mutilated, still bearing flesh, bleeding finger. On the back of the letter it was written in small writing “Georgina”.

THOMAS PEACH’S DIARY

27 February – Mother and Father have been acting very strangely recently. It’s beginning to scare me. Ever since my birthday they haven’t let me out of the house. Did I do anything wrong? I can’t think of any reason for their strange behaviour.

29 February – It was four years ago today that Georgina and Toby were murdered. Rest In Peace.

Later – The day grew dark soon, and it began to pour with rain. The moon was hidden by the dark and melancholy clouds. The darkness reflected my mood. My parents have locked my window and door.

JOSEPH FRANKLIN’S DIARY

29 February – Tonight I shall get my revenge, and then I may rest happily. I may get this burden off of my chest.

CHARLES PEACH’S DIARY

29 February – It is the anniversary of when those two young souls were killed on that dreadful night. I fear that is not the last that Oundle will hear of murder. We are keeping a very close eye on Thomas tonight.

1 March – Thomas is missing. How could this have happened? His window was locked, and his door was locked too. We stayed up half the night to make sure nothing happened. We opened his door this morning to find his window wide open and an empty bed. There was no sign of a scuffle or a fight at all.

2 March – It’s now three in the morning. About an hour ago we heard a quiet but desperate scratching on the door. I ran downstairs and flung the front door open, and Thomas lay there in a puddle of blood, still breathing. His stomach had been cut open, but he survived. That’s the only thing that matters. He’s alive.

Later – Thomas told me what happened. He found himself awake in the garden, being carried by a strange man. He said he had seen the man before, watching him. He was muttering to himself about something, and then about being hung up with a rope. He says he can’t remember anything after that except that he passed out, and then found himself lying on the floor, in a puddle of blood.

There are no more relevant diary entries from that time. Two weeks ago (March the 2nd 1953) the bodies of George and Lilian Peach (George, being a descendant of Thomas Peach, who survived, and Lilian, being a descendant of Elizabeth Franklin and also of David Cholmeley, David being one of the four children, and Elizabeth being the wife of Joseph) were found in their small house in Ashton. They had been butchered and beaten to death. The house was in a wreck, and there had clearly been a scuffle. The window was smashed, and on the window, in blood, was written, “Harry Frankin is Revenged”

There are no records of Joseph Franklin ever having a son, and Joseph Franklin died eight years to the day, after Harry Franklin (who was a figment of Joseph’s imagination) committed suicide.

What happened to George and Lilian Peach is unknown, and as to who killed them, nobody has any clear idea. Having viewed this evidence, the High Court have decided that this case is not of murder but of Supernatural Occurrences, and something out of our control.

Nota Bene. This is based on a true story, and all of the characters are based on true people that have died.

The Alpha Course In Oundle (Oundle Chronicle)

How can I make the best of the rest of my life?” That is a typical example of the profound questions that participants on the Alpha Course can discuss over a cup of tea at weekly meetings in Oundle.
Alpha was started in 1977 by the Reverend Charles, a curate in a Church of England parish in London. It was then reconstructed by Nicky Gumbel, arguably one of the most charismatic figures in the Church of England today. The ten week course is run in churches throughout the world, by all major Christian denominations. Its main aim is to give a well-rounded, Christian point of view to religion, creation, and the meaning of life itself. Every week there is one meeting which includes dinner, a cup of tea and a talk on a certain topic, and then a general chat reflecting on that topic. The topics include ‘Who is Jesus?’ ‘The Truth of The Bible’ and ‘The Evidence of Jesus.’ Although all these subjects sound very serious and daunting, they are addresses in a relaxed and non judgemental manner.

St Peters Church in Oundle decided to run the Alpha Course themselves this winter. The men and women taking part let me attend one of their weekly meetings to give me a personal insight into the Alpha experience. I was greeted and welcomed into the group very quickly and I immediately noticed how relaxed, friendly and warm the atmosphere was. That is supposedly typical of the Alpha course.
As we sat around one of the small tables, the topic of silence came up. Is it impossible to find silence nowadays? In a world of phones, iPods, radios and TVs? One man explained that Alpha was the one occasion every week that he could be quiet and reflect on what was happening in his life. “Alpha is a time to sit back and think,” he told me.

Alpha was originally designed for Christians or for people who had gradually lost faith, but it has now expanded to become an introductory course into Christianity for agnostics. When I asked the man sitting next to me what he thought about Alpha, he explained: “The best thing about Alpha is that it’s very social. People are open, and you feel secure in being able to talk to each other freely.”
The topic for the weekly meeting that I attended was ‘Why and how does one Pray?’ Richard explained that God is friendly, and that you should have a close relationship with Him. He told us that praying should be like a fireside chat with your father, explaining that we shouldn’t just pray to Him when we need Him “If you only talk to someone when you want something, it’s not much of a relationship, is it?” he went on to advise everybody on how to pray, when and where. The answer to most of these questions was: whatever suits you best. He finished his talk by telling us that if we want God in our lives, we must welcome Him in.

There are many account of how the Alpha course has changed people’s lives, and helped them turn back to religion. “In the last four weeks I’ve definitely felt a change since going to Alpha.” one man told the group. However, I have also heard some negative feedback about the course. A documentary was shown on Channel Four, presented by Jon Ronson in 2009, called ‘How to Find God’, and the majority of the views expressed in the programme were subtly cynical with a lot of people saying that Alpha was trying to force religion upon people, and that it was very unproductive and a waste of time. The main criticisms seem to be that the perspective of Alpha is too narrow and that it could be perceived as similar to brainwashing.

My own experience however was undeniably positive. It is clear that all the local Oundle residents that took part in the Alpha Course were glad they did. It seems to be a course for revitalization rather than an evangelical conversion tool. The Guardian once praised Alpha in the following terms: “What Alpha offers, and what is attracting thousands of people, is permission, rare in secular culture, to discuss the big questions - life and death and their meaning.” That seems to me to sum up Alpha.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (Oundle Chronicle)

Harrison Smith, (a charming and cheeky six-year-old boy) was born with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy. Harrison was not diagnosed until January 2011, when he went to the doctors for a routine check-up. One blood test that would change everything in Harrisons parents lives. However, this is not where Harrison’s story begins.  His father, Alex, an Old Oundelian (Sn’93), told us that from an early age Harrison had been falling over frequently, often hitting his head, unable to save himself from injury. “We knew something was up” Alex told us. Nevertheless, Harrison’s diagnosis came as a shock to Alex and his family... “I remember it like it was yesterday. It leaves you numb…”

“The doctor told us we were going to have to watch our son waste away.” Alex explained “but I was determined to prove him wrong.”

Duchenne is a fatal genetic condition. It is a muscular disease whereby the muscles cannot heal and repair themselves, which leads to them slowly degenerating. It is an hereditary condition passed from a mother to her child, although ninety-nine per cent of those who actually have the disease are boys. You do not have to have Duchenne yourself to pass it on, but if you carry it in your genes, one of your children could be born with it.

Alex went on to tell us that there is little public awareness of Duchenne because it is given little publicity in the media. He explained quite bluntly that the reason for this is that there are no ‘survival stories’. There are frequently newspaper stories about people who have survived cancer and other serious illnesses, but because Duchenne has no survivors its victims do not generate stories with such happy endings and so they are largely ignored by the media. 

Although steroids are given to Duchenne sufferers which can help keep them ambulant for longer, there is currently no cure for the disease. Nevertheless, Alex decided not to give up, and set about changing this state of affairs. Therefore he set up Harrison’s Fund, a charity that aims to promote awareness of Duchene Muscular Dystrophy and find an effective treatment and cure. Alex knows that time is short and that within a matter of years his son will be in a wheelchair. “Harrison may not make it past 18,” he tells us, but progress is slowly being made in the search for a cure.  Harrison’s Fund has joined forces with other charities that are raising funds and they are now jointly funding research to find a cure for Duchenne. The cooperating charities are called “The Duchene Alliance” www.duchennealliance.org and they have the same aim: that of saving children’s lives.

Although there are no survival stories just yet, there was recently a breakthrough in research which may eventually lead to the prolongation of life for children with Duchenne. “Exon Skipping” is a process which fixes the DNA of a child with Duchene to make it a less severe form of the disease. Harrison’s Fund is one of the first Duchene Charities to commit all of its income to research of this kind.

If you want to help Alex to ‘Make Time’ for his son, please visit his twitter page (@HarrisonsFund) visit the website at http://www.harrisonsfund.org or come up with your own fund-raising ideas for Harrison’s Fund and get in touch at info@harrisonsfund.com

The Big Sleep (just a little article I did for a school mag)


The three Oundle buses arrived in the centre of Birmingham at eight p.m. with a clear sky. Just as the sun faded away, we began to set up our boxes in the Car Park of St. Basil’s, preparing for the long night ahead of us. It soon dawned on us how unsympathetic the night was planning to be, and how little sleep we were actually going to get, however weary we became. Our miniscule cardboard ‘dwellings’ would provide little comfort from the wilderness that is the St. Basil’s car park. However, with bottomless tea and coffee, and bacon butties for sale, our stomachs were content.

If you are pondering what on earth one hundred and forty Oundle pupils are doing congregated in the heart of Birmingham on a Friday night, then listen up! St. Basil’s is an organisation that aids young people who are in danger of becoming homeless or are homeless. It provides them with a bed and a roof over their head. However that is not all they do. They help young people to acquire a job, sort out their problems and get back on track, and finally to secure them a place to live.

There are many situations that can lead to a person becoming homeless, the most common being the loss of a job, leading to inability to pay rent, the break up of relationships or an addiction to drugs, alcohol or even gambling.

The night began with talks in the St. Basil’s Chapel from helpers of the charity. Prior to the talk, we anticipated a monotonous presentation, and we would have much preferred to be munching on a sandwich. However, very soon a lady took to the stage who told us of her very own personal experience of homelessness, , and she woke us all up with some very disconcerting facts
“One in 20 of you will experience homelessness.” Although we all found this hard to believe, it nevertheless opened our eyes.

Then began The Big Oundle Sleep! We all mustered outside in the cold night with our steaming cups of tea clenched in our fists, held close to our faces so as to keep us warm. Teeth were chattering and legs shivering and gradually we began to become disheartened. If it was this cold at 10 o’clock, I didn’t want to think of how cold it was going to be at three in the morning. As the noise of the city slowly died down, but with the thud of the prominent night-club nearby still sounding, people slowly began to settle down for the night, and within the hour the car park was hushed, with a mass of bodies sprawled across the floor like sleeping lions. The light of the moon resembled a searchlight in the sky above us, and soon my tiredness over came me and I was put into a deep sleep.

When I woke up at five a.m. the next morning, in a collapsing box, I felt somewhat disoriented. The memories soon began to creep back into my mind, and I recollected where I was. I could vaguely make out bodies coming back to life, slowly rolling over and, in a state of confusion, wondering where they were. As lumps turned into creatures, creatures turned into people, and everybody began to get up. After a quick breakfast and a thorough clean up of the car park, we were assembled on the buses ready to go.

Reflecting on my night’s sleep, Perhaps the Sleep-Out should have been called ‘The Small Oundle Sleep-in-a-box-where-you-wont get-much-sleep-at-all.’ Although I got little sleep from the experience, it was a hugely awarding experience because we all did our part for the community of Birmingham, and for the people living homeless on the streets at this very moment. From now on when I crawl into my warm cosy bed in Bramston House, I will remember that not everybody is sleeping under a roof.