"What? That old abandoned house on York Road?"
"Yes, that's what I've heard."David pushes his pint glass forward on the bar, then quaffs the refill thoughtfully.
It's a Friday evening at the King's Head in Guildford, Surrey, 1965, and the Public is packed to the walls with patrons, most if not all of whom know each other well. 17-25 year old range, art students, aspiring musos, the artistically-inclined and local suburban kids muddled in the middle. The joint is jumping,the jukebox is blaring the latest Stones' hit, "Let's Spend The Night Together," for the 100th time, making it a little difficult to hear normal conversation, but this is intriguing stuff to say the least. Me, "Have you ever seen anything? Half-pint of cider, please mate," to the barkeep.
Back to ghosties and ghoulies, "So, what's it supposed to be - the ghost?" "I dunno," says David, "I never saw anything myself." "You're probably putting it off with all that woffle about the meaning of Dylan's lyrics."[ Oh, I'm so witty!] "Right, that'd be it," says David sarcastically, the self-appointed president of the self-invented Dylan Appreciation Society who were wont to assemble in a back-room of the abandoned mansion after-hours, to listen to David play ( in the Donovan genre - we'd sometimes do an improv talking blues, which I liked) and then they'd discuss Dylan ad nauseam, while extending the evening with hash, etc.
Up to twenty could cram into this poky little room at the end of a long narrow hallway, completely dark, except for whatever night-light could creep through the tiny casement window. Probably a housekeeper's sitting room in the house's grander days. There was a little iron fireplace. You sat on the floor, and it was cozy as a room in a long-deserted house can be, as long as there were a lot of people. There were "traps" hanging from the ceiling of the long dark corridor, consisting of empty glass bottles and cans tied together, then strung on electrical cable, suspended about 5 feet off the ground at regular intervals [with which the police and other unwanted intruders would presumably entangle and thereby announce their arrival]. The canny knew to duck or hug the walls. Not many people went in there alone. The house had been appropriated during the war, after which it had been the official headquarters for the Milk Marketing Board. Now it was abandoned, all three floors of it.
Dave's not taking my witty badinage very seriously, needless to say. I lose interest in teasing him about it, and more or less forget the conversation in the ensuing weeks.
Next time I'm at the house on York Road, it's in the company of four friends, after hours. Nothing much to do with intense discussions about Dylan. Basically waiting for last trains, daring the darkness, in the way of teenagers,unwilling to let go of the night.
All of a sudden, above the merriment, we hear the sound of heavy footsteps coming down the corridor towards our little room. The police patrol has found us. We're in a shitload of trouble. We freeze in place. Busted.
The door yawns wide. We cower, awaiting the beam of the torch and whatever official commands might follow.
The traps hanging from the corridor ceiling had not sounded.
Nothing but silent darkness waits in the doorway.
As one, we break in sheer panic and run right through the open doorway and whatever is standing there, up the broken, moss-slippery back stairs, to the safety of the lit streets. And I keep running all the way to the station and the last train home.