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

In this latest tale, a terrifying encounter with a hitch-hiker ...

1976; to people of a certain age, the mere mention of the year conjures up the baking relentless sun in a cloudless sky, the Drought Act, hosepipe bans, the Great Ladybird Invasion and the suggestive government water-rationing slogan "Save water, bathe with a friend".

Captain Mainwaring busybody types in the community took up the Government's challenge to form a voluntary force known as the Water Police who were assigned with the task of catching people who were illegally watering their gardens under the cover of darkness and in Birkenhead one man was fined for throwing buckets of water over two dogs who were "stuck together".

Nostalgic folk look fondly back at 1976 and I've heard people reminisce and remark: "they don't have summers like that nowadays" - but, in fact, the world is heating up because of global warming and there are veritable tropical years on their way which will make 1976 seem lukewarm - but back to that infernal year for the following strange and terrifying story.

It was a Saturday tea time in July 1976 when a 19-year-old Upton lad named Mike answered a knock at the door.

It was his best friend Duncan, also Upton-born and bred, but who now lived near Bidston.

"I've bought a car!" Duncan informed Mike as he stood there on the doorstep.

"A Ford Cortina," he added, "it's parked round the corner".

Mike invited him in and Duncan was treated to chocolate covered marshmallows and apple pie by Mike's mother.

"How much did the car cost?" Mike asked, and Duncan said: "£275 - it's H reg and MOT'd till next year; fancy going for a spin in it?"

Mike grimaced and said: "Planet of the Apes is on in a minute, and then New Faces."

"Ah, stuff them - come for a drive with me," Duncan narrowed his eyes at the black and white telly.

"I was thinking we could go down to Heswall; we might see that girl, Brenda."

Brenda was a beautiful 18-year-old both lads had been besotted with until her family moved down to Heswall three months back.

"All Mike's favourites are on the telly tonight, Duncan" said Mike's mum.

"He likes that Sale of the Century quiz show as well, don't you?"

As soon as Mike's mum went into the kitchen, Duncan told his friend.

"Would you rather be sat in with your Mam, watching telly like a big jessie, or going for a drink with Brenda?"

"We mightn't even find Brenda and she might be seeing someone anyway," whispered Mike.

Duncan stood up and said: "Well, I'm going to Heswall and I don’t know who I might meet; you stick with your ‘arl lady."

Mike went out to look at the car - a gleaming red Ford Cortina 1300.

He got in it and Duncan drove over four miles through blistering heat to Heswall with the car radio on, and along the way he told Mike about Davy Hurst, the old school bully; he’d bought an Austin 1300 Countryman and had been following him around and cutting in front of him.

The lads reached Heswall and drove around the town but there was no sign of the beautiful Brenda.

Mike convinced his friend to drive home.

As the Cortina was travelling along Telegraph Road, a pretty blonde girl in a flowing dress with psychedelic patterns thumbed for a lift – and Duncan couldn’t help himself – he pulled over.

The girl wore a headband and looked every inch the hippie in her colourful dress and strappy sandals.

She asked to be dropped off near the Cottage Loaf pub, three miles west down Telegraph Road and Duncan eagerly nodded and smiled.

The girl sat in the back seat and said little beyond telling Duncan her name was Maeve and that she was going to meet some friends.

When the Cortina reached the Cottage Loaf pub, Maeve asked Duncan if he could drive on "just a little bit further" and 300 yards later Maeve suddenly yelled: "Here! This'll do fine!"

She opened the back door and got out, and a weird man in a dark green hooded robe jumped into the car - and pointed a pistol at Duncan's head.

"Get out the car - the two of you - and no funny business or I'll use this, believe me," said the weirdly-attired man.

Duncan and Mike got out of the Cortina in shock, and five other robed figures, all dressed the same as the man with the gun ushered the teenagers into a wood bordering the road.

The five men in green carried scimitars with blades that flashed in the dappled light of the woodland.

Duncan and Mike were ordered to strip, and then they were marched to a clearing where Maeve told the young men they would be sacrificed, and their blood would poured over Thor's Stone - an enigmatic sandstone outcrop the size of a house which lay on Thurstaston Common.

"I've called the police!" cried a voice towards the road, and Maeve and the hooded men - and the two intended sacrificial offerings - turned to see a figure Mike and Duncan recognised as Davy Hurst, the former school bully.

As the hooded men ran towards Davy, he fled, and Mike and Duncan took the opportunity to run for their lives.

Maeve ran after them, screaming for them to come back, but the two teenagers made it back onto Telegraph Road, where they saw Davy Hurst in his car.

He yelled at them to get in the vehicle and they did, and he drove the traumatised lads to Mike's home in Upton.

Davy said he had noticed Duncan’s car parked near the wood and had wondered why – and his curiosity had saved the two youths from being sacrificed by the weird cultists.

Those cultists were probably the Lily White Boys, an ancient and very violent branch of the Druids that has existed in the North West for centuries.

They worship a nature god at Thurstaston Common and Bidston Hill and often make bloody sacrifices to their deity.

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