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A Surprise Appearance at the Cavern Club

Was Old Nick Conjured up in Cavern?
by Tom Slemen

The following story is a particularly strange one. It concerns three men who used to visit the Cavern in Mathew Street, way back in the days before Merseybeat when the Cavern was a jazz club. The story is told all over Liverpool and has been in circulation since the early 1960s at least, but no one knows whether there's a grain of truth behind the tale or if it is just a so-called 'urban myth'. Strangely enough, in every version of the story, the names of the characters are always the same. Furthermore, regarding the tale's reference to a ghost in the Cavern Club; according to an article in the Liverpool Echo in the late 1950s, the manager of the Cavern claimed that there was a ghost that haunted the ladies toilets in the club...

Around 1957, a man named Alan Sytner opened the Cavern Club in Liverpool to provide a venue for the then thriving jazz scene. As most people the world over know, the Cavern was basically just a collection of arched warehouse cellars in the heart of downtown Liverpool where the Beatles first came to prominence.

In the late 1950s, three men went to the club one evening with their girlfriends, and had a great time listening to the jazz bands well into the early hours. The men were Johnny, Tony and Peter, and at 4 a.m., when most of the clubgoers had gone home, the three men and their girls sat at a table, smoking and chatting away. The conversation turned from sport to politics then to religion, and then to the meaning of life, and they finally ended up arguing about the occult. At this point, one of the men's girlfriends, a girl named Rita, said that one of the toilets in the Cavern were said to be haunted, but Peter, who was a hard-boiled sceptic, said the ghost story was probably just a publicity gimmick invented by the Cavern's owner, Alan Sytner. But one of the management overheard Peter's remark, and said there was a ghost of a man in black that had been seen in the club by the one of the bouncers quite recently.

At this point, Johnny suggested that everyone present should gather round the table and join hands to summon the ghost up, and he claimed that he knew the actual words to evoke a spirit. The girlfriends thought it would be exciting and they urged their boyfriends and the bouncers to join in. Everyone thought it was a joke, except a young man named Tony, who was not exactly religious, but said the occult should not be regarded in such a jokey manner, and he sat at another table and lit up a cigarette. He watched the proceedings and seemed very nervous.

Everyone but Tony gathered about the table, and Johnny said, "Right, turn the lights off. Get a candle or something."

A candle couldn't be found, but someone brought a small electric torch to the circle, and switched it on, then placed it in the centre of the table. Then the lights were switched off, and all the people round the table joined hands.

There was a scream. One of the bouncers had put his hand up one of the girl's dresses for a laugh. Johnny said, "Stop messing about. We need absolute silence."

There were a few sniggers, then a strange silence descended into the cellars. About a minute later, Johnny said, "O Lord of darkness, I invite you into the Cavern. Give us a sign so we may believe."

One of the girls said, "And get a move on cos I wanna go to the toilet."

Then a shadow walked across the darkened room. It was a tall man. He wore a black suit and a black polo-neck sweater, which was hardly out-of-vogue in those times. His black fringe was combed back into the style of the so-called 'DA cut' popularised by the film star Tony Curtis. All the girls looked at him, but none of them were scared. They thought the stranger was just a clubgoer who had been part of the stay-behind. All the girls later said that the man was very attractive and had magnetic dark eyes.

Tony, who was seated at the other table on his own, thought the man was evil from the moment he set eyes upon him, and he noticed that the stranger seemed to come from the direction of the toilets.

"I am Lucifer." said the man, in a rich deep voice. He then smirked and studied the shocked expressions of the people at the table.

"Stop messing about, " said Johnny, "we're trying to hold a seance here."

"You idiot," said the stranger, "I am Lucifer. You didn't expect me to have horns did you?"

"Oh, you're the Devil like?" said one of the bouncers in a cocky tone. he was trying to impress one of the girls.

The stranger nodded, and said, "I haven't got hoofed feet either."

"Johnny I'm scared. Turn the lights one." said Rita, and started to shake. She was about to turn hysterical.

"Relax dear, " said the stranger, "I'm not as bad as I'm painted."

The sceptical one, Peter said, "There's no such thing as the Devil."

"If you believe in God you must believe in me too." said the man in black, then he said, "Unless you are an atheist of course."

"Yes I am, actually." said Peter, in a matter-of-fact way.

"Then if you don't believe in me can I have your soul?" said the stranger.

Peter laughed nervously, "But I don't believe - "

"Then give me your soul then!" shouted the stranger.

"Give him your soul mate!" joked the bouncer, and he said, "Soulmate gerrit?" But no one was laughing. The atmosphere was tense with a mounting sense of terror.

"Okay, take it then." said Peter, and he grinned, but seemed to be very uneasy.

"No! Don't Peter! Don't!" shouted Tony from the other table, and he stood up but was afraid to come over.

"Thankyou." said the stranger, and he reached out in the direction of Peter with his hand and seemed to clutch at something in the air.

Then the torch started to fade. Within seconds it was just a dim orange filament, then the Cavern was in complete blackness.

"That was one amatuerish set-up." said one of the bouncers, almost falling over the table in the dark. He went to switch on the lights, but they didn't go on. "Oh, don't tell me the fuses have gone again." said the bouncer groping in the darkness.

During this time, a voice whispered in Tony's ear, "I'll be back for you one day, and your god won't be able to save you."

Tony said, "In the name of our saviour Jesus Christ I tell you to leave."

Then the lights suddenly went on, and the rest of the people rose from the table. But Peter didn't. He slumped forwards, hitting his face on the table-top. He seemed drunk, but when his mates took him home to his flat in Smithdown Lane, Peter didn't seem to be breathing. He was taken by a taxi to the Royal Hospital in Pembroke Place - and was certified dead on arrival. The coroner who performed the post-mortem examination later said that Peter - who was 27 - had the body of an 18-year-old, and seemed to have been in perfect health. A verdict of death by natural causes was recorded, but all the people who attended the frightening seance believed that Peter had died because he had foolishly given permission to the Devil to wrench the soul from his body.

For more strange tales from Tom Slemen, go to these sites:

>> www.ghostcity19.freeserve.co.uk

>> Tom Slemen Links Page

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