WELCOME to Haunted Wirral, a feature series written by world famous psychic researcher, Tom Slemen for the Globe.
This week, Tom tells the tale of The Bromborough Shapeshifter.
IN May 1971, an elderly woman was knocked down in Bromborough Village by a huge canine of an unknown breed as it fled from two boxer dogs on the grassy area in front of Bromborough sub post office.
The 77-year-old sustained head injuries when she was hit by the huge dog, said by some witnesses to resemble a Great Dane.
The pensioner was later taken to Clatterbridge Hospital, where she remained poorly for a fortnight before making a slow recovery.
The owner of the dog that caused the accident was never traced, so the hound was assumed to be a stray, and it was never captured.
Three days after the incident, seven-year-old Beatrice Larkspur told her mother Karen at their Mark Rake home that she knew "the name of the big dog" that had knocked the old woman over.
Karen and her daughter had witnessed the incident involving the dogs as they left the post office and Mrs Larkspur how she had found out the name of the large hound.
"He told me, mum," said Beatrice, casually. "His name’s Walter."
"Oh, a talking dog" Mrs Larkspur stirred her coffee in the kitchen with a smile as she gazed down at her daughter. "Walter could go on the telly."
"Oh no, he can't even go out because people are after him, and the police as well," Beatrice told her mother.
Then a worried expression formed on the girl's face as she seemed to remember something.
"I'm not supposed to tell anyone about him," the girl added.
"And where's Walter staying now? Or can't you say?" Karen asked her daughter.
"Well, don't tell anyone, Mum, but he’s staying in the garden shed," answered Beatrice.
The girl's mother looked out the kitchen window at the back garden shed and said: "Tell him he’ll have to pay rent."
Karen then sat down in the lounge and browsed Woman’s Own magazine.
Later that afternoon, she had just ended a telephone conversation with her husband – a soldier stationed in West Germany – when she saw Beatrice sneaking through the hallway with a carrier bag which contained a shirt, trousers and shoes belonging to her husband, as well as a packet of Breakaway biscuits.
"They're for Walter," a red-faced Beatrice explained.
"Alright, love, stop this now," said Karen, "there's no dog in the shed. Maybe we should get you a puppy."
"Mum there is and his name's Walter!" protested the child, "I'll go and ask him if you can see him!"
Beatrice yanked open the kitchen door and ran to the shed, followed by her mother.
When mother and daughter entered the shed they found it empty – but Karen detected an odour that her late Labrador used to give off when he got soaked in the rain. Something had been in the shed.
"You've scared him and he’s run away!" Beatrice yelled at her mum and started to cry.
The following day at noon, Karen Larkspur and her daughter returned from Keenway supermarket and twenty minutes later, Karen made some sandwiches for her daughter, poured her a glass of lemonade and shouted into the sunny back garden, where the girl had been playing with a Frisbee – but there was no sign of Beatrice.
Karen checked the shed and saw her daughter wasn’t there.
With a sense of mounting panic, Karen looked over the garden fence before running back to the house.
She checked the bedrooms, calling out her child's name repeatedly, and then she ran downstairs in what felt like an accelerating nightmare – when she saw it.
Sitting on the red chesterfield sofa there was a man dressed in a rather realistic fur dog suit.
He was leaning back, hands behind his head, and a pair of piercing sinister eyes which looked Karen up and down.
"I've put your daughter shomewhere," said the weirdly-dressed stranger, mispronouncing his Ss.
His voice sounded gruff and it was difficult to understand.
Karen screamed and panted: "Who are you? Where’s Beatrice?"
"Calm down, she's alright," said the 'man'.
The way he got up off that couch made Karen wonder if he was a man at all.
He grinned and she saw his canine fangs, that tongue which licked his snout could not be human.
His hands were fur-covered and clawed – like elongated paws.
"Mishus Larkshpur," he said, in his distorted voice, "may I have a kish? You have lovely lipsh!"
"What are you?" Karen backed away from the man-canine hybrid as he advanced towards her smiling.
"Where's my daughter? What have you done with her?" #
"If you run off I'll eat her – yesh I will!" said the abomination, and Karen detected that odour of wet dog – that smell in the shed.
"Now, shall we go upstairsh and have shome fun?"
There was a heavy knocking at the door, and Karen ran to answer it.
It was two Jehovah's Witnesses, a man and woman.
Karen urged them to come in and they reluctantly entered.
"Look at that thing!" she cried, and pointed at the monstrosity, but now it was sitting on the floor, pretending to be a normal dog.
The couple asked what the matter was and Karen said: "It's not a dog! It's something evil that's taken my daughter!"
"It's just a dog", said the female Jehovah's Witness, "what's happened to your daughter?"
Karen screamed: "It's not a dog, look at the eyes!" and the couple agreed the face of the animal did look 'odd'.
The 'dog' stood up on two feet, said something obscene, then ran out of the house.
Beatrice was found unconscious in a hedge in the back garden, and had no memory of how she got there.
Was the thing masquerading as a dog some shapeshifter?
Or a demon?
We'll probably never know.
* Tom Slemen audiobooks are out on Amazon.