Years ago, Tony and I bought our first house in Yardley. It was situated opposite Yardley cemetery and was just a few yards walk to The Grand Union Canal where we loved to stroll with our children and two dogs.
One night we were still up, it must have been around midnight when we heard some frantic knocking at our front door. We both got up to see who it was and when we opened the door we were shocked to find a young woman outside, clearly distressed, tears running down her cheeks. It was early spring and still cold and windy outside so we brought her in and sat her down. She was a pretty, slim woman with long, dark hair falling in curls around a rosebud complexion. I made her some tea and she poured out her tale. She said that she and her boyfriend had hired a canal boat for a holiday. They had moored at the cemetery in the late spring afternoon so that she could take a walk around while her partner remained on the boat. Yardley cemetery is very pretty, especially in the spring with many cherry trees and lots of spring flowers. There is an ancient part where the writing on some of the grave stones is particularly poignant and the designs are beautiful to look at; we loved walking there so it was no surprise to us that someone would wish to do this. Anyway, she continued to say that she had strolled about for at least an hour, possibly more but when she got back to the mooring, her boyfriend and the canal boat were nowhere to be seen.
She had wandered up and down the tow path for ages looking for him and when it became too dark to see, she gave up and arrived at our house. I suppose she must have noticed our light was still on. She was so upset and remember this was before the advent of mobile telephones. We decided that the best thing she could do was report her missing man and the boat details to the local police.
Tony walked down the road with her to Acocks Green Police Station where together they reported all her information. He brought her back to the house and we made up a bed for her on the settee and retired to bed ourselves. She was absolutely exhausted and grateful for our help. I doubt very much if we would offer this hospitality to a complete stranger nowadays but in those days we were much more trusting.
I woke up around 6am, as is my routine and went downstairs. There was no sign of the young woman. The sheets were neatly folded on the arm of the settee and she had gone. It was as if she had never been there.
I woke Tony up, a little alarmed and he said that he would go and make enquiries with the police. He was gone about half an hour and when he returned, looked completely bemused. The desk sergeant told him that there was no record of their visit in the early hours, nothing in the report book, no recollection of them at all from the night duty officers, nothing written down anywhere about this young woman even though Tony had witnessed her making her report. It was as though she had never existed and the mystery of where she disappeared to, or even if she was real or supernatural, has continued to baffle us whenever we recollect it.