Today is Obscura Day, an “international celebration of unusual places, full of expeditions, back room tours and explorations of the hidden wonders in your own hometown”, run by the Atlas Obscura website (which is well worth checking out). This got me thinking about the stranger corners of my area.
It’s not been that easy. I used the best example last year, so I’ve had to do some digging.
For instance, Dudley Castle. Not that obscure I admit, but there’s something a little quirky in knowing that the castle saw the oldest excavated, um, condoms. This came as a bit of a surprise.
For a start, there’s the story of Bella in the Wych-Elm. Not Bella AND the Wych-Elm, Bella IN the Wych-Elm. See, in 1943, a group of lads hanging around in Hagley Woods came across the body of a woman in the hollow of a wych-hazel. The body, badly decomposed, was recovered by police who discovered it was missing a hand. They never figured out who she was – World War 2 was considered more important – but the story soon became a local meme; “WHO PUT BELLA IN THE WYCH-ELM?” graffiti started cropping up, mostly in the same writing. Did the author know the name of the victim? Was it a taunt? Was the murder connected with the War? Or black magic? We’ll never find out, but check out this picture of the Wychbury Obelisk – tell me that’s not freaky…
Less creepy is the fact that the anchor for the Titanic was made in Netherton. Apparently, local sarcasm says that it was the only bit of the ship that worked.
Sadly the Black Country can’t lay claim to one of the most outright insane areas of the West Midlands, Cannock Chase. This is ground zero for High Strangeness in the region, giving rise to stories of werewolves, bigfoots/bigfeet, mysterious big cats, mysteriously appearing koi carp, ghosts, UFOs and goodness knows what else. It’s fodder for an episode or six of Doctor Who.
All this is before we get onto Dudley’s ghost stories, or the Stourbridge cat grafitti / cat disappearances, or the Himley Hall connection with the Gunpowder Plot, or… Heck, I swear I once saw a llama in a garden in Brierley Hill. There’s probably enough material for something like the Hometown Tales podcast.
Other than these, I would have said The Pig On The Wall pub in Gornal, only it’s long since been turned into a McDonalds and the whole thing was based on a fallacy in the first place. Bit disappointing that was…
So, does your home town have quirky corners?