The strange 1970s

Fortean Times - - Letters -

Like many FT read­ers of a cer­tain age, I have been read­ing the sto­ries about ‘The Haunted Gen­er­a­tion’ and scary kids’ pro­gram­ming with some in­ter­est [ FT354:30-37, 357:74-76, 359:72, 361:76.] I was a child of the 1960s near Coven­try, and a teen in the 1970s in Manch­ester, so I feel well qual­i­fied to chip in with a cou­ple of ob­ser­va­tions.

Firstly, this was a time less than 30 years from the end of WWII. Bri­tain still bore many of the phys­i­cal scars of that con­flict and Bri­tons of­ten bore the psy­cho­log­i­cal scars. I used still to see bomb and bul­let/shrap­nel scars on many build­ings in the cen­tre of Coven­try, and I played in an area known lo­cally as ‘The Wreck’, which I was un­aware at the time was in fact a se­ries of mas­sive clay pits and ponds cre­ated by the bombed out re­mains of some gi­ant fac­tory. Every adult I knew over the age of 30 was a war child, or like my fa­ther a for­mer com­bat­ant, and car­ried with them to a greater or lesser ex­tent the ef­fects of that con­flict. That in­cluded most of the teach­ers.

Sec­ondly, it was also the time of Cold War. I re­call hav­ing ‘nu­clear’ bomb drills at in­fants’ school in the early 1960s, where we sat un­der our desks with our hands over our ears, eyes tightly closed and our mouths open. That sort of thing sticks in your mind. The Cold War fears started ratch­et­ing up again in the 1970s, and were ac­com­pa­nied by a feel­ing that Bri­tain was on the verge of so­cial col­lapse as we hit the ‘Win­ter of Dis­con­tent’ in 1979, with power cuts, sto­ries of the dead not be­ing buried, and garbage moun­tains on the streets be­com­ing the big back­ground sto­ries of many lives. So per­haps it’s no real sur­prise that many FT read­ers are re­count­ing strange feel­ings of dis­quiet from that pe­riod.

By the way, I al­ways re­call the TV show Nog­gin the Nog (19591965 and 1979), es­pe­cially the black and white episodes, as hav­ing some­thing of a strange edge to them. Some­thing about the voice-overs at the show’s in­tro­duc­tion “Lis­ten to me and I will tell you the story of Nog­gin the Nog, as it was told in the days of old”, or the other episode in­tro­duc­tion “In the lands of the North, where the Black Rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the Men of the North lands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale…” used to make

me shiver. The sound­track by Ver­non El­liott was af­fect­ing as well. Great stuff! Andy Kelly Black­pool, Lan­cashire

I’d like to be­lat­edly add my ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Bob Fis­cher’s ar­ti­cle on the haunted gen­er­a­tion, a gen­er­a­tion with which I en­thu­si­as­ti­cally iden­tify. I grew up in Townsville, Aus­tralia, in the 1970s, but I felt the same sense of melan­choly and un­ease at times, es­pe­cially as I reached my mid-teens. Chil­dren of the Stones

and Sky in par­tic­u­lar left a strong im­pres­sion on me. I was al­ways a Doc­tor Who fan, but the other show I vividly re­call was The

To­mor­row Peo­ple. The writ­ing and some of the act­ing could be pretty du­bi­ous (a later story fea­tured a sock pup­pet called Thing), but at its best it vis­ited some pretty vivid and trippy fortean themes like psy­chic in­va­sion and magic – sto­ries like The Blue and the Green have a very Wyn­d­hamesque feel, and The Dooms­day Men is still rel­e­vant to­day.

I de­voured books as avidly as I watched TV shows, and be­came fa­mil­iar with fortean sta­ples like the Ber­muda Tri­an­gle and the Berke­ley Square hor­ror (which ter­ri­fied me), through var­i­ous Pan, Fon­tana and Sphere books. The first book about fortean top­ics I can re­call read­ing was CB Colby’s Strangely Enough, which set me on a course I have never re­ally left. In the later 1970s I read books like Lee Hard­ing’s Dis­placed Per­son, Roger Eldridge’s Shadow of the Gloom­world and William Cor­lett’s Gate of Eden tril­ogy – books which were both in­tensely emo­tional, and dealt with loss and de­spair. In Dis­placed Per­son, the nar­ra­tor slowly be­comes ghost­like and for­got­ten as he fades into a grey realm where he en­coun­ters lost ob­jects and peo­ple, as the grey­ness closes in. I was also at­tracted to school poetry an­tholo­gies that re­flected this un­ease.

Then I dis­cov­ered early 1980s rock – I was happy to see John Foxx name-checked, as Ul­travox re­ally grabbed me with Vi­enna, along with­Vis­age’s Fade to Grey and Mind of a Toy. It took a while to get hold of John Foxx era songs but My Sex, Just For a Mo­ment and his solo song The Gar­den to this day re­call the melan­choly that haunted my child­hood, and his Bel­bury Cir­cle ma­te­rial cap­tures the same sense of hauntol­ogy and long­ing. I don’t think I re­ally felt it again till stum­bling across

Fortean Times in the early 1990s, co­in­cid­ing with The X-Files, which had its own take on nos­tal­gia and con­tem­po­rary folk­lore. Matt Cardier By email

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