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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Decemystery (2022.3) 9: The Fence Fiend


A random fun fact: I had no idea what to tag this write-up with. I’m 99% sure it’s a story about a ghost, but it also struck me as a humanoid encounter. In the end, I went with both because that felt like the safest option.

Anyway, hello, hello; welcome to my blog. This is where I write about the weirdest mysteries and other Fortean goodness that I find. As of the time of writing, I want to stop writing because I’m pretty sure I’ve written more in the past six months than I have in my entire life, from birth to throughout my time in the god-forsaken public education system to playing World of Warcraft. Seriously, carpal tunnel hurts; why do I lack foresight of any kind?

My incessant whining aside, it’s Decemystery. That means it’s time for yet another mystery; pretend I threw confetti here because I’m too lazy to get a jpg of some. Anyway, today’s story is one that, as I said earlier, feels like a weird mixture of a humanoid encounter and a paranormal mystery. While that may sound stupid since ghosts are normally said to be the spirits of dead humans, you’ll see what I mean in a little. But enough dilly-dallying; this, dear reader, is the tale of The Fence Fiend!

On the Fence

I found this story on sustained_disgust’s ever-so-amazing Obscure Unsolved Mysteries Iceberg. The entry’s link leads to the first volume of Fortean Times: It Happened To Me, which has been archived by the Internet Archive; you can read the story for yourself here.

The story of The Fence Fiend was mailed in by Karl Thornley of “Corleston, Norfolk.” Now, Norfolk is in England, but “Corleston” doesn’t exist—at least, I don’t believe it does. I tried to look it up, and I got results for Gorleston-on-Sea, which is near some of the areas that Karl later mentions. Unless I missed a location called Corleston, I have absolutely no idea why it’s written that way in the book unless the original publication had it written as such.

Anyway, time to get into the story. Back in 1993, Karl and two of his companions—whose names are not given—were headed to a “suburban road” in Bradwell, which is near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. This is near Gorleston-on-Sea, which is why I believe the book meant to have that instead of “Corleston.” I digress, though. Karl’s friends had told him about a “ghost” that they had seen; they added that it looked like a “tall man.” Karl was skeptical of their claim but decided to accompany them out of curiosity. The location they were going to—a “passage that bisects a block of houses”—was only a couple of minutes from his house.

Upon arriving at the location—which was “dark” but sported decent visibility thanks to “ample street lightning”—Karl was instructed by his friends to “stare at a fence” that was 20 feet (6 meters) away. Immediately, Karl noticed movement. After a few minutes, an “apparition came plainly into view.” I have no idea why it took minutes for the apparition to appear when Karl noticed movement right away, but I digress. This was by no means a normal-looking ghost; in fact, it was unlike any that I’ve heard of—and if that’s not the theme of this month, I don’t know what is.

Karl said the figure was at least 7 feet (2.1 meters) tall and sported “dark, heavy clothing” along with gloves and a “black doctor’s bag.” The specter also had a “white, pear-shaped head with two dark eye sockets.” Apparently, those were its only facial features; it lacked any noticeable mouth, nose, and ears. It did, however, have hair, which was “tight,” “orange,” and “flat on top.” This “gave the face the appearance of being an upside-down triangle.” Last but certainly not least, this thing’s arms were incredibly long; they were “almost touching the ground.”

As a brief side note, Karl mentioned that there was a drawing, but it doesn’t appear to have been included in the book. There was one for the following story—“Graveyard Vision”—but it looks absolutely nothing like the figure that Karl and his friends saw. I resorted to Google and, to my amazement, I found the sketch on a site called Ape Gallery, which had a host of sketches of strange creatures—including the one Karl made. Take a look at the image below.

When Karl said it was “flat” on the top, I didn’t think he meant a flattop hairdo. Go figure that the one time I don’t take something literally, I should have done just that. Oh well, that’s life. Anyway, there’s something I want to go over in this post when the story is done, so let’s get back on track.

Karl said that he “didn’t feel afraid” of the strange entity, which kept taking one step forward, then one step back to where it originally was. Karl likened this to “a projection.” I’d liken it to interpretive dance.

The trio stood and watched the being do its strange routine for “about 10 minutes” until it faded. Once it did, they left the area; although Karl still wasn’t unnerved by the whole thing, one of his friends was. This friend was apparently “terrified” and had nightmares in the subsequent weeks. His friends also noted that the specter was “much clearer” than it was the previous night. I have to wonder why the friend who was scared accompanied them, but I guess the entity being more visible caused it.

Karl rounded off his recounting by saying that he “returned several times” to the location but never saw the figure again. However, he did get an uneasy feeling just being there. I’d also feel uneasy if I were in England; I would be in the same country as royalty, and I’m not one for a monarchy.

That’s where Karl’s story ends; a great many questions are left, and all are without answers. However, it isn’t the end of the story as a whole. No, I want to circle back to the Ape Gallery post because the one comment left on the sketch really piqued my curiosity. It was left on June 12, 2011, by a man calling himself “James Weston.” Here’s what he had to say:

dr. mumbo we called it.

we saw it in a photograph too.

if anyone wants the back story then please contact me.

I didn’t contact him, and I politely ask that you don’t either. This comment is twelve years old, and I sincerely doubt the man is eager for someone to reach out to him all this time later. I also don’t trust people who randomly ask others to contact them, especially on the Internet. With that said, I did try to look up “Dr. Mumbo,” but I got nothing of merit. Every search kept asking if I meant “Dr. Mambo,” who’s a character from Eli Roth’s directorial debut film Cabin Fever. Oh, and there’s also Dr. Mambo’s Combo. I find the Eli Roth movie far more interesting; that’s just me, though.

Anyway, that’s all I could drudge up. I have no idea if James’ claim has any merit, but given the lack of information available about this tale, I’m a tad skeptical. But I digress; now that the story is done, let’s dive right into the theories! Again, if I had confetti, I would put it here. Unfortunately, I have no funds.


1. An interdimensional humanoid

To kick things off, we have a theory that I’ve gone over many times this month. In this particular case, I believe it warranted a spot on account of the entity’s incredibly bizarre appearance. No joke, that’s effectively the one and only reason it’s on here. Whatever this thing was, it hardly sounded human; just look at the sketch again if you need to. The lack of anything on the face outside of the eyes and the odd formation of the head give this thing a weirdly uncanny vibe. It’s so close to looking like a tall human, yet it’s missing a few things—literally.

Because of that, I can say with some semblance of confidence that this theory has something going for it. However, there are also some downsides. Aside from the usual pitfalls when it comes to interdimensional beings (namely, the lack of concrete evidence), there’s the matter of this being having apparently been stuck in doing virtually nothing. Usually, you’d expect a being from another world to explore this new, alien location and not do some kind of yoga or interpretive dance.

There’s also the issue that it appeared twice. While I could be wrong, these types of beings aren’t prone to repeatedly appearing—at least, not in rapid succession. Contrary to what some may or may not claim (see: some of my friends—hello if you’re reading this), I’m not the most well-versed in the world of the Fortean. Interdimensional beings are a good example of a topic that I know exceedingly little about. I have no idea what the generally accepted lore or facts are. While I would guess that intelligent life that can go between dimensions and realities could come and go as they please, this entity showed little in the way of sapience. In fact, it showed incredibly little outside of the ability to move both of its legs and carry a doctor’s bag.

Another issue is the lack of any noticeable device to have allowed it to go to another dimension. While it’s possible it was teleported in some science lab, I’m not about to envision dimensional hopping as being the setting to a mid-2000s science-fiction movie. But I guess it’s technically possible.

There are undoubtedly other aspects that go against this theory, but those are the ones I feel warranted being mentioned the most. The concept of interdimensional beings is fascinating, and I certainly believe it to be possible. However, I don’t think there’s enough to work with when it comes to this story. I don’t think it’s impossible, but compared to many other stories (including ones I haven’t covered), I’m doubtful. However, I fully understand if you disagree.

2. A ghost

Our second theory is one that Karl and his friends subscribed to. It’s also the one that arguably has the most going for it. The entity manifested and then vanished; it didn’t leave behind anything like footprints, and it looked human; sure, its appearance was a little inhuman, but some ghosts bear the marks and scars of how they died. Given that this occurred in England, you argue that this person was involved in a war.

However, if this man was the victim of war, there are a lot of conflicts he could have died in. England has a long, bloody history. The nation has been involved in over 100 wars. If the so-called “Fence Fiend” died in a war, narrowing it down would be a nightmare. The only thing that stands out is his orange hair, which strikes me as a more “modern” thing. However, it’s possible the person had ginger-colored hair, which is possible since this was in England, a county that—along with Ireland—has a relatively high percentage of people with red hair. 

Aside from war, it’s possible the man was murdered or had some sort of connection with the area; he could have played there as a kid, done on a date there, or any other possibility. However, I feel that having died in a war is the one explanation for the odd lack of facial features. Exactly when and how I don’t know. I have some guesses, but I’d rather wait until we get to my personal take to discuss them.

3. A hoax

I considered not including this theory, but I opted to since there’s virtually nothing available online about this story. Heck, the entity doesn’t even sound like a ghost—or like anything from Earth. In some ways, I believe that benefits this theory; it’s simply too absurd to possibly be true. I mean, the description of this thing sounds closer to some kind of alien, yet it clearly wasn’t (though, apparently, England is a hotbed for UFO sightings).

On top of that, the length at which the trio saw this is a bit odd. While I’ve heard stories of people interacting with ghosts and even talking to them, watching this thing take one step forward and then one step back for ten minutes is bizarre. Then again, if they were nervous about turning their backs on it, it makes more sense.

What I can’t make sense of is how long they waited around for it to appear. Something I’ve learned over time is that waiting minutes in, say, a horror story is completely absurd. If you want to see for yourself why, stop reading this and wait “a few minutes” while imagining you’re waiting to see if a killer or ghost is going to rush out and attack.

Whether or not you actually took up my suggestion, the point is that you wouldn’t wait a few minutes. A few moments, sure, but a minute—let alone a few minutes—is a long time, especially when you’re talking about staring at a fence. Maybe I had to be there, but if someone asked me to do what Karl did, I’d ask them if this was a weird bit for a comedy show.

On the other hand, I think the sheer absurdity of this entity’s appearance severely hurts the theory. If I were going to fabricate a story about a ghost or some weird humanoid being, I’d try to avoid making it something fantastical. While the story doesn’t involve Karl or his friends having to run away from a marauding ghost that had a few too many Red Bulls and Monster Energy drinks, they also clearly saw this being for 10 minutes outside near a suburban neighborhood. I feel that would be way too easy to shoot down; just ask someone in or around the town if they know of a legend akin to this story. Additionally, Karl appeared to give his real name when he sent in his story. So, if he were making something up, it wouldn’t take much effort to either confront him or mail Fortean News and tell them that Karl’s full of it.

On top of that, while it’s bizarre just how long Karl stared at the fence, I’m primarily speaking from my own views; he did say there was something moving, so that could have kept his attention. Still, I don’t get how anyone could stand around and share at a fence for minutes on end.

Ultimately, this theory has a fair bit going for it and against it. It’s just like every other time it has appeared and will appear. Well, almost every other time.

4. A centrist

Those blasted fence-sitters can never make up their minds. All they ever want to do is grill!

5. Slender Man

This is a meme theory that was originally going to be its own theory before I relegated it to this. All I’ll say is that it could have been Slender Man after he got fused with Pyramid Head and Carrot Top. Okay, in all seriousness: no, I still don’t think he’s real, but given the appearance reminded me a bit of that lanky, well-dressed abomination, I felt he warranted a mention.

My Take

Despite how I went on a tangent about how long Karl and his friends were at that one spot for so long, I think this actually happened. To me, it sounds like a ghost sighting—albeit I have absolutely no idea why this thing looked so bizarre. While it’s possible the man was disfigured because of a tragic incident, being that tall is incredibly rare, and the lack of any noticeable facial features—aside from eyes—is peculiar. But, hey, maybe he somehow lost them. Not sure if you can lose your mouth, nor do I wish to find out.

With that said, I don’t exactly know whose spirit it would be or why they’d be tied to this fence—or general area. Nor do I know why they’d keep taking one step forward only to take a step back. My immediate guess is that he died in a war and was a field medic, but I’m not sure if the area this occurred in was the site of any major conflict. Bradwell does have a war memorial, and there was The Raid on Yarmouth, but I have absolutely no way to prove if the latter happened anywhere close to where this took place. That said, according to Wikipedia (the most reliable source on the Internet; that’s sarcasm before anyone thinks otherwise), 21 British soldiers died, while 235 Germans died. Minimal damage was done to the town, by the way.

It’s also possible the person died in some other, unrelated way. Unfortunately, I have no idea, but the more I type, the more I wish I did. If you happen to know where this occurred, I would love to know if this fellow is well-known in the area. Until then, I lean toward this having been the ghost of someone. If I’m right, then I hope they’ve found peace. If I’m wrong, then dang, I need to learn how to guess better.

On one final note, if this man really did die in a war, I’m going to feel like a colossal dick for having harped on his appearance. I genuinely cannot stop staring at that sketch, though, and being absolutely baffled by how surreal it looks. It’s like I’m looking at a Grey alien trying to do its best to look like a human. Whatever, my point is that I don’t mean to come across as a jerk, even though I feel I’m coming across as one.


This was one of the most enjoyable stories to write about in a fair bit of time; it was brisk, easy, and didn’t drain me (like a lot of stories have been doing recently). It was a refreshing change of pace, which I’m incredibly thankful for. Because of that, I’ll definitely comb through the pages of “It Happened To Me” so I can pull another story or two to cover next year. Until then, however, there are a plethora of other great stories in store for you all. So, until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, and thank you for reading!

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