WELCOME to the Bold Street time-warp, top of Britain's league for paranormal activity.
IT WAS just another Saturday shopping trip to Liverpool last year. A couple arrived at Central Station and the woman announced she wanted to buy a copy of the new novel Trainspotting at Waterstone's bookshop in Bold Street.
Her husband hung back, chatting to a friend he had bumped into. Following his wife some minutes later, he walked up the ramp alongside the Lyceum post office into Bold Street.
Looking across the road, he saw the name Cripps on the bookshop. About to step into the road, he was startled by the honking of an old-fashioned motor horn and a van swept past with the name Cardin's on the side. The few other vehicles all seemed old-fashioned.
Most of the men were wearing macs and hats; the women fuller skirts with postwar-styled permed hair or head-scarves.
Crossing Bold Street, he looked into Waterstone's shop window. There were handbags, women's shoes, umbrellas - but no sign of books.
He felt panicky, but noticed a woman standing alongside was wearing contemporary clothes, including hipsters and carrying a Miss Selfridges bag, looking equally bemused.
"I thought they sold books here," he said and she replied, "So did I."
Then she quickly turned away. The man walked into the store and immediately saw his wife surrounded by books.
"This man was a former policeman, someone used to carefully observing his surroundings. He had no interest in the paranormal," says Steve Parsons, of Para.Science, a Wirral-based group dedicated to finding the mechanism by which ghosts appear.
"But he couldn't stop talking about it. He appears to have gone into a time-slip relating to the 1950s. Cripps was a famous women's outfitters which used to occupy Waterstone's shop and Cardin's was a Liverpool family firm which had a van fleet at that time."
This report is far from unusual. Steve Parsons says: "We are inundated with accounts, about 100 in two years, the first going back to the 1950s.
"The universal constant is that it's a time-related event: people are experiencing a dramatic shift in time. It's always back in time, either minutes or decades.
"Ghosts could be a time phenomenon and Bold Street might be one step closer to what is happening.
"The chances of recording on-going phenomena in a house are hard, but in Bold Street it's a regular event and gives us a chance to look at it closely.
"Given how many people shop each week, there must be many many more things we have not heard of."
The epicentre of paranormal activity is the Central Station pedestrian ramp into Bold Street and the area around Water-stone's and the Lyceum Post Office.
Inside Waterstone's, however, there has been no more than one of the staff hearing unexplained footsteps late at night.
Ann Winsper, Para.Science's psychology expert, says: "Two or three other Liverpool streets including Dale Street are similarly affected.
"Psychologists might say this is a form of mass hysteria, but a lot of people are separately reporting the phenomena and describing interaction with figures from the past who are surprised to see people in modern dress."
Steve Parsons says: "We've been able to check accounts, such as researching which businesses were here. There are bizarre accounts such as the man who saw himself, or brothers and mothers walking past while these people are definitely elsewhere.
"By using old street directories we can pin-point the period in question to a couple of months. There is nothing to be gained by people except losing their credibility in describing these matters. Some people have not even told their families as they are frightened of being ridiculed."
Three factors are important: the people concerned, the building and the land on which it stands.
"This can explain why, say, one house in an estate of 100 identical homes is subject to psychic phenomena that the others aren't," says Parsons.
"We realise that people's imaginations can be frail, even if you remember the minutiae of the event. Many events are probably going unnoticed.
"Of course the English like ghosts as they treat them like naughty pets. The British are tremendously eccentric and that makes us unpredictable.
"It's far more scientific than the popular image of 150 years ago when paranormal research was about people holding hands in the dark."
THE group uses an extensive range of expensive equipment. The sheer number of cases make Bold Street one of the most important centres of paranormal activity in Britain - it's in the premier division.
Ms Winsper says: "Other places in Liverpool have this strange atmosphere. Liverpool does not feel like a 20th-century city; it feels uncomfortable with present times, as if parts of it are stuck in the past unable to cope with the way the city's image was tarnished in the '70s. Instead, everyone is thinking back to the glory days of the '50s and '60s. We've become a heritage-orientated city without really knowing it."
Dave Sadler says: "This is also one of the most active sites for UFOs. Bidston Hill is even better than Warminster, in Wiltshire. I'm a gadgetoholic and half the fun is in the chase.
"Runcorn Bridge is a giant metal structure that acts as a huge magnetic conductor, and there time has been reported running forward."
They're in it for the long haul, as Steve Parsons adds: "In 10 years of research, we've got a handful of photos, a few minutes of video and 10 minutes of sound recordings."
One possible explanation is the very powerful electric force given off by Central Station - part of an electrified rail line which loops around the city centre.
"Also Merseyside sits on sandstone bedrock which contains quartz. Squeezing them together creates a Peiso magnetic effect," says Parsons.
"Essentially, these strong magnetic fields can affect the human mind and can affect time itself. Einstein said that time is dependent on the viewer and it can go in any direction."
* IF YOU have any further experiences about
Bold Street's activity, call Steve Parsons on 0777-1877 666; website: www.parascience.org.uk