Das Unbeschreibliche hier ist getan...
Sometimes a crime has been committed where the detective, who has interviewed victim, perpetrator, witnesses and peripherals, knows more than anybody else about it. When considering the Great Appleton Rape of 1969, I believe that I am in that position. Although it happened almost half a century ago, I still feel obliged to obscure the names of the participants in the story, because some of them are still alive.
It all began in May, or perhaps June, on a day when former members of the morris dance team of which I was then a member had joined in reunion with their younger associates to celebrate the old dances and to convert beer into urine in industrial quantities. At closing time, after a strenuous day, there being about a dozen of us still standing, X-- declared that he knew of a party in progress in the village of Appleton, at which we should be most welcome..
A few of us demurred, for various reasons. I had a wife and baby son to go home to; others felt that after a long day straining the legs and kidneys, they would like some sleep. All the dissenters, with good reason based on past experience, distrusted any assurances made by X--. So it came to pass that we Mensheviks piled into G--'s Austin A40 and set off for the hospitality of my living-room floor. Incidentally, G--'s car broke down on Donnington Bridge and we had to push it two miles uphill to Littlemore. We all agreed that, even so, we had a better outcome than our brethren who would be dashing round the lanes of North Berkshire looking for an illusory party.
My suspicions were apparently confirmed a couple of weeks later, when I next caught up with the Chasps while they were engaged in enlarging their oesophagic calibre in advance of going On Tour and doing some Serious Drinking. By way of light conversation, I asked, casually:
“How did that party at Appleton go?”
“Urrr Hmmm Who's coming on the Yorkshire Tour?”
“Gotcha!”, I thought. There never was a party at Appleton.
The most remarkable part of the story, from my perspective, came a few weeks later, when I caught the direct train from Oxford to York. The only other person in the compartment when I boarded was a pleasant-looking youngish man, mid-thirtyish. The train had hardly got up speed when he glanced around, leaned forward, then said quietly, as if afraid of hidden microphones:
“I see you got on at Oxford.”
“Yes, I live there.”
Then came the all too familiar question:
“Do you know the Oxford Morris Dancers?”
In one of my bags was a melodeon and several tin whistles; in the other were white shirts and trousers, white handkerchiefs, a self-made straw hat with bottle opener attached, plus bells and ribbons. Furthermore, if my interlocutor had been looking down the platform at Oxford Station he would have seen me supervising the loading into the guard's van of the following impedimenta, namely: two ten-man army tents with poles insecurely mended with sticky tape; pegs; meat skewers; frying pan; teapot with lid, handle and spout; teapot with neither lid nor spout; long sticks for “fighting dances”; short sticks; one Aunt Sally stick for no conceivable reason; several jars of Heather Lund's marmalade that would have blown a hole through armour plating if a suitable detonator had been provided; and a boxwood mallet that X-- (who else?) had bought some years previously from a specialist craft shop for seven shillings and sixpence for knocking in tent pegs, when he could have bought the proper implement from a camping shop for two shillings. [As long as I was in the morris the very sight of this mallet, or even just mention of the word “mallet”, would cause howls of rage and execration of X--'s parentage and eschatology.]
This was when the cock crew twice.
“I think I may have met one or two of them”
The young man took a deep breath.
“I've had this on my mind ever since it happened. I just have to tell somebody about it. I just can't make any sense of it at all.”
“What on earth is it?”
“It was a few weeks ago. My boss had invited members of his staff to a cocktail party at his bungalow in Appleton. It was a very respectable occasion, black tie, the women in cocktail dresses. You know the sort of thing: civilised conversation, sherry, canapés, Scarlatti on the record player. Then suddenly a mob of morris dancers crashed through the patio doors, laid all the women on the floor, raped them, then they all ran out again as if at a prearranged signal. The most worrying thing of all is that not a word was spoken by anybody; not by the guests, men or women, not by the morris dancers. It all took place in absolute silence. I still wonder whether I dreamt the whole thing.”
Well, I assured the young man that his story was indeed remarkable and quite inexplicable. When I got to York I knew that some of the dancers On Tour, if the man on the train had not imagined the whole thing, had been members of the raping party. But I never mentioned it to anyone.
It must have been some forty years later that Y--, who had been one of my morris dancing contemporaries, and a most disreputable one at that, but whom I had not met since I left the morris (he having moved to a distant part of the country), paid me a surprise visit at my home. After the conventional exchange of courtesies, coffee and biscuits, and so on, he became suddenly serious.
“I've had this on my mind ever since it happened. I just have to tell somebody about it. I just can't make sense of it at all.”
“What on earth is it?”
“ It was the year of the first moon landing, which took place, if you remember, during the Yorkshire Tour.”
“Yes, I remember watching it in the window of an electrical goods shop while we were offy-hunting.” [Offy-hunting meant seeking an Off Licence that might be open between afternoon closing time and evening opening time, so as not to allow the flow of fermented liquids through the body to be interrupted by legal constraints.]
“We were just being chucked out of the pub after a day's dancing, when X-- told us that there was a party in Appleton at which we should be very welcome. I know that some of you were sceptical, but the rest of us went to Appleton under X--'s guidance, and he pointed out the bungalow where the party was supposed to be. I cannot explain what happened next. Nobody said anything, and nothing that happened was planned. We all charged through the patio doors, laid the women on the floor, gave them a good shagging, and then we all got up simultaneously and ran out again. What was most strange was that nobody said anything, not the men in their dinner jackets, not us, not even the women. I still wonder if I dreamt the whole thing.”
“There is one further feature of interest, though. When we got back to our cars, we realised that X--, having guided us, had vanished at that point and was nowhere to be seen.”
My own humble contribution towards understanding the mystery is this: Both X-- and the man in the train worked for the man giving the party; and this man was in charge of a section within an establishment which even in those days held world-wide prestige. That would at least explain the strategic vanishing of X-- immediately before the events described.
A further comment is this: I cannot be sure of his personal involvement in these actual events, but one of the Chasps at that time was a research psychologist who was working on a doctoral thesis on mass hysteria.