I will admit I was pretty pleased to get the chance to sit down virtually with a big talent in the storytelling world, Owen Staton of Time between Times. I came across Owen after a series of events led me down a Twitter rabbit hole – following, chatting, and connecting with other people who had been busy creating ghostly and folklorish reading, watching and listening fodder. Also with the community of fans who are there for the enjoyment and interest of all that is carefully produced.
So, when I heard about a fantastic Welsh storyteller, whose mystical and magical tales of the folklore of his homelands captivated his fans, I had to listen. Now, I haven’t sat and heard a good yarn of old, told professionally, for Owen is also a voice-over artist and actor for a long time. So, to discover his wonderful podcasts, Time between Times and Spectres of the Sea (with Bethan Briggs-Miller), literally made my day!
This paranormal/ folklorist community I am glad to be a part of is very inclusive and encouraging of everyone’s creative endeavours. Something I am totally behind too. And I think it is why Owen got in touch with me and suggested a little mini project together. Since I don’t have a podcast, we agreed the best course of action would be a Zoom chat. Such a very modern experience while we chat about all that is so very old!
And that’s the great thing about our modern digital age. Whilst I feel it is a blessing and a curse, it does allow us to connect to other people from the far-flung corners of the earth, or at times, just down the road. People that we would never typically come across. New friends who we can share interests with, even though we may never meet in real life.
When Owen mentioned he had had a couple of ghostly experiences, I wanted to find out more. I wondered if any of those personal experiences had anything to do with Owen’s love of folklore and the mysterious ancient lands he talks of.
Before the Time between Times
Owen, it turns out, had been a policeman, patrolling the valleys of mid-Wales for 12 years before training other new recruits in the variety of skills you need for such a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of job. But after 20 years on the job, Owen decided he had just had enough. At heart, he was an actor, having been in various roles in the past, including Pobol y Cwm, a popular Welsh soap opera filmed in the Welsh language and Doctor Who. The unfortunate thing with adult life is your dreams aren’t always compatible with paying the bills and as Owen said, ‘I couldn’t say I’d be able to meet up every Wednesday night to rehearse because I couldn’t. Being a policeman is shift work.’
Before saying goodbye to the police, Owen credits this time of shift work with awakening his interest in folklore. It allowed him the flexibility to pursue his interests in a dip-in/dip-out sort of way. He describes driving around the Swansea Valley, a place Owen loves, with its rich pool of myths and legends. So many legends! It inspired him to learn more and seek out stories at risk of being lost in the mists of time.
After joining some local folklore and community groups in the area, Owen started up his storytelling. He practised his art and created a touring show that took him to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and even as far as Texas and Tennessee. He worked in schools, helping to keep the ancient mystical history of Wales alive. This fitted in well with shift work.
Following his change in direction, Owen moved into another training role with more 9-5 hours. This is not quite so compatible with things like school visits and so proceeded a lull in Owen’s storytelling. Until that is, the pandemic hit.
In Owen’s own words, the period of isolation during these months was ‘a real catalyst for creativity.’ Owen set up his YouTube channel and promised himself he would record one story a week to send out on the internet. At first, he tended to re-tell the same stories he had been telling for years. Still, as his experience of virtual recordings increased, Owen began to research the stories more thoroughly, prepare for them and perfect the art of the craft before recording.
Slowly, week after week, the audience grew and having purchased a laptop, Owen turned his attention to podcasts which, I feel, is the perfect place for this dramatic Welsh storytelling. The tales have evolved, and Owen has managed to weave in some mindfulness and keep people in the moment, something he brings from his mental health training experience.
Recently Owen’s Sunday nights have been taken over by Twitter Spaces, where he hosts a weekly storytelling session. The number of attendees continues to grow steadily. Owen is incredibly modest about his talent. He accepts compliments graciously and I really hope he believes in his talent. I agree with a couple of his other fans. This man is going to be famous one day!
After finishing the story of Owen’s folklore journey thus far, we got onto the subject of the Welsh countryside. Being such a lover of the natural world, it’s no wonder I love Wales too. It’s a strikingly beautiful, if at times bleak, hilly country known for its rainy climate! It is here, through the Brecon Beacons, that the policeman Owen would drive, coming across the magical locations of his stories. Literally the stuff of legends.
The Bus Stop
Up in these windswept winding hills, Owen once saw something very curious. He was driving home from somewhere and he passed by a bus stop. Up a hill, you understand. Around 2 or 3 am. The witching hour. In the middle of nowhere. And there, at this bus stop, was an old lady, waving her arm up and down like she was trying to signal a bus. Owen passed by, surprised to see this little elderly woman out at such an hour. He drove on a little way but something told him to go back and check on her. She looked fine, but what was she doing standing at a bus stop flagging down a bus that is never going to arrive at that time of the morning?
Owen turned the car around and drove back to the bus stop. There was no one there. No one at all. And Owen, who told me he looks for a logical or pragmatic reason for strange occurrences such as this, could not find one. The lady was there. Then she wasn’t. And so, Owen concluded, he had seen a ghost.
Owen now lives in the heart of Wales, in a reasonably modern house that was built, curiously, on the site of the now derelict Penscynor Wildlife Park. Some parts of the park remain – the shell of the penguin enclosure and the alpine slide, mouldy and broken. There is also an abandoned coal mine nearby. Not a rare thing for the Welsh heartlands.
It was interesting finding out about the history of this land and it might well have a connection with a couple of the ghosts Owen has witnessed in his house.
The Ghosts of Home
The first one he tells me of happened in the middle of the day. As Owen says, he has just come out of the bathroom, getting his clothes sorted as he went along. At that time of day, in a domestic setting, is when you least expect to catch a glimpse of a small child walking opposite the main bedroom of the house. It was one of those ‘out of the corner of your eye’ moments. Owen then turned around and saw this little child of three or four years old go into the room that is now his office. His immediate reaction was to think this little kid had, for some reason, come in from the street, through the front door and up the stairs. Owen went into the room. There was no one there. Again, Owen tried to make sense of what he had seen but failed. He chalked it down to seeing another ghost.
Feeling of an earthquake
When Owen first lived in his house, he was still working odd shift hours, so he often went to bed late into the night. He woke up one night and sat bolt-upright in bed. His bedroom appeared to be shaking. His first thought was,’ Whatever is causing that? Was it an earthquake?’
I’m not sure how long it lasted, but it had enough of an effect on Owen for him to ask his wife if she had felt anything unusual. She claimed to have not felt or heard a thing. Owen then went to ask both sets of neighbours. ‘Did you experience something like an earthquake last night?’ They said, no, they had not.
Sometime later, while out washing his car, one of Owen’s neighbours stopped by. They asked him nervously if he recalled the incident where he had experienced his house shaking. Owen told his neighbour he remembered. ‘Well,’ said the neighbour. ‘The same thing happened to us. It would be something in the main works of the mine, wouldn’t it?’
‘Yes, you’d think so.’ Owen said. But of course, the mine is closed now. And has been for the last 100 years. Pretty strange, don’t you think?
The last of the stories from Owen’s house is a short little story about a black cat. Owen came out of his house late in the evening to check the cars were locked. It’s a little habit of his, he told me. There, on the roof of the vehicle, was a black cat. It silently jumped down. Not a sound. Owen glanced away momentarily, and it was gone! Now, that’s not unusual for a cat; I grant you. But, by the time I heard this story, I was beginning to wonder if Owen ‘sees more’ than the average person does.
That concludes the stories connected to Owen’s property. When we factor in the history of the land, it’s not a surprise to think that if ghosts do exist, they could still be where Owen’s house stands. Certainly, mines are places of strong emotions and human suffering. In this area, there would have been so many deaths and injuries following hard and difficult lives. It seems the main colliery at Inrush was no exception with a horrible accident in 1859 which killed 26 when the workings flooded. The mines were eventually pumped of water, which took a considerable amount of time, and all but four bodies were recovered. Would the pumps that ran for weeks on end have caused the local area to shake? Is this what Owen and his neighbour experienced?
In contrast, a wildlife park would have been a happy place for many children and adults when it was open, if not necessarily always so for the animals. Could these experiences be connected to the ground on which the house was built? Perhaps the child apparition and black cat had spent a happy time at the wildlife park and didn’t want to leave. And the earth-moving experiences. Could it be connected to the mine that functioned there 100 years previously? But why do people only seem to experience it at separate times? We both agreed there was a strong possibility the ghosts Owen had seen were connected to the land.
It turns out these weren’t the only experiences Owen has had; in fact, the first one occurred in childhood.
Owen recalls a time when he was really very little, not much older than a baby. And yet he remembers it so clearly, so vividly. They lived in a bungalow sometime in the 1960s, and Owen remembers being a bit scared because his parents’ bedroom was down the corridor.
One night Owen sat up in bed. In the corner of the dark room glowed a light. It was like a sun, a large glowing orb which was around the size of a football. It moved across the room and stopped by the door. Owen reiterated how clearly he remembers this event. He said he was terrified. He jumped out of bed and hid underneath, shouting for his mother. She came along the corridor and the light returned to the corner before disappearing. Little Owen, who had been very upset by the light, was consoled by his mum. In response to her question about what was wrong to cause him such a fright, he said, ‘The dark.’
‘But you had your light on.’ His mother replied. But Owen had not. His room had been in darkness. What his mother had interpreted as a bedroom light must have been the glowing light ball Owen had seen floating around his bedroom. He pointed out one would argue he was probably asleep or had misremembered the events, but Owen is adamant about how it happened. I believe him! Besides, how do we explain his mother insisting the light had been on when Owen said the room was in darkness?
The last story is a more recent one. Owen occasionally directs amateur dramatic groups in his spare time. He was in the Dylan Thomas Theatre one night, taking notes on the actors so he could give them feedback later. Funnily enough, they were working on a play called ‘The Ghost Train!’
Owen’s son was with him that night, he thought, sitting in one of the nearby seats. With his attention on the stage, the notebook in his hand was suddenly tugged, and the pages tossed up a bit.
Owen said to his son, ‘Stop it!’ as he assumed he was pulling the book. Then Owen looked up and saw his son walking in the door at the back of the theatre, having gone to buy a bottle of coke. There was no one there!
That is the last of the ghosts Owen has seen so far. Five in total! I know many paranormal investigators who actively go ghost hunting regularly and most of them have not seen even one authentic apparition. Yet, Owen has seen five! And the weird sensations of the earthquake on top of that. So, after all these stories, I had to ask Owen. ‘Have you ever considered the possibility that you are a sensitive?’
We discussed the possibilities of ghosts. It was interesting that Owen pointed out, ‘When you go looking for ghosts, you won’t find them. It is when you least expect them that you might catch a glimpse of them. Maybe just a shadow out of the corner of your eye.’ I agree!
The Zoom egg timer was beginning to tick closer to the end of our allocated meeting space. It was time for us both to wish each other a good evening before the screen blacked out. It had been such an interesting hour and it felt like I was sitting and chatting with a friend. Owen and I have agreed we need to develop a project to collaborate on. A chance to talk more about the wonderful world of the strange and unusual. So, watch this space! There might be something coming up in the future.
For me, Owen’s podcasts are the perfect accompaniment to the drudgery of the piles of washing or when I’m out trudging around the rolling Wiltshire downlands I call home. I think the Time between Times and Spectres of the Sea is equally enjoyable if you’re sat by the fire, curled up under a blanket, with whatever tipple it is that takes your fancy. I’ll have a cuppa and a couple of Jammie Dodgers if you don’t mind!
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