Five Pieces of Story Research That Still Haunt Me

1) Crawling along a tunnel barely bigger than a coffin more than two hundred feet beneath the ground, one person in front of me, one person behind, around one hundred feet from beginning to end – impossible to back out if you got stuck. It linked two main tunnels in a now-defunct coal mine in North West Leicestershire. The sense of the vast weight of rock and earth above my head was palpable. The claustrophobia reduced my throat to a pipe-cleaner.

2) Interviewing gangsters. Not the most psychologically stable of people, at one point they got paranoid for no visible reason and held me in the back of a locked shop at gunpoint.

3) Watching an autopsy (or Post Mortem if I want to use the Brit terminology). However much you prepare yourself, it’s still traumatic to see a once-living person reduced to component parts.

4) Interviewing a family who have undergone an exorcism and hearing tapes of same. However much of a rationalist you might be, those sounds and images will still pluck some ancient dread from the deep unconscious.

5) Travelling in excess of 240 mph in a race car. Exhilarating? Not when you haven’t got a seat belt and there’s a madman at the wheel…