A disreputable pair of documentary film-makers assemble a cast of Z-list celebrities to test the theory that alcoholic drink reduces the harm caused by ghostly visitations.
It is said that the ill-effects of ghosts can be reduced by the consumption of alcohol.
Ghosts are only the visible portion of a disturbance in the ether, and it's the portion you can't see that does the most harm. Once the disturbance gets to the point where it's visible as an apparition, its tendrils are sucking away your life force as well.
But less so if you have self-medicated with booze.
"So," said Diogenes McCann, my drinking buddy and researcher into the weird, "who would be your all time celebrity hit squad for a ghost hunt?"
We were in McCann's elderly bedsit in North End Road, a place he had hung onto for decades since returning from overseas service; in the intervening years the area had gentrified around him to the point where people would say "you must be loaded" when he told them where he lived. Yet he'd moved there because at the time the place was cheap as chips.
"Oliver Reed," I said unwisely.
"A man known for his attunement to the occult," McCann said, smoothing his bald head with a calloused hand. He was restless, I could tell; he needed another expedition, something to take him up to the high peaks or off up a river in Belize like last time. The people of Belize City still speak of him, often saying, "I hope that McCann never comes back here."
"All right ... Osman Spare."
"Osman didn't have a spare," McCann said. "That's why he's dead. Oh, I thought you meant Tony Osman."
"No," I said.
"Dennis Wheatley?" McCann inquired plaintively. "Anyway this is a bit like trying to name your all time greatest football team."
"I have no interest in football," I said.
"Me too," McCann said. "But do you not think, young Robin, that it is worth a punt? Celebrity ghost hunt and pissup? We could at very least get Channel 4 interested."
"Very much so," I said. "I shall start calling in the morning."
Which I did. Emails and phone calls flew back and forth all day and by the evening I had assembled an all-star cast. In truth they were pretty much Z-listers, but they all liked a drink and all had an interest in weird stuff.
There was Birdie Collins, a dapper little man who'd appeared on "Celebrity Slime Tank" some years earlier and claimed to have seen a 'hell hag' in a doorway on the Balls Pond Road.
"You've met my ex wife then," I said sourly.
Kimberley Fudge, baker to the stars and connoisseur of fine wines. Hic. I mostly remembered her for a piece in which she told of having seen her poor dead mum's ghost in the supermarket.
Matthew St John Pryde, gardening show presenter turned bon vivant and asexual poster boy. Self-declared skeptic, he was determined to be on the show if only to prove that the weird stuff didn't exist.
And Linda Cotti, former model, businesswoman, Big Brother contestant; but who had started her working life telling fortunes in a tent by Richmond Bridge. She had, ahem, connections, but I was determined to treat her with respect. If you see what I mean.
And the venue for all this?
A gloomy gothic pile, now mouldering away in the northern part of the borough, surrounded by open grassland gone wild, the Hospital last closed its doors to patients in 1990 by which time the stories about it were already many and varied. Plans to redevelop it or demolish it came and went about one every two years, but kept failing. Unexpected downturns in the market, would-be developers done for fraud, mysterious disappearances; I suspected Wormwood was keeping its mysteries to itself.
We'd soon find out.