ANGRY ghosts and a collapsed housing deal led Leigh Banks on a bizarre journey which ended with him presenting a radio show broadcasting to two million listeners.
Leigh, aged 54, now co-presents the off-the-wall radio show, Postcard From Poprad, with friend and Slovakia-based former Radio Caroline and BBC presenter Eric Wiltsher.
After running the show jointly from Staffordshire and Slovakia for just five months, the radio show has now been picked up by two radio stations, Replay Radio – the new name of the re-launched pirate station Radio Caroline – and Talk Radio X, which broadcasts from Dallas to over a million Texans. Several more European stations have also expressed an interest.
But, if it wasn't for the ghost of a murderer living in his historic home, The Old Stalls, at Woodseaves near Eccleshall; Leigh and his partner Andrea Martin, aged 48, may well have retired to live in peace in Slovakia.
Leigh, who has worked for several national newspapers and is a freelance writer for a variety of magazines, said: "Twenty years ago when we bought The Old Stalls, we got it cheap because it is haunted. There's so many things that have happened, footsteps at night, knocking on the bedroom door, things disappearing.
"Four years ago I got planning permission to knock it down and build four houses on the site. We were going to sell up and move to Slovakia.
"As soon as I got planning permission to knock the house down, things went haywire.
"I ended up getting three mediums and a team of paranormal investigators in.
"Then, virtually the day the contract was due to be signed, the banks loaning policy changed because of the recession and the deal fell through.
"It was a bit of a blow. The house had fallen into disrepair, because we were knocking it down, the roof leaked right the way through and we had sold all our furniture – apart from an antique stuffed Victorian shark, which I wanted to keep.
"I bought some luxury seats which had come out of a 1970s jumbo jet, so we at least had something to sit down on. We've ended up keeping them because they are really comfortable."
While Leigh repaired his home – with the ghost stopping its mischievous behaviour after the threat of demolition had passed – Eric had emigrated to Slovakia, to produce and present his own radio show. But it was closed down by the Slovakian government, unhappy at its English language content.
Eric, aged 55, instead began putting out podcasts on the internet. Then, after speaking to his friend Leigh, he decided to interview him on air, about his ghostly problems.
That was earlier this year. But the chemistry between the pair proved an unlikely radio hit, and after inviting Leigh to co-present his show, their popularity has spiralled.
Leigh said: "Eric is like this big old mother hen who tries to keep everything together and I sound like a camp Liam Gallagher. It is a news-based show, but we are both grumpy old men and most of the time we end up having a big row on air. It shouldn't work, but somehow, it does. It is chaos."
Comments sent to the pair from their more than two million worldwide listeners have compared them to Morcambe and Wise and even Laurel and Hardy.
Eric, originally from Bedfordshire, who has worked for Radio Stoke, said: "Leigh is a radio natural.
"We will do some serious bits, but it normally ends up in a row.
"The show has its rebellious side, but it just holds on to the edge. We don't swear and hopefully we make people laugh.
"The Slovakian government closed us down because we spoke in English. We had a few running battles with them. In the end we said blow it and closed it down.
"Then we set it up over the internet. Now we get reaction from Canada, America and Scandinavia on a regular basis."
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