Meeting the Devil in a country lane (or was it just a Man in Black?)

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As I said to Byron Rogers, when I first came to mid Wales as a young reporter, I was like a kid waking up in Disneyland.

I think he got the point. Byron, who opens Sunday's edition of Phil The Shelf, is also a journalist. More distinguished, obviously, than I've ever been, but drawn to the same kind of story. The kind that rural Wales has in abundance - not world-shaking but definitely mind-altering. For example, I remember...

...an educated businesswoman in a split-level bungalow on the hillside above a west Wales town explaining very soberly how a comparatively-recent family tragedy had been preceded by an experience of the toili, the phantom funeral.

...a farmer near Machynlleth recalling the sound of the old wooden bier they kept in the attic trundling across its floorboards not long before his father died.

...the secret guardian of the Nant Eos Cup opening a wooden box, brought out of a bank vault, to show me the chipped and blackened remains of what she and others firmly believed to be the Holy Grail.

OK, that one made a rather good radio feature at the time but, generally-speaking, stories like this are of very little interest to serious news media unless told in a certain way. Byron Rogers, Carmarthenshire-born, but now living in Northamptonshire, is a master of the certain way.

His book, Three Journeys, has stories about conjurers and condoms and how once - and not all that long ago - he was mistaken for the Devil in a country lane. Mostly, episodes of the kind you maybe don't realise the value of until you're looking back from exile in Middle England where, if these things happen at all, they seem to happen far less frequently than they do in rural Wales.

Byron was, of course, born in the middle of it, but the old magic seems to work equally well on outsiders. In this week's programme, we talk to Kevan Manwaring, an English bard from Stroud on an endless search for magic in the landscape, who'll be describing the curious qualities of the north east Wales waterfall Pistyll Rhaeadr.

Cover image of Andy Roberts' UFO Down?

Usually it just makes people want to visit the loo, but in Kevan's book, Turning The Wheel, the torrent's previously-unsung aphrodisiac qualities come to the fore in the kind of incident from which folklore is formed.

But some people remain resistant to the spell. We also talk to Andy Roberts who investigated the famous Berwyn Mountain UFO Disaster of 1974, when the crash-landing of an alien craft was said to have been covered up by the Men in Black.

This is an excellent example of the way rural Wales regenerates its mythology. In the old days it was the fairies - the tylwyth teg - who would have been encountered in lonely places furnished with the remains of Bronze Age ritual monuments. Now it's aliens. But are they part of the same phenomenon?

Andy's book UFO Down? is the first serious examination of the Welsh Roswell for many years and may also explain why he's become a figure of hate for UFO-hunters across Britain.

Was he got at by the Man in Black? Find out in Phil The Shelf, just after 5pm on Sunday on BBC Radio Wales.

Unless of course the Men in Black disconnect the transmitters...

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