© The Shields Gazette
I've said it before and I'll say it again - some of the best stories I've ever published in this column have been supplied by taxi drivers.
Ghosts, UFOs, mystery animals ... I've been privileged to pen some fascinating columns on these subjects and more, thanks to these knights of the road, and I love 'em all.
Recently, a driver for one local company spilled the paranormal beans about an experience he had last year.
One night he'd picked up a passenger from Corbridge and was making his way to Newcastle upon Tyne.
The weather was fine, the sky was clear and even though it was dark, visibility was good on the road ahead.
Several minutes passed by and the driver found himself cruising down a lonely road flanked by bushes, trees and shrubbery on both sides.
Suddenly, he noticed something strange ahead; on the road was what looked like a localised area of mist.
"It was odd," the driver told me. "It was about 5ft or 6ft in height and just hung there. I'd never seen anything like it."
As the car approached the mist the driver slowed down, but as he did so the mist changed and took on a roughly human shape.
Instinctively the man swerved to miss the strange mist, and as the taxi sped forward once again, he said to his passenger, "Did you see that?" "Yes, I did," she answered.
Now it turns out that another driver had exactly the same experience at the same spot.
He wasn't as lucky as the taxi driver, though. The mist suddenly appeared in front of him, apparently, and after swerving severely, he ended up in a ditch. To my knowledge, he wasn't hurt.
Not far from the same spot, a phantom hitchhiker has also been seen; a young woman in a raincoat standing by the roadside as if waiting for someone.
I know of one driver who stopped to offer her a lift, but as he pulled up, the woman simply disappeared.
Whether the phantom hitchhiker is connected to the strange, mist-like anomalies I can't say, but it's a possibility.
Taxi drivers usually work long hours, and it's not surprising that they are more prone to seeing mysterious events than most motorists.
It doesn't mean that they're psychic or genetically hard-wired to see ghosts; they're simply more likely to be in the right place at the right time.
Some time ago I detailed the story of the phantom cyclist who seemingly haunts the coast road near Marsden Bay.
I've had numerous messages from motorists - including two taxi drivers - who claim to have seen the cyclist.
All of them report that just as they attempt to overtake him, he swerves violently into their car, or in front of it.
When the drivers slam the brakes on and alight, expecting to find a dead or injured cyclist, there's nothing. It's as if he's vanished into thin air.
To date I haven't been able to find out whether a real cyclist was ever killed at that spot.
Descriptions of his clothing are consistent; he's said to wear a reflective jacket, green in colour, and a protective helmet.
If other readers have seen him, I'd like to hear their experiences.
Finally, a story from a taxi driver who was sent to pick up an elderly lady for a hospital appointment.
He arrived, only to be told by the woman's son that she'd died three days earlier. The call-taker in the taxi office swore that it was the woman herself who had booked the taxi only the day before.
Memo to local taxi drivers: More of the same, please!