Colonel Barker by Humphrey Spender (copyright Bolton MBC)
The sideshow featured Colonel Barker in bed in a pit separated from a woman wearing a nightdress in an another bed by a row of belisha beacons. Scandal loving tourists could view the scene from above, and rain insults down on the unfortunate couple. Although the advertising claimed that the Colonel was watched in the pit, day and night, the Mass Observation Archive records that an observer shared lodgings and enjoyed many a whisky of an evening with the Colonel.
This seems an incredible story, but in a bizarre twist which would have delighted the coincidence friendly Mass Observers history has repeated itself. Gemma Barker was jailed in March this year for deceiving two female friends into thinking that she was a boy and forming relationships with both of them. She used Facebook to construct 3 male alter egos and wooed them through online messaging. Astonishingly neither of the girls recognised their friend or realised that she was a girl. Truth is stranger than fiction.