Spooks Week: A Village Ghost

 



The Glebe in spring


This is the first of a few spooky - and mostly TRUE - stories, for the week before Hallowe'en. Feel free to add your own true ghost stories in the comments. 

Many years ago - although it seems like yesterday - we looked after my parents' dog while they were away in Vienna. Dad spent a couple of years working at the International Atomic Energy Commission there, before his retirement. I would walk the dog in the morning and afternoon, usually taking her up one of the roads out of the village. She had a particular tree that she liked to get to before turning for home again. 

It was autumn, just about this time of year, and not-quite-twilight when we were heading for home together, passing the field that you can just see in the photograph above, the Glebe, that used to belong to the old manse. It's very much a part of the village, with a low wall, and a driveway leading into old and new manses. The dog was a rescue dog with a very sweet nature. 

We were walking along the pavement and a fine drizzle had started, when I saw an elderly gentleman on the other side of the road, standing up against the wall in the picture. He wasn't unwell or anything. Just standing looking over the wall. 

Because this is a village where people are friendly and the road was empty and quiet,  I began to cross over, to speak to him. The odd thing was that the dog crossed over before I did. She tugged me across in his direction, pulling on her lead, so she clearly saw him too. 

When I got there - seconds later - he disappeared. 

He disappeared as swiftly and suddenly as a picture disappears when you switch off the television. It was so odd and so unexpected that I found myself looking over the wall, which was ridiculous, because it's not a high wall, and even walking the few yards back to the manse entrance, peering around the length of the wall, just to make sure nobody had bobbed down on the other side. The dog looked confused as well. She wagged her tail and looked up at me. 

There was nobody there at all. 

When I got home, slightly bemused, I told my husband, describing what I'd seen. 
'I think you've seen Jock,' he said.

Jock McBlane was the village chimney-sweep, general handyman and elder of the kirk. My husband remembered him well although I had never known him. But he knew all there was to know about all the houses in the village, where the drains ran, how the old houses were constructed. A useful person. He always wore white gloves in the kirk. And he liked to walk about the village in the evening, checking that all was well. He once told my husband that ours was one of the most soundly constructed houses in the village. It was built back in 1808, but Jock had definitely done some work here in the intervening period. 

The cafe in our village shop is called Jock's Cafe in his memory. It's situated in the village hall now, but it used to be in the old building that had once been Jock's workshop, over the road. Back when it was a restaurant, one of the previous owners told me that she would often come in in the morning to set up for the day and turn on the radio so that she could hear it in the kitchen, only to have somebody turn it down again. She assumed Jock didn't approve of loud music!


Comments

spabbygirl said…
How lovely!!! It was through my mother that I had any indirect experience with spectres. My mother Margaret and her sister Betty were visiting friends in Branscombe, East Devon, around the time of the Second World War. Their stay was to be quite a lengthy one and they quickly made friends with some local people.

My aunt was especially friendly with a chap called Terence who lived in a cottage west of the main village. His home, known as Margells, was thought to be the oldest house in the area. It was reputed to have belonged to a local abbey, prior to the Reformation, and to have been used as a retreat house for the monks.

This story is validated by a magnificent medieval wall painting still in evidence on a bedroom wall. Terence was a serious, hard-working young man not inclined to tell fanciful tales yet he would often tell the story of Margells because it had moved him so much.As a young man his grandmother had come to live with them for her final years and slept in a bedroom next to Terence’s. For as long as he could remember he had heard just before going to sleep muttering and murmuring that he attributed to his grandmother. Eventually his grandmother died but the sound continued, every night he would hear the same noises. He told his father, since he was puzzled about the cause. His father told him the sound was always thought to be the chanting of a monk. He said that someone had once witnessed a monk coming down the stairs with a bloodied bandage wrapped around his head.

Fast forward a few years and Terence took over running Potbury’s the local auction room and Margells was sold to the Landmark Trust. When planning a holiday together the sisters came across this information and booked it for a short stay. They were both aware of these stories, but being strong-minded brave women they dismissed these as rumours, relishing the chance to stay in such a beautiful building. But they hadn’t been there long until unusual events had them puzzled. At first they heard footsteps going up and down the stairs, and pacing in empty rooms. The women put these unusual sounds down to the house’s atmosphere. When the heavy cast-iron door knocker knocked of it’s own accord they shrugged their shoulders and ignored itNot long afterwards they were surprised to hear a party going on in the house. They could hear laughter, chatter and the clink of glasses as if in celebration. The antics continued, with something that sounded like the lash of the whip striking between them. This time the couple couldn’t ignore it, but all they could do was puzzle about the origins of the sounds and leave it at that. But they very strongly felt that if there was spirit in the cottage it wasn’t malignant, it simply wanted to be left alone.It was their last night in the building that convinced the couple that they were hearing the sounds from a different era. By this time both women were wary of possible spiritual occupants and agreed to sleep in the two single beds in the same bedroom. They put the light off and lay down ready for sleep, but something kept them awake. After a while my aunt spoke, “I wish you’d stop that snoring Margaret so I can get some sleep!”

My mother replied: “I’ve been lying awake listening to that!”

The women froze as they realised there was no other explanation for the sound than a spiritual one. “Leave us alone and will never come back here again,” called my aunt.

At that point all noises stopped and the house was quiet for the rest of the night. The following morning the women left the cottage as agreed, totally convinced they had heard the spectre of a long-dead monk. Knowing my mother and aunt as down-to-earth women these events convinced me that there just might be something otherworldly about some places.
This is such a good story, so well told!