The Box-Room

The Box-Room, a ghost story set in Fair Oak, Hampshire

A dear friend of mine, named Wilson was several years ago curate-in-charge of St Thomas in the village of Fair Oak, Hampshire and when he invited me to spend my six weeks’ vacation with him I gladly accepted. I found that he occupied a little cottage standing by itself, his only companions being his housekeeper and a rough-haired terrier, Jock. The wind howled and screamed around the house on the evening of my arrival, and the rain came down in torrents. It became so rough that the chimney crashed through the roof on to the bed where we two were sleeping, and we had to make up a bed on the floor of a small box-room, which, my friend laughingly told me, was haunted.

I was not at all displeased at this announcement, for I was hard-headed enough for any ghost and was glad that there was a chance of meeting one of those individuals. During the evening my friend, Wilson, was called away to an old parishioner, who was very ill and was expecting death. I went up the steps leading to the box-room, which only contained a small window high up, and got into the bed surrounded by old biscuit tins and other odds and ends. I was just dozing off when I heard a shuffling and saw the dog at the top of the stairs. It began to moan most dismally. I coaxed him, but he stood quite still. I put my hand out to him and was alarmed to encounter an animal as stiff as wood, with hair standing up like the hair on an angry cat’s tail. His eyes were glaring fixedly at the window, and looking round I saw just under the window the figure of a man dressed in sailor uniform. The shirt was wide open, and over the heart was a terrible gash, the chest and clothes being covered with blood.

It was the most awful moment of my life, and I did not know what to do. As I gazed at him, horror-stricken, he beckoned to me and put his finger into his horrible wound. He beckoned again, and, pulling myself together, I went towards him. I stumbled and knew nothing more until some hours afterwards the housekeeper found me covered in blood from a gash in the cheek. I carry the marks of that to this day.

I had come to stay for six weeks, but when the experience came vividly back to me I decided to pack up and go the same day. When my friend came back I told him of my resolve. At first he laughed, but seeing I was in earnest, he said “You’ve seen something in the box-room.”

I admitted that I had, but did not tell him what.

Shortly afterwards, I received a letter from my friend, saying that the old parishioner he had been called to see had since made a remarkable statement to him.

“Mr. Wilson,” he said. “I felt so wicked the other night that I could not tell you the story that has made my life a burden, and made me so unhappy that I could not even die. Forty years ago I was employed with another man in making excavations for the foundations of the cottage in which you live. We came across the body of a man dressed as a naval seaman, with a deep gash in his chest. Round his neck he wore a beautiful golden crucifix. We buried the body and sold the crucifix dividing the money. But the affair troubled both of us, and we bricked his body up in the walls of your house. My dying wish, sir, is that you will find the body and give it a Christian burial.”

I wrote back at once begging my friend to pull down the wall of the box-room, and telling him I would wager my life that they would find the body under the window.

And so they did. They found the body in a standing position under the window, in the middle of the thick wall, and they buried him with Church ceremony. The old man died just a few minutes after the funeral.

The haunting of Melrose Hall (a ghost story of the American Revolution)

Melrose Hall, a 4th July haunting

Are you superstitious?
Do you believe in ghosts?
Whether you do or not, there are hundreds, yes, thousands, of persons living in the Flatbush district of Brooklyn who do, and who will tell you there is no doubt at all about the existence of The Ghost of Melrose Hall.

Melrose Hall is a residence at Bedford Avenue and Winthorp Street, Flatbush. The particular spirit which it is said to harbour is that of an Indian girl who died there 118 years ago.

At every change in the ownership of the historic home, and on every occasion when there is dancing in the Hall, the ghost stalks forth. She was last seen two years ago, while a ball was in progress. She opened a secret panel which formerly led to a blind staircase in what is now the dining-room, and was the library in former times, and glided out among the dancers.

Some of the guests saw her. Others were sceptical. The alleged apparition caused gossip at the time. Since the last change in ownership, the ghost has not been seen. But one unusual circumstance has been noted:—

On the inside of the heavy front door a copper key hangs in the immense old-fashioned lock. This key is about eight inches long, of well-burnished metal and weighs something like a quarter of a pound. The door is of heavy timber, studded with nails. It is made in two sections, dividing in the middle. Suddenly, in the middle of the forenoon, the key turned in the lock, and both the top and bottom sections of the door swung back creaking. The floor cracked as if someone had stepped over the threshold. No one was to be seen. No one within the house touched the key, and as it hung within the door it could not have been reached from the outside. Continue reading

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the curious case of the moated grange

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the curious case of the moated grange

I have long held a fascination with the life and times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; not, however, his detective writing, nor the subsequent debunking of the many psychic charlatans that courted him, but more his inimitable style in documenting sensational tales of hauntings, and the rather odd relationship he had with women, in particular his mother, Mary Doyle, a preeminent force in Conan Doyle’s life.

In 1927, several newspapers ran articles on a tale that was eventually to become one of the many compiled in his last published work, The Edge of the Unknown. It is a particularly curious tale, and, I must say, one that always tends to send a slight shiver down my spine; though I am at odds to explain why – whether it is the strangeness of the medium’s gender mutation or the ghost’s mother-fixation so curiously reminiscent of Doyle’s own life, I can’t quite say.

The tale is presented below. Read it if you like; and if you do, then I’d love to know your opinion on it…

The Times, 1927

What must be the most amazing document from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle describes how a woman medium changed her personality in an instant to that of a ghostly ostler, a spirit inhabitant of a moated grange in Sussex. The medium was Mrs. Wickland, the wife of Dr. Carl Wickland, a noted psychic investigator.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle prefaces his amazing statement by saying: “I could not out-rival it if I gave free play to my imagination.”

He proceeds:-“We drove to a moated grange in Sussex, and while we stood surveying the lichened walls, a door entering upon the moat opened and a woman looked out, then closed the door. We passed on through a meadow, dismissing the incident, though Mrs. Wickland kept looking back. (Presently she said: ‘There is a strange old man beside us.’ In answer to our questions she said: ‘He is old and his face is sunk forward, and his back hunched. He wears knee breeches, a striped vest, and a short coat. He came out of the door.’)”

Sir Arthur adds:-.”We went home and were seated among the roses on my verandah talking of other things when Mrs. Wickland said suddenly, ‘He is here.’ Then a most amazing thing occurred before our eyes. She changed in an instant into a heavy-faced, sullen old man, with a bent back and loose senile lips. He choked and spluttered but there was no trace of Mrs. Wickland. The doctor massaged the throat of the newcomer who shook off his hand angrily.”

Sir Arthur proceeds to give a full account of the dialogue in which the old man stated how he was an ostler at the grange, and was pushed into the moat by a fellow employee whom he dragged in also.

Dr. Wickland interrupted: “You are dead.” Continue reading

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the curious case of the moated grange and the transgendered medium…

The moated grange

I’ve put together a new Facebook site as the old one had issues! To launch it I’ve added a Facebook-only tale: ‘Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the curious case of the moated grange and the transgendered medium.’

Although this WordPress blog will always be my primary concern, I’ve responded to a number of requests to provide a Facebook site that allows perusal of photos and story snippets in a précised format.

It can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/morefreakyfolktales

If you like it then please, er, like it…. 🙂

Thanks, Paul