The Churchyard Horror

vampire

“The creature came in; crossing the room, crawling in such a terrible way, and her terror was so great that her voice was lost to fear, and it came up to the bed, and it curled and twisted its spindly fingers in her hair, and it pulled her head over the side of the bed, and——”

Read the tale here: The Churchyard Horror

The churchyard horror

vampire

I have studied all manner of ghost and demon in my quest to better understand this realm betwixt Heaven and Hell but there is little in this study that has proved more intriguing — and downright flesh-creeping — than that of the Croglin vampire. On a dark autumnal day such as this, having struggled against sheets of rain and the swirl of stray leaves in the lonely path across the cemetery, my mind creeps towards that of a real churchyard horror, set upon the Lancashire moorlands.

It happened in the last century. Croglin Low Hall was a low, one-storeyed house on a slope looking down its gardens and cross a small park to the churchyard two hundred yards away. Along the front of the house ran a wooden verandah, like an African stoep. Two brothers and a sister took the house for the summer. I will not give their names as they may still be alive.

One night the girl noticed a pinpoint of light moving in the blackness of the churchyard trees. It flickered to and fro as though someone with a small lantern was walking among the graves. She watched it, wondering idly why anyone should be there so late.

Suddenly the light bobbed up in the air, descended again and moved towards her. Whoever was carrying it had jumped the churchyard wall and was approaching the house. A black misshapen form showed in the moonlight — a hunched form which shambled over the grass.

Stark horror seized her, and she leaped out of bed to bar the windows. They were diamond-paned and heavily leaded. Then she got back into bed. It was in the garden now, coming up the path to the house, a deformed semi-human shape with long trailing arms. An ape, she guessed, escaped from the circus which had visited the village a few days before. Continue reading

The ghost hunter

ghost hunter

I don’t belong to any society, but I take a great interest in what are called occult mysteries. I pursue my investigations in my own way, and not long ago was on the lookout for a haunted house. I had an open mind on the subject of hauntings: all I wanted was to prove the truth one way or another. I heard after some research of a house in the northern outskirts of London — there are many lonely places about there. I arranged with the agent to have the use of the house for a week. He assured me it was quite empty — not even a caretaker was in it. No one, of course, would come near it, as the belief in its being haunted was profound, and the whole neighbourhood shunned it.

This looked eligible. I departed one evening, in high spirits, for my solitary vigil. Of course, there was a murder connected with the house, but the exact nature of the haunting I had never been able to get at. To discover this would be part of my work. It was early autumn, at the moonless part of the month, so that the nights were dark, but not cold, and I needed no fire. I supplied myself with food and light.

The house looked decidedly gruesome — in a melancholy state of dilapidation, windows broken, shutters off their hinges, the doorsteps green with damp; the garden was a wilderness. However, I have a large fund of animal spirits, I am the right side of forty, and my life has been an easy one; I am not, therefore, a person of moods or ready depression. I explored my temporary possession unscared by the rush of rats and mice and the cracking of loose flooring. Fortunately I found some old furniture — useless even to the poorest second-hand dealer — scattered about the house; some of this — a few chairs and a table — I brought down into one of the rooms that seemed best to serve my purpose.

What was I going to do? You — if you are uninitiated — may ask. Why, sit up for a ghost? — or an appearance, hallucination — what you like to call it. It sounds funny; I can quite see that; and you may think that if I saw anything it wouldn’t prove much. Somebody else, of course, would explain it away. But, anyhow, here I was.

It wasn’t my cue to remain in one place. The ghost — or hallucination — might be disporting itself in one part while I waited in the other, and we should thus be dodging each other — a sort of hide and seek. So I roamed about up and down very much as if I had been the perturbed spirit. Everywhere I heard creaks, groanings, flappings — no wonder the place was believed to be haunted. I am certain every plank had the dry rot in it. I had some supper and enjoyed it; a spirit stove supplied me with hot coffee — my only drink.

Then I composed myself on two chairs. I may have dozed; I remember thinking the silence oppressive, and then suddenly starting up at some sound below. What was it?

No doubt I ought to have gone to the door and looked out, and perhaps called out, to see what or who was there; but I stood still. If you shout out rudely to a — well, a ghost, you destroy your own purpose. This may have been my reflection — I don’t say it was. So I waited — as any scientific man would.

haunted house

Why did I attach any particular importance to this sound? Well, it was different from all I had heard — like somebody groping in the dark. A ghost wouldn’t grope, you object; ghosts are familiar with the dark. Exactly; that’s quite right; but it didn’t occur to me atthe time.

A door closed — I’m sure it did ; and there was a door shutting off the passage leading from my room to the rest of the house. I fancied, too, the key was turned — but this must have been fancy.

What was it — who? A stealthy step came right up to my door, paused — good heavens! a ghost at such close quarters! It came in — it — he — something! I fell back in my chair. Continue reading

Trees of Death

tree_to_use

There is scarcely an area of the country without its tree-ghosts. They haunt some of the places where the roar and rush of traffic would seem to banish any echo of the past. Look carefully and there, despite its modern aggregate of noise and prose, the tree-ghosts loom stately to the eye that can perceive them. Shadows spreading out on the pleasant country lane, even when encroached upon by buildings, look to be those of the past, staring down upon us, the weight of history chiseled into their gnarled bark.

It is perhaps surprising to note that Hyde Park — one of the largest parks in central London — possesses one of the highest concentrations of haunted trees in England.

Tales are told of a haunted tree that once grew here, one which had a malignant influence on those that slept beneath it. Continue reading

The carriage

ghost train

Let me, at the very least, be most particular about the order of events, for time may have clouded my memory of some of the details. I had been summoned at short notice to the bedside of an aged uncle from whom I had expectations, and as the telegram informed me that he could not survive this latest battle against the scourges of old age I thought it best to visit and, so, one unseasonably warm day in March, 1911, I embarked on a journey to Killigarth, a little, out-of -the-way, Cornish hamlet, where the old gentleman lived. There were few passengers on the train, and I had the benefit of a carriage all to myself. The landscape was somehow familiar to me, yet I could not recall visiting this part of the country.

“It is just like a fresh canvas painting,” I said to myself as I gazed out of the window and observed the rear of the long corridor carriage, at the end of the train, speeding on its way. I had travelled for much of my life, including eight years’ sojourn on the Continent, but the scenery that met my eyes that day took my breath away. First you would catch a glimpse of the sea, blue and still, and then a sharp turn of the line would alter the scene to a view of the green hills with perhaps a few sheep or horses grazing on the skyline. Then the sea would come into view again, and this time not merely a glimpse between two hills, but a big expanse of blue stretched as far as the eye could see, and the white sails of a yacht gradually fading away, as its course took it farther from land. Closer in, a trawler, dropping anchor and right out where the sea and sky met, the just discernible smoke of an inbound liner. Then the sea was shut out again for a time, and the train rushed along between fields of green wheat, weaving its way across lands speckled by small settlements, churches and the occasional ruin.

It was then that the whistle sounded, and the brakes were put together sharply in the driver’s effort to stop. Presently the guard came rushing along the train, and asked: “Who pulled that cord?” I shook my head and sat watching as he continued to sweep his way through the carriages.

Turning to the window, I noticed that the train had come to a stop at an unnamed way-station, one that was in a considerable state of disrepair. I was examining the station from afar when the carriage was suddenly plunged into darkness. When the lights returned, I was most surprised to learn that I now had a companion, a gentleman who was seated directly opposite.

The man was notably tall and thin, and his skin that of someone in middle-age, with a face sharp and withered like a bad apple. His apparel was close fitting and faded; all in all, he looked to be a man who had lost all interest in his appearance, which perhaps accounted for the unkempt nature of his hair and beard. Studying his clothes, a layer of damp mist rising from the material, I became aware that the air in the carriage had become cold and heavy.

“Quite a sharp change in the weather from this morning,” I remarked. “It is particularly cold now, is it not?”

“Don’t feel the cold myself,” said the stranger. “Perhaps you would like to exchange places with me; there is, as far as one can tell, no draft here.”

I replied that I would appreciate this if it did not inconvenience him, and accordingly we swapped seats.

The temperature was dropping at quite a rate, and no mistake. I must have taken a chill, for the hairs on my arm began to rise, and the cold crept over me in a most unaccountable manner. Looking at the stranger occupying the seat opposite , on whom the lamplight now shone brightly, I saw that his face was not so gaunt nor his features so shrunken as I first supposed; and I must have made a mistake as to his age, for he was by no means as elderly as I had previously judged. How cold it was, to be sure! As I looked at him, I noticed that his countenance change momently — that he was becoming younger; that the creases in his face were filling out and smoothing down, and that he was, by degrees, becoming like someone I had seen before. As his once sallow cheeks grew round and ruddy, and his hair changed from silver to brown before my very eyes, I became nervous, and wanted to cry out, but could not. I was struck dumb with the biting cold— cold that hammered into my limbs and benumbed my vitals, for I was now aware that the man sitting before me was no longer a stranger— no more friend or travelling companion— he had become me! Continue reading

The bays of the dead

ghost ship

If houses are haunted by the spirits of the departed, why not ships? The real reason why you hear so little of haunted ships is that the sailor, unlike the landsman, keeps a very still tongue on such subjects. For one thing, he hates to have his stories received with scepticism; for another, if he happens to be the skipper or owner, he takes good care to be silent on such a subject because history is full of stories of the enormous difficulty of getting a crew for a vessel supposedly haunted.

Tales of the deep relating to spectral ships are among the most attractive of stories, and authors of all kinds have embellished them with many fanciful and picturesque details. Indeed, every maritime country has its phantom ship.

The coasts of Cornwall are second to none in the wildness, the variety, and originality of their sea superstitions. For nowhere else in Europe has the sea taken such a toll of dead and still takes.

All along the Cornish shores the phantom ship is thoroughly believed in, as also are tales of phantom lights dotting the rocks and shoreline. A hundred or so years ago a schooner-rigged vessel put out signals of distress to the west of St. Ives Bay. A cable sent out reached her, and one of the seamen attempted to grasp at her bulwarks in order to jump on board; but his hand engaged with nothing solid, and as he fell back into the boat the schooner and her sailing light disappeared in the darkness. Next morning a ship out of the port of London was wrecked within the same vicinity, and all on board her perished. The phantom lights are observed generally before a gale; the Cornish seamen call them “Jack Harry’s lights” — named after the first man to be fooled by them — and the ship seen resembles the one that is subsequently wrecked.

The sinister death ship is a superstition peculiar to Cornwall. With a hull as dark as night and stumpy bowsprit she comes in, with all her canvas set, against the wind and tide, and as she turns to steer to seaward again the doomed person dies. Most famous of the stories grouping round the death ship is that of a wrecker who lived at Tregeseal, enticing vessels with false lights and doing to death those who escaped the waves. When a poor soul lays dying, a black ship full rigged with all sail set would be seen coming in upon the land against the wind and tide; and as the man died she bore out to sea again in the blustering gale.

ghost ships Continue reading

Freaky Folk Tales featured in The Paranormal Press…

Paranormal Press

I’m delighted to announce that I have an interview featured in the 17th Edition of the Paranormal Press, a publication by Haunted Southampton. My sincerest thanks goes to Pete Collins for this opportunity. The whole publication can be read here:

Paranormal Press – Issue 17