INNOCENT’S SONG, a ghost story

innocent's song

It led her to the bushes, and deep into its centre — such was its enchantment —whereupon she came across a little grave, nothing more than a headstone, but one that had been entirely hidden from view, consumed by the thick growth of gorse several feet in height. In all her years of living in the house she had never before stumbled across it. Stranger still was the inscription upon the headstone:—

‘Twas sweetness that cut you down,
As mild a song as Heaven found;
And turning from the face of day,
You softly sigh’d your soul away.
So happy infant, early blest,
In peaceful slumbers now you rest.

When she reached the house, and had related her tale, her aunt told her another story, one of a little girl who had been buried and forgotten:

Read the entire story here: Innocent’s Song

Innocent’s Song, a ghost story for ‘Oranges and Lemons’ Day

innocent's song, a ghost story

I intended this story for children but possibly it’s a little too scary! What do you think?

It was that part of the evening when the shadows are deepening and the twilight had nearly run its course. The singing birds had finished their merry song, and children were settling down for peaceful slumber.

The young children of Glenford Grange had in the early afternoon come out in the park for a little party, but, finding the open air so delightful, they were loath to return to the house, and lingered on enjoying to the full the calm, evening air. However, as darkness commenced to envelop the surroundings, they crept closer to one another, and conversed in whispers. To their right stretched a vast expanse of lawn, which seemed, to their imaginative minds, to be peopled with strange and mystic figures—fairies, ghosts, goblins, and other fearsome things. Their talk eventually fell on ghosts—a strange theme for discussion out there on the green lawn in the silence.

Helen looked round her timidly, the uncanny silence and stillness playing on her nerves. She turned her head, and then suddenly she gave a start as a terrified shriek escaped her lips.

“Look! over there!” she gurgled, clutching Adam by the arm. Her face went white as she trembled in every limb.

The remainder of the little party jumped to their feet in consternation, wondering at Helen’s strange behaviour. Alas ! They were only too soon reduced to the same straits of terror as she, when they looked in the direction of her outstretched finger.

A white ghostly figure drifted across the lawn—a figure of mystery; for whence it had come, or what was its mission they could not tell. Adam pinched himself hard to be assured that he was not dreaming. But, no! He had full command of his senses, for this silent, mysterious figure continued its noiseless way, getting nearer, ever nearer to the little huddled-up, terrified group under the tree.

What was that ? All three had heard the singing: a strange, disembodied voice chanting gently, coming to them from across the lawn.

The sound rose high into the air whereupon the words became clear.

“Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement’s.
You owe me five farthings, say the bells of St. Martin’s.
When will you pay me? say the bells of Old Bailey…”

Long it lingered, startling even the insects from the flowers, and then suddenly, in one mournful outburst, the cadence of it died away.

The ghostly figure was nearing the thicket at the edge of the woods, and scarcely had the last notes of the cry died away, before it also disappeared into nothingness—mere space as it seemed.

A night-owl screeched, and a tree cast its shadows over the forlorn little party. Then the Moon,” Her Majesty of the Night,” sailed forth in her full glory, shedding a silvery radiance over the landscape.

Trembling and quaking in every limb, it was long before the children induced themselves to pass that dreaded spot, where the mysterious apparition had appeared, and where that singing had seemed to summon the ghost back to the land whence it had come.

The next day the children were inclined to disbelieve that the previous night’s experience had really occurred. Out there now, with the sunshine pouring down, and the birds singing merrily, it seemed as if the occurrence had been merely the substance of some horrible nightmare. They strove to obliterate the memory of it from their minds, but in vain.

“I vote a game of hide and seek,” said Clifford at length. “It might help to rid us of these gloomy thoughts.”

The suggestion was eagerly accepted, and Adam and Blossom ran together to hide. Blossom wormed her way into the middle of a group of gorse-bushes, but suddenly she was confronted with the face of a child, grey and worn, as if bearing an age beyond her years, which peered at her through the bushes.

“Oh, my! Little dearest!” she cried. “Oh! My little dearest—come to me.”

A brilliant smile, as welcoming as the blossom, lit up the tiny face before her, but as quickly as it had come it faded, and was replaced by something quite different.

Astounded, Blossom stood there, frozen to the spot, staring wide-eyed at the little child, expecting it to come to her. And then, amidst the silence came a small sound, as if a metal blade was swiping somewhere in the near distance.

Snip! Snip! Snip!

Only then did Blossom looked beneath the face of the child, and then she realised the situation.

Snip! Snip! Snip! went the tiny blades.

Chip chop, chip chop went the voice in her head.

With her eyes closed and arms outstretched, she awaited the terrible thing, but it was not she who came, for Adam, quickly concluding that Blossom had chanced upon one of the previous night’s supposed ghosts made his way to intercept the little trespasser of the park. But he was doomed to disappointment, for, before he could clasp his arms around her, there rose in the air that ghastly chanting of the night before, and his little prisoner slipped from his grasp.

Baffled, foiled and disappointed, Adam and his cousins made a full search, hoping to find some clue to the mystery which at present enveloped the recent events. At last they reluctantly decided to let Mr. Glastin, Adam’s father, into their secret, for they were sure that if he made investigations he would set matters right. They found Mr. Glastin in his office, and the little party having seated themselves, Adam proceeded with his story.

“Father, did you hear a strange singing last night, and this morning?” he asked.

“Yes, my son,” replied Mr. Glastin, with a strange smile as he turned to view the serious young face of his son, “yes, it is not an uncommon sound, particularly at this time of year.”

“Father, sorry, I—,” Adam paused momentarily to look at his cousins, “—we, that is, do not understand.”

Mr. Glastin then related a strange tale, which gave some explanation to their recent experience.

His mother, so he told them, had, one night, been alone in the house except for her two small children when she was aroused from sleep by the sound of singing outside her bedroom window. She listened, her heart beating wildly. After what seemed hours the singing ceased, followed by sounds as of creeping footsteps around the house. Not for a moment were they silent. She could follow them all the way round till slowly, without hurry, without pause, they once more reached her window. A few moments of nerve-wracking silence. Then a crying, scarcely audible, becoming gradually louder and louder till it ended in an awful shriek. My mother lay trembling, almost too frightened to breathe, till she heard the little gate of her front garden open and shut, then, summoning all her courage, she rose, and creeping to the window, raised the blind just a little. She saw in the bright moonlight, walking across the lawn towards her aunt’s house, a small figure in a white dress. The figure disappeared behind the gorse bushes. My poor mother, terrified for the safety of her relatives, left the house and followed the singing which still hung upon the air. It led her to the bushes, and deep into its centre — such was its enchantment —whereupon she came across a little grave, nothing more than a headstone, but one that had been entirely hidden from view, consumed by the thick growth of gorse several feet in height. In all her years of living in the house she had never before stumbled across it. Stranger still was the inscription upon the headstone:—

‘Twas sweetness that cut you down,
As mild a song as Heaven found;
And turning from the face of day,
You softly sigh’d your soul away.
So happy infant, early blest,
In peaceful slumbers now you rest.

When she reached the house, and had related her tale, her aunt told her another story, one of a little girl who had been buried and forgotten:

The children had been playing together in the garden, and the father remarked that it was time for them to go to bed. However, he allowed them to play a little while longer after they had pleaded for him to let them have one last song together. Gertrude had suggested a rhyme, and Thomas, seeing an immediate relevance, had revealed a pair of gardening shears which he said would be most appropriate for the chip! chop! verse.

But tragedy was to strike; after only a single round of the song, Thomas tripped across a line of exposed roots, and the shears, remaining tightly held in his grasp, were driven upwards with such force that they penetrated the exposed neck of his little sister. The skin was pierced, and the blade penetrated as deep as the spine. Her brother attempted to extract the scissors, but had little success; the blood immediately gushed from the wound. Thereupon the girl collapsed and soon died. The song they were singing, as you will undoubtedly have guessed, was Oranges and Lemons.

* * * * * * *

Oranges and Lemons Day takes place every year in London, usually on the third Thursday of March [1], even when Easter intervenes, at the Church of St Clement Danes.

Children who go to the nearby St Clement Danes Church of England Primary School attend a service, after which the church’s bells are rung and the children are given each an orange and a lemon.

Click on the photograph below to view a video of the Oranges and Lemons Day church service.

oranges and lemons

THE CRAWLS, the story of the Tichborne Dole and its curse

tichborne dole

March 25th is ‘Lady Day’, the traditional name of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin.

It is also a day of festivities in Tichborne, Hampshire, when donations of flour, which have been blessed by the local parish priest, are handed out from the front of Tichborne House — and, a time when, once more, the villagers serve to abate the terror of an age-old curse!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Listen …can you hear her?

Strain your ears, press them close to the soil and you surely will!

That wretched wheeze: a drawn-out throttling of the throat that sounds like murder.

Then comes the coughing: a diseased hack-hack-hack, as if a seal gasping for air.

I am dying.

She is dying, but slowly.

What an odd place to die?

The plough-ravaged soil caresses her, taking her down.

Earth binds itself to her fingers; black rivers run across her back.

I will not let him win.

She has crawled this field many times before — every accursed March 25th for the past eight hundred years. And crawl it she must, for without her spirit, and the curse that is renewed each and every Lady Day, Tichborne would be nothing more than a dream of the past. So, let us bless the soul of Lady Mabella and allow her to tell her tale; a tale that has come to be known as ‘The Terror of Tichborne’. Continue reading

A Darker Shade of Spring, a haunting tale of madness

spring ghost

“Stitch ! Stitch ! Stitch ! Faster and faster come the sounds. He cannot sleep for the low, monotonous noise. Somehow the unpleasant thought is borne on his mind that someone is stitching a shroud for him.”

Read it here: A Darker Shade of Spring

P.J. Hodge is the author of GHOSTS AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL GUESTS, 12 tales of supernatural terror available from Amazon as ebook and Kindle: http://mybook.to/ghosts.

Winner of Gothic Reader Book of the Year.

ghost stories

A Darker Shade of Spring

ghosts of spring

“Not half a bad yarn,” remarked Reynolds, as Lewis finished the thrilling ghost story he had been narrating. “Only the worst of all these sort of lies, to my mind, is the finale. You get something beautifully weird and thrilling, then comes the explanation — tame and unconvincing — and spoils the lot. “What’s your opinion, John?”

Thatcher, who had been gazing dreamily into the fire, stretched himself out full length in his chair and blew a big cloud of smoke ceilingwards.

“My opinion,” said he, brusquely, “is that it’s easy to sit and scoff surrounded by lights and friends. But I fancy that a night passed in a certain room I know of would be likely to make you modify your views on these things.”

“Where is this room?”

“In the suburbs. I lodged there in my younger days— for one night only.”

“Did you see anything?” asked Reynolds.

“No,” replied Thatcher, slowly.

“But there was something in that room— ”

“Well,” put in Reynolds, “show me this room, and I’m game to spend a night alone in it.”

Thatcher merely glanced at his watch, and said:

“Very good. We’ll start at once then.”

“All right,” replied Reynolds, coolly, although he was somewhat taken aback at this sudden acceptance of his offer.

“I’m ready.” Continue reading

The Cult of the Banshee, a supernatural tale for St Patrick’s Day

cult_of_the_banshee2

Do you believe in the supernatural? Do you accept that there is something unseen in ourselves, in our thoughts, in our inner consciousness, which Nature will not allow us to entirely ignore?

With some the supernatural takes the form of luck, of a blind belief in Fate, while the particular brand of others is ghosts pure and simple. Between those two, luck and ghosts, there is a wide range of speculation and assertion.

Without doubt, the supernatural exists to a large extent in the imagination. I do not say that it exists only or entirely in the imagination, but I do consider that the imagination has a great influence upon the existence of the supernatural. A highly strung, nervous, imaginative temperament is more susceptible to, and receptive of the supernatural; it is what I may term a good medium; it catches and retains a sensation without attempting or wishing to analyse the wherefore or the wherefrom. In the Irish this temperament is more fully developed than in any other people. Their fancy has led their belief, or rather their power of reception, to concentrate in one particular form, namely, the Banshee.

There was a time I should have laughed to scorn anyone who dared predict that I should ever make such a statement, but now it is my firm and unalterable belief that the Banshee is a reality. There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind as to its actual existence. I am an Englishman not an Irishman; I am not superstitious, and I certainly do not believe in ghosts, for I have never seen or in any way come in contact with one. Why this impression should have gained such a hold upon me I am entirely without explanation!

But now, the story of my conversion to the cult of the Banshee. Continue reading

THE CRAWLING, an echo of the macabre

doll horror story

“It was in her arms,” he continued, “the infant, that is.” “You see, she had lost her mind to such a degree that she had begun gnawing the skull of the child… and with the fingers and toes of the baby tied to her hair.”

“Good God,” I uttered, a deep disgust throttling my voice. “Such a thing—!”

Read the story here: THE CRAWLING

P.J. Hodge is the author of GHOSTS AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL GUESTS, 12 tales of supernatural terror available from Amazon as ebook and Kindle: http://mybook.to/ghosts.

Winner of Gothic Reader Book of the Year.

GHOSTS AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL GUESTS

THE HOUSE WITH BLACK SHUTTERS, another tale of the dead from FREAKY FOLK TALES

house of the dead

“When I was a boy almost all the folk, especially in Romsey, where I was brought up, believed in ghosts. Those that worked the breweries, the corn mills, the iron and jam makers’ works, the leather board and paper mills all had stories to tell. My mother believed in them; I believed in them; everybody believed in them. I have run many a mile from my own shadow and returned home with a certainty that I was followed the entire way.”

Read the whole story here: THE HOUSE WITH BLACK SHUTTERS

P.J. Hodge is the author of GHOSTS AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL GUESTS, 12 tales of supernatural terror available from Amazon as ebook and Kindle: http://mybook.to/ghosts.

Winner of Gothic Reader Book of the Year.

The Ghost of Alan Mophant

Victorian ghost

I am dying; the solid world, that once was so much to me and in which I held a great place, is slipping fast away like the ending of a dream. I have faith that I may wake in a brighter one. I look about me at the whitewashed walls of the prison infirmary, and am glad that this is at an end; I tell this story to one who has been a good friend to me and who will write it down, so that all men may know what my life has been, and may understand the ruin that fell upon me.

So many tales have got about, as to the crime I committed, that it is just and right that the truth should be told; as I hope for mercy I lay my hand upon my heart and look at the white ceiling above me and swear this is the truth.

I was said to be wild as a young man; I do not think it can ever be claimed I was vicious. The world seemed very full of wonderful things and I longed to see them; life stretched out before me like a great panorama, and I wanted to examine every corner of the picture. So, at an age when most boys are still in the home-nest, I had started out to make my fortune in what fashion I could.

I made that fortune somewhat more rapidly than most men have done. That was a day of new countries, when fortunes were to be picked out of the solid earth; when cities rose in a night, as it were; and when a man who rose a beggar in the morning might lie down at night a millionaire —or something very near it, at all events. I was one of the lucky ones; everything seemed to prosper with me; and I looked forward to returning, within a very short time, back to the old country a rich man. Then, in an evil hour, I thought I saw a chance to take a bigger stride even than before; and I arranged a partnership with Alan Mophant. Mophant was one of those bright, bold, dashing sort of creatures, who seem to twine their way into the hearts of their fellows, and who are always ready with a smile and a jest for good or ill fortune. I liked him; trusted him utterly. He repaid my trust by robbing me of all I had in a desolate part of Mexico, and leaving me penniless and almost starving. The crime was blacker when I remember that I was lying ill of a fever and could not help myself.

My fortune was gone; I had to begin all over again. A kindly woman nursed me back to life and health; and I set out with one bitter hope in my mind: to find Alan Mophant and take my revenge for the wrong he had done me. I couldn’t begin to make another fortune until I had found him —until I had met him face to face.

I was prospecting a little later in a place hundreds of miles from where he had deserted me and had practically given up all hope of finding him, when I suddenly came upon him — almost walked into his arms, as it were. We were all alone, as it happened; and, almost before he knew what had occurred, I was upon him, and we were grappling together like tigers.

I swear I did not mean to kill him; I don’t think I knew what my real intention was at that moment. All I thought of was the fact that the man who had robbed me of all I had toiled so hard to get, and who had deserted me when I was almost dying, was in my clutches. So we gripped each other and swayed about, breathing hard and not speaking a word. Continue reading

THE HOUSE WITH BLACK SHUTTERS, a Gothic tale

gothic tales

“When I was a boy almost all the folk, especially in Romsey, where I was brought up, believed in ghosts. Those that worked the breweries, the corn mills, the iron and jam makers’ works, the leather board and paper mills all had stories to tell. My mother believed in them; I believed in them; everybody believed in them. I have run many a mile from my own shadow and returned home with a certainty that I was followed the entire way.”

Read the whole story here: THE HOUSE WITH BLACK SHUTTERS

P.J. Hodge is the author of GHOSTS AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL GUESTS, 12 tales of supernatural terror available from Amazon as ebook and Kindle: http://mybook.to/ghosts.

Winner of Gothic Reader Book of the Year.