The Spectral Bride

The Spectral Bride

South Mimms, a small village in Hertfordshire, England, located near the busy junction of the M25 motorway, was once surrounded by uninterrupted countryside and better known for its picturesque views over Ridge-Hill than the service station that currently resides there.

In the late 19th century, however, the village gained something of a reputation, and it wasn’t long before newspaper reporters descended and reported on a tiny community that had become widely known as ‘The village that marriage had forgotten’.

The articles spoke of how romance had seldom come to the village, and reasoned as to why wedding bells had long been silent. Villagers were interviewed and spoke of a lack of eligible brides-to-be but behind closed doors gossip was rife, and folk spoke of something quite different:— that of a curse that had been placed upon the village.

The source of the haunting was a female ghost known as ‘The Spectral Bride’, who had died after the shattering of her love romance, and would appear whenever a wedding took place in the tiny church. Whether she came to those who were seeking the happiness she was herself denied, or whether she came to bless them, nobody knew but they were sure that there was a connection between the ghost and the lack of marriages.

Its strangest manifestation was seen by one of the parishioners, Miss Long. In broad daylight she saw the female spectre, hovering just a few inches above the altar; averting her gaze from the terrifying apparition, she was then drawn to the figure of a priest kneeling in the stalls of the parish church, which dates from 1350. Two days later the village received news of the death at Bournemouth of the Rev. William Woods, who had been the parish vicar 30 years before. Miss Long, who had never seen the late vicar, described the phantom figure in the church which tallied exactly with that of Mr Woods.

Rev Hay, vicar at the time, said that he could feel the presence of the spirit morning and night as he walked up the pathway to St. Giles’s Church, and he believed this to be an ill omen:— the news of portending disaster. “Many of the parishioners state that they have seen ‘a bluish-white glow ‘over the tombstones in the churchyard,” said the reverend, “and over it is the spirit of the lady of the vicarage who has been observed kneeling at the altar when some dire thing was going to happen.”

“Until recently, South Mimms was known as the parish where young men and women seldom married,” continued Reverend Hay. “It is mentioned in the Doomsday Book and has a strange history of tragic happenings.”

The reverend went on to discuss the parish records which had a gruesome tale to tell of accidents, one entry stating that a highwayman was buried there on August 2nd, 1689. South Mimms suffered severely from the plague in 1665, and near its boundary Warwick’s Army fought King Edward in the Battle of Barnet. It was also a favourite hiding place of the invincible Dick Turpin from his pursuers, and not far away is an ancient inn called the Black Horse, where the notorious robber was in the habit of resting between his plunderous exploits. There is an entry in the parish register of the birth of Richard Turpin in 1703.

The parish church, dedicated to St. Giles, is situated almost in the centre of the village. At the west end it has an embattled tower with a small staircase turret built during the reign of King Stephen. The main fabric consists of a nave and chancel, separated from a north aisle, erected at a later period, by octagonal pillars and six obtuse arches. These are mostly of the Tudor period, and what remains of the stained glass windows belong to the fifteenth century. Such is the church with the haunted vicarage.

The Rev. Allen Hay had a great deal to say about the ghost. Continue reading

Wedding superstitions and curses

wedding superstitions and curses

August is the height of wedding season. The month appears to be exceptionally auspicious for marriage — something evidenced by the beautiful blazing sunshine and the hundreds of bridal parties taking place across the country. But is it the most favourable time to get married? And, what are the long-held beliefs attached to the preparations for this ceremony?

Detailed below is advice for the newly betrothed, taken from articles of the late 19th century. Following this comes a little ghost story that warns of wearing a certain piece of apparel when marrying for a second time.

Whilst there are fair women and brave men in this world there will continue to be weddings; and, as long as weddings are the fashion there will still be many persons on hand to suggest to a young bride just what she should do to avoid bad luck, and also what she must not do for the same reason.

Those who are ordinarily sensible about most things let all their superstitious notions creep into their ideas regarding the preparations for a wedding, and these whims are made the subject of discussion at as early a stage of the proceedings as when the young lady is considering what she prefers for an engagement ring.

She is told to refrain from choosing opals, as no one ever was known to have any happiness who owned one of them. In spite of this, however, dealers say that there is always a demand for rings set with this beautiful stone. Pearls, the superstitious say, are even worse, but eventually the little circle is purchased and the time for the wedding is discussed.

Then further complications arise as certain days are unfavourable and some months are to be shunned. May is said to be an especially unlucky month — why, no one can tell, but many a rhyme could be quoted to show that this notion has prevailed for many centuries.

August is also looked upon as a disastrous time in which to wed, and those who marry in Lent will “live to repent,” according to very old authority. Winter seems to be the favourite season for the wedding bells to chime in America. In Scotland the last day of the year is regarded with great favour, and should December 31st fall on Friday so much the better, as that is the favourite day of the week for weddings. Sunday weddings are common in England, and in the early history of America many couples were made one on that day, but recently such a thing is seldom heard of.

In Scandinavia, Thursday marriages are forbidden by the church, it being called the pagan’s day. After much consideration the day is decided upon, and brave indeed is the girl who will consent to change it, for that is sure to bring ill-luck which all the rice and old shoes in the country could not drive away. The time arrives, and with it much advice in regard to the colour which she shall wear and the manner of arraying herself. Probably no girl in her teens is ignorant of the rhyme which urges young brides to be careful to wear “something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue,” in order that she may live “happy ever after,” as the story books say.

Misfortune is sure to follow the bride who has a speck of green in her costume. She must never array herself in all her pretty robes until dressing for the ceremony. She must never read the marriage service quite through and she must not stand before the mirror one second after she is ready, no matter how pleasing the reflection of the happy face and graceful gown. The one who speaks first on entering the church will rule the house, so the wise once say, and in throwing the numerous articles of footwear after the departing couple, any of the guests may run after them, and the one who succeeds in picking one up first will be married next.

On her return from her wedding journey the bride must be careful not to step on the threshold of her home, but must be lifted across by her husband. If all these rules are followed carefully, and great care is taken before becoming engaged that the object of her admiration has a name which begins with another letter than her own, there does not seem to be any reason why everything should not prosper with a bride.

And woe betide a bride who chooses to wear a veil when her husband marries for a second time…

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