Welcome to my Halloween blog.
Come in, sit down and get comfortable while I put another log on the fire.
Halloween is a time for sharing stories of the world beyond the veil and creatures of the night. Today I thought I’d share a story or two of the haunted places near where I grew up. The things I write here are true as far as my memory recollects, or are reported from local sources if I’ve not experienced them myself. I have no reason to doubt the accounts given.
I’ll just light another candle.
In my childhood, a short walk from my family home there was a local church community hall, built before the Second World War. It stood opposite the oldest cemetery in the area. The church hall was reputed to be haunted. Many local people agreed it was, while others vehemently declared it wasn’t. The only thing I know for certain is that a friend of mine, aged about fourteen, attended Scouts in that hall. After one meeting at this time of year, when the early evening was already closing in with shadows, my friend was the last of the group to leave, or so he’d believed. The scout leader had asked him to turn off the lights in the main hall. Being a caring and careful individual my friend checked both the side rooms and the toilets for any lingering youngsters before he left. All the rooms were clear. Just as he was about to leave the main hall he heard a sound behind him and turned to see a young boy, wearing a grey sweater and a pair of grey short trousers, sitting on the small stage swinging his legs so his brown boots scraped against the wooden beams.
“You’d best clear off now,” my friend told the boy. “The vicar wants to lock up for the night.”
The boy said nothing but stared back with the darkest eyes.
“I’m not fooling,” my friend said. “It’s time to go.”
Very slowly the youngster on the stage faded until he dissolved away.
My friend spoke eloquently about the event when he told me about it. “I didn’t hang around. I switched the lights off and scarpered.”
The old hall is gone now. It’s been demolished for a modern facility but having been inside I know the layout is very similar to what it was, and I wonder if, despite the changes to the building, the young boy lingers still. I wonder too why he was there at all.
Do have a marshmallow.
Or a piece of cake.
My next tale is of trouble from long ago.
If you walk out from the back of my childhood home and stroll a little further away from the church hall, there is a road leading down to our local High Street. On this High Street stands the tiny Town Hall, a park area, and a road leading up to the top of a hill. The hill rolls down on the other side and at the bottom once stood a very famous brewery. Much of the view has changed since I was a child, but the ghosts who ride up the hill still make an appearance now and then.
Cries in the night, the clatter of horses galloping along, and some observers have even heard the clash of swords, for this is a small force of the Parliamentary army of the English Civil War in full flight. The King’s army under the command of Prince Rupert had seized parts of the nearest town and set fire to homes. It is documented those individuals who tried to quench the flames destroying their houses and workshops were killed. In all, fifteen men and two women lost their lives that night.
The Parliamentary force made a desperate dash up the hill and through my home town, at the time a small village, to reach their commanders and regroup with the main army. I didn’t live close enough to the hill to personally experience the phantom troops but knew one or two families who did.
There’s some hot chocolate in the silver jug.
My last tale is of the tragic Grey Lady.
If you left my family home and walked in the opposite direction from the hill for quite a way you would find some woods. These are not wild woods such as some of you may know. They are ornamental woods once planted for a wealthy estate. The ruins of the house are a melancholy sight today, but the grounds are beautiful and were made a public park after the local community bought them in 1906.
The trees in these woods are not dense packed but they are close enough for children to have fun scampering around them. Families picnic in the park, have wedding pictures taken there, as did my brother and his wife, and when the sun shines the woods are a wonderful place to visit. However, when the autumn damp, rain and mists arrive, the park takes on a quite different character.
It is then, in the chilly dawn, or the creeping shadows of early evening, that those taking a short cut through the woods report sightings of the sorrowful Grey Lady. Witnesses see her walking from what was the grand front door of her home into the woods. There have been many sightings of this mournful figure, her head bowed under her grey hood, her cloak skimming the turf as she paces slowly through the trees. No one has ever heard her speak, or discovered why she makes her sad journey time and time again.
I hope that one day there will be no more reports of the sorrow of the Grey Lady.
Thanks for joining me this Halloween and reading some of the ghostly tales from my home town. Enjoy your celebrations of Samhain, however you mark the event. I wish you good fortune at the turning of the year, joy for you and those you love, and good memories of those you cared for who have gone on beyond the veil.
Copyright Vadim Guzhva for flaming hearth
Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_bloodua’>bloodua / 123RF Stock Photo</a> Sergii Figurnyi candle pumpkin
Mashmallows Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_pxhidalgo’>pxhidalgo / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_boophotography’>boophotography / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
“Chocolatepot” by The Victoria and Albert Museum. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolatepot.jpg#/media/File:Chocolatepot.jpg