A true ghost story, as it happened
The New Vicarage
We were without a home, or we would be in just a few weeks time. The landlord of our current home had decided to sell, and we needed somewhere quickly. There was nothing local that was big enough, or even remotely affordable.
Just teetering on the edge of despair, I spotted an advert in the local newspaper - an upmarket surveyor and agent at one of the poshest addresses in Exeter, was looking for tenants for a Vicarage on behalf of the Diocese. I rang them up and said I would have it sight unseen. But it was not that easy, I had to write a letter of application saying just why we should be allowed to rent the New Vicarage, and it had to be a worthy letter, the agent explained.
Not the usual sort of tenancy so. My letter must have been OK because we were given the tenancy of the four bedroomed house almost immediately, and made a hasty move to a very small village overlooking a green and lush valley, which eventually led down to the sea. The views from the house were spectacular, and moving day saw a removal van outside, a delivery van trying to get a fridge freezer over the cattle grid, the pet rabbits having escaped into the large garden, and the Curate sat on the sofa with me, having a cup of tea.
He was a very intellectual and interesting man. He explained that 'our' drive would be used by parishoners when they came to church, and we had to leave 2 parking spaces outside the house. From the rear of the property or nearest neighbours were in the graveyard, and to one side was the Old Vicarage, now a private residence. I was quite happy with the set up until the Curate confidentially leaned over towards me, and after explaining that he had translated the Bible from some obscure language, he told me that the church had only just been exorcised. Oh!
I can pin poine exactly when things started to 'happen.' Though it was not until later that I realised, the events I will now recount were typical of such things.
There was a study leading from the outer hallway, designed so that the resident vicar could speak with people without them going into the main house. Then another door led into an inner hall with a cloakroom on the right, the kitchen straight ahead, lounge to the left and under the stairwell was a large airing cupboard.
We returned from shopping in the nearby town, having left the 16 year old revising, in the study, for his GCSE's - and he did not like it. When we arrived back, he confessed that he had become extremely frustrated at his work, and darted out into the inner hallway, and completely lost his rag, cursing and swearing. He was accordingly, reprimanded and all was well - so I thought. Later that afternoon, my now late husband, was taking something from the airing cupboard, within my sight, as I got to the bottom of the stairs. There was a click that we both heard, and we saw the light in the downstairs cloakroom switch on - but there was no one in there. I later realised that some 'ghostly' activity tends to happen when there are adolescents in the house - and we had three!
Dismissing it, we decided to ask the Diocese to check the electrics next time maintainence was done.
That was the beginning, but I cannot say the following events are chronological, because they happened so rapidly that I cannot remember which came first or last, but the one constant was, despite many checks by electricians, that downstairs light continued to switch itself on ( never off) regularly even when there was someone in the cloakroom.
There was a raised patio which led out from French windows in the sitting room. We had a table and chairs out there to enjoy the view, and the light pollution free stars at night. But we noticed something else during a hot, dry spell in the weather. On the large lawn in front of the house ( which was built around 1970's) rectangles appeared in the dry grass - unsurprisingly, they were around 6 foot long and a couple of feet wide. Curious, I phoned the Diocese and asked to speak to their surveyor, as the churchyard was well away from the lawn.
He was a new surveyor, and, interested, he came out to look, having done his homework first. He asked how many graves we thought were there, and we guess a dozen or so. But he confirmed that the house and grounds, as well as part of the Old Vicarage grounds were actually sat on a paupers graveyard which incorporated a plague pit containing hundreds of burials! I passed this nugget of information on to our neighbours in the Old Vicarage, and the man said that when driving his lawn mower he had felt a ridge in the grass which we now realised was the edge of the plague pit itself.
I cannot say our deceased neighbours bothered us, but I did have one occasion when I was sat in the lounge. The TV opposite the French window was switched off, and the window reflected in the glass. It was a Sunday morning, and church had just finished, when I glanced up and saw a man walk past the French wndow. He was wearing his hair long, had on a white shirt with full sleeves gathered at the wrist, a waistcoat and breeches with long boots. He walked across my field of vision, into our garden. I rushed out to tell him it was private but he was not there. On thinking about him, I realised his clothes were totally out of keeping with 'our' time and he simply must have been an apparition.
On another occasion, I was again sat in the lounge, reading. My nephew from the north of the country, had sent me a card thanking me for a donation I had made to him for a cancer charity he was supporting ( his friend had died of the disease). The card was on the mantelpiece across from where I sat. Suddenly, I saw, to my surprise, flames shooting from the top of the card. I dived off the sofa to put them out, but they were not there, neither was the card singed or burnt in any way.
I was not the only one affected by the house. One evening my eldest son was visiting with his wife. He went to use the downstairs cloakroom, and was gone for so long that we started to comment on it. Eventually he came back, and quietly sat down. He was only sat for a moment or two when he jumped up and called his wife and said they were going. I wondered what we had done to offend him.
I gave him time to get back home, and then phoned him. What on earth had happened? It seems the pesky light had switched itself on, yet again, and he had spent an age rocking the switch trying to balance it so it would switch itself on again - but it wouldn't. When he came and rejoined us, he had no soomer sat down than he felt something unseen touching his face - at that point he decided to leave.
I had one very odd thing happen one day when I was in the house alone. I was in the kitchen, from which a door led to the dining room. It should be noted that there was only one working fireplace in the house and that was in the sitting room. As I looked towards the dining room from the kitchen, I saw a tall column of rotating smoke in the dining room, near the door to the sitting room. My first thought was that I was seeing things, and my glasses needed cleaning, so I did, clean them, that is.
I then walked towards the column of smoke and stood by it, watching it go round, and round. I thought to myself 'You should not be there' - there was no sign of a fire, or anything causing the smoke, so I actually did nothing about it, left it to itself, and when I checked later, it had gone.
How many houses get struck by lightening? As I started to write this account, I wondered if lightening strikes were anything to do with 'our' manifestations. Could they be providing energy? Or could the 'goings on' be attracting the lightening? I am no expert, so all I will say is that the house was struck by lightening not one, but twice during our tenancy. The first time the strike was just below the satillite dish, and it bounced round the house, leaving 'splatter' marks on the brickwork, before bouncing along the telephone wire under the lawn, across the lane, up a telegraph pole, across the wires and into the Old Vicarage causing problems for them. Our telephone system was burnt out, the plug sockets melted, the TV burnt out. When trying to get the telephone lines repaired we were told it would cost over 1300 - but, and this is worth remembering in case you are ever struck by lightening, I reminded them that our invoice said we paid something called 'Line Rental' - which meant, as far as I was concerned, they lines were not ours, if we paid a rental on them. That saved us 1300 as they backed down!
There were a couple of things that I recall happening upstairs. Once the teenager who seemed to have started all this off, was absolutely terrified when he was in bed one night, and his duvet lifted completely off his bed, before settling back again. At around the same time, I was in bed, lying on my side, when I felt a hand resting on my arm. My late husband was lying on his side facing the opposite direction and there was absolutely no way it could have been his hand.
There was only one occasion when I heard a sound in connection with these events. I was washing my hands in the handbasin in the downstairs cloakroom when I heard my name called - just once - "Mary" not much to go on. But is was a very distinct voice, that of my father, who had died some 30 odd years earlier. I was alone in the house, but the voice was so clear and defined that I went outside, where I thought it was, looking for Dad.
So, what caused these goings on?
There is an epilogue to all this. Some years later, I went with my daughter in law and her friend to see the late Derek Acorah at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, Somerset. The theatre was packed. Of the hundreds of people there, Derek picked on me saying that 'Jim' was there for me. Derek said an awful lot of things, which I will probably recount in another story. But one thing he did mention was the downstairs light that kept switching on, and that it was definately my grandfather, Jim, trying to contact me, as I was 'doing something good with family, and I must continue doing it.'
I am a genealogist, tracing family histories for many people, I thought this was what he meant. But some time later I discovered something about Jim, that no on else knew, and I think that is why he wanted me to continue so that I could explain this to the rest of our large Irish family.
Should I tell you more?