Post by Graveyardbride on Dec 23, 2014 2:41:47 GMT -5
Christmas Ghosts: Haunted Churches & Sunken Bells
Many ecclesiastical spirits return at Christmastime. For instance, on Christmas Eve, a phantom monk haunts the ruins of Strata Florida Abbey near Aberystwyth in Wales where he is observed attempting to rebuild the altar by candlelight. In Prestbury, Gloucestershire – said to be one of the most-haunted villages in England – the “Black Abbot” materializes in the church, glides through the cemetery and disappears from sight as he walks through a wall on High Street. At Buckingham Palace, a spectral monk who died while confined in a cell in the priory which once stood on the site, appears on the terrace. This particular spirit is one of the few who actually fits Dickens’ description of a ghost carrying the chains “wrought in life.” The phantom monk at Buckingham Palace is bound by heavy chains which produce a truly eerie noise as they are dragged across the cold, hard floor.
Haunted Churches. It is understandable why the spirits of those involved in religious service have chosen this season of the year to walk the Earth, but some of the other Christmas ghosts haunting churches and abbeys are not so easily explained. One such is the “White Lady” of Worstead Church (above) near Norwich, Norfolk, who appears on the night of December 24. It is claimed the woman was frightened to death by a bell ringer, but how this happened no one knows. According to the legend, after the White Lady had been making her Christmas Eve appearances for several years, the designated bell ringer had one too many at a nearby pub before arriving for duty at the church. Clearly inebriated, the young man boasted, “If the ghost appears tonight, I’m going to walk right up to her and kiss her cold, dead lips!” No one paid much attention to the ravings of the drunken fool and he was dispatched to the bell tower.
Within the confines of the church, all decorated with boughs of evergreen and holly, the congregants sang a final hymn and waited in anticipation for the midnight bells to peal in celebration of the Savior’s birth, but the bell tower remained silent. The sexton took a candle and climbed the narrow steps to see if, indeed, the ringer had “passed out drunk,” as many suspected. Upon entering the dark, frigid tower, the sexton discovered the bell ringer cowering in a corner. Holding the candle close to the young man’s face, the sexton saw what he later described as “a look of unspeakable horror.” Turning, the frightened bell ringer grabbed the older man’s cloak in both hands and gasped, “I’ve seen her! I’ve seen her!” With those words, he fell dead at the sexton’s feet. Although she continues to appear in the church on Christmas Eve, since the bell ringer’s misfortune, everyone accords the White Lady of Worstead Church the respect which they believe she is due.
The ruins of St. John the Baptist Church in Boughton Green, Northamptonshire, is haunted by three Christmas spirits. It seems that in the late 1700s, approximately two hours after being married in the church, a young bridegroom died from a broken neck in a riding accident. A few nights following her husband’s burial, the distraught bride, who lived in the village, made her way to the graveyard under the silvery light of a full moon. The following morning, she was found dead, lying face down on the mound of earth covering her beloved. It was assumed she had taken her own life by drinking poison. Since that time, any young man or woman entering the cemetery alone on Christmas Eve night is likely to encounter a member of the opposite sex, either a lad in formal dress, or a lovely, dark-haired girl in a tattered wedding gown. Those foolish enough to arrange a midnight tryst with either of these seducers from beyond the grave will die within the next 12 months.
While the phantom bride and groom had a connection to the church and cemetery in life, the third haunting defies explanation. In 1825, the leader of a gang of horse thieves was hanged at the nearby jail. The man had never attended services in the church and is not buried in the adjoining cemetery, yet, on Christmas Eve, he manifests as a huge, shadowy male figure, emitting agonizing moans as he moves about among the ruined church and grave markers. It is said an exorcism was performed to rid the church of this troublesome ghost in the mid-19th century, but the following December 24, the groaning spirit was back.
Sunken Bells. Sunken bells, and bells in general, have always held a special place in ghost lore and Christmas is also a time for the pealing of phantom bells. Bomere Pool, a large, deep body of water almost a half-mile in length and approximately 250 yards across at its widest, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, wasn’t always there. According to legend, several hundred years ago, the local populace grew weary of the restraints imposed on them by Christianity and reverted to the worship of their joyous old pagan gods and goddesses. On Christmas Eve, while most of his flock were dancing around a gigantic bonfire in celebration of the Winter Solstice, the priest offered communion to a few loyal Christians and condemned the heathenish practices of those who had gone astray. Folklore doesn’t provide the precise details of what transpired that cold December night, but suddenly, the earth upon which the church stood opened, swallowing the building and its surroundings. The following morning, a magnificent pool the color of sapphire had miraculously appeared. Oddly, in this legend, the pagans, not the Christians, were victorious. However, the bells of the church, submerged beneath the deep, still waters of Bomere Pool, peal at midnight each Christmas Eve to remind the people of the tragedy.
The abbey at Evesham, Worcestershire, so it is said, was once so rich even the bells were made of silver.* During the reformation, the abbey was dissolved, but before the King’s men arrived, the abbot ordered the bells be lowered into the River Avon in a location where they could be easily retrieved once Catholicism was restored as the official religion of England. Of course, this never happened and the bells were never raised from the river’s depths. But every Christmas Eve, if one listens carefully, the silver bells ring out from below the surface of River Avon near the ruins of Evesham Abbey.
The monks at Combermere Abbey** (above) in Nantwich, Cheshire, also removed the bells when the original abbey was dissolved. Unfortunately, while being transported by boat, one bell toppled overboard. On Christmas Eve, the hollow rings of the submerged bell peals as a phantom monk walks along the water’s edge.
The buried village of Radley lies somewhere southeast of Halam, Nottinghamshire, and legend has it that on Christmas Even night, the bells of the churches that once stood in the long-lost settlement ring in celebration.
Sources: The Complete Works of Elliott O'Donnell, The Good Ghost Guide by John Attwood Brooks and Mari Roberts, Supernatural England by Eric Maple, Haunted Heritage by John Mason, Britain's Haunted Heritage by J. A. Brooks, Shropshire Walks with Ghosts and Legends by Dorothy Nicolle, A Companion to the Folklore, Myths and Customs of Britain by Marc Alexander, and Haunted Britain: A Guide to Supernatural Sites Frequented by Ghosts, Witches, Poltergeists, and Other Mysterious Beings by Antony Hippisley Coxe.
*Silver produces inferior bells because their rings are dull. Bells with the most sonorous rings are cast of bronze with a high tin content.
**One of the best ghost photos of all time was taken at Combermere Abbey in 1891. See whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/2595/ghosts
See also “A Christmas Carol: Ghost of Charles Dickens”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/838/christmas-carol-ghost-charles-dickens
“Christmas Ghosts: Christmas Ghosts of Pubs, Inns & Theaters”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/3041/christmas-ghosts-pubs-inns-theaters
“Christmas Ghosts: Spectral Coaches & Royal Spirits”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/3032/christmas-ghosts-spectral-coaches-spirits