I thought as it is May Day, and to perhaps get away from the sad tone of my last couple of Blogs following the passing of Jon Randall in April, you might like to read a true ghost story taken from my book Dark Journey published in 2004. It took place in an old deserted Manor House called Bloxworth situated not far from Bere Regis in Dorset. Members of the British Psychic and Occult Society (BPOS) first visited the area in 1979 to try and shed some fresh light of some reputed hauntings in the Dorset area. Bloxworth had been made a priority, because the host of ghostly stories that surrounded the place, which at that time lay forlorn and empty and invited intriguing speculation. The problem is (and as is commonly the case with unsolved ‘ghost mysteries’) local rumour can rarely bring psychic investigators closer to obtaining first hand accounts that are so essential in separating fiction from fact, and fact from legend. So it was with some satisfaction that local enquiries in the area led to four people who had actually had direct experience of Bloxworth’s eerie phenomenon when they were all friends as students in 1968. It was a striking physical manifestation; but each of them swore to its actual validity . . .
MIDNIGHT MANSION VIGIL
AN UNUSUAL ghost story with overtones of the macabre, if not incredulous, comes from a lady who recalls an event that happened in the late summer on 1968 – an experience, in fact, that was to leave a deep impression on her memory.
Sue, from Harefield, in Middlesex, was at the time a struggling student living in a bed-sit in Dorchester, and one evening returned there with some friends after having been to a local disco. She was with her best friend, Susan, and their two boyfriends, Adrian; and John, who was Sue’s fiancé. They had all gone back for a coffee and a late night chat.
It was a miserable night, rain having fallen continuously and, after discussing various topics, the conversation somehow turned to ‘ghosts’. At first, the discussion was a somewhat light-hearted affair (and was more than likely encouraged by the dismal conditions outside), but it was really Sue’s contribution that provoked most interest when she insisted that there was an old deserted house called Bloxworth Manor near a small village where she lived, some ten miles or so away from Bere Regis. Several sinister tales were connected to Bloxworth Manor and Sue emphasised that locals would never venture near the place at night.
Whilst listening to this story with a fair amount of ‘scoffing’, Susan and the two boys nevertheless insisted that they should pay a visit to the old manor house; if for no other reason than to satisfy their curiosity and prove such things did not really exist. Sue shrank from this proposal and argued that there could be some substance to the local stories that had given the manor – house its fearful reputation. But she was outvoted by the others and a little while later, determined to explore the place, they persuaded Sue to go and they set off in John’s car.
They arrived at Bloxworth Manor just before 2 a.m. and somehow managed to scale the wrought iron gates, which were topped by rusty barred wire and ‘guarded’ the long tree-lined drive that led to the house. The night was overcast and very dark, and although it had stopped raining, the ground was very muddy and intermittent splashes of water were still dripping heavily from the trees.
Cautiously, they felt their way forward along the muddy drive, unable to see more than a few feet ahead – even a pair of brilliant white trousers worn by Susan were barely distinguishable in the darkness.
Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity of stumbling down the drive, the oblique outline of the house came into view, looming menacingly against the dark skyline; a sky so dark, in fact, that no stars were visible to offer any semblance of normality.
A large lawn was scarcely visible in front of the mansion, the darkness making it appear like some foreboding swamp that warned against the intrusion of any human foot.
Suddenly, Sue exclaimed that she had seen a flash of light in one of the darkened windows. The others reasoned this must be a tramp sheltering in the building, but mounting apprehension coupled by a growing sense of unease about their surroundings, persuaded them to return to the entrance.
They started back, Sue last, but after a few yards something compelled Sue to look back, and another flash of light from the darkened mansion caught her eye. She stood, transfixed to the spot, and the next moment, a ‘shimmering light’ glided from the mansion and, in the form of a quivering column of fluorescent light, appeared in front of her on the lawn.
In her own words …
“I can see it to this day. It was a tall phosphoric light that moved across the lawn from the mansion and ‘stood’ in front of me. It was over seven feet tall taking the shape of a man of sorts, but rippling and trembling, its head seeming to move back and forth into the shining column.
I don’t know how long I stood mesmerised with fear, but I remember calling out … ‘John’, ‘John’, and he was suddenly at my side.”
In fact, alerted by Sue’s cries, the others had run back to go to Sue’s aid, and although Susan and Adrian had not actually see the ‘shimmering apparition’, an overbearing ‘sense of evil’ seemed to have descended on the surrounding area, and none were in any doubt that, whatever it was, possessed some kind of ‘demonic intelligence’ and was intent on making them quickly leave.
Without second thoughts, the group ran back up the dark driveway, desperate to reach the relative safety of the car. As they drove off, anxiously glancing into the retreating darkness, any previous scepticism was replaced by a relieved sensation that they had all had a lucky escape.
But Sue was the one who was worse affected. In fact, by this time, she was shaking and crying, unable to come to terms with her encounter with this unearthly spectre. In an attempt to reassure herself that the whole thing had not been her imagination, she said to John … “You did see it, didn’t you?” “Yes”, he replied, trying to steady his voice, “I wish I hadn’t. What on earth was it?”
This question, of course, remained unanswered, but the whole episode left a vivid impression upon the group, especially upon Sue and John who slept with the light on for a long time afterwards, unwilling or unable, to face the dark.
But this was not quite the end of this nocturnal adventure … The next day, under the reassuring safety of daylight, the four returned to the mansion to look for any clue that could have shed light on the previous night’s events.
The mansion still lay gloomy and foreboding, although daylight revealed that the house was securely locked and bolted, and would not have offered easy access to any nightly visitors, such as tramps.
But ‘clues’, there were none; and although their footprints were still quite visible on the muddy drive (especially where they had ‘ran for their lives’,) the grass where the ‘thing’ had appeared was completely undisturbed.
It seemed that the ‘mansion mystery’ would go unresolved; although one further factor in the story was to add a peculiar twist, if not dimension, to the events …
Later that day, when they visited Sue’s home in Bloxworth, her mother said (without even knowing about the night’s events), that a strange occurrence had taken place the previous night. At about 2 a.m. and all the dogs in the village had started howling and barking, a crescendo so prolonged that it had been remarked upon by many people in the village. No explanation for the dog’s ‘mass howling’ had been forthcoming. But it was a strange coincidence that this had occurred at virtually the same time that the intrepid group had encountered the ghostly apparition in the grounds of Bloxworth Manor.