The Vicar’s Presentiment: More Christmas Ghosts

East Rudham, a quiet community in Norfolk, England, pop. 525.
East Rudham, a quiet community in Norfolk, England, pop. 525.

It was the day after Christmas, which in England is referred to as Boxing Day, when the Acting Vicar of St. Mary’s, a stately old church in the small hamlet of East Rudham, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, had a most unusual encounter.  It was so singular that the divine saw fit to report it to the local newspaper at the time. 

Church of St. Mary's, East Rudham, the site of the Vicar's Presentment on December 26, 1908
Church of St. Mary’s, East Rudham, the site of the Vicar’s Presentment on December 26, 1908

The Rev R. Brock, was serving as Acting Vicar while the regular Vicar of the parish, the Reverend Dr. Astley, was away on a trip to Algeria with his wife.  It was about tea-time and the Reverend Brock was relaxing in the vicarage, steeping in the holiday spirit, no doubt, when the housekeeper rushed in, all in a huff.

     “Come and see Dr. Astley!” she said.

     “See Dr. Astley?” he said.

     “Yes, see Dr. Astley!” she replied.

The housekeeper, obviously disturbed, led the acing vicar into the study and bade him look out the window.   Reverend Brock scanned the lawn without and saw nothing unusual, at which the housekeeper exclaimed,

     “You are looking in the wrong direction!  Look there,” pointing over to a wall outside which contained an alcove.

Gazing over in that direction, the acting vicar did indeed see something, although at first the full import of it did not strike him.  He saw a “full presentment” of a clergyman with a Cuddesdon collar gleaming white in the gathering gloom.  Reverend Brock turned about to look behind, remarking to the housekeeper, “it must be a reflection of myself,” but no sooner had he said so than he realized that that was impossible, since there was no manner in which his image could have been so reflected outside.

The vision from outside the study window was of a clergyman sitting at a table or desk with books before him.  The acting vicar also observed that the person sitting there had a gold chain across his waistcoat—exactly how the Reverend Astley was known to wear his watch and chain.  The young divine looked through the window several times, but the presentiment (for that’s what he took it to be) did not move.  Then he went outside to get a better look at the figure against the wall.  As he did so, the housekeeper informed him that that spot was where Reverend Astley was want to reside and read in the summertime.  Both the Acting Vicar and the housekeeper knew that the apparition they were witnessing could not possibly be the vicar—since Dr. Astley and his wife had left for Algeria on December 10th and were still there, to the best of anyone’s knowledge.

The mysterious vision finally disappeared, but the mystery of its appearance that Yuletide afternoon only deepened when the parish community learned some time later that the Vicar and his wife died in a railroad accident in Algeria just about the same time as the vision. 

These days the hamlet of East Rudham is even smaller than in the late vicar’s day, the railroad line having long since ceased its service to the village.  If there is any answer to be found to the singular Vicar’s Presentiment of 1908, perhaps the village elders who hold court daily at the Cat and Fiddle near the village green may provide some solution.  It would, at least, provide worthy conversation on a winter’s day.  Merry Christmas all ye Christmas spirits!

The Cat and Fiddle, East Rudham, where all important matters of the day are thoroughly analyzed and discussed.
The Cat and Fiddle, East Rudham, where all important matters of the day are thoroughly analyzed and discussed.

For more true uncanny tales of the unexplained and unusual, I refer you to Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground and Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee, while not quite having the pedigrees of English ghosts, still will confound and defy all rational explanation.

Strange tales of unexplained phenomena and paranormal activity in the Mid-South.
Strange tales of unexplained phenomena and paranormal activity in the Mid-South.
Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.  True haunting tales of the Mid South
Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. True haunting tales of the Mid South

 

 

 

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Staring at the Backside of the Beyond

What is Behind the Beyond?

Let’s take a break, if we may, from trampling through decaying mansions in search of restless spirits, rotting swamps filled with things not quite dead, yet not really alive, graveyards that give one the heebie -jeebies even in broad daylight and morbid mountain hollows where ancient curses still have power to bewitch the unwary passerby, and reflect on the state of the OTHER SIDE in this day and age.

First, while I firmly believe there are many paranormal phenomena which science cannot explain, and I continue to collect accounts of uncanny events and weird doings, I have begun to believe that our collective quest to explore THE UNEXPLAINED may have gone a bit too far. Or rather, that the innate human curiosity to seek answers to the mysteries of the universe that motivates most of us, has been hijacked by many who are only interested in exploiting what has gone from an esoteric endeavor to become a popular pastime and cash in on it by any means possible.

The explosion in “professional” ghost hunting in particular I find a bit much.  There are all manner of self-anointed experts these days who conduct very expensive classes in ghost-hunting, “cleansing” or various and sundry other paranormal practices. It is all well and good to go to sites that have a reputation for being haunted and investigate them for yourself or even to help calm folk uncomfortable with the possibility that they are not alone in the old home.

But bringing along truckloads of seemingly high-tech paraphernalia and putting on airs of being “scientific” is not any more valid qualitatively than someone who investigates a site by their “gut feeling.” Sometimes one can divine the truth by what seems to be an entirely subjective and undocumented experience. And one person’s authentic paranormal experience may not be able to be duplicated no matter how many tri-quarter readings you take.

As Shakespeare phrased it, “by the prickling of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”

Please don’t put me in the category of the professional debunkers who, while pretending to investigate paranormal incidents objectively in reality approach every occurrence with the same closed mind, and simply seek to validate their predetermined opinions and present it as “proof” that it is all bunkum. I have read  some ghost hunting groups’ accounts that I personally find quite impressive; but I also know that insofar as the scientific community goes, their evidence will not convince any academic investigator.

The flurry of paranormal Cable TV shows in particular yank my chain.  Some, admittedly, are worse than others; a bunch of idiots running around an abandoned sanitarium with flashlights attached to their faces and scaring themselves is not only a waste of time, it’s just plain silly.

Likewise some dude on tv daring a spirit to “come out come out wherever you are” is  an exercise in the moronic. Moreover, if they are treading on territory where they are dealing, not with the deceased, but with the demonic, they may even stir up something they are unprepared to handle. Genuine cases of demonic possession are very, very rare–fortunately–but they do exist and, as the saying goes, don’t go kicking a nest of hornets unless you want to get stung.

The latest scam is some of these celebrity ghost-busters offering–for money–certification to people as ghost hunters.  Of course, if any of these media mediums read this criticism, I doubt they will be much dismayed–they are crying all the way to the bank as I speak.

Of course, charlatans exploiting a popular movement relating to the paranormal is nothing new.  In my book, The Paranormal Presidency, I document the birth of Spiritualism and the story of its suppressed relationship with President Abraham Lincoln.


PP LINCOLN 01
President Lincoln was one of the many prominent men of his day who attended séances; he also believed in prophecy and other psychic phenomena

In the book I tried to maintain a certain objectivity about this subject. The truth is that, at that time and since, there have been many sincere people involved in Spiritualism, psychics, medium-ship, and also those involved in partaking in seances. In some instances these earnest explorers of the beyond may even have had genuine psychic experiences.

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Abraham Lincoln attended one séance where–allegedly–a young female medium was able to make the grand piano “dance.” Did it happen? Two eyewitnesses claimed it did and swear there was no trickery involved. Psycho-kinesis is rare, but real. 

But the truth is that there has also been a chronic problem with phonies and fakes who pretended to be psychic and have bilked gullible people over and over again over the years.  Moreover, with the advent of cable TV these charlatans have gotten a mass media following.

Unlike the professional debunkers, the Joe Nickols of the world, I refuse to throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater.  Paranormal phenomena are real; I know of many people who have genuine experiences, even if only once in their lifetime.  Similarly, I have met a few people whom I believe to be genuinely psychic. I think that everyone has that potential, at the very least.

But there are also those only too willing to exploit popular interest in the subject for a fast buck.  The truth is, that some people want to tell us what is behind the beyond, when they don’t even know what is beyond their behind!

Paranormal Presidency cover suitable for online use 96dpi
The Paranormal Presidency is a biographical analysis of President Lincoln’s beliefs about the paranormal and his involvement with Spiritualism, as well as prophecy, omens and voodoo.

Halloween Hauntings Part 6: The Happy Hollow Horror

HALLOWEEN HAUNTINGS PART 6

The Happy Hollow Horror

For this Halloween tale, neighboring Kentucky gets the nod. It involves an incident that happened many years back, during the 1930’s to be exact, yet it remains a much talked about and bizarre mystery to this day. 

It happened in the Pennyrile district of Kentucky, where many strange things have been known to happen.

To this day the Ragland house is believed to be haunted.
To this day the Ragland house is believed to be haunted.

Happy Hollow lies just outside of Greensburg, Kentucky and from the name of the small rural community, one might easily imagine it was a place where nothing ever, ever went awry, and where the folk were all amiable and content with their lot in life. One would be wrong

One bright sunny morning, the Raglands were sitting down to breakfast in their farmhouse, and looking forward to their morning repast.  Led by the patriarch of the family, they had said the blessing over the food and were just about to dig in, when suddenly they heard a commotion at the front of the house.

With nary a warning the front door flew open, startling one and all.

For a second he was too startled to move, but before the father could rise from his chair to go see who it may be who had barged into their home, he heard heavy footsteps moving in measured cadence down the long hallway from the front door.

Soon there came into view a ghastly  procession came marching down the long hallway towards the kitchen in the rear of the house.

As it came close, the Raglands could see what looked like a group of pallbearers all dressed in black and upon their shoulders they bore a small coffin. But the men bearing the black box were unfamiliar to their eyes, in a community where everyone knew everyone. Moreover,  no one had died in the family, nor knew they of any neighbor’s death. But that was not the oddest thing about this weird intrusion into their home.

Atop the coffin lay a lamb, the symbol of a slaughtered innocent.
Atop the coffin lay a lamb, the symbol of a slaughtered innocent.

Atop the coffin lay a lamb.  The lamb was white as snow, but smeared with blood, for it was headless and blood was streaming from the ghastly wound.

All the time as they marched toward the family, the apparitions in black said nary a word.  Without turning their pallid faces to look at the Raglands, or say a word of explanation, they marched past the family and out the back door.

Like dreamers suddenly awakened, the Raglands jumped up from the kitchen table to see where the pallbearers had gone.  Nothing was visible in the back yard. The ghastly ghostly pallbearers had vanished.

In due course, the local constabulary were called and they canvassed the house and  grounds for clues to who the strangers may have been. Neither the sheriff nor his deputies could find any trace of footprints front or back.

Apparitions or ghosts don’t always take human form.  There are accounts of black dogs—hounds from hell they call them—that appear out of nothing to bedevil folks.

The raven, a carrion beast, is universally thought a harbinger of death; for not only does it feast on the flesh of the dead, it has even been known to appear before they die—as if it had foreknowledge of their death.

There are also rare accounts of apparitions appearing as a lamb, generally white.  It is thought the white lamb symbolizes the soul of an innocent—a young child—who has died prematurely or violently.  That this lamb’s head was missing was even more curious—and most sinister.  Was this apparition trying to send a message from the grave?

In Happy Hollow and surrounding communities they still talk of that day long ago as if it were last week.  Moreover, the house where it happened has not been occupied for many years and in the area it has a reputation for being haunted.

It is a reputation not totally unjustified.

If you like this and other such strangeness, then you will find a fuller account in Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground.

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills of the Mid South
Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills of the Mid South

Abraham Lincoln and the Supernatural:

Lincoln and the Dancing Piano
While attending a sance at the Laurie’s Lincoln was given a “ride” on their piano by their adopted daughter, a “physical” medium.

In  The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, (Schiffer Press) I document Abraham Lincoln’s beliefs and practices regarding the supernatural. While Lincoln’s fascination with the paranormal has pretty much been known for over 150 years, but before my new book, no one had taken a serious look at the evidence.

To be sure, popular Lincoln biographers like Carl Sandburg and Jim Bishop have occasionally mentioned one incident or another about Lincoln and the paranormal. But these anecdotes were largely thrown in to enliven the narrative and rarely taken seriously.

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Abraham Lincoln visited mediums and attended séances with and without his wife, dating to before the war.

One issue The Paranormal Presidency does not tackle is whether Abraham Lincoln was actually psychic or not. This tome is a work of serious history and, while I document what Lincoln and his contemporaries believed and did, the issue of whether he was psychic per se is not dealt with. That is outside of the realm of history.

What we can say is that from early youth Lincoln had a firm belief in things we would call supernatural. Prophetic dreams, visions, omens and signs, and other uncanny events were all part and parcel of Lincoln’s life and career. But did he actually have psychic gifts?

17 1865 Broadsheet blaming war on Spiritualism via Am Memory
Many blamed the outbreak of Civil War on Lincoln’s and other politicians’ fascination with Spiritualism.

While many of the incidents surrounding Lincoln and the paranormal may easily be dismissed as either superstition or folklore, nevertheless, there is a hard core of well documented incidents where Lincoln seems to have had genuine foreknowledge of coming events—even of his own death.

 

For more on Lincoln and contemporary beliefs about the supernatural, see The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln and Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War.

Paranormal Presidency cover suitable for online use 96dpi
The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln documents the spiritual and supernatural beliefs of Abraham Lincoln and his experiences with presentiments, omens, visions and prophetic dreams, as well as his involvement with Spiritualism and how these beliefs influenced the conduct of the war.

 

GHOSTS AND HAUNTS OF THE CIVIL WAR 3x5
Ghosts & Haunts of the Civil War. True accounts of haunted battlefields, CW ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.