A Christmas Eve Ghost Story*

Sometimes I can get a little lonely working at the Priory and if I spot someone walking along the public footpath, I’ll sprint after them, grab them by the wrist and make them chat.   They almost always say one of two things to me, either:  “Please go away and leave us alone.  You’re scaring my children / my dog / my husband” or “Don’t you get a little scared working all alone at this old, isolated house?”

“Um no, not really,” I reply, glancing over my shoulder at the Priory.  In the past, several villagers have taken me aside to warn me that the house is haunted.  “Wouldn’t catch me working there,” they say, looking me up and down and thinking I’m a needle short of a haystack.  Certainly, my brother-in-law, while conceding that the gardens were lovely, looked at the house and shivered,  “Wouldn’t get me inside there,” he said, throwing me a pitying look and shivering again.

But I’ve never seen anything scary at the Priory, though I have felt watched on occasion even if the house has been empty.  On my first day – a blisteringly hot, archly still day in July – I weeded the beds that run along the eastern walls of the house.  These beds, after the-years-of-neglect, were a simple mix of bramble and bindweed, dock and ash saplings.  And so with my head buried in undergrowth, and my back to the gardens, I couldn’t be aware of any drooling, yellow-fanged miscreant shuffling up behind me, licking his pointy knife.  Just as well there wasn’t one then – at least I don’t think there was.  But, on that first day, I did get a little nervy: conscious that someone might be watching me.

During periods of bad weather, I sometimes scurry into the house for a little DIY.  One winter, for example, I painted the kitchen ceiling and I did get spooked.  A little squeaky, shall we say.  Thought I heard someone tramping about upstairs, softly closing doors, murmuring – that sort of thing.  But I just gulped, turned up the radio a notch and concentrated on kittens-in-mittens and pretty puppies wrapped up in ribbons.  Usually does the trick.

And then about a year ago, I met Alfred.  Tall and handsome, in his seventies, Alfred has known the Priory all his life.  As a young man he was employed to paint and decorate – a regular job in a house of this size.  Shaking hands, his first words to me were, “You do know that the house is haunted, don’t you?”  I laughed and shook my head resignedly, “Er, yes.  I have heard.”

Alfred didn’t laugh back.

Sometimes I look up at an upstairs window and wonder what I would do if I saw a dispassionate, pale face staring back down at me.  Scream, I imagine.
Instead, he looked up at the blank first floor windows and started talking;  more to the house, it seemed, than to me.  “I worked here one Spring with two other chaps.  Back in the ’60’s.  We were alone in the house and were up there painting the bedrooms.  We propped open one of the doors onto the landing with a big bucket of whitewash.  Door kept swinging shut, you see.  Half hour later, I went to fill my empty paint-pot from that bucket.  But it had been moved.  Moved right out onto the landing and the door was shut fast.  I didn’t shut it and my two mates couldn’t have got to that door without getting past me.  So who moved the pot?  Wasn’t us and there was no-one else in the house.  And do you know?  That landing was freezing cold.  Truly freezing.  I could see my breath.  It hadn’t been cold earlier but now it was.  Far, far colder than it ought to have been on a sunny May morning. Later, when I went to get paid, I told the owner what had happened.  The owner smiled faintly and said, “Ah, that’ll be the Priory ghost.  One can’t leave a door open in this place but the ghost will shut it.  The story goes that many, many years ago a young man was attacked and, on fleeing his enemies, sought sanctuary in the Priory.  He ran into the main building but left the front door wide open.  His pursuers ran in after him, drew their swords and cut him down.  The poor unfortunate now haunts the Priory and won’t stand for any of the doors being left ajar.”
“Blimey, Alfred,” I laughed, “that’s quite a story.”

“Isn’t it just,” he replied. “Quite a story.”  But he still didn’t laugh.

oooOOOooo
As I say, I’ve never seen a ghost, or indeed anything scary, at the Priory.  And I don’t find it an inherently frightening place.  I thought it might be fun to create the image of a ghost from an ivy growing up an outbuilding wall (see “The Shape”).  As a nod, if you like, to Alfred’s story.
The Shape – December 2011.  The left ‘arm’ needs to grow more.
Unfortunately, rather than a ghost, the ivy is looking increasingly like a tall-spouted tea-pot.  Or, as several readers have commented, a chicken.  Still, I like to think it has the makings of a ghost.  Either way, I don’t suppose Alfred will find it amusing.


I wish you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

*I don’t believe in ghosts, but Alfred does and he really did tell me this tale of the Priory ghost.

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24 thoughts on “A Christmas Eve Ghost Story*

  1. Oh, I love this story…..and I love such old big houses (I also grew up in a big old house which was more than four hundred years old and unfortunately didn't have any ghosts ;-).

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  2. Thanks Helen. Hope you did too.

    Thanks Alison. A ghostly dragon perhaps?

    Thank you Karen and Esther. I'm re-reading Hardy at the moment, Esther (The Major of Casterbridge) but don't know his poetry. Thanks for the tip – I really enjoyed The Oxen.

    Hi Andrea, don't know whether to pity or envy your husband! Probably the latter.

    Thanks Janet – hope you did too.

    Thanks Holley, I have to say I did think Alfred might just have forgotten that he had closed the door. I'm afraid until I experience myself, I'm very sceptical.

    Many thanks GS, WW and Nat – hope it was good for you.

    Hi Mr K, you have a discerning eye. And yes it does have inhabitants but not permanently.

    Hey Luton Boyz, thanks.

    Hi Faisal, thanks for your kind words as ever.

    Thank you Shawn, not yet back at work – perhaps next week! All the best to you and yours too.

    Hi Teapot Camp Stacy, glad you're home safe and sound. Hadn't seen the arm tucked behind the head but can now.

    Ghost Camp, Dave

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  3. I used to be in the teapot camp (and still would be first thing in the morning) but now see a ghost in the ivy, sitting back against the wall with one arm bent behind its head, the other stretching out like it's just woken up and is having a good yawn. It looks like a good role model for your “real” ghost–sleepy and relaxed and not too worked up about doors one way or the other. Really, though, keeping doors closed seems a small price to pay for help pushing the wheelbarrow around. Fun story, Dave. Hope you had a great Christmas!

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  4. Hi Dave, Hope your enjoying the Holidays. That last photo is stunning! You certainly have the gift to spin a tale or two. All the best to you and your family in the coming year!

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  5. Oh, I believe in ghosts, but have never encountered one. One time I was finding things all over the house put in strange places, and remarked that maybe my house had a ghost. No, it was just me not paying attention. When I started paying attention to where I was putting things, they quit disappearing. Oh, well. Sounds like your ghost is a protective sort, anyway. Just remember to keep the door closed! Have a Merry Christmas!

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  6. Looks rather dragon-like. Not sure if it's friendly or a basilisk.

    I was going to suggest you work on being more fierce and frightening than the ghost so it is wary of you rather than the other way round but, having read the story, I realise it needs a little care and attention. Tell it about the cows and read it Hardy's poem about the oxen at midnight. It might make him feel a little more settled and happy, poor ghost.

    Have a very happy Christmas.

    Esther

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