K.V. Turley writes from London.
Recently, I came across an article detailing many of England’s ‘haunted royal castles’ – The Tower of London, Windsor Castle and others. What struck me was how many of these reported ‘hauntings’ were connected to Reformation history. Perhaps it is no coincidence. After all, when Luther took to the streets, tract in hand, it was All Hallows’ Eve.
Of course, England’s Reformation history was different from Germany’s. It was not so much started by the actions of a friar as the capricious nature of a king. To this day the English countryside is strewn with the monuments to that nature. There are the ruined monasteries and, silhouetted by darkening skylines, the broken stones of the former friaries.
Some years ago, thoughts of this sad history came back to me. For it was to one of these former friaries, now a family home, that I traveled as part of a film crew. The tale I was told of what had happened there was a strange one; what took place during one night of filming at that location was, however, just as curious.
The house where the filming was to take place was built in the ruins of a friary. At the time of the Reformation, the friars had been put to the sword. The building was reconstituted as a substantial private house. The sacred statues that had once looked out from niches above the friary doors had long since been toppled and, in their place, when the butchery had finally finished, on one of the ruined walls there was inscribed the name of the man who took up residence there.
The couple who owned the house many centuries later had noticed nothing odd when they first moved in. But they were not superstitious and paid no attention to such thoughts. Until one night, that is, when, after a row, they went to sleep in separate rooms. It is a large house so the husband retired to one of the many spare bedrooms. It was, by then, very late and, closing his eyes, he was glad to rest. Soon, however, he was wide-awake.
You need to know that the man in question is a successful businessman. A man of the world, a man given to practical schemes, a man who spends no time speculating on things ‘not of this world.’
The sound that woke him that night, however, was like nothing he had heard before. It was the roar of an army attacking: hammers and axes smashing walls, heavy chains being dragged across stone floors, and, then, the cries of those subject to violence unimaginable.
The next day, shaken, he spoke to his wife — surely, a bad dream?
They continued with their lives.
Then one night it was the woman’s turn to stay in that same room.
The next day, shaken, she had had a similar experience.
It was on hearing this story shortly after arriving at the house and following a flippant remark from one of the crew about the house being ‘haunted’ that I began to wonder: where was I to sleep that night?
Finally, now late, the crew was dispersed to various venues some in the house and some elsewhere. I was shown to a room in the house by my host. Just before she bid me goodnight, I asked, ‘That story…where is the room?’
‘This is it.’
And, with that, the door closed.
Without further delay, I got into bed, and turned out the light. Before long, I had fallen asleep. The next morning I awoke to a room full of sunlight; and, as I did so, I smiled at my foolishness.
Little could I have known that this was not the end of matters supernatural.
# # # # # # # # #
As the filming progressed, we fell behind schedule.
One night, it was almost midnight, and the cameras were still rolling.
The woman being filmed was telling of the work she did with young expectant mothers who had few, if any, resources, emotional or financial, on which to rely, with the spectre of abortion lurking ever in the background. During the conversation, she mentioned a name that, in an instant, seemed to change the atmosphere in the room.
‘Satan doesn’t like the work we are doing.’
As she spoke these words, I heard it. Operating one of the cameras, I was wearing a set of headphones, and, immediately, realised there was something wrong. A dull thud began to sound on the audio track, repeating over and over. I glanced over to the producer who by now was taking off his headphones.
'What’s that noise?'
Now when we had filmed earlier that day, we had been interrupted. Someone had walked across the bedroom floor directly above us causing the ancient floorboards to creak. Now, everyone assumed the noise was being caused by that same person. The only thing was — and this was something only I could see — that man who had the previously disturbed the filming was sitting quietly in an adjacent room.
'It's not him,' I said, and, with that, everyone in the room stared back at me.
Then it began again. This time, we all heard it, and it was much heavier than before — thud, thud, thud...
The producer, impatient to get on with filming, called over to me, 'Go upstairs, and see what's making that noise!'
Taking off my headphones and placing them on the camera, I moved out into the gloom of the hallway. Glancing up the stone stairway that led to the bedrooms above, I mounted the stairs all the time listening for any further sounds. On the landing, I turned toward the room at the far end of the passage directly above where we had been filming. All around was still; the sound of conversation downstairs had now stopped. At last, standing in front of the door, I paused, and then, turning the handle pushed it open, only to reveal an empty room with a blind being blown by a slight breeze from the open window. Walking over to the window, I leant out to listen, hoping to hear some noise from outside - something, anything that might indicate a source for what we had heard; but the night was quiet.
Returning downstairs, I remember hearing one of the crew starting to pray:
Holy Michael, Archangel.
Defend us in this night …
Cast down into hell…
Satan and all the wicked spirits …
Soon after, we restarted filming; there were no further 'interruptions.'
# # # # # # # # #
Some time later, I phoned the producer, and asked how the editing was coming along. ‘Slowly’, he replied.
After some pleasantries, I returned to the topic of the filming and asked about a particular episode, the one in which the sequence had been 'interrupted.'
Yes, he said, he remembered it.
‘Have you played back the video… the soundtrack, I mean?’
‘Well,’ I told him, ‘when you do, I would be very interested to hear about it.’
A reply came weeks later: the soundtrack was intact.
And yes, what we had heard that night was on it.
(Author’s note: The location and the names of the individuals concerned have been withheld at the request of those involved.)