Category Archives: Ghosts

Ghostly Happenings at a 12th Century Scottish Abbey

Ghostly Happenings at a 12th Century Scottish Abbey

After my father died, my mother and I went on several trips together, but the best one of all was a nine-week trip through Great Britain, where we rented a car and drove the back roads from Chester to Findhorn and Wales to Canterbury. Since my mother was an avid reader and I was a reformed English teacher, I made it a literary tour of Britain, taking extra care to go to the settings of favorite books as well as the homes of many of England’s most famous writers. I took the books of many of these writers along so if my mother had not read them, she could read them in preparation of our visits. 

In addition to this literary research and preparation, I took special care to book us into a variety of different lodgings, from the best London hotels to rooms over pubs, inns set up in homes, castles, and even two lodgings alleged to be haunted. One was a hotel in the Cotswalds and the other an 12th century abbey near Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland. It is this second “haunted” place that I am going to tell you about.

The abbey, built in the early 1100’s, became a refuge for priests hiding out during the Jacobite uprising of the 1700’s.  Later in its history, it became a hotel named the Lord Crewe Arms. One room, which overlooked the cemetery, still housed a “priest hole” that had hidden priests during the uprising and which was said to be haunted.  

When my mother and I read about this room in a brochure we picked up in the hotel lobby as we checked in, we asked to sleep in this room, but alas, it had been procured for a bride and groom on their honeymoon. When we learned it was not booked for the next night, however, we decided to stay an extra night so we could sleep in it.

We spent the second day of our stay by returning to Hadrian’s Wall and then retired to the pub where various locals regaled us with tales and helped to stir our already vivid imaginations over a night’s stay in a haunted room by telling us of the sacking of the abbey, various sightings of the ghost and other local stories.  About 10 p.m., we retired to our room. 

Determined to see the ghost, my mother remained awake as long as she could, but then surrendered to sleep. I, on the other hand, could not sleep. I lay reading in bed, then switched off the lights and fine-tuned my ears to detect any movement, spectral or otherwise. At one point I opened my eyes to see a flash of light on the drapes next to the uncovered windows and moved to the window. The moon was fully up, reflecting off the gravestones down below.

I stood gazing at the unnatural plays of light that seemed to be emanating from behind some of the gravestones, and then I saw it—a flicker of white from behind one of the gravestones! Then another from a grave a few dozen feet away from the first. Then I saw a white figure dash out from behind one gravestone to duck behind another. Then another and another. Then, a few hoots and hollers that revealed to me the practical joke that some of our new friends from the pub had decided to play on the visiting Yanks. We had told them we were staying in the haunted room and obviously, they wanted to make our stay a success and up to our expectations.

I returned to the big double bed I was sharing with my mother, turned over and tried to sleep. Her soft breathing assured me she was already fast asleep, and yet I could feel something sit down at the foot of my bed. I turned on the light. Nothing. My imagination. I pulled out the sheets at the foot of the bed. It was a particular irritation to me to have anything pulling down on my toes, and the sheets had been tucked in tightly. Turning off the light once again, I got into bed and willed myself to sleep.

As I had just started to drift off when again, I felt a light pressure at the bottom of the bed, as though someone was tucking the sheet in. My imagination. I wiggled my feet and raised the sheets with my knees, trying to finagle some more space for my toes. Closed my eyes. Did I remain awake or was it in sleep that I continued to feel the tucking movement, the tightening of the blanket and sheet, a slight pressure as though someone was sitting at the foot of the bed?

The next morning, when we checked out, the clerk asked about our evening. My mother assured them we had felt no disturbance, but, curious, I had to ask why it was called a haunted room and what experiences others had had in the room. The clerk then told me the story of the priest hole used to hide priests, the sacking of the abbey, and what stories the maids in the hotel had told of making the beds and returning to find them pulled apart and the sheets in disarray or on the floor. Of guests who told of unseen presences sitting on the foot of the bed or tucking in the sheets.

Coincidence? Overactive imagination? Who ever knows with ghosts? But this is my story and I’m sticking to it.

A bit of history of the Blanchland Abbey from Wikipedia:

Blanchland Abbey at Blanchland, in the English county of Northumberland, was founded as a premonstratensian priory in 1165 by Walter de Bolbec II, and was a daughter house of Croxton Abbey in Leicestershire. It became an abbey in the late 13th century. The 16th century former Abbot’s house (now The Lord Crewe Arms Hotel) is a Grade II* listed building and the whole site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The abbey granges were pillaged during the Anglo-Scots wars, in particular during 1327, but the abbey itself was apparently left unscathed. There is however a legend that during one raid in the area, the monks prayed that the abbey would be spared. Subsequently, a mist descended which shielded the valley and monastery from view and was overlooked by the Scottish raiders, who passed by. The foolish monks upon hearing this, proceeded to ring the abbey bells to signal to every one in the valley that it was safe, that the invaders had passed. During their celebration of bell ringing, the Scottish invaders heard the bells, turned around and ransacked the Monastery.

(Go to Wikipedia for more of its story.)

https://normalhappenings.com/2018/10/26/i-know-a-ghost-daily-inkling/

Spirits in Mexico

Matt wants us to tell him a personal ghost story, and since I have a few of them, this is going to be a bonanza. Two (including the one below) I’ve told before in years past, but the third and upcoming one will be new to this blog.

Spirits in Mexico

Yolanda claims Grimmer’s ghost was here the morning she died and that it rang the bell over the door and when she and Pasiano went to see who it was, there was no one there.  Yolanda said her spirit rang the bell and walked out the door to go for a walk… That is what spirits do in Mexico.

Then I remembered 15 years ago when my neighbor Celia said she had seen my husband’s ghost walk up the steps to her house in a blue flame. Why didn’t she tell me at the time, I asked, and she replied that she hadn’t wanted to upset me.

I asked Yolanda if she remembered the time she stood with her arms out and wouldn’t let Grimmer go out the door until she let her press her very wrinkled shorts. We decided maybe this time Grimmer had escaped Yolanda’s exacting standards

Later on Monday, when I had spent hours looking for my credit card, Yolanda suggested I light a candle for the little triptych of San Antonio that I bought at the feria this year. (San Antonio is the finder of lost objects.)  I did so and the candle burned away completely to nothing, yet I never found my credit card.

If not the spirits themselves, at least the thoughts of spirits have been with us this week.

https://normalhappenings.com/2018/10/26/i-know-a-ghost-daily-inkling/

Boo!: JNW’s Halloween Challenge, Oct. 10, 2016

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Boo!!!!!

These creatures come right at you.  Run!!! (You have to wind them up first, though.) Have you ever seen a ghost with vampire teeth before?

https://jennifernicholewells.com/2016/10/10/jnws-halloween-challenge-boo/

HALLOW E’EN

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The Prompt: Trick or Trick—It’s Halloween, & you just ran out of candy. If the neighborhood kids (or anyone else, really) were to truly scare you, what trick would they have to subject you to?

Hallow E’en

They pound upon my door and wait outside my wall.
One climbs a tree to peer within. I hope he doesn’t fall.
I cower here within my house. Perhaps they’ll go away.
Though I am not religious, eventually I pray.

Their little voices raise a pitch. They start to bay and howl.
There’s a flutter in my heart region, a clutching in my bowel.
I purchased Reese’s Pieces and miniature Kit Kats
just for all these masked and costumed little brats.

My motives were unselfish. The candy was for them,
for I don’t eat much candy in efforts to grow slim.
And yet that bag of Reese’s, those small Kit Kats and such
called to me from where they were sequestered in my hutch.

It started with a whisper, hissing out their wish:
“We would look so pretty laid out on a dish!”
I knew that they were evil. I knew it was a trap.
I tried hard to resist them, my hands clenched in my lap.

I turned up my computer, listening to “The Voice.”
Those candy bars would not be seen till Halloween—my choice!
My willpower was solid. No candy ruled me.
(If that were true, no kids would now be climbing up my tree.)

Yes, it is true I weakened. I listened to their nags.
I took the candy from the shelf and opened up the bags.
Their wrappers looked so pretty put out for display
in one big bowl so colorful, lying this-a-way

and that-a-way, all mixed and jumbled up together.
No danger of their melting in this cooler weather.
I put them on the table, then put them on a shelf,
so I would not be tempted to have one for myself.

When people came to visit, I put them by my bed.
Lest they misunderstand and eat them all instead.
Then when I was sleeping, one tumbled off the top.
I heard it landing with a rustle and a little “plop.”

I opened up one eye and saw it lying there
just one inch from where I lay, tangled in my hair.
Its wrapper was so pretty—foiled and multi-hued.
Some evil force took over as I opened it and chewed!

This started a small avalanche of wrappers on the floor
as I ripped & stuffed & chewed & swallowed more & more & more!
This story is not pretty but has to be confessed.
My only explanation is that I was possessed.

They pound upon my door and wait outside my wall,
but I have no candy for them. No treat for them at all.
Surrounded by the wrappers, bare bowl upon my lap,
I think I’ll just ignore them and take a little nap.

I hear them spilling o’er my wall and dropping down inside.
I try to think of what to do. Consider suicide.
They’re coming in to get me. Beating down my door.
They are intent on blood-letting—the Devil’s evil spore.

I guess it’s not the worst death a gal could ever get.
I’ve heard of much worse endings than death by chocolate!

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NaPoWriMo Day 25: She

She

She was fingers drumming lightly on my arm while I fell asleep,
a box of candy that my dad had to hide or it would be gone by morning,
fingerprints of bright coral rouge staining the top of her powder puff.
She was a girl’s rhymed diary that told of filling the church elders’ hats full of Bon Ami powder.
A fatherless girl sleeping with her sisters on a sun porch in Kansas.
A sister of a girl who wore a nightgown to a ball,
the sister of a man who couldn’t stop drinking,
the sister of a girl who died in the great flu epidemic of 1918
and of a father who died in the great flu epidemic of 1918.
She was the sister of a woman who died in childbirth
and the sister-in-law of a man she did not marry to raise her sister’s child.
A woman who liked radish and onion sandwiches
and cornbread and orange Jello with shredded carrots and pineapple.
She was a girl late to marry who lied about her age until in her nineties.
A woman who never told her real name to daughters
until her daughters were women as well.

She was a good friend who never revealed secrets.
A woman who finished her housework quickly to lie on the divan and read.
A woman with a mangle who ironed the body and arms of shirts
while her daughters ironed the collars and cuffs.
A member of the Progressive Study Club who wrote all the plays for State Conference.
The woman who wrote the play, “The Hillbilly Wedding”
that started out, “Ye critters and Ye varmints, we are are gathered here today
to wed this man and woman in hillbilly sorta way.
H’ebenezer, Hannabella, do ye promise to be true and always love each other?”
“We do, We do.”
She was the mother who played silly tricks on her pre-teenage daughter
and hid in the closet to see if they worked.
The woman who had all her teeth pulled on the same day and nearly bled to death.
A town girl who lived in a tiny trailer with my father on the empty prairies of Dakota
and traveled from dam building site to site with him the first year they were married.
The town girl with no bathroom, so they had to park by service stations to use theirs.
The girl who counted to see how long she could hold her hand in the oven
to determine when the heat was right to bake cakes in her wood-burning oven
and who swam with her mother-in-law in a large stock tank.

She was the woman who took her daughter out on summer nights to look for U.F.O.’s.
The woman who never learned how to play the piano
but insisted her daughter take lessons for 8 long years,
and the woman whose daughter never really learned how to play the piano.
She was the trainer of dogs and parakeets and baby bunnies
rescued from the prairie by my dad.
The assembler of Halloween costumes and the decorator of Christmas trees.
She was the woman whose Christmas decorations one year were entirely silver and pink
and who made an elaborate chandelier ornament out of sprayed coat hangers.
The woman who drove her daughters 60 miles to buy saddle shoes
and 150 miles in the opposite direction to see an eye doctor.
She was the woman whose husband loved babies—
the woman who collected spare babies in restaurants
to take them to her husband to hold
while their mothers finished their meals.

She was the woman who showed her daughters how to make
Philippine lanterns to use as May baskets.
The woman who dressed up as a witch for Halloween and was so good in her role
that she sent children screaming down the sidewalk.
The woman who took off her mask for the rest of the night.
She was the woman who made up long rhyming poems about what pieces of the body
were being handed around the circle in a darkened room on Halloween:
a peeled grape, a bowl of spaghetti, a piece of liver.
She was the woman who covered lamps with sheets and pinned on
paper ghost eyes, nose,mouth.
and who collected corn stalks for decorations.
She was the woman who loved Halloween
but loved Christmas even more.
The woman who hid grass nests full of jelly beans and sugar eggs
all over the house every Easter.
The woman who found one of her own nests when decorating for Christmas.

She was the woman who loved to read who could read her daughters like a book.
The woman who could sometimes read her husband like a book—
the woman who said, “What did you do? You brought home another animal, didn’t you?”
the day my dad entered the living room with a sheepish look,
even though he’d left the rubber boot with the tiny puppy inside in the mud room.
She was the woman who had said the same thing
when he brought home the bunnies, the kittens, the tiny mole, the raccoon and the magpie.
She was the woman with the quilted satin robe with the long train
that the baby bunny hopped up on for a ride around the house.
The woman who taught Chipper, the parakeet, to say,
“Hello, Betty Jo. Judy Kay. Judy Kay. Patti Adair. Gee you’re cute!
Gimmee a kiss (kissing sounds). Baaaaaaad Benny!”
She was the woman named Pat whose husband was named Ben.
They were the couple whom later we later learned were really
Eunice Lydia and Gerben Sylvanus.
She was the wife of a rancher but gave him three girls.
They were the ones to insist all three girls go to college.
She was the mother whose travels had extended from Kansas to South Dakota to Iowa
who gave permission for her daughter
to set out to travel around the world
when she was still in her teens.
She was the woman who convinced her husband to move to Arizona
the year her youngest went off to college.
The woman who sold her mangle and became a fashion plate again in her 50’s.
She was a woman with four swimsuits
who did 1,000 exercises in her Arizona pool every day.
A woman who went dancing every Friday night,
who tried to take up golf and failed,
who lay on her chaise on her patio and read books
while her husband went to the corner café to regale his new audience with old stories.
She was the woman who flew to Australia to visit her daughter.
The woman who traded houses every few years
for the fun of buying and decorating a new one.
She was the grieving wife who said, “Ben always hated that clock!”
and watched it fall off the wall.
She was a girl and woman and old woman who believed in ghosts
and who slept near Hadrian’s Wall in the haunted room
of an eleventh century Abbey in Scotland.
She was a woman who played with a cat on Dylan Thomas’s sea wall
and who slept in a room over a pub as well as the Grosvenor House in London,
where she saw Garfunkel walk across the hotel lobby.

She was a woman who liked to sit and look at the decorations in her living room.
An old woman who drank aloe vera and vinegar
and did leg exercises in her bed each morning.
An old woman who got a machine to help her read.
An old woman who listened to the news all day when her eyesight failed.
A woman who bought a breathing machine when her breath failed
and walked around her condo trailing a long rubber oxygen tube.
An old woman who lived to be 91
and who lived alone till the day she died.
A woman who put on makeup and jewelry and who dressed up
every day until the day she died.

I was her collaborator in writing silly rhyming poems to send to my sisters in college.
I was her collaborator the day she dressed like an old woman
and sat in my dad’s chair,
setting him up by saying, “Dad, there’s an old woman here,
and I can’t get her to say anything.”
When she sat hunched over in her white wig,
her shoulders shaking with suppressed laugher,
he said, “We’d better call the sheriff. I think she’s having a fit.”
She was the one who actually never grew old in my father’s eyes.
The one who lived alone for nearly 30 years after he died.
She was the one who wanted a boyfriend to take her dancing whom she didn’t have to kiss.
The one who wore the Evening in Paris perfume
I bought her every mother’s day
until I was in my teens.
The one who fed the baby coon with a doll bottle
and bathed and baby powdered it every day
and put it underneath my covers when I had the measles.
The one who went from matronly house dresses
to wearing my castoff college clothes.
The one who created a whole new life
when her children left and pulled my father after her.

She is the one who has been gone for 13 years.
The one who very rarely passes through my thoughts.
The mother who did what the best mothers always do.
Who released her children into the world and let them go.

Here is a link to the photo of my mother I wanted to use with this poem three years ago when I wrote it but couldn’t find then : https://judydykstrabrown.com/2018/08/01/parental-support/

Today’s prompt was to write a poem using Anaphora–a literary term for the practice of repeating certain words or phrases at the beginning of multiple clauses or, in the case of a poem, multiple lines.

NaPoWriMo Day 16: A Teenage Mythology

A Teenage Mythology

A sneeze is how a poltergeist gets outside of you.
At night a different stinky elf sleeps inside each shoe.

Every creaking rafter supports a different ghost,
and it’s little gremlins who make you burn the toast.

Each night those tricky fairies put snarls in your hair,
while pixies in your sock drawer unsort every pair.

Midnight curtain billows are caused by banshee whistles.
Vampires use your toothbrush and put cooties in it’s bristles.

Truths all come in singles. It’s lies that come in pairs.
That’s a zombie, not a teenager, sneaking up the stairs.

It will come as no surprise that our prompt today was to write a ten-line poem in which each line is a lie.