Supernatural – the spirits of Plympton Cottage

Cottage

I AM a logical thinker and follow no particular religion, but I now know there is something unexplained and spiritual in our world which we simply do not yet understand.

This story begins over half a century ago when I was still a small toddler, playing in my bedroom at our home in Hull.

While playing, I suddenly heard a noise outside. As any inquisitive child might do, I looked out of my first floor window. I glanced right to see the unfamiliar hairy arms of someone emptying a large wooden pot of faeces out of a neighbouring window.

The vision was scary.

I cried and called for my mum to tell her what I had seen. I can still remember her chastising me for climbing on a chair to look out of my window and ordering me never to do it again as it was dangerous and I might fall.

The second experience was about three years later. I was five years old and off school with a high fever and tonsillitis. I was sick and sweating, waiting for the doctor to arrive.

I remember staring out of my ground floor front bedroom window to see a man walking across the street wearing a long brown leather coat and dark Donald Duck type mask. He was carrying a large bag. It was daylight and the vision was real and it has stayed with me ever since.

Only when I went to high school some seven years later did I learn that before proper sanitation in the 16th and 17th centuries, people would throw their waste excrement into the street, often from upstairs windows. I also learned that physicians or ‘quacks’ wore long leather coats and duck-like masks during outbreaks of plague. The beak was filled with pot-pourri to cover the stench of the dead.

Had these been visions from a previous life? Or were they memories locked in inherited DNA from my ancestors?

I do not know.

But unconnected events during 2013 and 2014, made me revisit these earlier memories.

It all started on the warm evening of Tuesday 4 June, 2013.

My wife Gill and I had signed for our new cottage in the sleepy Shropshire market town of Whitchurch the previous day, and had visited it twice over.

At the time, we were still ensconced in my old house in the North Wales’ hills, albeit perched like two flightless birds amid a host of packing cases and rolls of parcel tape and newspaper.

That evening we settled down to watch for the first time the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose – starring Laura Linney and Jennifer Carpenter. We had spontaneously bought the DVD the previous weekend.

It was dark and the film was gripping. Two thirds of the way through the movie, a priest, played by Tom Wilkinson, begins reciting an exorcism in Latin.

Then it happened… the DVD froze for 10 seconds and both Gill and I smelled the distinctive scent of fresh roses. There were no flowers in our house and neither of us were wearing perfume or after-shave.

It was bizarre.

But the following day, ‘bizarre’ became a bit frightening, as we discovered the scent of roses often accompanies the passing of spirit into the other world and the words recited in the movie were read from a true Latin script on exorcism.

Genuinely shaken, we laughed it off as something weird and unexplained.

But we had no idea about what the next few months would bring.

Just over a week later – on Friday 14 June – we received the keys for our new home in a small market town across the border in North Shropshire.

The house removal was set for Friday 28 June.

We were excited and began moving bits and pieces and undertaking some cleaning of the new house in preparation for the big move.

On Tuesday 18 June, I picked up some gorgeous old pine shelves for our kitchen – perfect for displaying my wife’s collection of TG Green Cornishware pottery.

That afternoon I attached the shelves to the end wall in our kitchen. The shelves looked good and I packed away my tools and cleaned up the dust from the drill holes.

Then, without warning, my large jar of screws – which I had had for over 20 years – suddenly slipped through my hands and smashed all over the quarry tiled kitchen floor, scattering screws almost everywhere. I cursed, but thought nothing of it other than just a simple accident.

But this was just the beginning.

On Friday 28 June, we finally moved house.

At about 2pm, the removal lorry arrived outside our cottage, and Gill and I started by carrying a few boxes through to the conservatory and shed.

Twenty minutes into our task, my dear wife suddenly screamed in agony as she fell into a small hole in our back lawn.

We rang for an ambulance and they rushed her to hospital.

Within a few hours doctors diagnosed that she had ruptured the tendons around her left knee and broken the knee cap… all in a fall into a small and previously unseen hole in the garden.

Six weeks of bed rest followed during our hottest summer in years, while I unpacked our belongings, filled drawers, put up pictures and started to experience something very strange.

The cottage was warm, cosy and above all full of character and charm.

Over the years, it had been extended and undergone several alterations, including the transformation of a side passage into the main body of the house, which was in turn enlarged the kitchen.

And it is in this extended area of the kitchen where the unexplained started to happen.

In the same area of the kitchen where I had dropped the jar of screws, I also dropped a plate full of food, and a week later a bag full of peas and numerous smaller items.

In September 2013, Gill was mobile again and my mother came to stay.

While she was sitting at the kitchen table, I offered to show her Gill’s prize piece of Cornishware pottery from the display shelves: a small blue and cream striped cheese pot.

It is a piece of pottery I had handled many times before, but on this occasion, its lid suddenly flew from the pot and smashed on the kitchen floor.

It was after this that we began to note the accidents in this corner of the kitchen.

In just under eight months, we individually and collectively (my wife, my son, my mother and I) dropped over 50 items in this small area of the kitchen, including a glass of wine, a stack of baking tins and a tub of cooking oil.

I also dropped and broke a mug and a wooden box of incense sticks in the zone and one evening an ironing board fell on my wife’s head in the same area.

We christened the area our “Drop Spirit Zone”.

In November 2013, we began some amateur investigations into what might be going on.

With the lights turned off, I walked slowly into the darkened kitchen and as I passed the threshold I felt a vibration pass across my shoulders.

I stood still. Suddenly a plastic pot of vitamin pills fell onto the floor behind me.

Then events took another twist.

I took my £400 camera phone to photograph this area of the kitchen, hoping to catch something.

As I held the camera ready to shoot, it fell from my grasp onto the floor. Thankfully, it was in a padded case and did not break.

But then weird got weirder…

Since we started the investigations I began to experience a recurring dream – the first such dream I have had since I was a small child.

The dream is plain in its simplicity… I walk into our kitchen alone at night and sit at the breakfast table.

I look down at our cat in his basket (the basket is placed in the Drop Spirit Zone at night, for no other reason than it is close to a radiator).

Alongside the cat and kneeling down is a young girl, aged about seven-years-old. She is stroking our grey haired moggie.

The girl has unkempt light brown hair, a freckled face and sad blue eyes. She is wearing a beige coloured dress with a distinct tie band around her waist.

She looks up at me and says: “I like cats”.

She tells me her name is Edith. Then she asks me: “Do you have any bread, Sir?”

I stand and walk to our bread bin and get a crust of thick-sliced white for her. When I return she is running into our pantry and down a steep staircase out of sight.

It is at this point I awake.

I had this exact same dream at least a dozen times over a period of three months.

But it doesn’t end there… on 19 November 2013, my wife and I were drinking mugs of coffee while finishing our breakfast in our kitchen.

I was sitting on one side of our old pine table and Gill was sitting three feet to the left of me. We were talking blandly about the day ahead.

Suddenly, and without warning, Gill’s almost full mug of hot coffee leapt upwards in her hand and spilled down her clothes, scalding her lap.

I looked at her amazed and she returned the look with an added look of fear in her eyes.

Together, we mopped up the spilt coffee and checked she was not badly scalded.

I commented: “Do you realise you are sitting in the Drop Spirit Zone?”

“Yes,” she replied. “It was like some small hand suddenly pushed my mug upwards.”

A few seconds before the incident, Gill had just finished eating the last piece of bread on the table.

Five weeks later we were again eating breakfast at our kitchen table. Gill was sitting to my left – inside the Drop Spirit Zone – and I was sitting slightly outside it.

Our old cat Frankie was sat on the quarry-tiled floor next to my wife.

Suddenly our normally docile cat leapt into the air, meowed loudly and darted into the living room, where he hid under the coffee table.

My wife and I stared at each other in amazement until we both simultaneously uttered: “The Drop Spirit Zone!”

Following that event, Frankie stopped sitting on the floor in the kitchen, preferring to perch on our old pine settle to watch us eat breakfast.

But something else started to rattle our sense of the explained.

From December 2013, we both heard strange sounds at night emanating from our kitchen.

Often sitting bolt upright in bed, we listened keenly.

It sounded as if our kitchen chairs are being dragged across our quarry tiled floor.

So we set up our own experiment to try and clarify whether this was the case or whether it was all in our collective imaginations.

Before retiring to bed one night, Gill placed a small marker on the kitchen floor, next to the chair which sits inside the Drop Spirit Zone.

That night we heard the usual scraping sounds.

The next morning, to our amazement, we discovered the marker had moved about two inches from its spot… but the chair had moved over seven inches!

Chair

But it was in the New Year when events took a twist in the most bizarre way imaginable.

On the night of Sunday 12 January 2014, I experienced a vivid dream in which I was helping three older men bury dead bodies in a huge ditch, by a dusty road. My job in the dream was to shovel white powder over the bodies as they were thrown in the common grave.

The mens’ names were Parcel, Coppice and Huddlestone.

The next day (Monday, 13 January) I made a startling and mind-blowing discovery!

As part of a Google search, I discovered through the Shropshire county archives that our house and garden lay on a ‘cemetery of unknown origin’.

The archive states that there had been an archeological excavation sometimes during the previous 70 years and seven extended skeletons were discovered.

I spoke with an expert at Shropshire Council Environment History Team, who looked at the files surrounding the excavation work here.

The seven skeletons were unearthed sometime between 1938 and 1950 while the foundations were dug for the kitchen extension!

At the time, they were thought to be Roman remains, but as there was no Carbon 14 dating techniques back then, there was no way to precisely date how old they were.

Another hypothesis was that it may have been a plague pit, possibly dating from the huge outbreak of bubonic plague in the town in 1650.

The council guy said there was no way of knowing what happened to the skeletons when they were unearthed.

He thought they might have been given a Christian burial in the local churchyard OR left in place.

And without further excavation work there was no way of knowing how many more there were – or are.

Further internet searches, combined with a brief scour of some 3,400 graves at our local cemetery led to the next heart-stopping discovery… Purcell, Coppage and Huddlestone are all common and historic surnames in the town.

We also found the grave of an eight-year-old girl called Edith!

So why did those names and the burials occur in my dreams before I had any knowledge of any of them?

Were spirits invading my sleeping senses?

On Tuesday 14 January 2014 another surprise was awaiting me.

I spoke to a lady at our local heritage centre about the skeleton find and was shocked by her response.

The young woman I spoke to was almost dumbstruck when I told her where I lived.

She stuttered slightly as she told me she used to live in this same cottage a few years earlier.

And one of the reasons she moved out was she believed it was “haunted”.

She spoke at length about objects dropping to the floor, mirrors and pictures falling from the wall, objects disappearing and the sound of footsteps on the landing when no one else was in the house.

She also said areas of the house were distinctly cold, even in the summer… something we had also noted.

Like us, this lady thought she was going crazy or imagining things.

But from that moment we knew we were not alone and were far from crazy.

On the night of Tuesday 14 January I awoke from another odd dream.

In this edge of darkness mind game there was a horse in our house and it kept rearing up on its hind legs to cuddle me.

I was comforted in the dream by my wife telling me that: “horses are affectionate pets and enjoy cuddles.”

It was just after lunch on Wednesday 15 January, that I first spoke with a local history and archeology expert called Mary.

She was deeply intrigued about the skeleton find… especially as her grandmother used to live in our cottage!

Her grandmother moved away from the cottage in 1938 and no human skeletons had been unearthed prior to then.

But it was what Mary told me next that shook me.

During the 1930s the bones of a shire horse were unearthed from our back garden. Her grandmother discovered the horse had been buried prior to 1902 by the people who owned the adjoining rectory.

No obvious link to the buried human skeletons, but yet another haunting appendage to a dream!

On Friday 17 January 2014 I mentioned the skeleton discovery to the husband of another former occupant of our house.

He was deeply curious and wanted to know more before saying: “You don’t think you are haunted do you?”

I hadn’t even mentioned the unexplained phenomena to him!

Then on Tuesday 21 January I tracked down yet another former occupant.

The lady wished to remain anonymous as she too fears people will think she is crazy.

She said: “I only stayed for six months. The cottage was lovely but it spooked me completely.

“Things were always falling and there was a clanking sound downstairs at night. My dog would suddenly bark at shadows in the kitchen and I never felt I was alone… it was like someone was watching me all the time.”

She was not alone… at least seven people have so far admitted to experiencing the hauntings of our home.

Then, under advice from a spirit expert, I took a series of photos on the Drop Spirit Zone in our kitchen.

One particular picture rocked me. It appears to show more than half a dozen orbs floating in that area of the kitchen.

Orbs night

The lens of the camera was clean and the images only appear in one frame… all the others are clear.

Then something fascinating happened… For as long as I have known I sometimes talk in my sleep.

On the night of Saturday 1 February (my birthday) I had drunk a few glasses of wine and slept very deeply.

But not as deeply as I imagined it seems.

Around 4am, Gill was woken by me muttering words and phrases in Latin. She used her iPhone to record my ramblings which included disturbing words such as spiritu sancti (holy spirit or ghost) and malum (evil).

I later woke around 8am with the words Dominy miseree nobise rattling round my skull.

Gill and I talked at length about my dream and these words, in particular the words I awoke to.

We looked them up and they appear to be Domine Miserere Nobis, which means: Lord Have Mercy Upon Us.

I must make clear that I have absolutely no knowledge of Latin.

The mysteries of the dreams and the unexplained activity in our former kitchen remained, but shortly before I moved house in January 2015, I gained some clarity about the origin of the skeletons.

While talking to an elderly neighbour, I discovered that our kitchen extension was built at the same time as the large detached house to the north of our property.

It was during the building excavations for this house and our kitchen – which lies some four feet lower than the footings of the property next door – that the skeletons were unearthed.

The large detached house was built on the foundations of an old Victorian lunatic asylum, which originally adjoined our property, but had been demolished some years earlier.

The asylum was privately owned and associated with the workhouse/poor house which is situated some 800 yards away to the east of our former cottage.

The workhouse now forms part of the town’s community hospital.

Anyway, it transpired that the owner of the asylum regularly buried bodies in the grounds of his property.

As these poor people were considered to be inhabited by demons, their bodies could not be buried on sacred church grounds.

It was assumed by the builders who unearthed the skeletons in the 1940s that there were likely to be many more buried in the same vicinity both in the gardens of our cottage and the large house.

When we moved away from Whitchurch we were left no wiser as to whether the skeletons were removed and reburied somewhere else or were simply covered with rubble and concrete.

Up until the date of our move we still experienced dozens of things falling in the Drop Spirit Zone – a box of six eggs sliding across the kitchen table and smashing to the floor, followed by a pack of bacon, were all quite memorable.

It was all part and parcel of living in that cottage.

Then 10 months later, the unexplained became bizarre and unearthly.

On Wednesday, 11 November 2015, I drove to Whitchurch to spend the evening with an old friend.

We had arranged to meet at 7pm and I arrived early in the town.

Spontaneously, I decided to park the car outside my former home and pay some last respects to our lovely cottage. I got out of the car to stretch my legs and looked at the front of the building.

Suddenly my mobile phone buzzed in my back pocket.

I took the phone out to see if there was a text or email message for me.

To my surprise the phone was frozen with only the time displaying on the lock screen: 18:43.

I tried to unfreeze the phone, but with no luck. Even removing the SIM and Memory cards failed to jog the phone back into life!

Two hours later with the phone still frozen, I explained my predicament to my friend as we supped a beer in the local pub.

Together we finally managed a Hard Reset on the phone and brought it back to life… but I had sadly lost over 200 saved photographs!

Then the penny dropped: the cottage was built in 1843… so the spirits are still active!

And they probably still walk that twilight zone, which we have yet to understand.

 

Poem: Comfort Zone

She snuggles up beside me
The log fire is burning bright
I whisper that I love her
We’re settled for the night

The music plays quite softly
Our glasses both half full
Her head it rests upon me
Warmed by old lamb’s wool

Love is
Love is
Love is
Love is just a pretext for a better place to be

A fox slides through the hedgerow
The owl hoots a new refrain
The wind it howls outrageous
And suggests a chance of rain

The new moon casts mad shadows
Across the placid pond
The air it is enchanted
From the doorstep and beyond

Love is
Love is
Love is
Love is just a pretext for a better place to be

A half familiar chord change
A riff that sounds so blue
Old folk music fills the air
It was made for me and you

You searched for love eternal
So tell me what you found
A passage of lost time
Now we are homeward bound

Love is
Love is
Love is
Love is just a pretext for a better place to be

Poison Chapter 5

The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book 1: Poison
Chapter Five

IN the kitchen of 24 Severn Avenue, Amy was making baked beans on toast for her two unexpected visitors.
“Typical kids, thinking they can survive on chocolate fingers and jelly beans,” she mused.
Amy had known TJ since college and they had become best friends. But while Amy happily worked her time in the bar of a local restaurant, TJ enveloped her life in environmental action and saving endangered animals, such as the orang-utans in the picture that Nathan had shown her.
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Rainbow Warriors and Wildlife Action, TJ had joined just about every environmental action group going. She was a real hero in Amy’s eyes.
“But,” thought Amy, “TJ made some nasty enemies.”
She buttered the toast and spooned the beans on top.
“How much should I tell them?” Amy wondered.
In the living room the two boys had the same thoughts about how much they needed to let TJ’s friend know.
“Tea-time!” yelled Amy, and she was soon joined in the small kitchen by two smiling young boys.
“Wash your hands first!” she ordered, “And if you eat all the beans, there is a surprise for pudding!”
After a hearty tea and a surprise of chocolate muffins and custard, the trio sat down in the front room to talk…. but only after Amy had drawn the curtains closed.
“Why have you shut the curtains?” asked Joe, “It’s sunny outside!”
“Just in case we are being watched,” answered Amy nervously.
They all looked nervously at each other.
Amy nodded and sipped at a cup of coffee.
Nathan began to tell what he knew of TJ’s disappearance and her mysterious life-threatening condition.
He pulled out a scribbled hand-written note, and explained he had received it in the post three weeks ago, along with the photo of TJ and the red ape.
He was relieved that on school days he usually got the post first or his dad might have asked some awkward questions.
But Nathan had not recognised the stamps on the envelope it came in. He told Amy it was “foreign” and the postmark bore the name Kuching.
The note told Nathan that his sister was seriously ill in hospital after being attacked while trying to save two baby orang-utans.
She was in a deep coma and only one thing could bring her out of the coma, and maybe then she could tell them all what happened.
The writer needed Joe to milk a small amount of venom from his brother’s Green Tree Viper – “he knows how to do it safely” said the note – and take the vial of venom to an address in London.
But the note went on to say that under no circumstances must either Nathan or Joe tell their parents, nor the police, or TJ could die.
“There are other people trying to find her first,” it added.
The note was signed by Joe’s brother Sam.
He had added a PS saying he would join them as soon as he could.
“Where’s the envelope now?” asked Amy.
“Sorry, I think I threw it in the kitchen bin,” answered Nathan.
Amy moved across to a small desk and switched on an old PC.
Once logged in she Googled the word Kuching.
“My God,” she exclaimed, “It is the capital of Sarawak in Borneo… that’s where orang-utans live…. TJ was always going on about wanting to go there.”
Amy froze and put her right hand to her forehead.
“Now something is beginning to make sense,” she muttered.
“What do you mean?” asked Joe.
Amy explained that she had received two strange mobile text messages from TJ a few weeks earlier, saying she was going on a potentially dangerous mission to help save some endangered animals.
She added that TJ and Sam had been “a bit of an item” for the past six months and were “almost inseparable”.
They said they were going abroad together for a short holiday.
Amy had suggested Tenerife, but TJ had winked and said: “No, someplace else.”
“Urgh gross!” exclaimed Joe, “Your sister and my brother… bet they’ve been snogging!”
“Yuk!” retorted Nathan, poking his tongue out.
“But,” said Amy, “There is something which is now worrying me a lot.”
She told the boys how, about a week ago, she had answered the door to a tall blonde haired man, with steely grey eyes and a deep tan, who said he was a friend of TJ’s and she had asked him to fetch a bag from her room.
“He was quite convincing and nice at first, but I wouldn’t let him in, because I saw another man watching us from a black car across the road, and something did not seem right,” said Amy.
“He became quite angry and told me if I knew what was good for me I would get the bag for him.
“I slammed the door in his face and watched him cross the road and get into the black car with the other man and drive away.
“He had a European accent,” she added suddenly, “Sort of German or maybe Austrian.”
By now Amy was shaking and started to cry.
“I have been really frightened and was going to ring the police, but later that day I got this phone call on my mobile telling me if I told anyone about the visit I would not see TJ again.”
Amy was now in floods of tears and between sobs muttered in frightened tones: “How did he know my mobile number?”
Nathan and Joe sidled up either side of her on the sofa and the three cuddled close.
“I haven’t left the house… but I have seen the car and the blonde haired man in the street every day since then.”
“But where is the bag?” asked Nathan.
Amy reached under the sofa and pulled out a small blue denim handbag.
“I think this is maybe it,” she said.

Back at Greenfield Mansion, Felicity was hurrying across the grass towards her studio with a flustered and red faced Bob beside her, carrying her easel and painting gear.
“It is unlike Nicolas to be so worried,” she said as she allowed Bob to put her painting things away while she tripped through the scullery door.
Ignoring Joy, who was ironing a pile of boy’s jeans and T shirts, Felicity walked towards the drawing room.
“Oh Nicolas, I am so sorry to have kept you waiting… whatever is it?” she asked.
Nicolas got up from the Chesterfield, smiled wanly and explained his afternoon discoveries.
“Oh my Lord!” responded Felicity.
“I have not seen Nathan at all today, and come to think of it, have not seen Joe since breakfast… and Bob says neither he, Helen nor Joy have seen him either.”
Nicolas held Felicity’s hand and quietly but purposefully said: “I think this maybe more serious than I first thought!”
The two parents looked worryingly into each other’s eyes.
Felicity blinked first.
At that moment Bob reappeared at the drawing room door.
“Ma’am, there is the young Mr Anthony Woodward to see you… he’s says it’s urgent,” said the butler.
Felicity and Nicolas turned as the strapping and dashingly handsome Tony Woodward strode into the room.
“Your ladyship,” he exclaimed, ignoring the presence of Nicolas.
“I am so sorry to bother you, but Clara did not turn up for her violin lesson this morning and I can’t get any reply to calls I have made to her mobile phone.”
“But,” said Lady Greenfield, “I thought she was having cello lessons?”
“Oh, sorry,” replied Tony, “I meant cello, just a slip of the tongue,” he lied, blushing.
There was a silence.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Lady Greenfield. “Follow me….”
Felicity, Nicolas, Tony and Bob the butler together hurried into the main hallway and up a flight of stairs to the first landing.
The first bedroom they visited was that of a small boy, littered with toys and computer games, with a large drum kit standing in the corner.
Felicity glanced around and exclaimed: “Well, the only things missing are my son’s GI Joe bag… and my son!
“And possibly this torch,” she added, holding the silvered flashlight in her left hand.
The four adults ventured across the landing to a much larger bedroom.
On the unmade bed was a Jack Wills clothing catalogue, an array of designer blouses and jeans and a small pink mobile phone flashing and making a pinging sound.
Tony picked up the phone and clicked it open.
“Blimey!” he started, and blushing red again added: “Didn’t realise I had sent her quite so many text messages and calls today!”
“So,” said Lady Greenfield, “We are now missing two young boys and my daughter Clara!”
“And I believe the wolf Blue,” interrupted Bob, “None of the staff have seen the animal since this morning!”

Some hours later at 24 Severn Avenue, Amy tucked Nathan and Joe into the double bed in TJ’s room.
The boys looked exhausted, but she was glad of their company.
She peered out through the bedroom curtains.
The pair of curious brown eyes had departed the street to a bed and breakfast nearby.
But two sinister grey eyes still watched the house from behind the steam of a Chinese takeaway in the front driver’s seat of the black BMW car.
And from under the laurel bush the piercing green eyes watched everything.

Flung down by corpse evangelists

THIS IS AN APPENDUM TO THE SPIRIT INSIDE ME SINGS
FOLLOWING extensive research at county archives, the land registry and National Census returns this is what we know to date:

Chichester Cottage was built in the early/mid 19thcentury (probably 1840s) as an annex to what is now Wellgate House. It was extended substantially a few years later to form the body of the building we see today. Initially it was known simply as A New House then later as a Lodge or Gate House. It was occupied by various unskilled couples throughout the 19th century.
Shortly after The First World War it was renamed Chichester Cottage after its then occupant returned from the trenches via recovery in a hospital in Chichester, Sussex. This gentleman and his wife stayed resident at the cottage and Wellgate House until 1938. During this time the cottage had a rear courtyard (where the kitchen and conservatory extensions now are) and a rose garden and rockeries beyond (the main garden). Also during the 1930s the bones of an old shire horse were excavated from the garden. It is believed the horse was a favourite of the neighbouring rectory and had been buried prior to 1902.
Sometime between 1938 and 1950 (chiefly the war years) the kitchen extension was built. It was during this period that the seven extended human skeletons of unknown origin were discovered. (The first OS note of an inhumation cemetery at this spot was made in 1950). This was pre-carbon 14 dating techniques and it appears there was little effort made to do any more archaeological work (probably because most local authority efforts were geared towards the war).
Later suggestions are that the cemetery was either of Roman origin or possibly a plague pit from a large outbreak of bubonic plague in the town in 1650. Most recently we have discovered that during the English Civil War, Parliamentary forces of 800 men took our town in May 1643. The fighting took place about 600 yards from our cottage. The Parish Register records the burial of 15 soldiers on that date. But it does not say where they were buried.
No one seems to know what happened to the skeletons upon their discovery in the 1940s. Were they simply covered with foundations and concrete? Were they taken to a museum or heritage site? Were they given a Christian burial elsewhere? And if this was a formal cemetery site, are there likely to be many more buried skeletons adjacent to the find (ie under the main structure of the house, if they were buried east/west)?
It is a huge puzzle which we are still trying to solve.
NOTE: I have changed the name of our cottage in this blog post to protect our address

The spirit inside me sings

Edith grave
I HAVE lived on this Earth for well over 50 years and I pride myself on being objective, sceptical and questioning… a true cynic!
Earning my living for more than 25 years as an investigative journalist has instilled in me an ethic of taking nothing at face value, always seeking evidence and the truth and, if that fails, the back-up plan of Occam’s Razor: that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected… ie choose the most obvious explanation.
All of the above has stood the test of time… until eight months ago.
The events of those months have turned my belief about this world on its head and led me to questions for which the answers are only fantastical.
In my last blog post about the unexplained activities in our old cottage I cited one expert who advised me to document everything we see and hear.
So after the ramblings of 10 blogs on the seemingly never-ending story of ghosts, dreams, skeletons and the paranormal, here for the first time I will attempt to put everything down as a chronological document.

I guess it all started on the warm evening of Tuesday 4 June 2013.
My wife Gill and I had signed for our new cottage the previous day and visited it twice over. At the time, we were still ensconced in our old house in the North Wales’ hills, albeit perched like two flightless birds amid a host of packing cases and rolls of parcel tape and newspaper.
That evening we settled down to watch for the first time the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose – starring Laura Linney and Jennifer Carpenter. We had spontaneously bought the DVD the previous weekend. It was dark and the film was gripping. Two thirds of the way through the movie, a priest, played by Tom Wilkinson, begins reciting an exorcism in Latin. Then it happened… the DVD froze for 10 seconds and both Gill and I smelled the distinctive scent of fresh roses. There were no flowers in our house and neither of us were wearing perfume or after-shave.
It was bizarre.
But the following day, ‘bizarre’ became a bit frightening, as we discovered the scent of roses often accompanies the passing of spirit into the other world and the words recited in the movie were read from a true Latin script on exorcism.
Genuinely shaken, we laughed it off as something weird and unexplained.
But we had no idea about what the next few months would bring.
Just over a week later – on Friday 14 June – we received the keys for our new home in a small market town across the border in Shropshire. The house removal was set for Friday 28 June.
We were excited and began moving bits and pieces and undertaking some cleaning of the new house in preparation for the big move.
On Tuesday 18 June, I picked up some gorgeous old pine shelves for our kitchen – perfect for displaying my wife’s proud collection of TG Green Cornishware pottery.
That afternoon I attached the shelves to the end wall in our kitchen. The shelves looked good and I packed away my tools and cleaned up the dust from the drill holes.
Then, without warning, my large jar of screws – which I had had for over 20 years – suddenly slipped through my hands and smashed all over the quarry tiled kitchen floor, scattering screws almost everywhere. I cursed, but thought nothing of it other than just a simple accident.
But this was just the beginning.
On Friday 28 June, we finally moved house.
At about 2pm, the removal lorry arrived outside our cottage and my wife and I started by carrying a few boxes through to the conservatory and shed. Twenty minutes into our task, my dear wife suddenly screamed in agony as she fell into a small hole in our back lawn. We rang for an ambulance and they rushed her to hospital. Within a few hours doctors diagnosed that she had ruptured the tendons around her left knee and broken the knee cap… all in a fall into a small and previously unseen hole in the garden.
Six weeks of bed rest followed during our hottest summer in years, while I unpacked our belongings, filled drawers, put up pictures and started to experience something very strange.
The cottage is warm, cosy and above all full of character and charm. Over the years, it has been extended and undergone several alterations, including the transformation of a side passage into the main body of the house, which has in turn enlarged the kitchen.
And it is in this extended area of the kitchen where the unexplained started to happen.
In the same area of the kitchen where I had dropped the jar of screws, I also dropped a plate full of food and a week later a bag full of peas and numerous smaller items.
In September, Gill was mobile again and my mother came to stay.
While she was sitting at the kitchen table, I offered to show her Gill’s prize piece of Cornishware pottery from the display shelves: a small blue and cream striped cheese pot. It is a piece of pottery I have handled many times before, but on this occasion, its lid suddenly flew from the pot and smashed on the kitchen floor.
It was after this that we began to note the accidents in this corner of the kitchen.
In just under eight months, we have individually and collectively (my wife, my son, my mother and I) dropped over 50 items in this small area of the kitchen, including a glass of wine, a stack of baking tins and a tub of spray cooking oil.
Most recently I dropped and broke a mug and a wooden box of incense sticks in the zone and two weeks ago an ironing board fell on my wife’s head in the same area.
We have christened the area our “Drop Spirit Zone”.
Last November, we began some serious investigations into what might be going on.
With the lights turned off, I walked slowly into the darkened kitchen and as I passed the threshold I felt a vibration pass across my shoulders. I stood still. Suddenly a plastic pot of vitamin pills fell onto the floor behind me.
Then events took another twist.
I took my £450 camera phone to photograph this area of the kitchen, hoping to catch something. As I held the camera ready to shoot, it fell from my grasp onto the floor. Thankfully, it was in a padded case and did not break.
Since we started the investigations I began to experience a recurring dream – the first such dream I have had since I was a small child.
The dream is plain in its simplicity… I walk into our kitchen alone at night and sit at the breakfast table. I look down at our cat in his basket (the basket is placed in the Drop Spirit zone at night, for no other reason than it is close to a radiator). Alongside the cat and kneeling down is a young girl, aged about seven years old. She is stroking our grey haired moggie. The girl has unkempt light brown hair, a freckled face and sad blue eyes. She is wearing a beige coloured dress with a distinct tie band around her waist. She looks up at me and says: “I like cats”. She tells me her name is Edith. Then she asks me: “Do you have any bread, Sir?” I stand and walk to our bread bin and get a crust of thick-sliced white for her. When I return she is running into our pantry and down a steep staircase out of sight. It is at this point I awake.
I have had this dream at least a dozen times over the past three months.
But it doesn’t end there… on 19 November, my wife and I were drinking mugs of coffee while finishing our breakfast in our kitchen. I was sitting on one side of our old pine table and Gill was sitting three feet to the left of me. We were talking blandly about the day ahead.
Suddenly, and without warning, Gill’s almost full mug of hot coffee leapt upwards in her hand and spilled down her clothes, scalding her lap. I looked at her amazed and she returned the look with an added look of fear in her eyes.
Together, we mopped up the spilt coffee and checked she was not badly scalded.
I commented: “Do you realise you are sitting in the Drop Spirit Zone?”
“Yes,” she replied. “It was like some small hand suddenly pushed my mug upwards.”
A few seconds before the incident, Gill had just finished eating the last piece of bread on the table.
Five weeks later we were again eating breakfast at our kitchen table. Gill was sitting to my left – inside the Drop Spirit Zone – and I was sitting slightly outside it. Our old cat Frankie was sat on the quarry-tiled floor next to my wife.
Suddenly our normally docile cat leapt into the air, meowed loudly and darted into the living room, where he hid under the coffee table.
My wife and I stared at each other in amazement until we both uttered almost simultaneously: “The Drop Spirit Zone!”
Frankie no longer sits on the floor in the kitchen, preferring now to perch on our old pine settle to watch us eat breakfast.
But something else is starting to rattle our sense of the explained.
Since early December, we have both heard strange sounds at night emanating from our kitchen.
Often sitting bolt upright in bed, we listen keenly.
It sounds as if our kitchen chairs are being dragged across our quarry tiled floor.
So we set up our own experiment to try and clarify whether this is the case or whether it is all in our collective imaginations.
Before retiring to bed one night, Gill placed a small marker on the kitchen floor, next to the chair which sits inside the Drop Spirit Zone.
That night we heard the usual scraping of furniture sounds.
The next morning, to our amazement, we discovered the marker had moved about two inches from its spot… but the chair had moved over seven inches!
I have already published photographs of this event on this blog.
But it was in January when events took a twist in the most bizarre way imaginable.
On the night of Sunday 12 January, I experienced a vivid dream in which I was helping three older men bury dead bodies in a huge ditch, by a dusty road. My job in the dream was to shovel white powder over the bodies as they were thrown in the common grave.
The mens’ names were Parcel, Coppice and Huddlestone.
The next day (Monday, 13 January) I made a startling discovery!
As part of a Google search, I discovered through county archives that our house and garden lie on a cemetery of unknown origin.
The archive states that there had been an archeological excavation sometimes during the past 70 years and seven extended skeletons were discovered.
I spoke with an expert at Shropshire Council Environment History Team, who looked at the files surrounding the excavation work here.
The seven skeletons were unearthed sometime between 1938 and 1950 while the foundations were dug for the kitchen extension!
At the time, they were thought to be Roman remains, but as there was no Carbon 14 dating techniques back then, there was no way to precisely date how old they were.
Another hypothesis is that it may have been a plague pit, possibly dating from the huge outbreak of bubonic plague in the town in 1650.
The council guy said there was no way of knowing what happened to the skeletons when they were unearthed. He thought they might have been given a Christian burial in the local churchyard OR left in place.
And without further excavation work there was no way of knowing how many more there were – or are.
Further internet searches, combined with a brief scour of some 3,400 graves at our local cemetery led to the next heart-stopping discovery… Purcell, Coppage and Huddlestone are all common and historic surnames in our town.
We also found the grave of an eight-year-old girl called Edith!
So why did those names and the burials occur in my dreams before I had any knowledge of any of them?
Are spirits invading my sleeping senses?
On Tuesday 14 January another surprise was awaiting me.
I spoke to a lady at our local heritage centre about the skeleton find and was shocked by her response.
The lady I spoke to was almost dumbstruck when I told her where I lived.
She stuttered slightly as she told me she used to live in this same cottage some years ago.
And one of the reasons she moved out was she believed it was haunted.
She spoke at length about objects dropping to the floor, mirrors and pictures falling from the wall, objects disappearing and the sound of footsteps on the landing when no one else was in the house.
She also said areas of the house were distinctly cold, even in the summer… something we have also noted.
Like us, this lady thought she was going crazy or imagining things.
But we know we are not alone and we are far from crazy.
On the night of Tuesday 14 January I awoke from another odd dream.
In this edge of darkness mind game there was a horse in our house and it kept rearing up on its hind legs to cuddle me. I was comforted in the dream by my wife telling me that: “horses are affectionate pets and enjoy cuddles.”
It was just after lunch on Wednesday 15 January that I first spoke with a local history and archeology expert called Mary.
She was deeply intrigued about the skeleton find… especially as her grandmother used to live in our cottage! Her grandmother moved away from the cottage in 1938 and no human skeletons had been unearthed prior to then.
But it was what Mary told me next that shook me.
During the 1930s the bones of a shire horse were unearthed from our back garden. Her grandmother discovered the horse had been buried prior to 1902 by the people who owned the adjoining rectory.
No obvious link to the buried human skeletons, but yet another haunting appendage to a dream!
Mary continues to research the origins of the human skeletons.
On Friday 17 January I mentioned the skeleton discovery to the husband of another former occupant of our house. He was deeply curious and wanted to know more before saying: “You don’t think you are haunted do you?”
I hadn’t even mentioned the unexplained phenomena to him!
Then on Tuesday 21 January I tracked down yet another former occupant.
The lady wished to remain anonymous as she too fears people will think she is crazy.
She said: “I only stayed for six months. The cottage was lovely but it spooked me completely.
“Things were always falling and there was a clanking sound downstairs at night. My dog would suddenly bark at shadows in the kitchen and I never felt I was alone… it was like someone was watching me all the time.”
We know she is not alone… at least seven people have so far admitted to experiencing the hauntings of our home.
Most recently and under advice from a spirit expert, I took a series of photos on the Drop Spirit Zone in our kitchen.
One particular picture rocked me. It appears to show more than half a dozen orbs floating in that area of the kitchen.
The lens of the camera is clean and the images only appear in one frame… all the others are clear.
Now I bring readers up to the present, and the next bit I find really fascinating.
For as long as I have known I sometimes talk in my sleep. It is an annoyance my poor wife has had to get used to.
On the night of Saturday 1 February (my birthday) I had drunk a few glasses of wine and slept very deeply.
But not as deeply as I imagined it seems.
Around 4am, Gill was woken by me muttering words and phrases in Latin. She used her IPhone to record my ramblings which included disturbing words such as spiritu sancti (holy spirit or ghost) and malum (evil).
I later woke around 8am with the words Dominy miseree nobise rattling round my skull.
Gill and I talked at length about my dream and these words, in particular the words I awoke to.
We looked them up and they appear to be Domine Miserere Nobis, which means: Lord Have Mercy Upon Us.
I must make clear that I have absolutely no knowledge of Latin.
This most recent dream still rings in my head… Latin was language of the Romans, but also the words Lord Have Mercy were often inscribed on the doors of plague victims’ houses during outbreaks of the pestilence in the 17th century.
So our investigations continue… the unexplained remains unexplained and the spirit still sings.

Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me

girl ghost
THE unexplained paranormal activity in our old cottage has taken yet another turn.
And the more that happens, the more questions I find myself asking.
The strange noises, frequent droppings of objects and weird dreams continue apace and now we know we are not alone in our experiences, real investigative work to find out what is going on is underway.
Two archeology experts, a local rector and I are all still trying to find out the origin of the skeletons buried under our kitchen, and what – if anything – happened to them when they were unearthed in the 1940s.
On the other side of things I have – for the first time in my life – started researching the paranormal and so-called ‘hauntings’.
At least seven people have so admitted to experiencing paranormal activity in our home.
I found one on-line article “How do I know if my House is Haunted?” invaluable. It takes a balanced and logical approach to the subject.
The writer gives the following advice:
Do You Have A Ghost In Your House? Or Other Paranormal Activity Going On.
One thing you may find if you have real paranormal activity going on in your home is cold spots. Is there a location in your home that is unusually cold? The first thing to do is to do a thorough investigation. Always rule out the logical answers for unusual or unexplained activity first. Be sure to check for wind coming in around a window or a hidden vent. And if possible buy a simple thermometer to take the temperature of your cold spot or cold spots. Keep a journal and document what you find.
Snap Photos Often With a Digital Camera
Take photos with a digital camera around your house. If you suspect or think you have paranormal activity going on in a particular room or area take lots of photos in that area. And do it at different times of the day and night. If you hear a strange noise take a photo in the direction of the noise. Then go through your photos carefully and look for people that were not there when the photo was taken or orbs or other lights. If you spot something on a photo don’t panic and don’t take it for proof of a ghost or paranormal activity until you have examined the photo carefully and ruled out any logical solutions for anything strange in your photos. Keep in mind that mirrors even around a corner can cause some strange images to show up in your photos.
Do You Have Objects That Move On Their Own?
Do you have a chair or other object that moves on its own. Do you have a door or cabinet doors that you know for a fact you shut but they are open when you go back then you may indeed have something strange going on. If possible set up a motion activated camera to see if you can catch the object moving. If this is not possible be double sure you check the item out and go at once to it when you come back home or back into the area and you will know if something has moved. Again make double sure to look for logical solutions
Do You Think Your House Is Haunted?
If it’s possible and you think you have paranormal activity going on or you think your house is haunted thoroughly investigate the history of your home and the surrounding area. Find out if there are deaths or tragic activity that are associated with your house or other location you suspect is haunted. If you find out there was a death or several deaths of people who lived in your house then you may indeed have a haunted house or live in a house that has paranormal activity going on. Be sure to keep a journal of everything going on around you. Write it down and document what is happening along with the date and time of what you see or hear. Does it happen the same time every day? Then you may very well have a residual haunting going on. Be sure to learn everything you can about the history of your house. You may be quite shocked at what you find out.
What to do If You see a Ghost!
If you see a ghost try to have a camera handy and try to take its photo. Ask other family members or other people who live or have lived in your house what they have seen. Don’t tell them your full story of what you saw until they tell you their story. If their story matches up with what you saw then yes you may have a real haunting. And again always keep a journal of what you are seeing along with the date and time. The more you can document the better off you will be.
Wonderful advice… and yes, we do have cold spots and cold areas, chairs and other objects do move on their own, our house does have a history of deaths and buried bodies, and previous residents have corroborated the feeling that the cottage is haunted.
But now this…
As advised, I took a series of photos in our kitchen.
I focused particularly on the area of the room we have nicknamed the Drop Spirit Zone.
This is what came up.
Look carefully at the attached photograph.
Are they orbs or auras?
The lens of the camera is clean and the images only appear in one frame… all the others are clear.
To avoid triggering the flash on my camera, I left the cooker hood light on. The cooker is sited behind me and to my right. The hood light gives just a residual light to help illuminate the kitchen.
This afternoon I am contacting an old friend who is a doctor in archaeology, and an investigator in spiritual happenings – and particularly orbs and auras – in her spare time.
I would value her opinion.
NOTE: Readers may find this interesting: http://hubpages.com/hub/How-To-Know-If-You-Have-Real-Paranormal-Activity