The Pluckley Psychic Historical Society
Here is the first chapter from the book, I hope you'll check it out on Amazon, there are links below.
The Pluckley Psychic Historical Society
The Jewellery Box
Pluckley is a delightful town in Kent, England, and has become known as one of the most haunted villages in Britain. It’s the epitome of a traditional English village with pretty cottages and gardens full of fragrant roses, emerald green lawns, and colourful flower beds. Its small streets are delightful and lined with quintessential stone-walled cottages giving the town a quaint chocolate-box charm and beauty, which can only be found in England.
It’s a town that is reputed to have up to fourteen ghosts; many of the locals are well acquainted with dark tales and superstitious legends, and Pluckley can at times be overrun with over keen ghost hunters, hoping to see a ghostly manifestation or receive a message from a lost, drifting soul. There is:
The spectre of a highwayman hidden in a tree at the Pinnock.
A phantom coach and horses have been seen in several locations around the village.
The ghost of a Gypsy woman is seen who drowned in a stream at the Pinnock.
The miller has been seen at Mill Hill.
The hanging body of a schoolmaster has been seen in Dicky Buss’s Lane.
A colonel who hanged himself has been seen in Park Wood.
A man smothered by a wall of clay who drowned has been seen at the brickworks.
The Lady of Rose Court is seen, who is said to have poisoned herself in despair over a love triangle.
The White Lady is seen, a young woman, apparently buried inside seven coffins and an oak sarcophagus who haunts St Nicholas’s Church.
And the Red Lady, reputedly a member of the Dering family who also haunts the churchyard.
In 1914 the town became the home of the Pluckley Psychic Historical Society, established during that harsh winter on the 5th January by the historian, psychic researcher, and Cambridge scholar Winston Hatherton, the white-witch Florence Dearden, and the renowned spiritual medium Jocasta Bradman. It was Winston’s idea to set up the Historical Society, him becoming Chair and Florence the society secretary.
Jocasta and Winston were a similar age, now in their early-forties, while Florence was slightly older and in her late-forties. They had all known each other for many years, Winston and Florence had lived in Pluckley for most of their lives. Jocasta resided in Folkstone some 21 miles away; she said it was better for her psychic vibrations and spiritual connections! Winston came from a noted family of archaeologists and academics. Likewise, Florence came from a long line of distinguished white-witches, and Jocasta, from renowned mediums.
They had all frequently consulted with each other; Winston for his many academic books and lectures on psychic and spiritual phenomena. The three of them had conferred on numerous cases, strolling through rambling historic houses and old ruins miles from anywhere; looking at ancient relics and burial sites, while crawling through cobwebs, detritus, and grime in ancient tombs. They would always try to put a logical explanation to things, only to realise that often, there wasn’t one. They had met up at occasional psychic conventions which had kept going even during the difficult war years. The three of them had helped to debunk fraudsters, whilst bringing comfort to many a grieving or troubled family, in addition to their many psychic investigations.
My own ghostly life was one of new discoveries, endless adventures in different time periods, and strange places. I was introduced to Winston and Florence and the Psychic Historical Society by Jocasta in December 1916, I’d been sent to help her with a complicated case in the highlands of Scotland involving a Werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope, a shape-shifting human, but that’s another story. None of them knew I was a ghost; it was against the rules to tell anyone. Although sometimes I had to break them, and then when a case came to an end, I had to make sure my ghostly truth was wiped from their memory. Don’t ask me how I could do all this; it just came with the job.
I worked with the three of them on an informal basis due to the outbreak of the first-world-war in July 1914. Our first official case together as the newly formed Psychic Historical Society was not until after the war had ended and was in February 1919. The war ended in November 1918 and England was only just starting out on its long journey of recovery after one of the deadliest conflicts in world history.
The four of us had been invited to the home of the war widow Penelope Marcheford at her historic 15th century Marcheford House on the outskirts of Pluckley. The house is an impressive, ancient L-shaped brick house with a Jacobean-style exterior with a symmetrical front façade in the Dutch style. The roof has a distinctive system of Dutch gables, and the house is set in 150 acres of beautiful, well-maintained parkland, backing on to dense private woodland.
The house was built around a large medieval hall with a hammerbeam roof and has richly carved linenfold panelling and marble chimneypieces. More carved panelling could be found in the Great Chamber added in 1630. The house boasts a carved Jacobean staircase with heraldic beasts decorating the newel posts, and The White Room has a plaster ceiling designed by the great Sir Reginald Blomfield. The house was full of beautiful antique furniture, valuable paintings, and collections of fine silver and porcelain.
Penelope’s groundsman had been preparing a new flower border in the extensive gardens, and while doing so had found buried in the earth a beautiful locked metal jewellery box in perfect condition made of gold, fire gilt, and damascened steel going back to the 16th century. However, since the box had been found, strange noises and whisperings had been heard at the house. Penelope was convinced that something or someone had been disturbed and aroused, which was now haunting the house and grounds, and she was convinced that whatever it was, was trying to kill her.
It was a crisp, frosty morning as we walked through the impressive, tall, black and gold wrought iron gates and up the long twisting and turning tree-lined drive to the house. Frosted leaves crunched underfoot, and I could hear a robin singing intensively somewhere in the trees; the air felt fresh, crisp, and new, with a scent of wood, dirt, and rotting leaves.
As we walked Winston, Florence, and Jocasta’s breath frosted in the crisp air, and I could feel that the place was full of ghosts and spirits, although I’d no idea which ghost or ghost’s we might be dealing with. I had an overwhelming feeling that someone had something they needed to tell or show us, but who or what I had no idea; and as we drew nearer to the magnificent house, which was quite isolated, it looked imposingly down upon us, and the feeling and pull became more powerful.
On our arrival at the impressive entrance, coats, hats, gloves, and scarfs were removed, and we were taken to one of several grand sitting rooms by the housekeeper; a dumpy, grumpy looking red-faced lady with wild, wiry grey hair called Mrs Brandworth. Winston and Florence knew her from the village, she was one of the church bell ringers, and one of several people responsible for cleaning the church. She was also in charge of allocating and supervising the local allotments, which were highly prized and like gold; they had become essential due to the war, with all the food rationing, and food shortages.
Mrs Brandworth appeared to have a bit of a chip on her shoulder; I could see that she saw herself as a pragmatist and felt unfairly judged by everyone. I’d seen it so many times before; there was the difficult, complex snobbery and hierarchy of the poor as well as the rich to deal with. She made no secret of the fact that she had no time for the Historical Society; she thought it was full of silly, spoilt, rich people who had nothing better to do; or that it was occupied by the hysterical, gullible, and those who were simple-minded and easily led. She also thought it might attract the ‘artier’ crowd, and she’d no time for them either, to her, none of them had ever done a decent day’s work in their lives. Her mantra was, ‘I’m never wrong.’
As we talked, Penelope stood rigidly by the window looking out over the beautiful grounds which were covered in a blanket of delicate white looking like they’d been dusted with icing sugar. The pale-yellow sun was low in the silver-grey sky making the ice sparkle and glisten on the ground and rough bark of the bare trees from the late morning frost.
Penelope was tall and slim; she looked very elegant in the latest French fashions and her purple cashmere twin set and lilac, wool, box pleated skirt. She had a beautiful floral printed Jean Patou silk scarf around her neck. How did I know this? Because I was with him when he designed it in 1912 at his Maison Parry salon in France, but that’s another story. She wore tasteful diamond jewellery; her greying blond hair was carefully styled in a smart chignon. But there was a sadness to her elegant countenance as she turned slowly from the window and said, ‘Yes, the box was found by Jenkins my head Gardener, it must have been there for centuries.’
I looked directly at Penelope, her eyes looked sad and haunted, ‘So, what exactly has happened?’ I asked.
Penelope moved gracefully to an elegant, fringed, deep armchair, covered in expensive gold silk velvet, which was placed near the blazing fire, and slowly sat down crossing her long slim legs. ‘Where to start.’ She replied deep in thought, and let out a long weary sigh, ‘Well, it all started over a week ago now, on the day the jewellery box was found, although it’s so hard to describe.’ She hesitated, and her forehead furrowed, ‘It sounds absurd, but I became aware of strange scratching, tapping, and cacophonous sounds, footsteps, whispers and things weren’t where I’d left them. Some furniture had been hurled over, and I know Mrs Brandworth, and none of the other staff had moved anything because I asked them all…. One morning I went into one of the bedrooms and all the furniture had been moved, the whole room had been completely rearranged. And then in one of the walled gardens, many of the roses had been pulled up and were strewn everywhere.’
As I sat observing Penelope, she struck me as a sensible, intelligent, and articulate person, with a gracious nature, I could tell that she was not someone with a weak frame of mind or someone who was prone to wild flights of fancy.
‘Most interesting.’ Jocasta said pursing her lips, ‘What you are describing sounds like poltergeist phenomena.’
‘Poltergeist phenomena?’ Penelope exclaimed looking alarmed.
‘Yes, a poltergeist is a ghost.’ Jocasta said, ‘Which causes physical disturbances, such as loud noises with objects being moved or destroyed. They are purportedly capable of pinching, biting, hitting, and tripping people.’
Penelope shuddered, and her face crumpled, it was the last thing she wanted to hear.
I looked around the beautifully decorated room, ‘Jocasta, do you sense anything here in this house?’
‘Jocasta stood up and paced the room for a long moment, sniffing the air, she closed her eyes concentrating putting the palm of her hands to her temples, and eventually said, ‘No, not a thing.’
I nodded in agreement, ‘Neither do I, what about you Florence?’
Florence shook her head, ‘No I can’t say that I do.’
‘Penelope, you don’t think any of this could have been done by a disgruntled employee or someone with an axe to grind?’ I asked.
Penelope shook her head decisively, ‘No, not at all, the staff have all been here for years, they are more like family.’
‘So, why do you think someone is trying to kill you?’ Winston asked gently while taking his pipe out of his well-worn cardigan pocket.
Penelope was about to speak when the door flew open, and Mrs Brandworth came in briskly with a tray of expensive china and a pot of tea; she put the tray down with a clatter on a coffee table near the huge carved wooden fireplace, which flickered and crackled with energy, the roaring fire casting a golden amber glow into the room.
‘I’ve just made some of my ginger biscuits; it’s an old Mrs Beeton recipe, I thought you might like to try them Mrs Marcheford, I find ginger can steady the nerves.’ She looked at Penelope disapprovingly and with a note of irritation. ‘And I can make you a pot of my chamomile tea; it’s perfect for the nerves and for those of a nervous type like yourself Mrs Marcheford.’
Mrs Brandworth stood there staring at Penelope who wasn’t listening, but who eventually said dreamily, ‘No thank you Mrs Brandworth I’m fine.’
‘Will there be anything else then?’ Mrs Brandworth said with a huff looking indignant and with an edge in her voice, ‘Do you require me as a witness or anything to all of this silly nonsense?’
‘Oh, I don’t know.’ Penelope looked at the four of us with a faraway expression; her mind was still miles away.
We all looked at each other.
‘No, not just now thank you Mrs Brandworth.’ Jocasta said trying to sound appreciative, ‘Of course, we may need to speak to you later, once we know a little more.’
Mrs Brandworth gave Jocasta a withering look and turned to Penelope, ‘Are you sure you don’t want any of my chamomile tea?’
Penelope raised her head and gazed at Mrs Brandworth, ‘It’s most kind of you, but honestly, I’m fine, just a little tired.’
Mrs Brandworth tutted loudly and nodded looking almost demonic, ‘I see, well as you know Mrs Marcheford I’m never wrong; some of us are trying to get over a terrible war, and I’ve plenty of work to be getting on with, I don’t get a minute. This house doesn’t clean itself you know, but I need to keep moving to keep warm in this place, I swear you could catch your death here, this house never gets warm.’
Mrs Brandworth stiffened, turned, thought for a moment, and said sharply, ‘Beware of waking the dead is what I say, after the awful war we all need to be concentrating on the living, it’s the living we need to look out for, not the dead. We all need to move on, that’s my advice.’ She nodded her head decisively and left the room closing the door firmly behind her rolling her eyes and tutting again loudly.
We all looked at each other raising our eyebrows; I tried my best to hide my amusement.
‘Shall I be mother?’ Florence asked cutting into the awkward silence.
Penelope forced a smile, ‘Oh yes please, thank you, and everyone do, please excuse Mrs Brandworth, her bark is far worse than her bite, she’s had a tough war… life… Well anyway, we all have. She doesn’t live at the house, so I don’t think she’s witnessed anything out of the ordinary, so she doesn’t understand.’
Florence looked at Winston, ‘Tea?’
Winston beamed, ‘Need you even ask my dear.’
‘Oh yes and let me try one of those delicious looking biscuits, I’m famished, it must be the cold air.’ She said taking three biscuits.
I smiled, ‘Not for me; I’m fine, thank you.’ Tea, I thought, it’s the panacea for everything in England.
Penelope was still distracted staring into the fire, ‘Oh yes, a little milk but no sugar, thank you.’
Once everyone had been served their tea, in elegant china cups with matching saucers, we finally resumed our discussion.
‘So, since the box was found in the grounds, things have been moved in the house, and you’ve heard strange noises, is that right?’ I asked.
Penelope nodded and took a sip of her tea, ‘Yes.’
Winston had been silent for a few minutes enjoying his tea while pondering, ‘Why do you think someone is trying to kill you?’
Penelope put down her elegant china cup in its delicate saucer and stood up, she started to slowly pace up and down the room clutching her silk scarf with one hand, ‘It’s irrational I know, but whoever or whatever it is, wants me dead, I just know it.’ Her face crumpled again, and as she said this, she stared for a long time at the metal jewellery box placed on a side table. It was beautiful, and like new, some of it was in solid gold, it was about ten inches square, and eight inches in depth, it had an engraved solid gold key in the top of it.
‘Are you alright Penelope?’ Florence asked sounding concerned.
Penelope nodded slowly.
‘Have you opened the box?’ I asked.
Penelope’s eyes looked more haunted and widened; she was horrified at such a suggestion, ‘You’ll probably all think I’m a silly pathetic woman having the vapours? But no, I’m terrified what I might find inside, that’s why I called you Winston.’
Jocasta took another biscuit and walked over to the box placing her hand on top of it; she froze for a moment.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘Most interesting, I’m getting powerful vibrations, highly unusual.’ Jocasta put the biscuit in her mouth and picked up the elegant box and scrutinized it, she then said with her mouthful of biscuit, ‘This must have belonged to a very wealthy, elegant lady, it’s clearly from the early part of the 16th century and must have been in the ground for nearly four hundred years…. Yet…. yet it’s like new.’
I walked over to Jocasta, ‘Yes, that’s one of the strange things about this case, as you say the box is perfect, it’s a mystery.’
‘Should we open the box?’ Florence asked hopefully.
Penelope looked grave, ‘Oh, you will think me very foolish, but as I’ve said, I’m terrified what might happen if we do.’
We all looked at each other.
‘Please don’t be afraid Penelope.’ I said, ‘What do you think might be in it?’
She shook her head, and her mouth tightened, she looked drained and severe. I tried to look my most reassuring, ‘The clues we need to help us solve this case may well be inside this box.’ I said. ‘And who knows, it might also contain some valuable jewellery.’
Penelope didn’t look convinced biting her bottom lip, ‘I’m sure if we open it we will release evil forces, and something terrible will happen.’ Her voice trembled, and tears swam into her haunted blue eyes, she pulled a monogrammed tiny lace handkerchief from her skirt pocket and quickly dabbed at her eyes.
Florence stood up and moved to Penelope putting her arm around her shoulders, ‘Penelope, we would never allow that to happen. Would you feel better if we took the box away and opened it?’
‘No, no.’ Penelope said hopelessly shaking her head, ‘I feel it will make no difference wherever it’s opened… Of course, I know it needs to be opened, I’m just being silly, but I just have this awful feeling of dread that I can’t shake off and get out of my mind.’ She stared through us all looking at a portrait of a man hanging on the wall, ‘How I wish my dear husband Donald was still alive; he’d know what to do.’
Suddenly we heard a loud scream, and everyone jumped, Jocasta rushed out of the room to investigate with her divided tweed skirt flapping, and I followed, we dashed down corridors, a clock was ticking loudly somewhere, and into various places in the house. We eventually found Mrs Brandworth stood on a stool in the kitchen brandishing a rolling pin. ‘What is it?’ I said.
‘Oh sir, madam, I’m sure I’ve just seen a mouse!’
I looked at Jocasta apathetically.
‘Well, a little mouse isn’t going to hurt you.’ Jocasta said breathlessly. ‘Mice are a common problem in big houses like this.’
Mrs Brandworth scowled but stood down from the stool with a heavy thud, while we turned and quickly returned to the others.
‘What on earth has happened?’ Florence asked still trying to comfort Penelope.
‘Nothing.’ Jocasta said, ‘Mrs Bradman thought she’d seen a mouse.’
‘Oh, is that all.’ Florence said dismissively and stood up moving to the window biting her lip, ‘I don’t know why but whenever we start talking about ghosts and strange events, it makes me edgy, you’d think I’d be used to it all by now.’
I sat down, ‘Well it’s only natural to be afraid of the unknown, but there’s often a simple rational explanation for most things.’
‘Yes, but not always.’ Jocasta said knowingly.
Winston took a sip of his tea, ‘But isn’t that where we come in, The Psychic Historical Society I mean? I know I’m preaching to the converted here, but isn’t the society all about expanding our knowledge and understanding of the spirit world, and providing answers and solutions to the unexplained and incomprehensible?’
I nodded uneasily, ‘Yes, but it’s also about exposing spiritual fraud and providing the truth in the field of psychical research, we must always aim to find logical answers and plausible explanations whenever possible to the mysterious.’
Winston pursed his lips and nodded slowly, ‘Yes, I agree, but even human nature is a mystery logic cannot illuminate.’
Jocasta moved over to Penelope, ‘Penelope, how would you feel about Jasper and me staying here with you until we get to the bottom of all this?’
Penelope’s face brightened, ‘Oh, could you?’ She said almost pleadingly, ‘I don’t know why I feel so unsettled, but I would feel so much better knowing you were here. My sister offered to stay, but I don’t want to frighten her, I did contact the vicar, and he said he would pray for God’s angels to watch over me, although I’m not sure what they can do; but I don’t wish to impose on your kindness.’
Jocasta shook her head pursing her lips, ‘Not at all, and it will be good experience for us.’ Jocasta turned looking at us all, ‘Don’t you agree?’
We all nodded.
‘And both Winston and I are not far away in the village.’ Florence said brightly, ‘Jocasta or Jasper will contact us if we’re needed in an emergency.’
‘I’d stay Penelope, but I can’t leave Charlie for too long.’ Winston said, Charlie was his Amazonian psychic parrot; he was temperamental and prone to depression if left for longer than a few hours, he liked the company and conversing. ‘And don’t forget it’s the Psychic Historical Society meeting tonight, we will all need to be there.’
‘Well, I can stay here with Penelope, while you all go to the meeting.’ I said standing up and moving over to the box.
‘Good idea.’ Winston said.
‘Right everyone, the first thing we need to do is open this.’
Penelope’s face crumpled again, ‘Are you sure Jasper?’ She asked meekly.
‘Absolutely.’ I said, my eyes glittering with excitement.
Penelope slowly stood up, ‘In that case, let’s all move to the library, we can all sit around a small table I have in there, and it’s much warmer, I’ll ask Mrs Brandworth to make us all some lunch, and I’ll get Rose, my housemaid to prepare your rooms.’
‘Wonderful,’ Jocasta said, ‘I’m famished.’
I carefully carried the jewellery box as we moved past the imposing staircase and along a darkly lit corridor into the extensive library with its wooden linenfold panelled walls, there was a large carved wooden fireplace where a welcoming fire was blazing away. The room had a lovely view from the large windows out towards the frozen parkland and distant woods at the back of the house.
The library shelves were groaning with row after row of books, some of them hundreds of years old. The room had that familiar smell of old books mixed with the pungent and waxy smell of beeswax, turpentine, and linseed oil from the furniture polish. Winston took out his glasses, he couldn’t stop himself, and started randomly browsing through the bookshelves as Penelope walked into the room, he turned to her, ‘I say Penelope what a treasure trove you have here.’
She gave a slight smile, ‘Do you think so? My late husband was an avid reader and collector of books; it runs in the family, they all loved books. At the last count, we had over four thousand, and we have several valuable first editions, but they're all a bit out of sequence now. They used to be in Dewey Classification.’
‘Yes, I can see a number of first editions.’ Winston said picking up a copy of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, which had been published in 1615.
We all sat in silence around a small, round, wooden inlaid table staring at the beautiful jewellery box, which I’d carefully placed in the middle of the table; the only noise was from the fire which spat and crackled in the background.
‘Right, are we ready?’ I asked, everyone looked at each other and nodded, you could hear a pin drop. ‘Here we go then.’ I turned the gold key in the top of the box. There was a satisfying click, and I slowly lifted the lid. I could sense that everyone was holding their breath as their eyes widened with anticipation. The box was lined with red velvet, and in perfect condition, there was an inscription in the lid, which read:
To my dear Constance as a token of my eternal love and high esteem Henry.
Inside there was a letter and besides it a beautiful gold necklace. Attached to a heavy chain was a portrait miniature, on one side was a portrait of a lovely young woman with strawberry blond hair and vivid blue eyes, and on the other side a picture of dashing dark-haired young gentleman.
‘Goodness, this is quite an early example of a miniature portrait, but an excellent one.’ Winston said picking up the necklace and examining it. ‘I wonder who painted it and who the young woman and man are?’
‘Do you think it’s English?’ Penelope asked.
Winston shook his head while putting on his glasses and examining the miniature in more detail, ‘I don’t know.’ He thought for a moment, ‘One of the most famous early native English portrait miniaturists was a man called Nicholas Hilliard, he was very sensitive to the character of the sitter, but there were others like Isaac Oliver and his son Peter. Although I’d put my money on these being by Nicholas Hilliard, making it very valuable.’
I took the letter which was sealed, ‘That’s the Marcheford family seal.’ Penelope said with surprise. ‘Most intriguing, although it seems a pity to break it after so many years.’
‘Yes, but it’s a clue, shall I open it?’ I asked. Everyone looked at each other and nodded, apart from Penelope who looked terrified. ‘Alright, here we go.’
I broke the wax seal and carefully opened the letter quickly scanning it making even me momentarily speechless, ‘What is it?’ Florence asked anxiously.
‘You’re not going to believe this, but I’ll read it, are you ready?’
Everyone nodded hardly daring to breathe. ‘Right, firstly, the letter is dated 12th February 1519.’
‘It’s the twelfth today’ Florence said. ‘This gets even more curious.’
Dear Penelope, Winston, Jocasta, Florence, and Jasper,
If you are reading this, it’s because something is wrong. Of course, we are not acquainted, my name is Constance Isabel Marcheford I was born in 1498 and lived at Marcheford House all my life. My love’s name was Henry James Gilbert; you will see the two of us on my necklace; we were to be married.
I’m sure you will be amazed and surprised to be reading this letter, you will be wondering why I’m asking for your help now in your time of 1919. I’m buried in St Nicholas Church here in Pluckley, I died following a riding accident, in 1522 but I can’t ascend and will never be at rest until I find Henry, so I’m hoping you can help to solve a four-hundred-year-old mystery.
You see, on the day of our church wedding on the 15th February 1519 Henry disappeared and was never seen again. Along with his family, I tried to find him, but we couldn’t find any trace of him, it was almost like he’d never existed, yet even now I can still hear him calling me.
Around the time of Henry’s disappearance, strange things started to happen at the house, strange noises, items were moved in the house and damage was done to the building and grounds, for a while we were all taken ill, it was if the house had become possessed by something evil. Henry began to say he had a terrible feeling of foreboding when he visited the house as if something was going to kill us all.
I feel whatever nemesis was in the house or grounds has now returned, hence my letter, I need your help to get rid of it and help to reunite me for eternity with Henry. You’re my only hope. I am thus indebted to you for your pains taken for me; I bid you farewell. 12th February 1519.
I put down the letter, we all sat in silence for a long moment, I looked at everyone, ‘Well, what on earth do you make of that?’
‘Most interesting, a tragic love story, un amour condamné.’ Jocasta said, her voice sounding lost and far away.
Florence smiled, ‘Jocasta, you’re such an old romantic.’
‘Most interesting.’ Winston said taking the letter, putting on his glasses and scrutinising it, ‘Some voices insist on being heard, even so long after death.’
Jocasta and Florence nodded in agreement.
‘1519, was such an interesting time in history.’ I said, ‘Of course Henry VIII was king of England, it was a time of great explorers such as Christopher Columbus and saw the opening up of new trade routes, new parts of the world were discovered. It was also the time when Britain cut adrift from the Catholic church, carving out the Church of England, with the monarch as its supreme head… Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, taking all of their money and gave away their lands, making him very unpopular; but I digress.’
‘Your knowledge of history is most interesting Jasper.’ Winston said.
‘Thank you.’ I said, ‘But coming back to the letter, I wonder if the riding accident Constance mentions was deliberate?’
Winston turned to Penelope, ‘Does the name Constance Marcheford mean anything to you at all, Penelope?’
She shook her head, ‘No, but I’m sure we will be able to find her in the family records here in the library. But are you sure this isn’t some sort of sick joke or prank? I mean it’s all so impossible, a letter written to us all in 1519 suddenly appearing in 1919, 400 hundred years to the day.’
‘It is strange, I agree, but I honestly don’t think it’s a joke.’ I said.
Of course, Penelope was right to raise the question, it was so bizarre, and like nothing I’d ever come across before in my ghostly life, but at least since opening the box and reading the letter, she appeared a little more relaxed.
The library door flew open, and Mrs Brandworth flounced into the room like a bull in a china shop and said sharply, ‘I’ve put some lunch out for you all in the dining room, it’s nothing fancy mind, just some cold meats, meat pie, potatoes, and soup, I wasn’t told we’d be having people for lunch. Sometimes I think people think I’m both a mind reader and a magician.’
Penelope stood up and smiled, ‘Thank you Mrs Brandworth; I’m sure it will be fine.’
Mrs Brandworth gave another indignant look and left closing the door behind her with a slight bang.
‘Well, I don’t know about all of you, but I’m starving.’ Jocasta said tapping her stomach. ‘Nothing like a spiritual mystery to give one an appetite and I can’t think clearly on an empty stomach.’
Everyone stood up and started to make their way into the dining room, ‘You all go ahead.’ I said, ‘I’m just going to take a stroll around the grounds and get a little air, it helps me to think.’
I left the others, and in incorporeal ghost mode, I quickly drifted into various outbuildings, then through the grounds and tangle of trees in the parkland with its piled-up logs and fallen branches. I moved into the dense woods, through the gnarled trees and undergrowth and eventually came to a small clearing or glade and found myself hesitating. I listened to the biting wind; it seemed to be whispering to me, it gave me an uneasy sense as if something had happened or was hidden here, as if people were hidden in doorways watching me. There was also a strange smell, which I couldn’t begin to describe.
I was convinced the surrounding trees were physically moving; it was as if this area of woodland was trying to tell me something. Sometimes locations speak to us, but it’s not always clear what they’re telling us, but there was something. Then things started to ripple, blur, and disintegrate, my hearing became muffled, everything seemed out of balance, and I thought I could see a house, and perhaps farm-buildings. The air was full of thick black smoke, and the stench of burning, I was sure I heard calls and the echoes of awful screams, but when I looked again, there was nothing there. I also felt the presence of a deep, dark secret, with a lingering sadness somewhere close to me, which had been held in this lonely spot for a very long time.
I was deeply troubled by what I had sensed, but I made my way out of the wood and through the icy streets to St Nicholas Church to find Constance’s grave. I passed a man walking his dog, who was totally oblivious to my presence as he walked straight through me. The sky had taken on more of the familiar wintery silver-grey tone, and the graveyard looked stark and crisp due to the frost, the old headstones sparkled as if they’d been scattered with diamond dust. I found Constance in a large family tomb with her parents and grandparents, and some other family members.
The family headstone was significant; it was made out of sandstone and about ten feet high, with inscriptions in Latin, but in many ways, it was quite simple, nothing like the grand graves and monuments you see from the Victorian period. I always find graveyards fascinating, so many ghosts, so much history, and so many stories both happy and sad.
St Nicholas’ Church is a grade I listed church, and over 800 years old, with some areas dating back to the Norman age. During the centuries alterations and extensions had been made, such as the central nave and chancel roof, built during the 14th century. The medieval spire, south porch and the Dering Chapel were added during the 15th century. The Façade of the church is of Kentish rubble stonework with dressed stones for the openings, corners and buttresses. The roofs have a mixture of Kentish peg tile and copper work, and the spire is covered with oak shingles. Many people in the village and visitors believed the church held mystical secrets. Water diviners regularly visited the church and claimed to have detected energies and unknown forces there, this flow of energy allegedly keeping the church ‘alive’.
I’d no idea what I was looking for as I drifted around the ancient headstones, I noticed a black cat staring at me for a while with its big orange eyes like it knew I was there, and then it slowly turned and walked casually on its way. I was hoping I might sense something, a presence, even a message, but nothing was coming through.
Constance had said she couldn’t ascend, which I found distressing for her, but I wasn’t getting any connection or sense of her at the grave, or in the churchyard, perhaps she was back at the house. I had a word with both the White Lady, and the Red Lady who haunt St Nicholas’s Church, but they knew nothing about a Constance Marcheford, although they were aware of a restless, troubled soul, and wondered if it could be her.
By the time I returned to the house everyone had finished their lunch and had moved back into the library. Mrs Brandworth was in the dining room busily clearing away all the dinner things very noisily, while muttering to herself. I hoped she hadn’t been using Penelope’s best crystal and china because I felt sure it wouldn’t survive the battering it was all getting.
‘Jasper, you’ve missed lunch.’ Jocasta said disapprovingly.
‘Oh, I don’t have much appetite as you know, what are you doing?’
‘We’re trying to find the family records and see if we can find anything relating to Constance and her time here in the house.’ Winston said taking his head out of a book.
Rose, the housemaid, came in with a tray of tea and put it on a table near the blazing fire, ‘Thank you, Rose.’ Penelope said, and Rose left the room closing the door behind her. ‘Do all help yourself to tea. I think it’s going to be a long afternoon.’