"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

This account of the "Lamberhurst ghost" appeared in the "Kent & Sussex Courier" for June 1, 1906. It is your standard poltergeist story, but with a few unusual trimmings.

We quote the following from Monday's "Daily Mail.":--

Strange, unaccountable things are befalling in the neighbourhood of Lamburhurst, Kent. The villagers, who in the midst of their laughter exhibit unmistakable symptoms of fear, are convinced that they are sheltering one of the moat enterprising, audacious, and mysterious working "ghosts" recorded in the annals of the unseen.

If "ghost" it be--and the word of the persons chiefly concerned can only be accepted on this point--the visitant has displayed the greatest discrimination in the choice of its field of operations. Lamberhurst is an old-time cluster of cottages, Elizabethan for the most part, lying midway between Horsmonden and Gondhurst. Two miles further on is the Furnace Mill, owned by Mr. J.C. Playfair, a well-to-do farmer and hopgrower. Here the "ghost" has established its headquarters.

Furnace Mill lies in a wooded hollow, a quarter of a mile from the main road. It is flanked by a darksome lake, in which the tall elms that fringe it cast shadowy reflections. The tricking of a cascade and the calls of birds are the only sounds that disturb the silence. No other dwelling is visible. Altogether an eminently-appropriate home for a "ghost."

Playfoot, a matter-of-fact, business like man, recounted with some reluctance his weird experiences to a "Daily Mail" representative; "for," he said, already the news has got abroad, and last Sunday hundreds of people from the towns and villages for miles around invaded my place ta look for the 'ghost.' Whatever the thing may be," he went on, "that is playing the very mischief with my place, it operates only in the day time and under the very noses of myself and other members of the family who are looking out for it.

"It is important to know that I have not discharged anyone, that this place only be reached by a private road, that the approach of any stranger would be disputed by two watchdogs that would not stand on any ceremony, and that I carry in my own pockets the keys of the mill, stables, hayrooms and other buildings.

"Despite all these precautions, locked and bolted doors swing open, the horses are changed from stable to stable, are sometimes turned around in their stalls so that their backs are against the mangers, and are often seen to run shivering and startled from their stables into the road.

"Bales of hay are cut and scattered about the hayrooms, the contents of sacks in the drying-room are emptied and changed about, while in the tool house barrels of lime weighing hundredweights are flung down a flight of stairs, and many other strange things happen in rooms that are locked, barred and bolted, while people watch and listen outside, and the keys are in my pockets. Nobody and nothing is ever seen or heard."

Thea Playfoot detailed what was, perhaps, the strangest "manifestations" of all. "About noon a few days ago," he said, "in the presence of my son, I locked and bolted every building in the premises and went into the mill-house for dinner. Suddenly I heard a startled cry from the lad, and rushing into the yard saw the door of the drying-room, only about ten yards away, wide open. Within the room I heard the shouts of the lad, but before I could reach him the door silently closed. I seized the handle. The door was locked! My son was a prisoner inside. The key of the room was in my pocket. I unlocked the door and entered the room. Nobody was there except my son standing on the stairs frightened and pale."

Young Playfoot, a bright lad about fifteen years of age, corroborated this strange story. "As soon as I had entered the room," he added, "I saw the door closed in a mysterious way. The latch rattles and the lock creaks, but, although I stood only a foot or two away, neither the latch nor the lock made the least sound."

"I could not have believed if I had not been there," supplemented Mr Playfoot.

A strong-man feat performed by the "ghost" was the overturning of a large water butt—a veritable Sandow from spirit-land. One morning, according to Mr. Playfoot, as he was working near one the stables, the lock was screwed off. He substituted a bolt. Shortly afterwards he found that the bolt had been removed and the lock neatly restored to its place. "And yet I saw nothing," he said, as he wearily drew his hand across his brow.

Mr. Playfoot conducted the "Daily Mail" representative to one of the stables. The double doors were locked and bolted, and the entrance was spanned by a stout timber bar secured by a hidden fastening designed by the mill-owner in the hope circumventing the "ghost." In the stable was a grey mare.

"Now such strange things had happened to this horse," he said, "that one day I decided to watch the stable closely. I made everything secure and put the keys in my pocket. Presently I crossed over from where I was standing, and unlocking the stable door, looked in. The stable was empty. I found the horse in an adjoining hayroom, which was padlocked.

"How the horse got there—how it got through a communicating door scarcely wide enough to allow a man to pass—how it got up the steps—all these things are beyond me. If they had been done by human agency (and I hesitate to believe in ghosts) I must have seen or heard something, for I was only yards away. In ordinary circumstances the stamp of the horse's hoofs on the wooden floor of the hayroom would hare reached me. Besides, although the doors must have been unlocked and re-locked, I had all the keys in my pocket. It is impossible that there can be duplicates."

The police have attempted to investigate the circumstances, but without any result. They are as mystified as Mr. Playfoot. Meanwhile, something like alarm exists among the scattered inhabitants of Lamberhurst, Horsmonden and Gondhurst, and they hope that the "ghost," as they firmly believe to be, will confine its operations to Furnace Mill.

Unfortunately, I've been unable to find any follow-up stories to this riddle. I just hope the "ghost"--or whatever it was--decided to finally leave those poor horses alone.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that so many of these ghost stories aren't followed up. Maybe it would just be more of the same. Without any explanation, the newspapers' readers would become bored with it. I'm sure those directly affected by hauntings are not, however.


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