"...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

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Water Ghost of Leicester

"Western Morning News," September 20, 1933, via British Newspaper Archive.

It's time for the latest in our series of Mystery Flood stories. If you have read my previous posts on the topic, you'll note a familiar pattern.

A retired 74-year-old barman named Samuel Long lived with his wife Annie and adopted 13-year-old daughter in a modest home at Bell Lane, Leicester, England. The family had occupied the home for about thirteen years without incident. The house was in good condition. There had been only one minor problem: a year earlier, after they had a new floor installed in the kitchen, it began to flood with water. A plumber eventually solved the problem by placing an air brick under the floorboards. He was unable to find the source of the water, but he theorized that there must be a hidden spring underneath the house.

Life went on its usual unremarkable path until one day in August 1933, when Long suddenly noticed water pouring from a bedroom ceiling. He assumed it was from a leak in the roof, although as it had not rained for weeks, even he realized it was a feeble explanation. The flood stopped in that room only to start up in another, leaving the bed underneath saturated. Once again, the water abruptly stopped as if someone had turned off a tap. The ceiling where the water had come was completely dry.

Then all watery hell broke loose. A hissing spray of water began shooting from a wall in the bedroom of Long's daughter. More water came from the ceiling, in such quantities that it created a river down the stairs. Water simultaneously issued from walls in the downstairs living room. And then...it all abruptly stopped, leaving all the walls and ceilings dry and unmarked.

The sudden spurts of flooding continued. Many of the family's belongings, including a piano, were hopelessly damaged. The beds were so sodden, the Longs had to sleep in the homes of neighbors.

Water inspectors assumed the flooding was due to a burst pipe or leaking water tank. However, they were disconcerted to find the home had no bathroom or water tank, and there were no water pipes in the roof. These experts saw the spurts of water for themselves--one was nearly knocked down the stairs by the blast--but they were utterly unable to find the source. Long described the water as "like escaping steam." It was not unusual for the family to collect fifty or sixty gallons of water off the floor.

The Longs temporarily moved out of the house, leaving representatives from the local health and building departments to make a thorough search. "I am not afraid of ghosts or spooks, and no medium can make me afraid," Long defiantly told reporters. "As soon as the house is read--experts in attempting to solve the mystery have pulled out bricks and rafters--I am going back."

Unfortunately, these "experts" had no more luck in finding an explanation for the flooding. The walls and floors were completely sound. They scoffed when Long mentioned the "hidden underground spring" theory--if that was the case, they replied, why weren't any of the neighboring houses having the same problem?

A water engineer suggested that sparrows had blocked up the house's spouting with their nests, causing accumulated rainfall to leak into the house, but that hardly seemed sufficient to account for gallons and gallons of water flooding the residence in the middle of a drought. When a visiting water inspector began joking about "ghostly visitations," water cascaded from the roof, drenching him.

During the absence of the Longs, there were no incidents of the "spook water" (as the family had dubbed the phenomena.) However, no sooner had they returned that it started up again with a vengeance. On some days, the floods would appear every half hour. A reporter from the "Leicester Evening Mail" described what he had seen while visiting the home:
"The floor was flooded, and Mr and Mrs Long were unable to sit down to a meal because of the water which streamed down upon them. I was taken upstairs and only just dodged a shower of water which fell from the ceiling of the landing. All the beds have had to be covered with waterproofs, which hold pools of water. Amid the scene of desolation, Mrs Long's young daughter tried vainly to eat her meal in comfort, but was continually disturbed by water falling on her food and drenching the table. Mr Long said that the water generally stopped flowing about nine o'clock in the evening, and the walls were soon perfectly dry, without any signs of disturbance."

The Longs were beginning to feel that they were living under siege by a mysterious invisible enemy. Mr. Long in particular seemed to have the "spook" following him. Wherever he went in the house, streams of water would appear, drenching him and everything else in sight. When he fled to the garden, water suddenly shot from an outside wall and ran down his neck.

In desperation, the family moved in with neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Worrald. But, as if something was mocking their efforts to find safety, within an hour after their arrival, the Worrald house became the focus of their watery pest. Jets of water issued from the wall of the living room. The upstairs rooms became flooded. It was, said a witness, "like a cascade coming out of nowhere."

Thankfully, this was the only episode to take place at the house. For the next three weeks, the Long's home was carefully inspected by various experts. There were no more visitations by the "spook water," so by October the Longs felt the coast was clear and it was safe for them to move back in.

The last piece of furniture had been brought back. Mr. Long was making tea. All was happy and calm.

Yes, you guessed it. Jets of water suddenly shot from the ceiling. Walls gushed. The kitchen became so flooded the family was unable to have dinner.

This was definitely "spook water" with a sense of humor and comedy timing, although I'm assuming the Longs failed to appreciate the joke. As always, the walls and floors quickly dried by evening, leaving them looking untouched, but during the day the family was practically living in a giant aquarium.

The Longs were eager to admit defeat and move to another house, but finding suitable accommodations in a hurry was not easy. Mr. Long complained, "People are saying that we have done it ourselves because we want to get a council house, but that is not true. Why should we wilfully ruin our home? We had just had part of the house redecorated and we should not have done that if we had wanted to leave. I have tried everywhere to get another house, but I cannot find one. I wish someone could get one for us. This thing is driving us mad."

Much to the family's relief, in November the watery bombardment began to lessen in its intensity. By wintertime, the Water Ghost of Leicester had disappeared as inexplicably as it had arrived.

1 comment:

  1. Funny how the flooding disappeared gradually, even though it began suddenly. Most strange.


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