Mystical Times

Haunted Victorian House

For it was in 1863, that the beauty of South Elmham located in the heart of rural Suffolk enchanted the Reverend Henry Markham.  Here, he proceeded to erect a fine Victorian rectory overlooking the village.  Markham having the wealth and support of his family, in his endeavours, rose to become the village squire.  He died in 1895, and his son Edward followed in his footsteps becoming the new vicar of the village, and resided at the rectory until his death in 1928.

Rumours abounded that the rectory must have been haunted.  If so, it says much about the character of the two rectors, when subsequent tenants found life unbearable through the relentless activities of poltergeists.

Edward Markham, made a habit of waiting at the rectory gate, for the passing of the ghostly coach.  The sound of rumbling wheels, clattering of four horse’s hooves, would approach along the road, reach a crescendo at the gate, and gradually fade into the distance.  The phantom coach was not only heard but also seen by the ex-groom of the rectory, who described a blazing carriage with lights careering through the rectory grounds.

A more significant manifestation was that of a Nun, confirmed by many witnesses, over the years, as she walked across the terrace.  The presence of the Nun, added to the belief that the rectory must have been built on the site of a religious house.

In 1939, lightning struck the rectory, destroying the west wing, but it was not re-built until the early 1950’s.  During the summer of 1955, Reverend James Patterson and his family took up residence, amidst much speculation and fear from the villagers, of the previous psychic manifestations as experienced in the old rectory.

There were few minor apparitions in the early years, but it was not until the latter months of 1972, nearly twenty years later, that their worst fears had come to bear.  Poltergeist activities were ripe in the rectory, and experienced by many, for later that year, the Reverend James Patterson was found hanging from the rafters in the churches Bell Tower.

What had driven a man of God to take his own life, and in such a public way?  This led to much uproar by the villager’s, claiming the vicar was bewitched, demanding the church and rectory should be shut.

For it was in the autumn of 1982, the rectory was sold and renovated, no longer a rectory, but a fine looking country farmhouse.  Many villagers have feared for the sanity of those who resided in this dreadful building, with an unsavoury past.

Then in the spring of 1983, a Scottish family the James’s took up residence, with their three children; Michael 9, Benjamin 7, and Christina 8.

Very little was known about them, Peter James worked for the Civil Service, and in the early years, the children attended the local primary school, later they attended boarding school.

Michael, Benjamin and Christina always loved their holidays from boarding school.  On their first day home, they would pump up their bicycle tyres, and ride quickly through the village waving here and there, to many of the villagers.  Never stopping until they reached their destination, the last house at the end of the village, nestled down by the river.  They would dash up the path to an ever-open door.  There she would stand ‘Gran’ wearing a spotless apron; sleeves rolled up from her floury hands, ready to greet them.  She was not their real grandmother, but she had come to be referred as ‘Gran’, ever since she used to help their mother run the house in the early years.  She is like part of the family.  Upon their arrival she would say “how lucky you are, I have just finished baking”, but they knew, she knew, when their school terms finished.  No holiday would start right until the children had visited her, and tasted her home cooking.

Utter shock, rocked the heart of this peaceful village, on a sweltering summer morning in early August 1991.  The ringing sound of gunshots, coming from within the old rectory.

I remember that day well; I had been pruning the roses in my front garden, when I heard shots.  PC Roberts dashed passed minutes later, heading in the same direction, from which the sounds had come from.  I instinctively grabbed my coat, and followed him, in case my services were required, in the capacity of a parish priest.  We both knew where the shots had emanated from, the old rectory.

Inside all was quiet, but in the hall, on the stairs, there was chaos of objects flung about generally creating a scene of disaster.  In the midst of similar destruction in the main room, was the body of Peter James, shot several times in the chest, close by his wife, Samantha, her face had partly been blown away?  Upstairs in the rear bedroom, Christina sprawled across the bed still wearing a pair of earphones, body drenched in blood, from the chest wounds.  Whilst Michael was found sprawled across the landing leading to the west wing, with two wounds in the back, and one in his left leg.

Finally, entering Benjamin’s room PC Roberts expecting to find another body discovered him, sitting on the side of his bed, in what appeared to be a state of shock, covered in blood and holding on his lap his father’s shotgun.

“Well, Benjamin what’s been going on here,” asked the Constable.

There was no reply from Benjamin.

Carefully, the shotgun was removed from Benjamin and wrapped in a sheet, he did not even flinch, just sat their still.

“Father McBride, could you stay with Benjamin while I call for assistance, and please don’t touch anything.”

“Of course.”

The sight that greeted me was terrible, one I will never forget.  I couldn’t believe at that time, Benjamin was responsible for the destruction of this family.  Did he have no sympathy at all for the people who had brought him up, and given him everything a boy could desire?  Apparently not!

Dr Mathew Hoyden, who arrived on the scene a little after 11.30am, was taken back by the scene, of so many bodies.  The first body he examined was that of Samantha James’s lifeless body sprawled across the living room, blood was congealing from the wound, but there was little doubt she was dead.  Because of the location of the wound, forensic experts summarised; her heart had stopped pumping blood, almost immediately, thereby resulting in very little blood splatter on nearby walls and furniture, for such horrific wounds.

Whilst the medical examination continued, and the crime scene photographers carried out their duties.  The police carried out a detailed search of the house, from the attic to the cellar.  Nothing was found to indicate the presence, of an intruder within.

Following the examinations, a senior officer allowed me to perform the ‘last rites ritual’ to each of the victims, before they were removed, from the house.

The horrific murders of Peter James, Samantha his wife, and children Christine and Michael, found murdered in their home, brought an onslaught of ever clambering press, to their doorsteps, in search of a story.  They had convicted Benjamin, in the press as guilty, for he survived unscathed, holding the murder weapon.

“What happened to Benjamin.”

He appeared to be in a state of shock, and was removed firstly to the local hospital, and later to the David Rice Hospital, and remained there whilst police carried out their investigation.

“All the time he remained in hospital, he never uttered a single word, whether he was suffering from shock, no one knew.”

The police could find no evidence of an intruder, and their only suspect was Benjamin – despite overwhelming physical and circumstantial evidence pointing to him.  Still the police found it hard to believe, as I do, that anyone as young as Benjamin, could cold bloodedly murder his own family.

A Social Worker, was present at police interviews of Benjamin, but still he did not utter a word of response to their questions, just shrugged his shoulders occasionally.  As far as they were concerned, it was an open and shut case; and remained in custody at the Malen Secure Unit, until the trial.

The question which was on many peoples lips; was he a murder or an innocent victim?

I like so many of the villagers considered the events of 1972, when the Rev James Patterson took his life, could there be any connection?

Benjamin was brought before a closed session of the Juvenile Court to answer the charges laid upon him.  For the whole of the proceedings, he sat and watched, showing no sign of emotion.

“Had he any idea what was going on Father.”

“I don’t know, but that was a different boy sitting in the courtroom, he had changed.”

Before the trial, Benjamin, had been remanded, to the Malen Secure Unit for assessment; based on their findings, the courts sent him to a Secure Unit on the Welsh Border, with no option of parole.  That was the first time I saw any sort of reaction – he smiled.

“Have you seen him since the trial.”

“Yes, I have, I used to attend the Hospital.  He hasn’t spoken since that day, just paints violent pictures of the victims, in lurid detail.  It’s a sad sight, for one so young.”

Then events took a turn, a historian heard about the murders, turned up to study the site, which had undergone many strange events over the centuries.

The so-called Nun, was lured to England from France, in the 16th century, worked as a maid, murdered, and thrown down the old well, and left to rot.  Believed to have been the apparition seen by many visitors over the years, whose frequent materialisation’s were the basic causes of so much agitation in the spirit world?

Believers in the paranormal believe the theory that in most cases of persistent disturbances, the cause is often a young female.  From available evidence of poltergeist activity, it seems that a young girl, could be physically affected, attracting and energising forces beyond the normal.  Support for this theory, held up at South Elmham, not only from the ghostly Nun but also from a young woman, who worked as a housemaid for the Rev James Patterson.

Violent activity seemed to accompany the skull, following its removal from the well.  When taken to museum experts for detailed examination, a series of accidents took place in quick succession, the skull broke in two, and valuable works of art were damaged.

Paranormal activity once ripe in the area, ceased when the Nun’s skull, buried on holy ground at the local convent.  At last, she was at peace!

Benjamin regained his speech, within days of the burial, but his mind remains a complete blank, since the day of the killings.  Questions have been asked; whether he should be held accountable for these crimes, in light of the discoveries?

As far as our courts are concerned, this mumbo-jumbo evidence would not wash with them, Benjamin, was found guilty of the crimes, with no option of parole, and the sentence stands.

“But is he innocent Father?”

“I think so, but we will never know, unless he regains his memory.  The mystery of the old rectory has been solved, and many lives destroyed in the process.”

“Father, don’t bore the young man with your memories, you’re supposed to rest, you know what the doctor said.”

“I may be old and retired, but let the boy here know all about the events of South Elmham, for next month, it will be his parish.  Better to be forewarned of the events of the past, some villagers still remember, those awful times, no doubt!”

As the young priest left, gazing back at Father Bracks, sitting on the balcony of the retirement home.  Thoughts raced through his mind, should I take on what he had started, visiting Benjamin, maybe one day he will answer that all-important question.

Who pulled the trigger, and why?

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The Pharoah’s Curse

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Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings stands on a narrow gorge on the west bank of the Nile, near Thebes, where most of the Pharaohs were buried in highly visible pyramids.

Each tomb lies at the end of a succession of descending corridors, punctuated by shafts to prevent grave-robbers reaching the burial area.  This would consist of a burial chamber containing a sarcophagus, and other rooms of furniture and equipment it is believed he would need in the afterlife.  Many rooms would be decorated with carved and painted hieroglyphic texts, magical and symbolic scenes depicting his life.

A flickering of light danced upon the dark walled passageways.  A man dressed in a three-quarter cotton white tunic, raised a fire torch: illuminating four golden candlesticks, standing at each corner of a raised platform, where the gold casket bearing his Pharaoh would be placed.

The eyes glanced off into infinity, gazing at the long line of stationery guards that stood in death like silence, from the chamber to the entrance.

Silence was broken, by the whispering sound as Ignatius Reator, in his strap sandals, scraped over the stone floor, moving along the tunnel to the vast gallery.  With its twenty foot high domed ceiling, and pillared arches.  Its walls laced with cavities bearing ornate gold and pottery ornaments.

Ignatius examined the large collection of wooden crates stacked to one side, checking numbers against those on a scroll he flattened out, on a small stone table.  Sweat began to show through the layers of dust blanketing his skin, in this dry and airless chamber.  Finally satisfied all was in order, rolled up the scroll and slid it into a sash about his waist.

Ignatius was not a young man, considered old for his time, reaching the age of fifty-two.  As he retraced his steps to the anti-room, he exhaled a deep sigh of regret; he would never see or touch this wonderful array of artefacts, symbolising the life of his Pharaoh.  The face heavily lined, with sunken cheeks, and the dragging of his feet, exposed his weariness.  Yet, within he felt satisfaction, the project neared its end, and a great burden would soon be lifted from his shoulders.

His Pharaoh was dying, having just day’s to live; and soon his remaining artefacts would take their place in his burial chamber.  His guard of honour would be entombed, in a time honoured tradition, with their Pharaoh.

Passing by many tunnels to other parts of the pyramid, he remembered one, which entombed thousands of slaves, who died in the construction.  For them, better to have died in the service of their Pharaoh, than suffer prolonged misery at the hands of the Empire.

His mind was elsewhere, when screams echoed through from the outside shaft, jolting him back to the present time.

Ignatius out of concern breathlessly hurried to the entrance; as he stepped out into the light, the heat rays of the sun, forced him to squint his eyes.

News rocked him that his Pharaoh had died…  Day’s later his embalmed body was placed in its Sarcophagus, and taken to his burial chamber.  Placed with him were four Canopic Jars containing his organs; as tradition states, they would assist the dead to assist through the after-life.

Over the coming weeks; two ebony effigies of the Pharaoh gold sandaled, with staff and mace, were positioned either side of his tomb.  A collection of inlaid caskets; alabaster vases, black shrines, and a gold throne were set about his chamber.  The final doorway sealing his chamber contained a hand carved seal of the Pharaoh: Tutankhamen upon it, marking his final resting place.

The legend of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen, buried with all his wealth, in the Valley of the Kings, brought many an archaeologist or treasure hunter in search of fame and fortune.

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Tutankhamen’s Sarcophagus

Many tried to find the fabled burial chamber, only to find entrances that led nowhere, but to an early grave.

Seven years previous, on another dig, the Mantle brothers; James and Daniel, found a Canopic Chest, containing four Canopic Jars containing the stomach – intestines – lung and liver.  A scroll found within, named the architect of Tutankhamen’s Pyramid: Ignatius Reator, along with rough plans of the build.  It was enough to put them in the general area of the Pyramid, and lead them to the biggest find ever!

“I am hot, and exhausted, can we stop for a moment,” called out Daniel in a weary voice.

James, paused and looked behind him at his brother Daniel, coming up behind him.  “It is not safe to stop here, much of the shaft is unstable.”

At that moment, a tremor was felt in the shaft, as their scaffold and boarded support vibrated violently above them.

“Do you feel it?” asked Daniel.

“Of course I do, it must be a quake, the third one this month,” James said in an uneasy voice, “wedge yourself between the poles, it is our only hope.”

“If this shaft shakes much more, it will collapse with us under it,” suggested Daniel, while sand was falling away from the sides.

Briefly and violently sand fell away from the tunnel sides, they feared the scaffolding would soon fall about them.  However, the gods must have been on their side, for as quick as the quake started, it stopped in a matter of minutes.  Slowly their gaunt faces emerged from the sand, spitting out lumps of sand, whilst clearing the grit from their eyes.

“I warned you, it would be a risky adventure, before we started this, but the profits and fame would well be worth the risks,” James reminded his brother Daniel, gazing back at him, as he brushed away the loose sand covering him.  “We have spent four years digging this tunnel, from the upper to the lower floors, in our belief of finding the fabled tomb… many believe we are wasting our time, but I know we are in the right area.  So let’s clear away the fallen sand and re-fix the scaffold.”

James expected Daniel to reply, but there were a few groaning moans.  Daniel looked in the direction of James, and lifted himself out of the sand, pushing it to the side, and re-fixing the scaffold.

As Daniel pushed the sand against the sides, his hand felt a shape protruding from the walls.  “I have found something; it could be a seal or something?”

James waited patiently as Daniel brushed away the sand, hoping it could be what they desperately craved, for he knew they were in the right area according to the map…  So many times over the last six months they thought they had found something, believing it might lead to an entrance, only to find yet another dead end.

“It is the hand carved seal of Tutankhamen, well worn, but I would know it anywhere,” Daniel laughed and smiled with joy.

“If we hadn’t had that cave in, we might have gone right past it,” suggested James.

Their life-time dream, and four years of sweat and toil was drawing to a close, when in March 1922, they made that magnificent discovery… the hand carved seal telling them they had found the burial chamber of Tutankhamen, the Egyptian Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty… This was to send the airwaves clattering around the world, for they became famous overnight, having found, what many had sought.

Their first glimpse within the burial chamber revealed; two black ebony effigies of the Pharaoh, gold sandaled, with staff and mace, stood out from the dark cloak.  The walls lined with golden coaches, caskets, alabaster vases, black shrines with a gilded snake, his gold throne, gold chariots, and much more… they were speechless.

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Tutankhamen’s Mask

At the far end another doorway, set between two guarding statues; at that point they knew they had found the final resting place, of the boy Pharaoh … untouched since the day he was laid here in his sarcophagus.

The tour guide, a young, dark-haired woman in her early twenties, crossed the wide gallery, her low heels clicking off the polished hardwood floor precise as a metronome.  When she reached the archway that led to the grand staircase, she turned and waited for the tour to file into the room.  It was a large group today, and the gallery was one of the most popular rooms.  After this room, she could expect several to drop off from the tour and head for the gift shop or even the parking lot, their curiosity had been satisfied.

She took a microphone from its hook on the wall and waited.  When the group had settled into rows of standing, waiting faces, she flashed her best tour guide smile and began.

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“Welcome to Mantle House, once the famous home of archaeologists James and Daniel Mantle …” She said, her voice amplified by several small speakers perfectly concealed about the room.  “Mantle House is one of the oldest and best preserved homes in this part of Knightsbridge.”

She waited, for someone to ask the most relevant question… there was always one on every tour.

“What about the Mantle deaths?” asked a voice from the rear.

“It all started on the 8th March 1972, the 50th anniversary of the Tutankhamen find, when the Mantle brothers were found dead.”  She looked around, all eyes and ears were on her, listening to her every word.  “An amulet from the dig lay on the coffee-table, now situated in the display case to my right,” as she pointed out.

The police were summoned, and all London was buzzing with curiosity and fear.  People questioned who had committed this dreadful deed, and the pathologist questioned how two healthy people died of natural causes on the same night, and at the exact same time.

The police received a challenging autopsy report from the pathologist.  The joint medical opinion stated they had not been poisoned, brutally murdered or killed by any known means they could find.  At the time of their death, they had been in perfect health, except now they were all dead.  Each body had the look of terror upon its face, and they had been frightened to death all at the same time.  What event caused this, is anyone’s guess … it has become one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time!

The mysterious deaths caused great concern to the police.  They had two dead bodies, and no witnesses!  If only the house could talk, its memories have been locked up within, never to be resolved.  Since that fateful day the place remained locked, never to be lived in again, that was until 1994, when according to solicitors acting on behalf of the Mantle estate, stated one Trevor Mantle, came of age.  It was he who has it brought back to its former glory, under the terms of the will, and re-opened it as a museum.

“What about the ghosts?” someone asked.

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Abraham Lincoln

The gallery is said to be haunted by several ghosts, although historical identities of the spirits are unknown.  The ghostly sightings began in 1879, shortly after the main house was built.  The first ghost to be seen at Mantle House is described as a tall man in a long coat, some say it looks like Abraham Lincoln, who died in 1865.  He is made up entirely of shadows, with burning red coal for eyes.

According to witness statements of 1892, ghostly sightings of one referred to, as the man in grey, so unnerved the master of the house at that time that he took a loaded musket from above the fireplace, and shot himself through the mouth.

The servant is said to have run from the house to a neighbour’s residence.  Her story of terror seemed too real to be a charade.  In fact, the servant suffered from the trauma for the rest of her short life.  She died mysteriously in an asylum three years later.

When neighbours rushed to investigate the servant’s wild tale, they found the remains of the master’s body stretched out on the floor; his musket lay close by.  The corpse had been burned nearly to ash, yet the remains were cool, and the rest of the house showed no signs of fire.

In the late 1930’s, the Mantle’s had an extension built on the side of the house, where we are now standing, to store their collection of artefacts from many archaeological digs.  Some years later, visitors report of seeing Tutankhamen, sitting at one end on his gold throne.

ATo this day, the ghost of The Grey Man, Tutankhamen, and the one believed to look like Abraham Lincoln look alike stalk this house, and have been seen by staff and visitors alike.

The tour guide smiled, and took her thumb from the microphone switch.  The tour group stood in a single silence, their expressions ranging from shock to peculiar exhilaration.

“If you will please move forward, we will continue to the next room.”

The group had just begun to move, when a young man to the rear of the group asked.  “What about the ghost of the Mantle brothers?”

The mention of the Mantle ghost sent cold waves through the group.  A woman screamed then collapsed.

The episode lasted only a matter of minutes, but it was enough to put everyone on edge.  The woman who fainted recovered and was helped to her feet, by other members of the tour party.

“Young man,” she spoke with a stern voice.  “Starting on the 8th March, and ending on the 22nd March, each year, numerous unexplained events would take place:  Display cases are known to crack, lights would shimmer on and off, or would explode without reason, room temperatures would drop below zero one minute, followed by a fire engulfing the far wall, hot to look at, but cold to the touch…ghost like images would openly walk the corridors.”

The faces of the group said it all … she had sent fear into each and everyone.  “That is why we don’t speak their names out loud, during those two weeks.  The mention of their names would invoke terror!”

The young man put his fingers to his face, and they came away wet.  The blood vessels in his right eye had burst, and he was weeping bloody tears.

“See what I mean,” stated the tour guide.  He nodded in response.  “There’s a first aid station next to the gift shop.”

Archaeologists James and Daniel Mantle found the ultimate prize; the Tutankhamen burial chamber … but the curse on the amulet was to cost them their lives.

Wikipedia Images

Innocent or Guilty… You Decide?

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The Daily Times headline for August 9th read:

 

BUTCHERED IN THEIR HOME

Peter James and his wife Samantha, along with two of their three children; Michael and Christina were brutally murdered yesterday morning at their South Elmham Home.

 

The story leading up to these horrific events started back in 1863, when the Reverend Henry Markham, built a fine Victorian Rectory, on the remains of a previous religious house, on the edge of the village.  Upon his death in 1895, his son Edward became the new vicar, and resided at the rectory until his death in 1928.

Rumours abounded the village, that the rectory must have been haunted, through the relentless activities of poltergeists.

Edward Markham, made a habit of waiting at the rectory gate, for the passing of the ghostly coach.  The sound of rumbling wheels, clattering of four horse’s hooves, would approach along the road, reach a crescendo at the gate, and gradually fade into the distance.  The phantom coach was not only heard but also seen by the ex-groom of the rectory, who described a blazing carriage with lights careering through the rectory grounds.

A more significant manifestation was that of a Nun, confirmed by many witnesses, over the years, as she walked across the terrace.  The presence of the Nun, added to the belief that the rectory must have been built on the site of a religious house.

In the spring of 1975, the body of the Reverend James Patterson, was discovered in the old rectory.  His body had been hacked to death, but nobody was brought to justice for this murder, though a local young man was suspected of the crime.

In the autumn of 1982, the redundant rectory was renovated, into a fine looking country farmhouse.  Many villagers had feared for the sanity of those who resided in this dreadful building, with an unsavoury past.

Then in the spring of 1983, a Scottish family the James’s took up residence, with their three children; Michael 9, Catherine 7, and Christina 8.

Very little was known about them, Peter James worked for the Civil Service, and in the early years, the children attended the local primary school, later they attended boarding school.

Utter shock, rocked the heart of this peaceful village, on a sweltering summer morning in early August 1995.  When the news that four of their residents had been murdered, in their own home.

The idea, that their 20 year old daughter Catherine, could be responsible for the horrific axe murders, seemed quite unthinkable – despite overwhelming physical and circumstantial evidence that pointed to her.

Inside all was quiet, but in the hall, on the stairs, there was chaos, objects flung about, generally creating a scene of disaster.  In the midst of similar destruction in the main room, was the body of Peter James, close by his wife, in a pool of blood.

Upstairs in the rear bedroom, Christina sprawled across the bed still wearing a pair of earphones, body drenched in blood, from the chest wounds.  Whilst Michael was found sprawled across the landing leading to the west wing, with two wounds in the back, and one in his left leg.

Dr Mathew Hoyden, who arrived on the scene a little after 11.30am, was taken back by the scene, of so many bodies.  The first body he examined was that of Samantha James’s lifeless body sprawled across the living room, blood was congealing from the wound, but there was little doubt she was dead.  Because of the location of the wound, forensic experts summarised; her heart had stopped pumping blood, almost immediately, thereby resulting in very little blood splatter on nearby walls and furniture, for such horrific wounds.

Whilst the medical examination continued, and the crime scene photographers carried out their duties.  The police carried out a detailed search of the house, from the attic to the cellar.  Nothing found to indicate the presence, of an intruder within.

Catherine, the only survivor of these horrific murder’s, whose alibi was fraught with inconsistencies – was the only suspect.  What would end up saving her was the intense violence of the murders.  Simply too grisly to have been committed by one so young and innocent, with a quiet and gentle disposition.

Catherine was a self-conscious young woman with long blonde hair, and light blue eyes, petite body with a blanched complexion.

Her manners were impeccable, always polite to those she met, but considered a loner, and known for her love of animals.

One of her traits she was well known for, she had inherited her mother’s short temper, and tended to sulk if she did not get her own way, and suffered from short- term memory loss.

What had baffled the police, was how the murderer have escaped the house undetected, whilst the front door remained bolted and locked.  Christine claimed she had been in the summerhouse, then she was in the attic and finally she was down by the river, she could not satisfy the police of her whereabouts at the time.

Either way, the police considered it unlikely that the murder could have escaped without being seen, or screams heard from the house.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Catherine would become the prime suspect, and then there was the persistent problem of her shaky alibi.

At the inquest, Catherine’s rendition of her whereabouts prior to the discovery of the bodies, changed so many times, that the police and coroner, often wondered which was the true statement.

Question:  Where were you on the morning of the murders?

Answer:     I was in the summerhouse reading.

Question:  Are you sure?

Answer:     I am not sure whether I was there, down by the river or in the attic.

Question:  Did you hear anything?

Answer:     Not that I can remember.

In desperate exasperation the Coroner gave up on this line of questioning, he knew it was useless, she just could not remember events from one minute to the next.

According to the Pathologist Dr Harvey Michaels, the forensic findings of the axe found in the nearby river could not conclusively prove, if it was or not the murder weapon.

The local doctor’s wife testified that she had seen Catharine shortly after the murders, when she burst into the surgery, asking for assistance, at what she had found at the house.  Being in a distressed state, she had a pale colour, and there were no signs of blood on her hands or clothes.

Finally the jury retired to give their verdict, and on their return they concluded that:  Peter James, Samantha James, Michael James and Christina James had been murdered by person or persons unknown.

Catherine, who had been the prime suspect of this violent and grisly murder of her family walked free from the Coroners Court, with a wee grin upon her face.

So was Catherine guilty of these horrific crimes or had she fooled the court into thinking she was innocent?  Before running to the doctor’s surgery, could she have washed changed her clothes and destroyed them away from the house?  Was she putting on an act?

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Fear of the Unknown

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Jason tossed a magazine, of mystery and suspense onto the table.

“Daniel, take a look at page 56, the item I have highlighted, see what you make of it!”

Are you afraid of the dark?

Do you believe in ghosts?

If not read on!

WANTED:  Anyone with a strong heart prepared to assist in scientific studies.
Spend a night in a haunted house, so the legends goes, and earn yourself £500.

Daniel looked at Jason, waiting for a comment.

“Yes, I have been in touch with them.”

“You mad fool.”

“But it’s easy money.”

“They don’t pay out that sort of money, unless they believe it could be haunted.” Looking at Jason with a concerned look upon his face.

“So where’s the house.”

It’s located on the Yorkshire Moors, near the village of Glaisdale, and has been empty these past fifteen years or so.”

So what’s the name of this house?”

“Mantle House.”

At the mention of that house, Daniel’s face went white, with fear and trepidation.

“I read something about that recently, it is believed to be haunted, and the locals won’’ go near it, for fear of losing their minds.”  Daniel stated, with a shaky voice.  “I beg you don’t go Jason, no amount of money would entice me to go.”

“What utter rubbish, you shouldn’t believe everything you read.  It is probably just cold and damp, because it has been empty so long.

“I hope you’re right.”

Jason, paid no heed to my comments, I could see it in his eyes, he had made up his mind to go, and nothing was going to stand in his way.

“I am not easily scared,” Jason said, as he rose from his chair, making his way out of the front door.

I looked on fearful, unable to speak, without fear sounding in my voice, as he said his good-bye’s.

I returned to the confines of my home, ever fearful of what Jason was letting himself into.  I only wished he would have listened to me, but he always had that stubborn streak.

As I entered the conservatory, my wife who had been sitting quietly on the couch reading, whilst stroking her favourite ginger and white cat; Gussie, looked up for a moment, and asked in a concerned voice, “is something wrong?”

“It’s Jason, he read an article about staying in a haunted house for one night for scientific purposes.  I tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn’t listen.”

“Try not to worry about it.  He’ll find out soon enough what it’s like, and no amount of worrying for him, can change anything.”  Rachael said, looking up at Daniel’s worried face.

“I know you’re right, but we’ve known each other for over 20 years, and he was best man at our wedding, he’s my friend, and I can’t help worrying about him.  He can be such a fool at times.”

“You wouldn’t get me staying in Mantle House.”

“So what’s so special about Mantle House,” Rachael enquired.

“Just a minute,” as he rummaged through a pile of magazines in the corner.  “Here it is, I knew I read it recently, an article on the history of Mantle House, and the mystery that surrounds it.”

Slowly he scanned the article, sat down and looked at his wife Rachael, for a moment, then glanced once more at the article.

“According to the legend, the spirit of the house wanders the corridors at night, looking for her loved one, it seems he brought her to live here against her fathers wishes, which enraged him so much.  He supposedly killed the young man, and his daughter in a fit of distress, threw herself from the tower, proclaiming her love for her loved one.”

“They must have been very much in love,” said Rachael.

“So what happened to the father?”

“He was arrested for his crime, but hung himself in his cell, before the case reached the courts,” quoted Daniel.

“According to the legend that goes with the house, anyone who sets eyes on either of the lovers, will be tormented and driven insane by their encounter.”

“Its all hocus-pocus they wouldn’t carry out these sort of tests, on this place, if they thought it would be dangerous.”

“True!”

“I really don’t know why you believe such utter rubbish,” stated Rachael.  “All this has done, is to scare the living daylights out of you.  If Jason isn’t worried, you shouldn’t be.  You must know ghosts don’t exist.  Have you seen one?”

“Well, no!”

“It’s just a state of mind.”

A few weeks later, I ran into Jason at the Snooker Hall, and I was amazed how much he had changed in such a short time.  His face was drained and thin.

“Upon reflections of the events of that night, I wish I had listened to you Daniel, and hadn’t got involved with that place; all for the sake of some easy money.  I should have known better.”

“So what did you see?”

“Its not what I saw, its more what I felt.  The atmosphere in the old house was tense; it was sheer terror.  It caught me like a wave, drowning in cold panic.  It’s the first time I felt fear so intense.”  Jason’s voice crackling with fear as he spoke.

I felt a strange chill in the air as I listened to my old friend.

“I am dying.  I can feel life slipping away from me Daniel.”

I looked on in amazement, at this shadowy white figure, a shadow of his former self, all the life had been sucked out of him.

Flesh quivered at the corners of his eyes, as he gazed into mine, but fear stopped him telling me more.

“Forget it, forget the events of that night,” hoping to ease his mind, but one look into his face, and I knew it was useless.

I took him to the bar, and we sat at the corner table, drinking whiskey.  His feeble hands were shaking so much, he could barely hold the glass to his lips.  Slowly, the colour was returning to his face.  As he caught each breath, he was shaking with fear of the unknown.

“I’ll see you back to your place,” I said.  “I hope you’ll feel better soon Jason.”

As I left him at his front door, he said.  “I’ll never be better.”

Sadly, that was the last time I ever saw him alive.  I heard, that Jason was found the next morning, slumped on the floor in a disjointed heap, with the look of terror in his eyes.

They say fear of what happened that night on the Yorkshire Moors, had got the better of him, and something had broken inside of him.  Fear had left his body.  He was at peace now!

We were never destined to find out all the events of that strange night, which can turn a happy person into a nervous wreck.  The fear he sustained weaved strange thoughts in his mind.

Finally, it killed him!

(Image) The Soul Collector: Carlreyns