Some Ghost Stories

by Andrew Clarke
copyright 2002

Joe and his pursuer

This story was told to me by Joe's ex-wife. Joe lived in Foxearth and used to cycle past the site of Borley Rectory to get to work, but was always a bit nervous because of the stories he'd heard. One evening he was cycling past the rectory site in the dusk toward Rodbridge, and just as he went past the rectory gate, he heard a dry rustling sound behind the bicycle, a ghastly scraping and tapping noise like something very old and desiccated. He was too scared to turn, but the air turned chilled and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle. The noise continued and the bicycle seemed harder to peddle. He did not see, but felt, with a ghastly conviction that some entity was chasing him, trying to attract his attention, like some long-buried, but unquiet, spirit. He peddled faster, but the scraping, and rustling just increased its pace. He peddled down the hill towards the Stour, faster and faster, but with the hideous noise close behind. Now, he felt a banging around the rear mudguard of the bicycle, more and more violent as he gained speed, as if the entity was gaining on him and would, at any moment, overpower him. He was now sweating hard, and in a complete panic. He reached the bottom of the hill, at which point the road turned sharp left toward Rodbridge and Foxearth. The road here is always gravelley from the storm-water flow, and he skidded and he and his bike hurtled straight on, into the water-filled ditch. The noise had stopped, and with trepidation he looked at his bike. There, attached to the rear mudguard by its string handle, was an old paper carrier bag. As he'd gone past the Rectory site, the wind had blown the carrier bag against the bike and it had hooked itself on. He'd inadvertently dragged it down the road behind the bike!

Bunny and friend

Bunny and his friend were fighter pilots. Bunny knew all about the Borley legend. He was the cousin of a prominent local landowner. He and his friend were in the Bull in Melford one evening when he overheard an American journalist mouthing off about the fact he was about to go 'ghost-hunting' at Borley. Bunny, along with his local friends who used to gather in the saloon bar of the Bull Hotel, had been responsible for some of the phenomena that were reported in all seriousness as hauntings before the war. Bunny and friend left quickly, and went off home. They dressed up in cloaks and 'ethnic masks' (I guess Balinese dancing masks). The then hid in the bushes near the gate. About half an hour later, the local taxi came up the road with the journalist in the back seat. Bunny and his friend pranced around between the bushes in the grounds. The journalist yelled out "I can see the ghost!" and, to everybody's surprise, brought out a revolver and started firing it at the two confederates. The taxi-driver panicked, turned the car around and raced the taxi back to Melford, with the journalist cursing and swearing in the back seat. Bunny and friend were left in the rectory grounds, a state of shock, having missed the bullets by a whisker. The journalist duly reported the incident as a real sighting of the genuine ghost in a New York paper.

The Icy Hand

Borley does not have a pub of its own. There was once an off-license in Borley Green, though, which was a sort of part-time parlour where drinks could be served. It closed a long time ago. Anybody wanting to socialise had to walk across the river to Rodbridge corner, or the southern part of Long Melford.

Pubs were an essential part of the community. Houses were small, cramped and insanitary. The Lounge or Public Bar in an Inn (the word 'Pub' is short for 'Public Bar') was more like a communal living room, almost exclusively for men. I can remember village pubs where everyone had their own chairs and mugs: One's own pipe hang on the wall. Walking into a different pub was like intruding into someone else's house. Poor farmworkers would never entertain at home, they used the Pub. So it was that, every night after closing-time in the evening, there would be quite a trail of walkers and cyclists up the lane that runs from Rodbridge to Borley Church.

Anyone standing in the churchyard, or the garden of Borley Rectory would see the lanterns of the villagers in the darkness, as they returned to their homes, some on pushbikes, and some on foot. I would like to pretend that all these good country lads were sober. This was not always the case. There was quite a lot of meandering, falling into the ditch, and larking about, particularly as they reached the Rectory. This often provided an irrisistable temptation, particularly when the 'men from Lunnon' were around, or if a ghost-hunter was around. The most common prank was to leap out into the road with ones jacket over ones' head, pretending to be the nun.

Anyone peddling a bike up the hill at night would trace a weaving pattern of light from his lamp. If a group of men cycled up the hill together, they looked for all the world like a phantom coach, and Mrs. Smiths famous sighting, as reported by the redoubtable Mary Pearson, was almost certainly due to the habit of the late revellers cycling in close formation. (Some of the men worked at the Rectory and the lads would cycle up the drive together to see them home).

Sometimes, those who had over-indulged in the local brew, (Ward's, a potent beer from the next parish, Foxearth), had to disappear into the hedge that bordered the long garden of the rectory beside the road, in order to answer a sudden call of nature. Occasionally they intruded into the garden itself, much to the excitement of the eccentric vicar who had convinced himself that ghosts walked the garden, and would lurk in a summerhouse to see them.

It was one of these chaps, a member of the choir of the church for many years, who related to me a curious story that happened to him in the 1930s. He had disappeared off the road into the hedge just below the 'Postern Gate', and had relieved himself. He was just about to re-adjust his clothing when his exposed anatomy was suddenly gripped by an icy hand. He gave out a yell of terror. It was pitch dark and he could not see his assailant, who let go. He leapt back into the road in a state of dishevelment.

When I was listening to the old chap telling me this, I threw myself back in my chair laughing at this point. To my surprise, when I calmed down, I noticed that he was white as a sheet, and trembling; not at all happy at my making light of his story. 'It was the Nun!' he whispered.

It was certainly the most bizzare ghost story I've ever heard.