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The Local Church

 

I grew up in a rural area in the County of Somerset, England. The small village I hail from had one shop, a primary school, a Church of England Church, a village hall and a pub. It was a, not so, sprawling metropolis, situated on a hill that was the first in the range of hills known as the Mendips. The hill was steeped in history, both factual and fantastical, with stories of the not so holy church, a witch's coven, pagans and druids. Of which street names reflect this interesting past today.

I think that the overactive imaginations of children feed on stories of old, whether they are based in fact, or urban legend. So my peers and I had quite a bit to go on in fuelling our childhood fears. One day, I would like to go back to see how it's changed today and to see whether I still get the same vibe from the place, as I did in my youth.

My first ever personal experience of the paranormal (at least myself and others could not explain it) happened in the churchyard. The tower of the church is most impressive, featuring gothic spires, it was built in 1482. It is visible from the severn estuary and was said to have been used as a beacon for ships to find their way to the port in Bristol. This is the only original part of the church, as the body of the church was completely refurbished in 1861. The first burial took place in 1559. It is a quaint, picture postcard church to look at, but physically being there was not so quaint! The events I witnessed, was what first made me question the religion I had been raised to follow and the belief that the church was a safe haven from evil.

My friends and I used to hang around the church quite a lot. It was at the centre of our village, where most of the day to day activity took place and where most people met up. We would often spend our days sitting on the vast stone wall that encircled the church and we would sometimes venture into the churchyard, as we found the old graves fascinating (sounds a bit morbid I know!) You made your own fun in the country.

Now, I always felt a little bit on edge when we ventured into the oldest part of the graveyard. That may well have been due to the fact that it was rumoured that there were witches buried there, as there were graves that had had their plinths partially removed and you could see the thick layer of sea shells, that (as the story goes) were there because they trapped the evil spirits. I have never researched this story, but as an adult, I am sceptical!

Anyway, when in the old part of the graveyard one summer's day, I was with one friend and we were sitting down taking a cold drink, looking at some very old gravestones. I was imagining what it would have been like to have been that person (something I'm prone to). I felt the atmosphere around us change, it suddenly felt very cold and then from the periphery of my vision, I saw a translucent white mist. I kept very still, as did my friend. As I became aware of the mist, I placed my hand on her arm and whispered "shush" to her. I did not raise my head, simply followed the mist with my head still lowered and as we sat there, it moved across the gravestone we were sat in front of. It happened in seconds and once it left my periphery, I finally moved my head to the direction it was moving and it had gone. The temperature went back to normal and all felt right again. We weren't scared, just baffled. My friend had felt the cold, but had looked up on my shushing her and she only saw the mist for a split second.

As the years passed by, many of us encountered the white mists, but I never saw one in the day time again. At night was when most activity took place and the night would bring the black shadows also. As I said, the church wall was a regular hang out and night time was no exception.

Many people laid claim to witnessing these mists and shadows, but one particular night was unsettling to say the least. Me and several of my brother's friends, plus two of my own, were sat chatting on the wall, when one of my brother's friends noticed movement. We were all so used to seeing things in the graveyard, that it had become the norm. We all looked up and could all see a number of black shadows. All were moving, human shaped and blacker than the night. What was different this time was one of the shadows seemed to be growing in size. We all stood transfixed, as the shadow started spinning and began to move through the graveyard. We could not believe what we were seeing. It was like a black vortex, gaining velocity and size as it travelled towards the main gate of the churchyard. As it reached the gate, it flew open with such force that it snapped back on its hinges and slammed shut again. We had all started to back away from the wall, but this got us running. We did not go back to take a second look.

I was also a member of the church choir in my early teens and also a campanologist. I rang the smallest of the bells and it was something I thoroughly enjoyed. The tower was, to me, the spookiest part of the church. It was very dark and the old stone spiral stairway was narrow and had a funny old smell to it. The first time I went up, I was with the other bell ringers, but the second time, I was alone. Back in those days, it was still standard practice to leave the church open to all around the clock. Only in later years, when valuables started to go missing, did it become common practice to keep the doors locked at all times, with entry by appointment, outside of worshipping hours.

When I entered the stairway this second time, the first thing that hit me was a blast of cold air. Not so odd, as it's an old stone building, but I was slightly wary, as it hadn't happened the first time, but I was with other people then, so perhaps just didn't notice. As I was climbing, I felt something touch my back, very gently, like when someone ushers you forward. I looked back thinking someone had crept up behind me to give me a scare, but there was no one there. I scooted up the rest of the stairs like a rocket. When I reached the bell tower, I could hear someone climbing behind me. I waited and waited, but no one appeared. Five to ten minutes later, two more people arrived. I asked if anyone else was here and had gone back down for some reason. There was no one else in the church. After that, I always waited outside for more people to arrive.

Yes, at the time, all of these experiences frightened me to some degree. The second group experience was by far the worse. Now that could be passed off as a mass hysteria event, the first and third, merely imagination.

As a child, I was aware of the rumours surrounding the church, about the graves harbouring evil spirits, gargoyles missing from the tower, allowing evil in, the north door blocked up, so not letting evil out (apparently, the door should be open during Christenings, to get rid of any evil spirit attached to a newborn) and the pathway in the graveyard being in the shape of the devil's trident. This could have very well fuelled my fears, but also, it was a time of awakening for me, as not long after the last event, I encountered the Ouija (my first story posted), the experience of which further tweaked my interest in all things paranormal.

I think any experience can be scary if you don't understand it and my experiences prompted me to learn as much as I could about all things spiritual. Nothing happens by mistake!

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by yourghoststories.com. Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, earthangel67, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

earthangel67 (4 stories) (22 posts)
 
2 years ago (2015-11-26)
Hi Tweed, I finally read your post today. I've been rather busy with work, so have been absent myself for a little while. I also avoid the Halloween antics. I've never liked it, even as a kid. To me it's an excuse for thankless kids to get sweets for free, that frankly most don't deserve. Certainly where I live! I sound like a grumpy old fart 😊

I'm not a religious person either. Something I battled with growing up, as it just didn't sit right with me. I don't really know how I would define myself, other than just being me. I believe there is a higher power, but not in the form of an old chap sat on his throne in heaven, casting down his will, good or bad. I believe there is a universal energy, that all can harness and when you are at peace with the earth and you can tune in to that energy, then you have found your inner god.

I also love old churches, simply for the unique architecture and their odd vibes and my local church certainly fit the bill. I actually got married in it. Perhaps not the best of plans as 2.5 years later that was all over bar the shouting.

Looking back, I don't believe that any of the encounters were evil, that's just a projection of our own fear of the unknown. I still have many encounters, but it's no different to me than passing a friend on the street.

Midsomer Murders! What a village to live in. There are so many deaths, I'm surprised there are any residents left to continue the show 😆 I don't watch it myself, I'm more of a Walking Dead/The Flash type person myself. If you wanted to have a look at the village I lived in, you can google "Dundry Hill". There are loads of pics of the area and the church.

Good to converse with you again 😊
Tweed (22 stories) (2034 posts)
+1
2 years ago (2015-11-07)
Hi Earthangel,

Hope you read this, I took a break from YGS over Halloween, err something about not wanting to read fanciful Halloween claptrap. 😉

I loved reading this and while I'm not a religious person, I love old churches for their beauty and odd vibes. They remind us there's a whole 'other' dimension to ourselves, our inner world and workings.
The history and collective conscience of an old church must attract and evoke all kinds of entities. I assume this reflects our pagan roots like a mirror or reminder that no matter what materialistic BS society we live in, there's an undercurrent of truth; unchanged and uninhabited.

Regardless of whether we brick it in the face of a paranormal encounter such as this, I believe those who experience them are lucky. With all history and misunderstandings of the unknown in mind, I can only imagine these kinds of presences are neutral at least, but never negative or 'evil', merely misunderstood and currently shrouded in mystery.

As a side note every time I go round me Mum's I'm exposed to bloody Midsomer Murders, (for those unaware this is a very boring show). I think they use locations in Somerset. Your encounter here reminded me of a really cool version of it. There's always someone getting followed up a bell tower lol.
earthangel67 (4 stories) (22 posts)
 
2 years ago (2015-11-02)
Skeptic, Thanks for reading. I also always try to assess whether something can be explained by scientific fact firstly, but sometimes, you just can't find the answers. These things scared me as a kid, but I'm far calmer and accepting these days, so don't tend to get phased by much... Thankfully 😁
skeptic_1960 (7 posts)
 
2 years ago (2015-11-01)
Thanks for sharing your story. Being a skeptic I would really try to work these experiences out with non-paranormal answers. I have had the pants scared off me at night in a graveyard so I get it. Thanks again and I hope you find the answers you need.
earthangel67 (4 stories) (22 posts)
 
2 years ago (2015-10-31)
I agree Truck. No witches buried there I doubt, but as a kid you believe most everything. The church definately had a unique vibe!
TRUCK (25 posts)
 
2 years ago (2015-10-30)
I doubt if there are any witches buried there. In the past if you were accused of being a witch you could not be buried at the church, same with suicides.
I agree, churches and graveyard do have a vibe all their own.

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