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The Man In Brown And The Scent Of Roses


I shall start this account with something that did not happen to me, but was recounted in good faith to me by my father. As you read on, you will understand why this is necessary.

Nearly a century ago, my grandparents lived in a large Victorian House on a Naval Base town in Southern England. The road itself was (and still is!) a long terrace of houses with no turn offs for several hundred yards from where they lived. My grandfather was on a long deployment at sea and my grandmother left with my father, a very young baby at the time, which puts this in 1925 or maybe 1926. My grandmother knew everyone in the street, by sight at least.

The house was split into two flats. My father's parents lived upstairs. On the ground floor was a large common hall area by the front door, with stairs leading from it to a landing or mezzanine where the entrance to the upper flat was located. Set back from the hall was the door to the downstairs flat where another family lived (who I will call the Cookes).

My grandmother kept my father's pram in an alcove that was close to the door in the hall. As will become apparent this was hidden somewhat from both doors.

It was about midday and Grandma heard a sharp rapping on the door. Surprised, but thinking it may be Mrs. Cooke she answered the door, only to find nobody there. Puzzled she came onto the landing, and saw her neighbour stood below outside her own door. Hearing my grandmother she looked up.

"Did you knock?" she asked.

"No, I was coming out to see who knocked on MY door!" Grandma replied.

Both women looked around and saw a man, dressed entirely in brown peering into my father's empty pram. He then turned and left through the door. They never saw his face. Surprised and somewhat indignant, the two women followed a few seconds behind, only to find no trace of the mysterious stranger out in the street.

The man was apparently dressed in a brown overcoat, trousers, with a brown hat (fedora/trilby style) on his head. When grandma and Mrs Cooke compared experiences just after, they realised the knock on the door had happened simultaneously for both of them.

Fast forward probably fifty four or five years.

I grew up in a smallish West Country city with a much larger and industrialised neighbour. I was about 14 - 15 and had three sisters, two older and one younger. My sisters all went to school in my hometown. Having gained the dubious distinction of passing the "Eleven Plus" I went to school in the boys grammar school in the neighbouring town.

I think by this time my eldest sister was at University elsewhere in the UK and my second eldest had taken employment. This meant my youngest sister was the only child at school locally, and hence was back first not just usually but invariably. I would get home at about 16. 30hrs dependent upon the buses.

Ours was a large end of terrace house at the top of a hill. It had an entrance hall with stairs to the right side as one looked at it. The hall ran down to the kitchen. A front room opened to the right, and behind that, also on the right, the living room, which also had a connecting door to the kitchen.

Now, this is very unscientific but even though I was born in that house, it had moods and sometimes I didn't like being in it on my own. Probably imagination or infrasound but it was real enough to me when we lived there.

On this particular day I got back home at my usual hour. I called out, but sister #3 was nowhere to be seen! This was unusual in itself but I assumed she had gone down to the local High Street for some reason. Still, it was peculiar and I noted that at the time.

I entered the house and went into the living room, handrailing the wall on my left towards the kitchen. For some reason I never went straight down the corridor to the kitchen. As I got to the connecting doorway into that area, I experienced an absolutely overpowering smell of roses. It was very very pronounced and very very localised. If you stood there and moved your head to the left or right you could not smell them, but in the correct location it was almost sickly.

I stood there for a few moments, trying to make sense of what I was experiencing. I couldn't. Also, I didn't like the atmosphere in the room at that point, and being a brave teenage lad decided to go and stand on the front garden path and await my sibling's return. I don't remember what date it was but by heck it was chilly and my sister didn't come back for 15-20 minutes, either!

I saw her walking up the hill and went down to greet her. Normally chatty, she was subdued and rather quiet, which I put down to her having had a bad day at school. We went into the house together and all was normal. Mum and Dad returned from work slightly later, and that was that.

A while later I was chatting to my sister and mentioned the smell of roses. Then it came out what had happened, and about which I had absolutely no idea beforehand.

The night before, she had woken up during the night. She sensed, rather than saw a presence in the room at the foot of the bed. The presence was of an entity completely clad in brown. And overall, the cloying, overpowering smell of roses. Terrified she lay there, hardly daring to breath. Gradually the visitation had faded and she got back to sleep in due course.

The next afternoon she had returned home as usual and opened the front door. As she stepped into the house, she was overcome with the smell of roses, and decided not to go in, heading off to take refuge in Woolworths for a while until she knew I would be back. She had been surprised I was outside when she did come back, of course, but didn't connect the two until I told her.

So in essence that is it. No sense, no rhyme or reason to my tale, but it is true. A few years ago I discovered certain Welsh families used to be 'haunted' by a ghost, spirit, imp, emanation or whatever you might call it, in the way Irish families claim ownership of a banshee. This sprite is known by the strong smell of roses, and when (rarely) sighted is dressed in brown. My family has a Welsh surname but left the Valleys 150 years back.

Could it be that somehow something followed us and still maintains an interest in our doings? In fairness, the smell of roses was usually a warning of death in the family and connected to mines, so I may be stretching a point too far to account for what we experienced, but that is the human nature, to make patterns and see sense in the inexplicable.

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, Urbancohort01, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

Urbancohort01 (1 stories) (1 posts)
5 years ago (2019-07-11)
Hi there Mrs Ramsey and many thanks for your taking the time to comment. I know of no significance in the colour brown to my family. It is the "brown clothing" angle which led me to connect these two stories. However in British folklore there is a spirit called a "brownie" that lives in hearths of old houses and is generally helpful. In Welsh it's called something like a bwllcha or something almost equally unpronounceable. The brownie is similar to what J. K. Rowling called 'House elves' in her massively over rated novels. They were rarely seen but would clean and tidy houses (oh!If only!) overnight as long as they were fed a bowl of milk. I found the whole atmosphere very spooky at the time and hence scary, but I can't pin it down to anything particularly unpleasant going on. I was a very young 14 year old and not very happy in my school, but who is?

A few years ago in a Readers Digest book called "Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain" on p 403, "Death Flowers of the Mines"it talks about spirits that haunt the Welsh mining communities and of a harbinger of disaster where the colliery was filled with "sweet rose like perfume" - a perfect description of what I smelled. Whilst I don't recall any tragedy affecting my family in the immediate aftermath, within a decade both my parents died rather unpleasantly but I think I'd be stretching a point to say that it could be pointing to that! As I said, my Great grandfather was Welsh, and although illegitimate had some kind of connection to mining. His son was the individual away on deployment in the first part.

My sister definitely felt the presence she sensed to be sinister rather than helpful.
MrsRamsay (guest)
5 years ago (2019-07-10)
Hi Urbancohort1. I'm brand new here, but felt up to a comment. Being a military daughter as well as wife, and having lived in many base quarters (housing), your description of your grandmother's setup sounded familiar. But also, the fact that an unexplained person/entity in brown was witnessed at the two locations decades apart reminded me of something in my life, which I've come to believe is likely an angel (as opposed to an ancestor or some random manifestation). Is there anything significant to you or your dad about the "dressed in brown" thing? The "person" who visited me decades apart was dressed in a military uniform, which has great significance to me. Other than your sister being creeped out by her experience, did anyone feel threatened, or, what was the general feeling? Was anything going on at the time of the events? What comes to mind to me is that the man in brown might've been checking up on your grandma and father while your grandfather was away/deployed... But anything similar at the next occasion? I sort of think that, while some events are random mysteries, many times if you just think about your initial gut reaction, or your rationalizations, you might be close to an understanding. I think it's significant that you connected the dots between your grandmother's story and what happened with you and your sis! That many years between visits is interesting.

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