Z is for BrenZettYes, I'm late again, sorry - truth be told I just completely forgot about this yesterday! I had my head down doing other things and it totally slipped my mind. Apologies.
Today's ghost story is inspired by the village of Brenzett and a ghost story written by E.Nesbit. The ghost story is a grim one and can be found here: Man-Size in Marble. It's a great ghost story, so I recommend reading it yourself.
This one is a scary one.
by Natasha Duncan-Drake
The church was absolutely beautiful, but that wasn't why we were here. We were after a good scare. It had been Julie's suggestion as we sat around drinking and discussing ghost stories. Our group did something every year at Halloween, but we'd already done all the ghost tours in the local area and nothing we could find took our fancy. That's when she had mentioned the ghost story about the church in the village where her parents still lived.
Of course we all read it, and it was clearly fictional, but it had our attention.
Which is why Halloween found us all in St Eanswith's while the weather helpfully closed in outside. And, yes, we had permission. Julie's father also happened to be a church warden and was happy to let us hold our vigil as long as we left everything in the state in which we found it. A donation from Grant, who is the one member of our group who is loaded (the rest of us are poor students) helped to smooth the way too.
Now, in the fictional ghost story there are two knightly figures in full plate armour lying each side of the altar, but the real church only boasts two gentlemen reclining on a tomb monument in the north chapel. However, it was close enough for poetic licence and to get us all going with spooky tales.
It was not that we expected the marble figures to get up and walk, as in the story, we merely loved the imaginative possibility tingling our spines.
October was unseasonably warm this year, hence the storm, but it was still cold inside the stone building. I must admit I've not been in too many churches during my life, but one thing I do know about all the country parish churches I have visited, is they were all cold. Luckily, we had all had the sense to wrap up warm. The cold added to the spooky atmosphere, so we drank our hot coffee and tea from flasks and didn't complain too much.
According to the story, the knights walked at eleven p.m., not the traditional twelve, which was a nice twist.
We had set ourselves up in the pews a little way up from the north chapel, so we could not directly see the monument. After all, we wouldn't have wanted to give the statues performance anxiety. Each of us had prepared a ghostly tale to tell which would take us up to the fateful hour. I have to admit, but the time eleven o'clock rolled around, I had more than enough icy fingers running up my neck.
If I'm honest, the only reason I went in for these ghost walks and spooky things was because my friends loved them. While I enjoy being scared in a nice warm living room in front of the TV, I preferred not to test out the real thing. Something I've never told the rest is that I saw a ghost once. I was only five, and my mum always said it was my imagination, but I still remember it clear as day. I was really not on board with repeating the experience. However, since most of these ghost things are completely fake and it made my friends happy, I didn't see why not.
At least to begin with.
There was something about St Eanswith's that, the longer I stayed in it, the more it got to me. Of course that could also have been the spooky stories and the shots of brady we were adding to our drinks.
"Here we go," Beth said, brandishing her phone so we could all see the time.
The clock had to be well kept up, because just before Beth's phone declared it was eleven, it wound up for its chime. We'd all gone silent at Beth's announcement and we sat there, looking at each other in the cold, dark church as the chimes sounded off, one by one. I counted them in my head because it felt as if doing so out loud would be rude.
On the strike of eleven there was the most almighty crack.
I'll be the first to admit, I jumped so hard I almost fell off my pew.
"What the hell was that?" Grant asked.
"Probably the storm," Julie said, "a tree branch falling or something."
We all nodded along, but it was obvious none of us really believed it.
"Is it me," I asked, "or is it colder all of a sudden?"
The fact I could see my breathe in billows in front of my face answered my question, really. It had been cold in the church when we had come in, but not enough to cause that kind of effect, and us sitting around talking had warmed up the air around us considerable.
"Maybe lightning cracked a window?" Beth said hopefully.
The problem with that was we all knew it was warmer outside than it was inside.
A low grinding sound carried to our little party and we all looked towards the north chapel.
"That definitely came from over there," Nathan said.
"Jules, would your dad..?"
"No," Julia said firmly before Grant could finish the question.
"Then what was it?" Beth asked.
"Probably something we've been hearing all night, but we didn't notice until we were all spooked," Julia said.
Of course, she knew the place better than we did.
"We should go look," Grant said.
He looked at us one by one and, eventually, we all agreed.
Y'know those dumb ideas people have in horror movies? Yes, I think that may have been one of those. We were closer to the door than the north chapel, but we still all stood up and followed Grant's lead.
We had with us two hurricane style, battery powered camping lamps. Apparently well-lit churches are not great for spooky stories, so we had none of the main lights on. At this point, that felt like a mistake. Grant and Julie each took one of the lamps as we made our way up the aisle en masse.
The north chapel was one big mass of dark shadow.
As I stared into the darkness, I just knew something was looking back at me. I'll be the first to admit, as the others continued forward, I was rooted to the spot.
The closer Julie and Grant got, the more of the chapel lit up.
"Oh shit," Beth said. "Look … look."
She was pointing at the tomb.
The two marble figures were still there, right where they should have been, no sign of them walking, but there was something wrong with the angle they were at. It took me a few seconds to realise what Beth was pointing at. There was a dark rip all along the edge of the tomb, right under the lip. It was as if the whole thing had been titled up and open, like a coffin lid raised a few inches.
I think I was the first to see what was sticking out of the hole and I gasped, but I could not get my voice to work. I was struck mute as cold fear lanced all over my body. It was a familiar fear, an instinctive one I remembered all to well from when I was five. There were three, white fingers, wrinkled and desiccated, like a pale mummy.
And they moved.
There was the grinding sound again and the top of the tomb lifted further.
That's when I saw the eyes, beady and red, glaring from inside the monument.
I remember screaming, but that's the last thing I can recall for what they tell me was three days. The doctors say it was shock and the police are investigating the whole thing, but they don't believe anything I've told them. They found me sitting in the churchyard rocking and muttering about eyes, and Grant, Julie and Nathan unconscious in the church. They haven't woken up yet. But the worst is, they can't find any trace of Beth at all.
They won't give me the details and they seem to think we were doing drugs or something, but Beth is just gone.
I know where she is, but they'll never open an old tomb that is completely sealed on the say so of someone they had to keep giving Diazepam to stop their episodes. They did let slip the crack we saw is completely gone, just like Beth.
Dramatic Reading on Patreon
For this month I am also recording dramatic readings of all the ghost stories. These are available on my Patreon. Some are public, some are patrons only.
Denizen- read by Natasha Duncan-Drake - coming soon
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Please do let me know what you think of the story and leave me links to your AtoZ entries so I can visit you back. I love to chat.
Ever been sure something bad was going to happen?