Some weeks after the funeral, Alicia’s friends, who had been involved in the incident which caused her death, decided to get together at the tearooms after school.
Penny couldn’t help but notice, that when she went to serve them, they started whispering so that she couldn’t hear what they were talking about. They also appeared to be acting strangely. Each time they would start to talk to each other, they kept looking round to make sure no one else could hear what they were talking about.
“I don’t know,” said Daisy, “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Nonsense,” said Annie, “if we don’t try it we’ll never know.”
“Well,” said Polly, “I’ve heard good and bad stories about these things and I’m not sure whether I want to get involved. We’ve been in enough trouble with the nuns at school because of Alicia’s death. I’m sure they still blame us for what happened and I feel guilty.”
“It’s not going to harm us, is it?” asked Clara.
“Look,” said Sadie, “I’ll make the Ouija board and we can try it out and see what happens.”
After a long discussion they agreed that Sadie would construct the Ouija board, she was very creative. Her father had a landscape garden business and she was going to be a graphic designer once she had left school. Once it was ready, they would all go to nearby Sefton Manor Hall to try it out.
The Hall, which was located about a mile away from the village, was a ruined manor house, built in the late 15th century. It was well known as being haunted and was popular for people to go out there ghost hunting.
Most of it had been destroyed by a mysterious fire in the 18th century.
Legend said that it was a place of witchcraft and was struck by lightning which had been the work of the Devil!! All of the wooden parts of the building were reduced to ashes. What remains now are the outer walls and the interior stonework.
It was a former home to Earl and Countess Ravensdale and their twin daughters, Lady Margaret and Lady Eleanor.
Locals say that Lady Margaret was in love with a dashing young man, Earl Buchanan, and Lady Eleanor was jealous of her and wanted him for herself.
So, Lady Eleanor tricked Lady Margaret into following her into the south tower of the Manor and locked her in the cellar there.
She was left to die of hunger in the rat infested cellar and rumour has it that her body was never found and that she haunts Sefton Manor Hall searching for her lost love.
Earl Buchanan rejected Lady Eleanor so, she committed suicide by throwing herself from the very same tower where she had kept her sister imprisoned.
Now, locals and tourists believe that the place is haunted by the ghosts of the two sisters. It is said that if anyone sees the ghost of Lady Eleanor, they, or someone in their family will die!!
The spectres are known as the White Lady and the Blue Lady.
People believe that the White Lady is Lady Margaret and that the Blue Lady is Lady Eleanor.
The BBC went there on one occasion to film a documentary about it in what was to be called “The Most Haunted Place in England” series.
Apparently, none of the cameras or sound equipment would work when they arrived there so they had to call it off. It seemed strange because as soon as the BBC had left the place, all the equipment started to function!!
The Manor is maintained by English Heritage and it costs 40p to go inside.
The following Sunday afternoon, Alicia’s friends all met up at the tearooms and Polly’s boyfriend, Tommy Croft, agreed to take them to
Sefton Manor Hall in his old banger of a car.
They drove down the narrow winding lane, which held a sense of excitement, towards their destination. The lane had a tarmac surface but one could have imagined what it must have looked like back in the 15th century when it was only a dirt track used by coaches and horses.
It snaked its way down through the densely wooded valley in a setting that would have appeared very unwelcoming during the hours of darkness.
They also had a feeling of apprehension about the place as the trees on either side of the road seemed as if they were trying to cross over and touch each other, or perhaps even meet and form a barrier to prevent them from reaching their journey’s end. Tommy hoped that he wouldn’t meet another car coming in the opposite direction because it would have been virtually impossible to pass. Sleeping policemen had been strategically placed along the lane to prevent vehicles from speeding.
The odd shaft of daylight flickered through the thick foliage, which made the rays of sunlight appear to dash in and out of the forest, as if playing hide and seek.
The tranquility of the surroundings was suddenly interrupted by a wild rabbit which scurried in front of the car.
The atmosphere was so electrifying, that they were expecting to see a headless cavalier or some other wandering spectre materialise out of the undergrowth and scare them away.
Then, as if from nowhere, it appeared.
So, this was Sefton Manor Hall. Right in front of them stood the ruins of what is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in England. It certainly looked very daunting, suddenly appearing out of the blue in a clearing in the woods. Just gazing at it made them shudder as it looked so cold and uninviting.
It was situated in a clearing in the middle of the dense woods.It seemed very strange as it stood there in silence. No sound of any birds could be heard!
The grey stone walls seemed to be urging them to stay away!!
There was moss and various other types of lichen cascading from the building and ivy was clinging, as if in sheer terror, to the walls of the
infamous haunted tower.
What must the place have looked like in its glory days and what dark sinister secrets did it hold?
It seemed as if they had been lost in a time warp.
It had a reputation for attracting visitors because of the ghostly goings on. Local legend says that apart from the story of the two sisters,
kidnappings and dark deeds went on there and that an evil force still prevails.
Tommy parked the car and they all got out.
“We need to go inside,” said Polly, “and find a place where nobody will see us, so we can use the board.”
“Are you all sure you want to do this?” Tommy asked.
“Yes, we are,” replied Sadie, “we all voted last week and the vote was unanimous.”
They paid the 40p admission charge and entered the Manor.
There weren’t many people around that afternoon, so they went through the ruins looking for somewhere out of sight.
They approached the tower where Lady Margaret had been held prisoner and stopped.
A sign, which read NO ADMISSION, was hanging on a chain barrier to prevent members of the public from going down the steps leading to the dungeon.
“Now what are we going to do?” asked Annie, “I thought it would be the best place to go and use the Ouija.”
“Do stop fussing,” said Sadie, “we can go through, no one will see us or hear us if we keep our voices down. This is the perfect spot to try and contact the dead.”
“What happens if we get caught?” Annie asked.
“We won’t,” said Sadie, “Tommy can keep a watch out for us and if anybody comes near he can give a whistle to warn us. Once the coast is clear we can all leave. And anyway, if we are caught they’ll only throw us out.”
So, Tommy stood guard while the girls went down into the dungeon at the bottom of the tower.
It was dimly lit, but light enough to see, because a shaft of sunlight had entered the windows above. There were no floors in the tower because the fire had destroyed all of the wooden construction and only the bare stonework could be seen.
The place was like something out of a Dracula movie with spider webs and a musty smell and they could see that this part of the building hadn’t been maintained at all.
Suddenly they all jumped in fright. A rat had scurried in front of them and disappeared into a crack in the wall.
“Come on let’s hurry up and get this over with,” said Polly, “I don’t want to be in here long, especially with rats, I hate them!”
They found a dry, dusty nook and Sadie took out the Ouija board from her rucksack.
She had made the board out of a piece of a tree trunk. It was an irregular oval shape with the alphabet in two lines at the top. At the bottom of the board were the numbers 1 to 10 carved in Roman numerals.
They placed it on the dirt floor, which was sprinkled with gravel, and were about to start when Polly asked, “What are we going to use for a pointer?”
“Oh, shit!” said Sadie, “I forgot about that.”
“Well,” said Annie, “we can’t have a séance if we don’t have a pointer, so we’ve come all the way out here for nothing!”
Then, Clara noticed something twinkling on the wall opposite them. A shaft of sunlight was playing on one side of the tower wall, causing something to flicker.
She went over to find out what it was.
“Look what I’ve found,” she said, “it looks like a piece of broken glass.”
The others went over and used a pair of eyebrow tweezers, that Polly had in her pocket, to gently prise the piece of glass out of the wall.
To their amazement, the piece of glass wasn’t glass at all. It was some kind of crystal which had a strange blue glow!
“We can use this as the marker,” Sadie said, “come on let’s get started.”
So, they placed the crystal in the centre of the board and started to ask questions.
“Are there any spirits with us today?” Sadie asked.
Nothing happened so she asked again. Still nothing happened. On the third time of asking, the crystal started to quiver and then spelled out Y-E-S on the board.
“Who are you?” Sadie asked.
The crystal slowly moved around each letter of the alphabet spelling out the name A-L-I-C-I-A.
Clara couldn’t believe what was happening and accused Sadie of moving it.
“I’m not moving it!” Sadie said angrily, “it’s doing it itself.”
She continued by asking it, “Are you Alicia, our friend who died?”
“Y-E-S,” the board replied.
“There’s something bad about this place,” said Annie, “I’ve got goose pimples, and the hair on the back of my neck is standing up. I don’t like it and I want to get out of here.”
“Wait,” Sadie said, “let’s ask it another question.”
“We’re sorry for what happened,” continued Sadie, voice trembling, “it was an unfortunate accident and hope you understand. We beg you to forgive us.”
The crystal then went on to spell out a message in reply to Sadie’s plea for forgiveness. It said, “I will never forgive you. You robbed me of my youth and my parents of their only child. Now three of you will pay with your own lives. I will never be satisfied until you pay the price I had to pay. Beware!”
“It was an accident, an accident,” screamed Polly.
Suddenly, the crystal shot off the board and the girls screamed in fright. Just as it happened, they saw a dark shadow pass across the dungeon wall and disappear through the window into the sunlight.
They ran up the steps of the dungeon, in terror, and out into the courtyard of the Manor.
“What happened down there?” Tommy asked.
“Let’s get out of here,” said Polly shaking, “I never want to go down there again.”
They needed to calm down and pull themselves together, so Tommy suggested they have a coffee at the cabin outside of the ruins which was open for snacks and refreshments.
The cabin was a former woodcutter’s hut, made out of logs taken from the pine trees in the forest, and had been turned into a café and gift shop, where it sold souvenirs and postcards of the Manor. It looked like something out of Hansel and Gretel.
They came out of the ruins as quickly as they could and found a vacant table outside the cabin.
A wrinkled old lady, who was the owner of the café, came out and asked them what they wanted. Tommy ordered a Coca Cola for Polly, a coffee for himself, and the rest had teas.
While they were trying to calm down, Annie pointed to the entrance to the Manor and said, “Look at that silhouette on the wall above the archway.”
None of the others could see anything.
“You’re seeing things,” Tommy said, “you’re still scared and are imagining things.”
“No, I’m not,” said Annie, “I can see the silhouette of a woman on the wall where the coat of arms must have once been.”
She got up and left the table and walked towards the entrance. When she got there she looked up at the spot where the family crest used to hang and there was absolutely nothing.
All she could see was a part of the wall that had been filled with cement. No coat of arms, no silhouette, nothing!!
She was now even more afraid than before and returned to the others to finish her tea.
Then, as she was looking towards the haunted tower, she saw a lady in white waving to them from an upstairs window. She told the others but they couldn’t see anything.
“How can someone be sitting in the window upstairs?” Sadie asked, “We’ve just been in there and there are no floors in the tower. All the woodwork was destroyed by the fire years ago.”
When the old lady came out with the bill, Annie told her what she had seen above the archway and in the window of the tower.
“Oh,” the old lady said, “I’ve been running this cafe for the past thirty years and I’ve never experienced anything before here. You must be
one of those who can sense things like this. You do know that this is supposed to be the most haunted place in England?”
“Of course, we know,” said Annie, “we’re locals from Buckleigh.”
“Well then,” the old lady continued, “you must be psychic or something because there’s nowt on that there wall!”
They paid the bill and left.
On the way back to Buckleigh, Sadie asked Clara if she had still got the crystal or if she had left it in the dungeon.
“I still have it,” she said, “it’s in my pocket.”
“Can I have it?” asked Sadie, “I’ll keep it with the Ouija board.”
“Sure, it’s only a piece of glass. Here you are,” Clara replied and handed it to her.
It was strange because the crystal wasn’t glowing blue anymore. It had now turned transparent.
“When we get back to Buckleigh,” Tommy said, “let’s go to The Bale of Hay. We can sit outside, have some drinks there and relax.”
The girls thought it was a good idea. Tommy was eighteen so he could drink alcohol, but as the girls were only sixteen, they had to make do with soft drinks.
They arrived at the pub around 7.00 pm. A few people were sitting outside but there were still tables free so the group could enjoy their drinks there. It was a warm August evening so they wanted to make the best of it.
The Bale of Hay is a 16th century inn and the interior has oak beams and low ceilings. The landlords, Tom and Beryl Potts collected antique clocks and the walls in the bar were adorned with all sorts of them, each one of them with a different time. They all worked and the sound of clocks ticking away was all anyone could hear. The pride of the bar was a big three hundred year old grandfather clock on one side of the open fireplace, just in the corner. It was made out of heavy oak and had a stained glass panel where one could see the heavy pendulum slowly swinging back and forth. On the hour the chimes sounded like those of Big Ben.
During the winter months there would be a crackling log fire which made the place welcoming and cosy for the locals.
All the villagers would gather together at the pub on Christmas Eve after the mass at the church and Tom and Beryl would provide a free supper.
There wasn’t a juke box in the pub because Beryl wanted it to be a place where people could enjoy their beers, or especially the local cider, and have a game of darts or dominoes, or just chat without being disturbed by loud music.
It also served good pub food as there wasn’t a restaurant in the village.
Tommy took the drinks to the girls outside and noticed that Daisy had, what appeared to be, blood stains on the back of her T shirt.
“What have you done?” Tommy asked her, “It looks as if you’ve scratched yourself, either on some thorns on one of the trees, or something when you were down in the dungeon.”
“What do you mean?” Daisy asked.
“Well, it looks as though you’ve been bleeding,” Tommy replied, “looks like bloodstains on the back of your T shirt. As if something has scratched you.”
The other girls took a look and agreed that she had been scratched.
“Let’s go to the toilets,” Polly said, “you can take your T shirt off and I can see what you’ve done. We need to wash your scratches or they could get infected.”
The two girls went into the pub to use the toilets. When they were inside, Daisy took off her T shirt. It was pale blue and it was the first time she had worn it.
“That’s strange,” said Polly, “I can’t see any scratch marks on your back. There are no marks on your back at all!”
“Well, where have these bloodstains come from?” Daisy asked fearfully.
When they inspected the back of the shirt, the marks looked like someone had hit Daisy with a three thronged whiplash. There were three dried blood stained lash marks on the shirt!! Something wasn’t right. How could bloodstains appear from nowhere?
“It must be connected to Sefton Manor,” Polly said, “this is too much of a coincidence. I suggest we say nothing to the others and make up some story that you remember brushing against some brambles as we were leaving the building. We don’t want to go around scaring the shit out of them until we can think what caused these marks. We’ve had enough scares for one day.”
Daisy agreed and they returned to their friends outside.
The stillness of the evening was broken by a sudden clap of thunder. Within minutes it was raining heavily so the friends hurried to Tommy’s car and they all went home.
The long sultry summer had come to an end.
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