Imagine yourself traveling down a dirt road that winds through a dark forest. At every turn, the road seems to narrow more until it becomes nothing more than a path that seems to lead nowhere. Finally, enveloped by the eerie silence of the forest, you round one more bend and see before you an old manor house. You walk toward it, relieved that you've come upon a sign of civilization yet worried that you may find something unsettling inside.
For you realize immediately that this is the perfect setting for a haunted house. Such a manor house actually exists in the English countryside in Sussex, according to Ghost Hunter Peter Moss. Even though the house is well over 900 years old, his research uncovered a ghost which has haunted the house only since 1961. The most recent owners of the house told Moss about the ghost on the condition that he would not reveal their identity or the exact location of the house. This is their story.
In 1961, Mr. and Mrs. Forster and their four children lived in the house. One morning, as the children were eating breakfast with, their mother, they heard piano music coming from the room directly overhead. Mrs. Forster was puzzled, since they didn't own a piano. Her youngest son, Frank, wasn't surprised.
"I've heard that music before," he said.
In fact, he had heard it on many other occasions. The children raced upstairs to search the room but uncovered nothing. A few months later, they heard the music once more, but never again after that. The ghost, however, was just warming up for a full-blown haunting. As it began to reveal its identity, other more mysterious and frightening happenings occurred.
One day in 1963, Mrs. Forster was ironing a white cotton blouse in the kitchen when a drop of red liquid dribbled onto the blouse. So convinced was she that the liquid was blood, she immediately checked to see if her nose was bleeding; it was not. Not stopping to wonder where the blood had come from, Mrs. Forester tried to remove the stain by running it under cold water. But the spot wouldn't wash out, even after she'd rubbed in a little soap. Angry that the blouse was ruined, she returned to the ironing board and found that another drop of blood had soaked through the cloth cover. This time, she looked up at the ceiling: the white plaster was perfectly clean. What's more, there were no cracks or joints overhead through which anything could have leaked. Like the piano music, the blood could not be explained, and life settled down.
It wasn't until 1971 that the next major episode occurred. A friend of the family was spending the night at the Forster's manor house, when she woke up from a deep sleep, aware that her scalp felt prickly. As she became more alert, she realized that the room felt stifling hot, almost as if it were on fire. Then she saw what looked like two arms floating on the far side of the dark room.
At first, she questioned her eyesight, but as the arms began to move toward the bed-the hands open, the fingers extended--as if ready to grab her, the Forsters' friend decided that she would have to save herself. A devoutly religious woman, she began to recite the Lord's Prayer.
"Our Father, who art in Heaven..."
Later she told the Forsters that she couldn't remember if she said the prayer out loud or to herself. But the white arms, the white hands, the white fingers kept floating toward her.
"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done..."
The arms had reached the posts at the foot of her bed, the fingers were aiming straight for her.
She reached the last part of the prayer and said: "Deliver us from Evil."
At that moment, the hands vanished, but the friend was so shaken that she refused to spend another night in the house and stayed in a nearby hotel instead.
The Forsters were puzzled. They didn't doubt their friend's experience. After all, she was an experienced nurse and hardly the kind of person prone to hallucinations. But they wondered why the ghost, if indeed it was one, never appeared to them.
Finally, one autumn evening in 1973, Mrs. Forster saw the ghost for herself. That night, with her husband away on business, she had supper with the children and went to bed early. She had no sooner picked up a book from the bedside table, when she heard the latch on the bedroom door click and the hinges creak. She assumed that one of her children wanted to see her and glanced up. She was stunned to see that a strange old woman had entered the bedroom instead. Before she had time to think, the old woman closed the door behind her and leaned against it, staring at Mrs. Forster.
During those few silent moments, Mrs. Forster got a good look at the woman. Her gray hair was pinned into a tight bun, and she wore a long drab-colored dress with a large ruffle of lace at the neck. Then the woman clasped her hands in front of her, almost as if she were praying, and began to walk toward Mrs. Forster.
At this point, she hadn't yet realized that she was seeing a ghost. She was trying to make herself believe that the woman was a stranger who had become lost and had entered the house looking for shelter. She was so surprised by the woman that she couldn't speak.
But as the woman approached the bed, Mrs. Forster finally asked: "Who are you? What do you want?"
At the sound of the voice, the woman disappeared. It was only then that Mrs. Forster realized that she had seen the ghost of the manor.
Sometime later, the Forsters told some friends who lived in a nearby town about the apparition. Without hesitation, the friends reported that the woman resembled Miss Thynne, the previous owner of the house, who had died in a fire in 1958, just a few years before the Forsters had purchased it. They also learned that Miss Thynne had slept in the same bedroom now used by the Forsters, which accounted for her appearance there.
Finally, in 1976, Mrs. Forster had her last encounter with Miss Thynne. One day in September, Mrs. Forster walked into the kitchen and saw a small spill on the kitchen table. She thought it was odd that she had missed a pool of liquid on the table; after all, she had cleaned up after breakfast. As she peered at the liquid, she realized that it was blood. Unfortunately, the Forsters never determined where it came from. No one had been in the kitchen, and, as before, no leaks were found.
A curious person might have called a ghost hunter to investigate the mysterious occurrences. Instead, the Forsters sold the house to the present owners, and the record of the haunting stops there with many more questions than answers: Was the red liquid really blood? If so, why did it appear in the kitchen? Was Miss Thynne responsible for it as well as the piano music and the arms that menaced the Forsters' overnight guest? When the current owners bought the house, the haunting apparently stopped. But they learned enough about the house to know that someone like Peter Moss should be contacted so that the story would be recorded. Just in case Miss Thynne should ever appear again.
Copyright © James M. Deem. Originally published in Ghost Hunters (Avon, 1992). All rights reserved.