As Halloween is nearly upon us again, here is a true tale of ghosts and scary happenings.
If you were driving through Northamptonshire and happened to pass through the village of Woodford and you drove down Church Street your eye might be drawn to the lovely old village Church.
On first sight a Church not unlike many others in the County, constructed of Northamptonshire stone, standing in the same spot for many, many years, nothing unusual it its outward appearance you may think, and glancing away you drive on to your destination whereever that may be.
Buildings however like people often have things hidden inside which sometimes due to particular circumstances are revealed with shocking results.
In the Spring of 1866 it was decided that restoration work must be done on this fine building, wear and tear had taken their toll and with the majority of the people still holding their religion as important in their lives the Church was an important building in any community.
Nobody at this time could have known that this would lead to a strange and sinister discovery which would fascinate and horrify the local populace in equal measure.
The work started innocuously enough but there came a point when an old beam had to be removed, and after moving some masonry the workmen noticed a recess in the stonework, curiosity roused one man put his hand into the recess and feeling around thought he had discovered an old birds nest.
Pulling the object out they saw what appeared to be some sort of small wicker basket, the workman dropped the object whereupon it shattered on the stone floor, what happened next would shock and stun the men inside the Church.
The outer object having broken released what appeared to be something wrapped in a type of cloth and the men being lowly and probably lowly paid thought they may have chanced upon hidden treasure.
The cloth was unwrapped and what was actually revealed was a mummified human heart, the men naturally were stunned and word spread quickly throughout the local area with people flocking to the church.
St Mary The Virgin Church Woodford Northamptonshire
The people were asking questions, and the question most on their lips that day was, whose heart was this, how had it come to be hidden in their Church ?
At this juncture two women of the village told tales of ghostly appearances in the building, one telling how she had been alone in the Church arranging some flowers when she had seen what appeared to be a monk move towards the altar and upon reaching it knelt and prayed.
Another woman told a similar tale of being alone and her attention drawn to a movement near the altar she witnessed again what appeared to be a monk moving in her direction, only to disappear near the spot where the mummified heart had been discovered.
The answer to the question of how the heart came to be hidden in this Church will never really be known with certainty but much speculation has gone on over the years, some saying that it was the heart of a Crusader who had lived locally, some speculated it belonged to the monk whose ghostly apparition appeared to the two women.
You can still see the heart behind glass, set into the stone of one of the transepts, it was placed there a very long time ago for posterity.
So today I visited the Church to see for myself, above you can see the Church and below that the river Nene as it runs through fields at the back of the building.
Was it a recess like the one below where the heart was discovered ?
Below you can see the heart as it is on display now set into the stone but safely behind glass. Its a strange feeling to be looking at something which once beat strongly in the body of a human being who lived so long ago.
Aside from the novelty of its strange occupant the Church is a beautiful old building, andalthough I am not a religious person I can always appreciate the beauty of stained glasswindows, and the work that went into building these wonderful places of worship.
The two figures below are the oldest remaining memorials in the Church, they are the figures of Sir Walter Trailli and his Wife Eleanor, Sir Walter died in 1290 and his Wife in 1316.
They are effigies made from wood and the fact they have survived this long and are in such good condition is remarkable.
Sir Walter is dressed in his armour which would have been from around the period of Edward 1 and Eleanor is wearing a rather elegant costume as befitting her status.
Ghosts and stories about ghosts have always created lively conversations between those that believe in them and those that don't. As for myself I can say I have never witnessed or even thought I may have seen one, but I like to keep an open mind.
Last year I read a book about a well known outbreak of Poltergeist activity in a family home in Enfield North London, Some of the things that were described made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and the two men who investigated the case were sure the events were in no way staged by the occupants. In any case the chaos and disruption and it has to be said terror that were caused to the family were obvious, and nobody would inflict that on themselves. Eventually they were forced to leave their home and live with neighbours and friends.
This was in 1970's England pre the internet and all the easy publicity that brings so the family who some thought were staging these happenings for some short term fame for themselves did not have the easy and readily available outlets that people do today,
After watching this and then reading the book I certainly was convinced that an open mind is definitely the best policy, after all can everything be explained rationally, and would we really want to live in a world where it could. ?