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Sunday, 18 September 2016

Black Vaughan

Just down the road from where we used to live was an abandoned building where many years before a man had been brutally murdered. Though boarded up, it was the natural place for small boys to wander through, access being gained through a small gap in the back. We convinced ourselves a ghost lurked behind every door, in the shadows at the top of the stairs, immediately behind our backs waiting to pounce; and we never stayed very long. There were exceptions: ‘the smokers.’ They congregated in a loose circle sharing one or two cigarettes between them like small Indian war pipes. These were the ‘tribal elders,’ the shamans in communion with shadows that might at any moment take form. And they came back with stories that made the house even more terrifying—and attractive.
Along the ghost-ridden Monmouthshire-Herefordshire borderlands ghosts are real whether you like them or not. A case in point is Black Vaughan of Hergest  Court. In the late 1980s John Williams, a tenant farmer, talked of the ‘prickly feeling’ that went up his back on hearing the pattering of huge paws in an upstairs room and a little later saw hound-like shadow passing by him enroute to the inner hall.
There are still people in Kington who refuse to go down the lane to Hergest after dark. And with good reason.
During World War II a cyclist passing Hergest Hall saw: ‘ this enormous hound which he’d never seen before and never saw again. The hound had huge eyes…and he had the feeling that there just wasn’t something real about it. (Bob Jenkins, local historian) and psychic disturbances continue to manifest in Hergest Court.
The cause of all this is reputed to be a C15th ancestor of the Vaughan family, who fought in the War of the Roses and whose headless body was brought back to Kington to be buried next to his wife Ellen Gethin (‘the terrible’) 

Some accounts suggest that Thomas Vaughan was both a warlock and tyrant, but whatever the case soon after his death the ‘disturbances’ began. A ghostly bull rampaged through Kington disrupting church services and over throwing carts during Market Day. It grew so bad an exorcism involving twelve priests was enacted. During the ceremony Vaughan appeared in demon form and was imprisoned in a snuff box and buried under a stone at the bottom of a pond that fronts Hergest Hall.
But the hound remained terrifying residents and acting as a harbinger of death in the Vaughan family. It’s not surprising perhaps that the last residing Vaughan – the Reverend Silvanus Vaughan—died in 1706.
In 1987, a particularly brave Vaughan—Jenny Vaughan, a Midlands’ business woman—came to Kington to mug up on her family history. She didn’t see the hound – which would have heralded her death— but she did see the bull in the church it had once haunted. In her own words: ‘The inside of his nostrils…were very, very red, like a racehorse when it has just stopped running. And it was wet. It was dripping moisture or something on the ground…I’m a hard-headed business person but I can’t deny it. I’ve seen it.’
And as for the snuff box…A few years ago the pond’s water level dropped significantly. A large stone was glimpsed in the mud beneath. Some tried to persuade local farmers to dig it out in search of the snuff box.

No one volunteered.

From the sublime to the ridiculous in a small Lanarkshire house we have the story of a levitating chihuahua. Read it here 

I recommend buying Merrily's Border by Phil Rickman, which is full of such stories 


Maria Zannini said...

I like ghost stories...as long as they're happening to someone else. :)

But it makes me wonder...have you ever seen a ghost? I hear England is full of spirits and not just the ones that come from a bottle.

Mike Keyton said...

Yes, the same one twice but at different locations. A white lady standing at the foot of my bed and then on another occasion bending over me. I blogged about it ages and ages ago. It was real. Not a dream. I was wide awake and saw it fade. Stayed awake for some time, pinching myself and reiterating 'this is not a dream. I really saw it.'

And yes there are more spirits here than you can shake a stick at :)

Maria Zannini said...

Oh, that's right. I remember that story now.

Why is it you've never tried writing a ghost story from your experience? Sounds like good fodder to me.

Eigon said...

Thanks for the acknowledgement to me, Mike - but I have to admit that my own photo of Elen Gethin's tomb was awful, and I used the one from the church website! Thanks for introducing me to your blog - and it's nice to find another Merrily fan!
Lesley (Morwenna's Tower)

Mike Keyton said...

Maria, more demons and ghosts you can shake a stick at in my trilogy, The Gift. 81K in the final book now. I reckon 4 more chapters and I'm done.

Mike Keyton said...

Eigon, many thanks. Ref Merrily, I've read most of the books and have come across Phil Rickman in a number of contexts. A thoroughly nice man