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The Vicar of St Eigron’s

by Simon Curtis 7 months ago in Horror · updated 7 months ago
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A ghost story

The Vicar of St Eigron’s
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I write this as a testament to the events I was party to. I do not ask the reader to believe what I write, if I am quite frank I just don’t care if you do. I’ve lived a good and very ordinary life, I’ve taught in the same school for a decade now, I served as a governor last year and am due to get married in the summer. Everything I do is as conventional as you could hope to expect but the last few weeks have proved somewhat different. I can’t imagine going back to how I was is at all possible but hopefully by writing this down I will somehow begin the process.

I will introduce my fiancée, while she is of great consequence to me, she is of little to this story other than a starting point. We took our first holiday to Pembrokeshire in Wales a number of years ago and while there we drove around the numerous villages each with their stone built pub and similarly unique ancient church dedicated to a saint neither of us had ever heard of. We had a wonderful time and there was probably much about that trip looking back that cemented our relationship as one for life. Indeed it is this that brings us to the start of the affair of which this story is focused upon.

While we toured we stopped in one small village, it yet again had a pub and a church with its tiny vicarage but little else. But something about it caught my fiancée’s heart. The church was Saint Eigron, yet another saint I had never heard of and on my initial viewing was no more special than any other. It had a really wonderful view but that in itself was nothing unusual amongst its peers.

This was, however, not the way my fiancée felt, she fell in love with the place. At the time she never really expressed her views about it, but not long after my proposal she made it very clear where she wanted us to marry. I had no real preferences and was very keen to return to the area so agreed and began planning, the problem was that try as I might there just weren’t any signs of its existence online. In the end I resolved to head up there and speak to the vicar directly. I booked a couple of nights in a B&B the next village along and under the pretence of a work trip I began my mission to secure the church for our wedding as a romantic surprise. I had hoped to be able to conclude my planning within the first hour or two and then use the rest of the day to find just the right gift to take back to present my fiancée along with the receipts for our bookings.

When I arrived at the B&B I was surprised that the landlady was so dismissive about the church. She claimed she never ever been there having lived in the area all her life she also said she doesn’t remember having ever seen anybody have a wedding there as you can imagine this began to concern me somewhat.

Nonetheless I made my way soon after a delicious breakfast to the church. When I arrived I walked to the gate and unlatched it. The churchyard was impeccably kept the stones cleared of long grass and weeds and flowers were growing everywhere you could see. At the entrance by the gate was a large rock, it stood out because it had no markings and seems to just be an obstacle designed trip on. When I walked up to the main door, as I expected, the church itself was closed. Therefore I decided to try vicarage. I walked around the side of the small church towards the even smaller building tucked behind, amongst huge rose bushes. The door was almost obscured by the roses but you could still get into it if you stooped. I knocked quite loudly at the old wooden door, it hadn’t been my intention but the door echoed as I hit it. There was no response. I waited for a few moments and then decided that the vicar must have been out so I made my way to the local pub. I walked back across the churchyard out of the gate and then the hundred yards down the road to the Rooster and Barrel.

The Rooster and Barrel was a beautiful old pub it had every single thing you would imagine a Welsh country pub built in the 18th century would have. The beams were original and many of the tables appeared to be to, it was amazing and was exactly what I had hoped for. It wasn’t enormous and any hopes of using it for a large wedding would be lost however we decided on quite a discrete gathering of a few family and friends and therefore this would be perfect for our reception. When I got in there was nobody there but the fire was on and it was incredibly inviting. I walked a bar and waited for the landlord to appear. He soon did and was friendly and accommodating. He was more than happy for me to request using the pub for our reception as he rarely had functions in the pub. His cook was apparently very, very good and I was offered a free lunch to test this out. Before we signed and committed anything he asked me one question.

“So where are you having this wedding?”

I replied explaining that we wanted to use Saint Eigron’s church next door and I was waiting for the vicar to return to organise it. The landlord’s eyes widened.

“So you’ve spoken to him and he said yes?” He enquired.

“Not yet.” I replied, “but I’ll wait till he gets home.”

“He never leaves apart from Wednesday when he goes to get his food from town on the bus. He’ll be in there somewhere I can guarantee he just didn’t hear you. While we get your lunch ready try again but I doubt you’ll get him to agree to it.”

“What do you mean agree to it? Does he only have local parishioners weddings there?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, “he only ever does a service on a Sunday morning, certainly as long as I’ve been here there’s never been a christening, a wedding even a funeral at the church just Sunday service and that’s it. I’m not even sure I remember a Christmas service but he must’ve done one sometime.”

“What do you mean a church that doesn’t do weddings, christenings, funerals that’s crazy.”

“Well nobody is really that bothered. It’s not as if we got a bustling community here and there are so many churches here that people just go there and let the vicar get on with it. There is never anybody the services apart from the occasional tourist.”

I thanked the landlord for his advice and made my way back to the church I noticed that the windows in the vicarage were now open and so I was certain that he was in. I made with my way back to the door and knocked again but still to no avail. I wandered to one of the windows and tapped on it politely, still no answer, so I decided to shout through one of the open panes.

“Hello!” I shouted, “are you there?”

There was no reply so I tried again.

Slowly I heard some shuffling and the door chugged, clunked and groaned as it was pulled open. In front of me was a tiny old man with thin white hair, brown glasses to match his round head and a very sad expression. He scratched his head and stepped into the light.

“Hello my dear boy,” he said with a warm and friendly voice, “how can I help you?”

“Hi there I was hoping I could ask to arrange a wedding next year if possible?”

The man looked at me with regret in his eyes. “Oh my dear boy,” he replied, “we haven’t had a wedding here for so many years we don’t do them here.”

“Oh,” I said with genuine sadness in my voice, “is there any reason, I mean, can that be changed?” I asked.

“No no dear boy it really can’t I wish it would.”

“Do you mind me asking something? The reason is my fiancée is really rather set on your church as she has a great love for dog roses and you have them all round your gate, it makes her incredibly happy to be here and I would like her to have her chosen church to be married in. Is there no way we could come to some arrangement?”

“Ah you noticed the dog roses they were my wife Catherine’s pride and joy.”

“That’s funny,” I said, “that’s my fiancée’s name.”

Suddenly the old man lightened a little, he smiled and looked at me.

“Oh, you must know how much Catherine’s love their roses don’t you?” He sighed a little and looked back into the house. “Would you like to come in and take tea with me, we can chat.”

I agreed and walked into his tiny little home. I couldn’t quite believe that someone could spend so much time in a building this small. The full bookcases seemed to tower over the sitting room like houses over a medieval street. He ushered me to one of the two leather sitting chairs and disappeared between bookcases into what I assumed was the kitchen. I heard him clatter around before I heard the tell tale sound of the water filling a metal kettle and the whoosh of a gas ring turning on. I thought he might have returned while the water was boiling but he chose not to, rather clattering around again, which I assumed correctly was the sound of him hunting out his best china. This was confirmed when he returned with a tray laden with tea and home made biscuits and cakes.

“Please, help yourself. Do you take sugar?”

I declined the sugar but did not need to be asked twice if I wanted some of his delicious looking victoria sponge.

He handed me my tea then sat down in his chair and stared into his cup. He did this for a good minute or so and I was beginning to say something to break the discomfort when he spoke without looking up.

“It has been far too long. I really shouldn’t have let it go on this long. It’s my fault, nobody else’s. But I worry it’s too long and I’m too old to fix it now. But maybe. Maybe if you helped me.” He said looking at me briefly then looking down again. “No, it’s no good. I can’t ask anyone to do this for me. It’s my own fault. But when I’m gone nobody will know what to do. Oh woe, this painful conundrum.”

It was at this point I made, what I ultimately discovered, was a fateful interjection.

“If I can help you and get my dear Catherine the wedding of her dreams then I am at your service.”

He looked at me again, smiled and shook his head.

“It is asking far too much. Are you a Christian man?”

“Lapsed.” I replied honestly. “Life overtook most of my previous world and I have to say I haven’t ventured into a church for some time.”

“But do you believe in God, do you believe in the Father?”

I thought for a minute, it was a question nobody had really posed me for quite some time. I wasn’t sure but felt given the circumstances I should offer a firm answer.

“Yes, I do.”

“And heaven too, and purgatory?”

I really hadn’t thought much about heaven and certainly never considered purgatory but as I had nailed my colours to the mast I continued.

“Heaven, yes, purgatory, I’d never really thought about it.”

“Ah. Interesting, well my boy, it is as real as heaven, in fact, I might say, even realer.”

This answer puzzled me and even began setting alarm bells jangling a little, but not enough to make me withdraw my offer of support.

“I must tell you something. I don’t think I have told anyone, I am not sure how it sounds. I was given St Eigron’s in 1954 I was a young man. Can you imagine me a young man? I can’t now myself. But yes I came with my lovely young wife Catherine. We found quite an unkempt and neglected church with a healthy congregation from the local villages. Catherine worked so hard on the yard here. She cleared it and tended to every one of the stones. It took her weeks but she never stopped, it was her mission and she fulfilled it so well.” He stopped for a moment and looked wistfully at the window before taking a sip of his tea and continuing.

“I, for my part worked on the church itself. It was very run down, I scrubbed and mended I even replaced a few tiles if you can believe it. Well eventually everything was sorted, days had been working on the church and evenings were working on the vicarage and when it was done you can imagine how proud we both were. That first year was wonderful. We held all sorts of events. Catherine was an incredible organiser, Harvest Festivals, Christmas was the most fantastic occasion, a party for the children. Oh such memories. Then in the spring we found that we were to be parents. It was a special time.”

I had noticed an increasing wobble in his voice and at this moment he paused and took a moment to hold back what seemed like a lifetime of tears.

“It was that May, summer was creeping on us and we were tidying round in the churchyard. I was clearing some weeds around the back of the church, Catherine was doing her favourite task, trying to tame the dog roses around the gate. I’m not really sure how I realised something was wrong as everything was so quiet but I felt there was a change in the atmosphere. I called out for Catherine and she didn’t reply so I came round the side of the church to see him, there, on top of my Catherine. His dirty rough hands around her throat. I shouted out but he ignored me. I grabbed a shovel and ran crying out at him to stop. He did not. When I got to him my fear and anger took over and I swung the shovel at the back of his head and he fell. I grabbed my dear wife. But I was too late. She was gone.”

“Oh I am so sorry, that is awful.” I said, feeling there was a need to show the old vicar support.

“I remember so little of the rest of that day. I know I went to the pub and the landlord called the police. He came back with me to the church and found them both still lying there. The local police sergeant arrived, he was a friend and prominent member of our congregation. He was a pragmatic man and from his arrival he took over. The man was a vagrant who had been patrolling the local villages stealing all manner of goods and exposing himself to any young women he should come across. He decided to spare me the possibility of investigation and along with the landlord resolved to bury his body in one of the open graves we had. Between us we hauled his lifeless body across the churchyard and dropped him unceremoniously into the grave before we filled the earth on top of him. Once it was done the sergeant called in for his local colleagues to support him while the landlord took me back to the pub for a drink to calm my nerves and settle myself.”

Again he paused and I felt I should say something but I had nothing of value to add. He took a sip from his tea and started again. He seemed to have more fortitude now he had started telling his story.

“The police hunted briefly for the killer then everything went quiet. We held a beautiful funeral for my dear Catherine and she is buried here in the yard. I planted a rose there for her and all was calm for a while. But not long. I was sat here, in this chair one evening, about six weeks later and I had a knock on my door. I answered and nobody was there. It happened twice then the third time the whole room shook as if a bomb had dropped and my lights went off for the whole night. In the morning all was back to normal. I found out later in the day a young man from the next village had drowned in the stream that runs behind the church here about a mile that way.

It happened again a few weeks later. I was again minding my own business one evening and there was a knock on my door. Like before it happened repeatedly before the vicarage shook and I lost all power. The next morning brought me news of another tragedy. This time a car accident and a whole family were lost. Mother, father and two young daughters.”

“Surely a coincidence?” I interjected.

“Ah, that is exactly as I thought but I needed to be certain. The next time it happened, when the door knocked I leapt out and ran into the churchyard. It was a light night, that is I could see quite well due to the moonlight and I saw him. The vagrant. He was as clear to me as you are right now, but he had a translucence, a blueness. It was odd. But he turned towards me as he made it to the gate and smiled a sickly smile before he disappeared down the road. I woke the following morning to find that Mrs Coles the lovely old widow who lived in a cottage on the edge of this village had been burned to death in a house fire. Everyone saw it as a tragic accident. I knew it wasn’t. The malevolence he had lived his life with had been amplified in his death. Suddenly all the guilt I should have felt about the vagrant’s death poured into me. I had unleashed this evil onto my congregation. I blessed his grave. I prayed there daily hoping I could clear the evil I had exposed.”

“Did it work?” I asked almost knowing the reply I would receive.

“Sadly no. It happened again. Another tragic accident, a young woman fell from her startled horse and was dragged with the reins around her neck throttling her. But it was then, on the afternoon of that tragedy that I saw her. It was Catherine. I was sitting in the church preparing for a service for friends and family of the tragic girl when out of the corner of my eye I spotted her in the furthest pew praying with tears in her eyes. She too was that tell tale translucent blue. I rose and walked slowly towards her. She didn’t move, even when I sat next to her.”

“Are you saying they were both ghosts? And you saw them!” I gasped.

“Indeed. She didn’t look up. She just spoke through her tears. She apologised and told me it was her fault and that she had not gone onto heaven so she could protect me from his wickedness. But she could only do so within the walls of the church and the vicarage. She disappeared before I could speak. I was so delighted to have seen her but dismayed at her distress. It was then I steeled myself to rid this plane of his unearthly cruelty. I obtained every book I could find on the matter, spoke to whom I could giving as little away as I could. Eventually I found a book.it’s over there I think. It had a solution.”

He rose to his feet and walked over to the bookcase to my right. He took a large, but thin, leather bound hardback book and placed it strangely between his hands like a sandwich before placing it on the table in front of me. I looked down on its battered old cover. It appeared to be ancient, like the sort of thing you see being handled by antiquarians in white gloves.

“I had tried so many other things without any working. This one though. This one had a way. A way that worked.”

He patted the book softly and with something approaching affection.

“It was simple enough I suppose. I had to find when he rose, which I assumed was on an evening of a full moon. I then had to find a stone large enough to weigh down a spirit. I had to wash it and then bless it with blessed wine from the chalice I offer the communion with. I had to draw a circle of salt around the gate and say a particular blessing over his grave, the aim of this was to blind the spirit temporarily. As it made its way to the gate it would not see the salt which it would stumble on and give you time to place the stone upon it keeping it trapped forever.

I asked the landlord of the pub to assist me and after explaining what had happened he agreed. The plan was that I would do the blessing and he would drop the stone. We found a large enough stone down by the beach and carried it all the way back up. It took us the best part of a day, it was early evening before I managed to get the stone cleaned and blessed and by the time the landlord returned the moon was already out.

I helped lift the stone up and the landlord held it up while I prepared the salt and went to the grave to give the blessing. I followed the book to the letter and as promised the spirit of the vagrant rose from the grave holding its hands to its eyes moaning. It stumbled across the church yard towards the gate and I rushed ahead to help hold the stone. When it reached us it faltered at the line of salt and blundered about. We waited for just the right moment and thrust it onto it trapping it just as was promised.”

I looked at him. This was by far the most fantastical story I had ever heard, in fact if I had heard it from any other source I would have dismissed it but the earnest manner with which the elderly clergyman had told his story led me to believe every single word.

“Did you trap him. Did the deaths stop?”

“For a time, yes. But he still found a way. Now if anyone accidentally strayed from the path and stood next to the stone they would find themselves stricken. Every wedding or christening there would be a stroke, or a heart attack. It was just unbearable.”

“Could you not have moved the gate?” I asked.

“I was afraid that I might disturb the rock enough to let him out. We tried everything, fences, a gorse bush but structures fell down and nothing grew near it. But then. Oh then it got even worse. We had a christening and at the end of the service as the family were leaving the grandfather dropped dead at the gate with a massive heart attack. He had a tell tale scuff on his shoe from the stone. I had weddings booked all summer and I couldn’t let these people down. I managed to keep everyone away from the stone. But then oh what a tragedy. We waited for the bride who never came in. She had tripped and fallen onto the stone bringing her father down with her. She died of her head injuries and he of a stroke. That was the last wedding we ever held here.”

“But you say there is something that could be done?” I said with trepidation in my voice.

“Perhaps. I mean yes. But it holds risks I have never dared burden anyone with. I don’t wish to burden you.” He said in such a way as I felt he was trying to talk himself out of it.

“Well. There is a blessing I found. One that casts a malevolent being to hell. We would have to say the original blessing, lift the stone and then say the second one. I am too old to lift the stone, that would be your job. I would say the blessing. Yes. The blessing must be spoken from beginning to end. I will do that.”

I thought for a moment and looked him squarely in the eye.

“How much danger would I be in?”

“If the blessings work, none at all.”

“And if they don’t?”

“I can’t say. But it’s been too long and should I die without dealing with it there will forever be a curse on this place.”

We talked through a plan and I agreed to return five days later on the next full moon. I made my way back to the pub to have my lunch, which was as outstanding as was promised, where the landlord and I made an agreement that if I truly had managed to persuade the vicar to hold my wedding at the church he would host the reception. Of course as this was not the landlord who had helped the vicar all those years ago I did not share the full nature of my dealings with the elderly clergyman.

I returned home slightly confused about what had happened. I had gone with the simple intention of booking a wedding and had returned having not done this but agreed to lifting a heavy stone off a murderous ghost.

Hiding my actions from my fiancée would be far more difficult on a weeknight and not being home on a Thursday was so out of the ordinary I decided I had to tell her something of the truth. My excuse was that I had a surprise for her planned but it meant I would have to stay away until late, maybe overnight. She seemed intrigued enough that she decided not to probe any further and my plan was set.

I arrived at the vicarage before sunset as agreed and the vicar had a very nice supper of cheeses, preserves and home made bread waiting for me. We talked through our plan and he showed me the two books, he made a point of explaining how each blessing must be said ‘in case of emergency’ however he emphasised that he had no concerns that there would be such an eventuality.

After supper we drank tea and then put on our coats and made our way to the stone. The vicar had already laid a crowbar next to the stone to help me lift it and I was careful to position myself distant enough from it. He placed the two books on the floor open at the correct page and drew a deep and serious breath. It was at that point I noticed just how light the churchyard was. The ground illuminated with a shimmering blue. Where the light touched the crystal deposits in the gravestones they sparkled. And the air, it was so still that our breathing seemed so loud and obtrusive.

The vicar broke the silence with a cough to clear his throat.

“Are you ready my boy. You know what we are going to do. I give the first blessing then you lift the stone. I do the second blessing and he goes. Whatever happens wait till I finish the blessing before you lift the stone is that clear?”

I nodded and gave him the most unassured smile imaginable. As he picked up the first book he cleared his throat then gave me a similarly weak smile.

He began to read loudly and clearly words in a language I didn’t understand, I readied myself for my role and kept my eyes on the vicar. He spoke and looked at the sky then spoke again, each time he paused my muscles tensed but he carried on.

“Now!”

I snapped into action and automatically dug my fingers underneath the stone and heaved it up with all the strength I had, rolled it aside and pushed it onto the ground with a thud.

I waited for something to happen. It did not. Nothing happened. For a moment the folly of driving all of this way to help a crazy old vicar hit me very hard. I looked at the patch of worn ground and began to laugh, it was a laugh of both relief and disappointment.

The vicar began his second blessing, again in words I couldn’t decipher I looked away from the ground and towards him. Before my eyes hit him there was a rush of air past me and the vicar hit the ground with a crash. The book flew across the grass and when I finally realised what had happened I saw the vicar on the floor beneath a translucent figure with its huge hands wrapped around his throat. I leapt forward and grabbed the crowbar. I swang at the assailant but it went straight through him. How could I stop a man I couldn’t touch, I could hear the final breaths of the vicar, I knew I had to do something.

I dived at the book and flipped it over. The vicar had kept a bookmark in the page so it fell open at the blessing. I stood up and began reading. I had no idea what I was saying I just read and hoped. I tried hard not to look at the vicar or the ghost attempting to kill him. But the temptation was too great, I looked up just as the vicar took his final breath.

The spirit turned and looked straight at me. His eyes bulged with rage. Even though his appearance was a cool translucent blue he still looked dirty and unkempt. He rose to his full height and lunged towards me. I looked back at the book and before he managed to knock it out of my hands I blurted out the last line of the blessing.

In a flash I was thrown backwards and cracked my head against a gravestone knocking me out cold. I am not sure exactly how long I had been asleep but when I awoke I crawled over to the vicar and found him lying dead and cold where I had last seen him. I took my telephone out of my pocket and called the police.

I wasn’t sure what story I was going to tell the emergency service personnel but mercifully the paramedic who examined the vicar was clear to the police officer that he had suffered a heart attack. I for my part explained that I was assisting the vicar to move the stone, he collapsed and I couldn’t hold the weight falling and knocking myself out. This explanation was accepted and while I had to give statements to the police and the coroner there was little more said about it.

I imagined that it was going to be the final time I would see the church. Without the vicar it seemed unlikely that we would get our wedding there. However a few weeks later I received a call from the new vicar. A young and incredibly enthusiastic man who had found only one entry in the diary, it read.

‘Wedding for the young man who saved us. Must not be missed!’

We had our wedding at the church as planned. It was a beautiful day, the roses were especially stunning. As we walked from the church I saw out of the corner of my eye a young clergyman stood next to a similarly young and beautiful woman. They were there for just a fleeting moment and were gone when I looked back.

Horror

About the author

Simon Curtis

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