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Patrick Bernauw

The Epworth Rectory Poltergeist

March 21, 2009 | Comment icon 2 comments
Image Credit: D H Wright
The Rectory at Epworth, Lincolnshire, does not look like a typical haunted house, but nevertheless it was the scene of maybe the most famous Poltergeist ever. The story was fully documentated by John Wesley, who later became the founder of the Methodist Church.

One of the most famous hauntings ever was that of the Epworth Rectory in Lincolnshire, in December 1716 and January 1717. Epworth Rectory was the home of the not so popular Reverend Samuel Wesley. In 1709, villagers who disapproved his stern principles and teachings, set fire to the building and injured the livestock. The rectory was rebuilt, but few years later the rest was again disturbed, now by a genuine Poltergeist. One of the children of the reverend who witnessed the phenomena was John Wesley, who later became the founder of the Methodist Church. The whole story of The Haunting of Epworth Rectory is fully described and documentated by John Wesley, in his own words and in the letters he collected from his family. If you can appreciate a spooky true story, you'll find these Letters concerning some Supernatural Disturbances at my father's house at Epworth in Lincolnshire here. Reading the letters is... well, close to being there!

Old Jeffrey
On 1 December 1716, the servant Robert Brown and a housemaid first heard the eerie groans and mysterious knockings in the dining room. They assumed it were the final groans of their dying neighbour. Soon after that, the children too insisted that they could hear footsteps ascending and descending the stairs at all hours of the night. But when they opened the door, there was no living soul to see in the hallway.

At the top of the stairs, Robert saw a hand mill moving at great speed... and of its own volition. Later, as he lay in bed trying to get some sleep, he heard the heavy tread of a man in leather boots... but again, there was nothing to be seen.

This went on for about a week and only reverend Wesley did not heard any noises at all. According to vulgar opinion, such sounds were not audible by the individual to whom they foreboded evil, so his family at first refrained from telling him.

Every person who witnessed the disturbances believed them to be supernatural. They seemed to centre on a spirit the family nicknamed ‘Old Jeffrey'. Sounds like that of a saw on wood or the turning of a windmill echoed through the house each night now. They would gradually become stronger as if Old Jeffrey was slowy collecting dark energies, and they ended with crashing glass, moving furniture... and one night with the levitation of a bed which at the time was occupied by Nancy, one of the four grown daughters of the reverend. This time the Poltergeist was also accompanied by the sounds of clanking chains and loud bangs.

The children were extremely scared and speculated the phenomena were caused by local witchcraft, but modern psychic investigations point to Mrs Wesley, who was unhappy in het marriage, and daughter Hetty, who hated the rectory.
Reverend Wesley still did not hear nor see something unusual and he severely lectured the children or the servants who told him wild tales about a ghost who was walking and talking through the rooms of the rectory. ‘If there were any noises,' he told them, ‘they were undoubtedly caused by the young men who come around in the evening!' - Or maybe his daughters sat up late, waiting for their lovers, and made the noises to conceal something... or someone.

Thou Deaf & Dumb Devil!
And then there was this night when the reverend was awakened by nine loud and distinct knocks with a pause at every third stroke. They seemed to originate in the next room, so the reverend rose and went to see if he could discover Old Jeffrey, but he could perceive nothing. Reverend Wesley still thought it might be a person who was outside, and he relied upon his stout mastiff to rid them of the nuisance. But the dog, which at first had barked violently, now seemed more terrified than any of the children.

The Wesley's began to believe that Samuel, the eldest son who was not at home, had met a violent death. So one night, after several deep groans had been heard, the reverend tried to communicate with the entity. ‘Thou deaf and dumb devil,' he shouted, ‘why dost thou frighten these children!? Come to me, come to my study... I am a man!'

Old Jeffrey replied with some earnest knocking, but fell silent then. The reverend's challenge was met the following evening when, as he opened the door to his study, it was flung back and shut with a terrible force. Reverend Wesley adjured the Poltergeist to speak... if it was his son Samuel, could he knock again? To his great comfort, he didn't hear any knocking anymore.

Some time later, the Wesley family heard that Samuel and the two boys who did not stay at home were safe and well, and from now on the visitations of Old Jeffrey became more a matter of curiosity and amusement than alarm.

After almost eight weeks of Poltergeist activity, the disturbances stopped as suddenly as they had begun.

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Copyright by Patrick Bernauw: Comments (2)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by jbondo 15 years ago
IMO it was the children themselves doing everything to get back at their father for being so strict and after a few weeks they realized it just wasn't going to work on him. I'm wondering if they were treated badly outside the home due to the community dislike of the elder Wesley.
Comment icon #2 Posted by SpIdErCyDe 15 years ago
For some reason i find the word "Rectory" hillarious. lol

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