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Haunted Vicarage


Probably the last place on earth where you would expect to see unearthly happenings occur is a vicarage. But then again anything is possible on mysterious Dartmoor.
Back in the days when Queen Victoria sat on the throne and Britannia ruled the waves there was an aged vicar who dwelt in the vicarage of a remote Dartmoor parish. For decades he had faithfully ministered to his flock but sadly old age and ill health had taken their toll. In his final days he had become a recluse and confined himself to the old vicarage that was his home. Eventually the sad day came when the old vicar ascended into heaven to live with the angels or so the simple souls of the parish assumed.
It did not take long before a new shepherd was found for the moorland flock and he along with his family came to live in the vicarage. After a few weeks the family began to feel an odd presence, especially in the drawing room. On dark nights the sound of what appeared to be an old man shuffling across the room with his dressing gown trailing behind him. The footfall sounded quite soft but with a hard tread. The temperature of the room quickly fell to an icy chill along with a strange musty smell.
At first the new vicar was loath to tell of those unearthly happenings for fear of ridicule. However, the nightly visitations became more frequent, so much so that it began to unnerve his household servants. One by one they handed in their notices and fled the vicarage as fast as possible. It did not take long before the news spread around the parish that ghostly happenings were occurring at the vicarage. This made it virtually impossible to find any brave souls willing to come and work there. That situation was bad enough to bear then both of his daughters became mysteriously ill. For the sake of their health they were immediately sent to live with relatives in the nearby city of Exeter. Mysteriously their unexplained illnesses began to get worse and so the vicar’s wife was dispatched to tend to them. This left the wretched clergyman alone to face the nightly hauntings.
In desperation the vicar saught the advice of his churchwarden who had for many years been associated with the church. With a knowing nod and a shake of his head the churchwarden explained that during his final months the old incumbent had virtually confined himself to the drawing room. Here, dressed in nightwear and dressing gown he would endlessly pace up and down the room. So in the old churchwarden’s opinion it was the troubled spirit of the old vicar that was haunting the room. Reluctantly he explained that the only answer was to exorcise the tormented spirit and send him on his way to a better world. Back then one way of doing this was to assemble a jury of six pious and brave parishioners who would have to sit in the haunted room holding a lighted candle. This was to be done in half hour shifts until finally one of the candles was blown out by some unseen being. This would indicate that the restless spirit had been laid to rest.
These sittings went on every night for a good week with no result, each time the candles simply burnt out and the spectral visitations continued. The consensus of opinion was that because all six people sitting in the jury once knew the old vicar his ghost knew all their faults and sins. Therefore there was no way that any of them could condemn his soul. However, as luck would have it a scholar from Oxford university was visiting some relatives in the village. Quite fortuitously he was studying towards a theological degree and was well acquainted with the sacred practice. So the next night he was elected to the jury, given his candles and seated with the other five parishioners. At first the same old thing happened, all sat in a circle with glowing candles all of which cast their flickering shadows on the darkened walls but none were extinguished. Then suddenly, out of nowhere an unseen gust of cold air snuffed out the scholars’ candle. Slowly a thin translucent wisp of smoke spiralled from the end of the wick. All that remained to be done was to imprison the wayward spirit in a sealable container of some sort. As luck would have it an empty beer barrel lay in the corner of the room, it being left over from the old vicar’s wake. Without a moments hesitation the scholar took his smouldering candle, removed the barrel’s bung and tossed it inside, immediately sealing it. Having successfully exorcised the troublesome spirit it was vital that no living soul should should ever tamper with the barrel. So the next day the village mason was summonsed and instructed to entomb the barrel in the corner of the room with bricks and mortar which he duly did.
However, the drawing room just did not seem uniform with a huge brick bulge protruding from one corner. The other problem was that as the whole parish knew the events of that fateful night the temptation might be for some comedian to release the old vicar’s ghost from its eternal tomb. So to kill two birds with one stone identical barrel-like bulges were built into each corner. This then served two purposes; firstly it restored some symmetry to the room and secondly apart from those members of the jury along with the mason nobody knew which bulge housed the barrel. I will not say at which particular vicarage these ghostly events occurred but will confirm that to this very day there is one moorland vicarage that has a drawing room with strange barrel-like bulges in each corner.

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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One comment

  1. I would like to use some of the content of your website to publish in our annual Bovey Voice community publlcation. Can you let me know if this is acceptable to you and if so which articles would you think would be best for this area.

    This is a free booklet which is distributed locally around Bovey

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