Ghost Hunters True Hauntings
Keep ahead and pass beneath the black and white timbered structure ahead of you. Keep ahead along the path and enter:-
The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great. This is the oldest parish church in London. It possesses a dark and mysterious interior, the ancient walls of which drip with atmosphere and which make a wonderful spot for ghost hunters to soak in the true ambience of historic and haunted London. It has been used as a location for films as diverse as Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and Four Weddings and a Funeral. It’s ambience has been described as the “holy gloom’ and it comes as little surprise to learn that the building is haunted. Even its beginnings are tinged with the supernatural. Rahere, a man who, according to legend, was once a jester at the court of King Henry 1st, founded it in 1123.
In November 1120, the King’s only son and heir had been drowned when the White Ship was lost in a winter storm off Calais. The court was plunged into despondency, and Rahere opted to become a monk and set off on a Pilgrimage to Rome. Whilst there, he fell dangerously ill with malaria and on his death bed vowed, that if he were cured and allowed to return to his own country, he would ‘erect a hospital for the restoration of poor men.’ Miraculously, Rahere’s prayer was answered, and he duly set off for England. But on the way he had a terrible dream in which he was seized by fearful winged creature and taken up onto a high ledge where he was set down, teetering on the brink of a yawning chasm. Just as he was about to fall, the radiant figure of St Bartholomew appeared at his side, and told Rahere that he had come to save him. In return, said the saint, “in my name thou shalt found a church…in London, at Smedfeld (Smithfield).” Thus the church was founded, and when he died in 1145, Rahere was buried inside.
His tomb now stands to the left of the altar, its reverse side clearly showing the results of a hasty repair carried out in the 19th century when the parish officials decided to report upon the state of the founder’s body. It was well preserved, and even the clothes and sandals are said to have been intact. A few days after the tomb had been sealed, one of the church officers fell ill and confessed that, when the tomb had been open, he had stolen one of the sandals. He gave it back and recovered, but it was never returned to the foot of its rightful owner, and since that day Rahere has haunted the church as a shadowy, hooded figure that appears from the gloom, brushes past astonished witnesses, and fades slowly into thin air.
On other occasions his appearances have been more active. In the mid 20th century the Reverend W.F.G Sandwich was showing two ladies around the church, when he sighted a monk standing in the pulpit, giving a very animated sermon to an unseen congregation – although no sound could be heard. The two ladies appeared to be oblivious to the apparition, but just to be sure, the Reverend Sandwich directed their attention to the pulpit, making the observation, “I don’t think that pulpit is worthy of the church, do you?” The ladies merely agreed with him, obviously quite unaware of the ghostly monk.
In May 1999, the then verger of the church, John Caster, who lived in the house next door, was woken early one morning by a telephone call from the security company, informing him that the alarms were going off inside the church. Entering the building he turned on the lights and conducted a brief search. The church was empty. Switching the lights off, he was about to leave, when he clearly heard the measured tread of slapping footsteps, walking down the central aisle. He called out, “who’s there?” whereupon the footsteps stopped for a moment. But then they resumed continued along the aisle. Convinced there was an intruder, he locked the doors and called the police. They arrived within minutes, but could find no sign of anyone inside the building. Furthermore, no windows or doors were open. The next morning the alarm company sent an engineer to check and reset the motion triggered alarms. Both he and John were astonished to discover that only the central beam, the one that passes Rahere’s tomb, had been broken. The beams by the doors, and the side and top aisles had not been breached, meaning that whatever, or whoever, was responsible, had somehow managed to simply “appear” at the centre of the church. It was then that John remembered that the footsteps had sounded like sandals, slapping over the stone floor of the old church.