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A haunting in Bibury

PUBLISHED: 15:32 06 October 2014 | UPDATED: 16:05 06 October 2014

Arlington Mill in Bibury / Photo: mubus7

Arlington Mill in Bibury / Photo: mubus7

Archant

In the run-up to Halloween, we’ve asked our audience to submit spooky stories and poems with a local connection. Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers sent us this tale about a haunting experience in a Bibury museum...

Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers / Photo:  Ken SkehanChloë of the Midnight Storytellers / Photo: Ken Skehan

The Museum in Black

by Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers

I was thinking about cake, not ghosts. When the Arlington Mill at Bibury still had a tea room, their fruit slab and Victoria sponge were to my experienced taste buds the most luscious in all Gloucestershire.

I was waiting to meet the tea shop manager, to arrange a storytelling event. The Arlington Mill is a great hulk of Cotswold stone standing over the clear stream that feeds Bibury Trout Farm next door. At the end of the 1990s, the Mill Museum was four dusty, mouse-pattered floors with mouldering displays of Cotswold agricultural history. A souvenir shop sold not-quite-antiques. Gently eccentric characters ran the businesses. I felt comfortable there.

Bibury is riddled with rumours of ghosts. Faces at the Mill windows. A grey lady who drifts along the path beside Rack Isle. One of the Bibury hotels even has a ghost cat. And there’s the sad old story of a miller’s young wife tempted to infidelity, then locked out by her husband on a night of snowstorm to freeze to death on the doorstep.

I’m a scientist’s daughter. I consider myself about as ‘sensitive’ to the paranormal as a house brick.

While waiting for my meeting that sunny afternoon I went for a mooch round the museum, as I often did. There were no other visitors.

Upstairs, a side room entitled Swing Riots commemorated a long ago rural disturbance. Half the room was draped in black and featured an atrocious waxwork of an old woman with white hair, set in a chair, clumsily costumed in a black skirt and shawl.

I rarely visited that room because it was so dull. But that afternoon, thinking only of filling a few minutes, I stepped over the threshold - and was rooted to the spot by an overpowering feeling of somebody else being there. And that person was enraged. Boilingly, venomously furious. I couldn’t see or hear anyone, nothing moved, but the presence was unquestionable. The emotion slapped at me, trying to drive me out of the room.

I stood my ground. Whoever or whatever this something was, it was trying to bully me. And these days bullies get short shrift from me. I also remembered what I’d been told by friends who accept the reality of otherworldly encounters.

“I”m sorry you’ve been so upset.” I spoke aloud, as politely as I could manage. “But it wasn’t I who hurt you.”

There was a pause. I murmured a few more respectful words. Perhaps, in a universe where even scientists say that multiple realities can fold over upon each other, I really was dealing with someone who had been bitterly hurt, who was trapped in rageing unhappiness. The sensation of fury subsided. If there was an angry old lady somewhere, she’d have been settling back into her chair, muttering under her breath.

Only then did I leave the room, forcing myself to walk unhurriedly.

I didn’t say anything about this at the meeting. Why scare the tea shop people? But I did eat quite a lot of cake.

Since that day in Bibury I’ve been too busy to give much time to the uncanny. However, I’ve had two more odd experiences, so out-of-the-blue that I must consider them genuine. One of them nearly frightened me into running. Arlington Mill is now ‘a stylish home retaining much character and charm’. Apparently, major renovations often clear out unwanted presences. But it’s still a big old cavern of a building. Anyone who lives there might need to respect what cannot be explained.

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This story was submitted by Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers. For more from Chloë, visit www.midnightstorytellers.co.uk/wp/ or call 01451 861185.

To submit your own spooky story or poem to us in the run-up to Halloween, email joseph.meredith@archant.co.uk

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