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  • The Earthquake Ghost October 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern , trackback


    Odell is a small village, now in the English county of Bedfordshire. Here is a nice nineteenth-century case of ghost hysteria.

    For two or three weeks the neighbourhood Odell has been put into an extraordinary degree of excitement by the description of a supernatural visitation, at the village alehouse. To such a pitch had this risen, that the magistrates have suspended the license of the innkeeper, and an examination of the premises has been made, but without affording satisfaction.

    Ghosts normally bring custom to a pub, in this instance they shut one down. What is most interesting though is the extraordinary methods used by the earthquake ghost. Beach has never read anything like this. Can anyone explain: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    The ghost has rather a curious mode of kicking up a disturbance, and seems especially anxious not to be seen. Some days at hourly intervals a dreadful shock is given to the house like an immense weight falling upon the floor, which shakes every portion of the building to a fearful extent. It occurs daily, beginning about six o’clock in the morning, and continuing until the evening. Upon no occasion, we learn, has it been heard in the night. On Good Friday it was heard every half hour, when the house, and indeed the village was thronged with people from Bedford, Harrold, Olney, and all the places of the neighbourhood.

    Here we stray into Bedfordshire folklore, which as it is little studied (the most neglected English county in this sense) might be worth including here.

    As yet no fair solution to the mystery has been given. Some of the villagers are disposed to think it the troubled spirit of a previous occupant the house; others think the earthquake has made a mistake, and come to Odell instead of London; whilst the more rational inhabitants produce strong proofs that it is the spirit of the old knight who formerly possessed Odell castle. This is, no doubt, the truth; for it will be recollected by a few of our aged readers, that some years back this old knight paid the Odell people a very long visit, and wrought much mischief. He was continually rocking the houses about, bewitching the cattle, staring the people hard in the face day and night, and, in short, working such vexatious freaks that the people petitioned to the clergy to help them.

    Again ‘rocking the houses about…’ Never heard anything like this. We come now to the exorcism of the old knight…

    Their prayers were listened to, and upon a certain day ten of their reverences met together to exorcise this malicious spirit. They strove very hard with him and he gave them a great deal of trouble; it is quite wonderful the mischief he did before the clergy could overpower him, all which proceedings, however, are deeply impressed in the minds of the rational Odell people. Unfortunately, the rural police were not in vogue in those days, their truncheons might have done him good. At length, however, the old gentleman found he was mastered, but he reserved a good deal of his strength, and made a powerful effort at last to push the church down thinking he should then escape, but their reverences were too strong for him, and instead of pushing the church down he only succeeded in turning it sideways, and the prints of his hands are pointed out by the Odell people upon the walls to this day. His antagonists had now fairly conquered him, so they put him in a hole and rolled a great stone upon him, dooming him to remain there a certain number of years. That term is now expired, and there is little doubt that the same wicked spirit means to shake the old alehouse down, he is, however, too wise this time to allow himself to be seen by any one of the hundred daily watchers for him. How he is, therefore, to be caught this time we cannot tell, but trust that the collective wisdom of Odell and Radwell will soon devise some plan of restoring the pretty village to its former peaceful state. We would strongly recommend that a few more persons should come to view the spot, there is yet standing room in the adjoining meadows if not in the street, and perhaps they may find out the supernatural; of naturals there is no lack there all as is now daily seen there. Hertford Mercury and Reformer – Saturday 02 April 1842, 3

    Bitchy ending. Is there some geological phenomenon here?

    15 Nov 2015: Matt writes I can’t provide any information on ghosts causing earthquakes – that’s as new to me as it is to you, I fear. I hope I can shed a bit of light on the village of Odell in general, though. The ‘ghostly knight’ mentioned in the story here is almost certainly Sir Rowland Alston, a local bigwig who’s buried in the village church. A legend says that he appears once every hundred years, in years ending with 44, and zooms about the place on a ghostly black horse. Why he does this, I have no clue. It’s also worth mentioning that there’s another version of how the five black marks on the church porch came to be there. According to this alternate legend, Sir Rowland sold his soul to the Devil, but had second thoughts when Old Scratch came to collect on the debt. Sir Rowland locked himself in the church, and the marks were made when the Devil shook the tower to get him to come out. The fact that Sir Rowland is buried inside suggests that the Devil failed, as he generally does in these sorts of stories. The five marks are really quite peculiar, and are in the approximate shape of five splayed fingers, burned into the church wall. Sadly, they are no longer visible, having been covered over during renovations sometime in the last few decades. Sorry I couldn’t help with the earthquake-causing ghost, but I’ll keep an eye out for anything similar.

    Thanks, Matt. Outstanding stuff!