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The Ghosts of Rookham Hill

by P.A.E. Stewart.

It is the custom, my masters, on a winters evening when the lamps are trimmed, the wind is moaning in the chimney and the snow lies crisp outside that the talk turns to things supernatural and strange.

As you sip your ale in the "Hunters" and read your Christmas B.B., here is a little tale for your entertainment.  A true account of a rather weird experience on Mendip top (an experience which I hope never to have again!) and its interesting sequel.

In the autumn of the year 1956, I had been to Wells for a meeting and was returning late at night by the old Bristol road in my ford popular car.  I had taken a coffee at the museum - nothing stronger - and was quite cheerful, thinking of a future caving programme and the prospects for some digs that were in progress.

I came round the bend at the bottom of Rookham Hill and had just changed down for the long slope up to the top when I felt a prickly feeling on the nape of my neck.  This sensation gradually intruded itself on my thoughts until I became fully aware of it.  My first thought was of a draught so I automatically felt for the side window and it was closed.  This perplexed me rather and by this time the effect had become more intense - I realised that all my hair was standing on end!  The next stage is difficult, to describe and consisted of: -

(a)                Trying to control rising nervous tension.

(b)                Driving the car.

(c)                Looking for the cause of "all this ‘ere".

The answer to part (c) was even worse.  I realised that there was someone (or something) in the nearside back seat!  By this time I had reached the top of the hill and was passing Bishop’s Lot Swallet on the run down to the Hunters. I don't quite know how if realised that there, was something in the back, but I was completely certain.

By this time, things were beginning to get a bit tough and the over-riding impulse was to stop the car and get to heck cut of it!  However, I realised that this would not solve any problems, as I would have to get back in again and drive on to Bristol, and that would be much harder.  Mendip at 11 pm in the middle of the week is not particularly over populated.  I was stuck with it!

There was only one way to resolve this and this was to look in the rear view mirror and check the back seat.  However I could not bring myself to do this as I knew it would only confirm the situation and most certainly would mean a crash stop with all anchors out.  By this time I had my foot hard down and was going like the clappers past the Hunters, over the cross roads and up towards the Mineries.  I was hoping that if I drove on whatever it was would eventually disappear.

At the forestry houses I must have been touching 55 and at the last moment remembered the wicked right hander ahead.  Brakes, two wheels, grass verge and I was round, but only just!  Foot hard down again past Waldegrave Pool, the Miners and the Castle until just at Land Leer it wasn't there any more and the tension suddenly lifted.  I coasted down to the top of Harptree Hill and mopped a dripping forehead. I quite happily looked in the back seat and of course there was nothing there. Everything was quite normal.

The whole thing was not subjective, of that I am quite sure.  I have been in worse situations without any trace of the "heebies" and I sincerely hope it never happens again.  The nest day, I mentioned the episode to an acquaintance from Wells and he told me this story.  A friend of his was in a combination and had just passed the Hunters going towards Wells. He saw what he took to be the weak headlights of a car at some distance.  The sudden appearance of a coach with four black horses and two sidelights going towards the Hunters put him in the ditch.

When you leave the Hunters these dark evenings, cast a glance towards the top of Rookham - you never know what you may see!

That is just how it happened, my masters, anything in the car that night?  I will never know.