The haunting occurred
in his father's parsonage in Lincolnshire and began in December
1716 lasted for two months and ended as abruptly as it began two
months later in January 1717. During this period every member
of the Wesley family that still resided with their father and
the household staff experienced some form of the haunting. John
Wesley himself blames the haunting on a judgment of God bestowed
on his father for failing to keep a vow that he made some fifteen
years before in the year 1701 when as was their tradition they
had gathered at six in the evening to say prayers. John Wesley
My father obsevered my mother did not say "Amen" to his prayers
for the King. She said she would not, for she did not believe
that William was more than Prince of Orange and no lawful King
of England. My father vowed he would not cohabit with her until
she did. He then took his horse and rode away, nor did she hear
anything of him for a twelvemonth. He then came back and lived
with her as before. But I fear his vow was not forgotten before
It is more than plausible that the reverend Samuel Wesley's wife
was grateful for this absence of her husband as he appeared to
be a very virile man fathering no less than nineteen children!
John was the first born after his father returned.
Samuel was never a popular man in his parish or indeed the surrounding
areas due to his political beliefs, the general populace were
stanch supporters of the Stuart cause. Samuel however believed
that William was the rightful King. It is no surprise then that
Samuels house was burnt to the ground by his parishioners in 1709,
although it was rebuilt out of brick before the year ended.
The haunting itself began on December 2nd at around 10pm. The
first person to experience anything wasn't in fact a member of
the family, but was a man called Robert Brown employed as Samuel
Wesley's man servant. Robert was sat in the dinning room with
one of the maids when there came a knock at the door; he dutifully
opened the door to find no one there. Puzzled he returned to his
seat and had just sat down again when he heard the knocking again
this time he also heard a soft groaning and said to the maid "It
is Mr. Turpin, he used to groan so". Again he found no one there;
in fact it happened three more times. As you can imagine both
Robert and the maid where by now quite puzzled but decided it
was time for bed. When Robert reached the top of the stairs he
saw a small hand mill turning by itself, to further add to his
anxiety when he finally got into his bed he heard the sound of
a turkey gobbling and someone stumbling about his room.
Brown and the maid recounted there tale of continual knocking
the following morning to the dairy maid, but she openly mocked
the pair saying, "what a couple of fools you are! I defy anything
to fright me". She was soon to regret her words, for that very
evening after she had finished churning and had put the butter
onto a tray she heard a loud knocking coming from the shelf where
the milk was kept. She searched with a lighted candle for the
source of the disturbance but as the knocking got louder and louder
she soon fled the room in absolute panic.
What followed over the coming was deemed so serious by the reverend
Wesley that he began to keep a diary of occurrences, it is from
this and letters his mother wrote to his eldest brother, also
called Samuel who was at that time living in London, that John
Wesley was able to glean the minute details that he used to record
it all later in his life.
Molly one of Samuel daughters was reading alone in the dinning
room when she heard the door open and someone enter. This someone
seemed to be wearing a long gown made of silk and approached molly
where she sat walked around her and then back to the door again.
I say seemed because Molly could see no one, only hear there progress
across the floor. The girl realized that running would be pointless
as whatever it was would move much faster than she could, so she
stood up, picked her book and walked from the room. Later that
evening when in her bedroom with her sister Sukey she recounted
what had happened but spoke as if it were just a joke. Neither
of the girls where laughing moments later though when a knocking
started under the table, the girls looked but found no one. The
iron casement started to rattle and clatter and despite her earlier
braveness molly jumped into the nearest bed still full clothed
and pulled the covers over head where she remained until the morning.
Samuel Wesley ran a tight ship and ruled his family with an iron
hand, so it will be no surprise that he insisted one of his daughters
sat outside his room every night and waited until he called them
to come in and take his candle from the room. It was a couple
of nights later when another of his daughters, Hetty, was waiting
dutifully outside her fathers room that she heard footsteps coming
down the stairs from the attic.
My sisters (wrote Hetty) heard noises and told me of them,
but I did not much believe them till one night just after the
clock struck 10 I went downstairs to lock the doors, which I always
do. Scarce had I got up the west stairs when I heard a noise like
a person throwing down a vast coal in the middle of the kitchen.
I was not much frightened but went to my sister Sukey and we together
went over all the lower rooms, and there was nothing out of order.
Our dog was fast asleep and our cat in the other end of the house.
No sooner was I got upstairs and undressing for bed, but I heard
a noise. This made me hasten to bed.
The following Emilia
waited outside her father's bedroom for the same purpose as sister
the night before. As she left her fathers room she heard a noise
from the hall below. She immediately went downstairs to check
on what could be making such a load banging. As soon as she reached
the hall how ever the banging started in the kitchen, when she
reached the kitchen it began on the outside kitchen door, but
as soon as she open it, it stopped, only to start again once the
door was closed. Carefully she opened the door a second time,
this time she was forced against the wall by the door she was
holding. After a struggle she managed to close and lock the door.
Once the door was closed the knocking started again, this time
Emilia ignored it and ran for her bed to scared to wake anyone.
The next morning she told her mother who replied, "if I hear anything
myself I shall know how to judge"! What her mother never mentioned
was the fact that she was putting every incident down in letters
to her son in London.
A testimony to the
Reverend Wesley character came a few days later. Emilia had asked
her mother to come with her to the nursery where they both heard
the sound of a cradle being rocked violently, although the room
had not contained a crib for many years. After accepting that
it was paranormal in nature Mrs. Wesley had tried to banish the
ghost with earnest praying. This proved fruitless so she no choice
but to go to her husband who reacted with anger. It is interesting
that up till this point he no idea what was going on around him.
His turn came later that day! He had gathered his family together
for the evening prayers and as he started his prayer for the king
the room was rocked as a violent knocking began to sound all around
them. The interruptions to his prayers continued every night starting
when he started his prayer for the king. He would admit nothing
to his wife but he must have been concerned because he went for
help from a fellow clergyman in near by Haxey, Mr. Hoole. When
Mr. Hoole arrived Samuel told him everything even the disturbances
during his prayers for the king. That night there was no disturbance
during the prayers. Between nine and ten Brown the manservant
came into the room where the two men of the cloth were talking.
"Old Jeffery is coming" he told them, the children had christened
ghost that after a man who had died in the house before they lived
there. Brown knew he was coming because he was always heralded
in the same way. John Wesley wrote of the matter:
It was towards
the top of the house, on the outside, at the northeast corner,
resembling the loud creaking of a saw, or rather that of a windmill
when the body of it is turned about in order to shift the sails
into the wind.
At that very time
the knocking started again, "come sir" said Wesley to the not
unafraid vicar, " now you shall hear it for yourself"! As they
entered the nursery the knocking transferred to the neighboring
room, when they went in there it returned to the nursery and continued
in this way for some time scaring the three children who were
already in bed, Hetty was severely frightened and lay shaking
and sweating with fear. Samuel Wesley was incensed and pulled
a pistol from his belt and pointing it Hetty's headboard threatened
to kill the ghost if it did not stop its knocking at once. The
vicar now greatly alarmed snatched at Wesley arm shouting "Sir,
you are so convinced this something supernatural. Then you can
not hurt it, but you give it power to hurt you"!
Wesley lowered his
arm and raged at the ghost "Thou deaf and dumb devil! Why dost
thou fright these children who cannot answer for themselves? Come
to me in my study, that am a man"! The ghost answered with Samuels
own knock that he used to announce his arrival at the gate banging
on the headboard so hard it almost broke it. Then it fell silent.
The following evening
Reverend Wesley was granted his wish. As tried to enter his study
for which only he had a key the door open with such force that
he was almost knocked down. Then knocks started again going from
one wall to another and then into an adjoining room where his
daughter Nancy was. Entering the room he said to his child "These
spirits love darkness", and he put out the candle, "now perhaps
it will speak". But the knocking merely continued, he spoke again
to his daughter, "Nancy two Christians are an over match for the
Devil. Go downstairs. It may be when I am alone he will have the
courage to speak". After she had left Wesley said aloud, "If thou
art the spirit of my son Samuel, I pray you knock three times
and no more". He was rewarded with silence.
It seemed that ghost
had diverted from attacking his children and was out fully to
get Samuel himself. The knocking followed him all through the
house day and night and the only warning he had was the whining
of his dog which always cane seconds before any event. John Wesley
remarks in his account:
My father was thrice
pushed by an invisible power, once against the corner of his bed,
then against the door of the matted chamber, a third time against
his study door. His dog always gave warning by running whining
towards him, though he no longer barked at it as he did the first
It was around this
time that the ghost made its first physical appearance revealing
itself to the Minister's wife, she reported it as "like a badger
but without a head" and she saw it running under her daughter
Emily's skirts. A servant twice saw the same apparition but described
as a rabbit not a badger. It was soon making itself known to all
and sundry, running continually up and down the stairs and making
noises like a turkey, and one was terrified when she heard a sound
like a death rattle she could not even move, let alone escape
rapidly from this point with all sorts of strange things happening
around the house. Door latches would lift by themselves and when
one of the children tried to hold one down it could not be done.
Samuel Wesley however still had not seen the ghost, although it
continued to disturb him during his prayers. The knocking continued
and Samuel would follow the sounds from room to room. He took
to spending long times alone in his study trying to speak with
the presence, the only answers he ever got where the sounds of
a small animal squeaking. It was Hetty that seemed the most upset
by the ghost and was having trouble sleeping and even breathing
her terror was so great.
The story of the haunting
was beginning to spread around the countryside and many people
tried to reason with the reverend asking him to leave the house
if not for his sake then for his family. He refused saying "No!
let the devil run from me!, I will never run from the devil!"
he did however write to his eldest son Samuel in London asking
him to return home, but before the son could make his travel arrangements
he received a second missive from his father telling him that
all had returned to normal and peace once again reigned in the
Why it stopped so
suddenly is as much a mystery as to why these things happen at
all, maybe God had decided that Samuel Wesley had paid enough
for breaking his vow. We will never know.