a paranormal investigator of many years standing,
one is often asked,
“What was the most
frightening thing you have ever experienced”.
Strangely, it was something
so extraordinary as to still defy an explanation,
all these many years after.
Of all the stories I have
told on radio, this tale evokes the greatest
It began when I a young
child, was on my way home after school, several
of us children, of around 8-9 years of age
would play in a ruined church, in Prospect
Hill in East London., England.
Local history said that
the church was destroyed in a V 1 attack in
world war two.
Winston Churchill and “Bomber”
Harris, decided on “Total war”
which meant taking the bombing not to the
German army, but to their families, wives
and children at their homes in dormitory towns
all across Germany.
Hitler’s revenge weapon,
was the V1 and V2, and one had destroyed the
church, in the 1940 s
reply was to deny Germany an honourable surrender,
insisting on it’s total destruction.
We as children, would play
hide and seek in the ruins, we would climb
walls, we would get a plank with a brick under
each end as a trampoline, and jump on the
springy middle bit, and we would make dens
out of bricks and planks to shelter from the
rain, and do all the things kids do, in the
days before computers.
Adults passing by would
just see us kids as playing in an unusual
But one day this “playground”
was to be the venue for the most sinister
of happenings that I have ever had to undergo.
We always played for about
an hour, before pangs of hunger demanded we
However, one of these hide
and seek games, had me feeling that I had
to discover a new hiding place as we knew
all of each other’s favourite places.
It was this mindset which
took me to a part at the back of the church
building that we had not explored before,
as there were deep piles of rubble.
in the buildings shadow, I became aware
for the first time that there was a
small door, let into the side of the
main body of the church, this small
gothic, pointed, shabby door, with a
ring pull handle.
Which I can see now
as plainly now in my minds eye as all
those years ago.
Calling my friends
to the discovery of this door, which
to a child was so exciting, I exclaimed
my desires to see what it contained.
I was disappointingly
met with my friends wishes to go home,
as both darkness and childhood hunger
was setting in.
We did all agree to meet
the next day which was a Saturday at 1-30
I arrived, having not slept
all night with all the excitement of an Amazonian
explorer, to find no one else had bothered
to turn up so, curiosity being my middle name,
I approached the small
gothic, pointed shabby door with the ring
On gently opening the door,
the cobwebs that were about the doors base,
stretched for ages before giving way, and
as I watched them it occurred to me that the
door had not been opened for many years.
Stepping inside as my eyes
adjusted to the darkness and my nostrils to
the smell of damp and decay, I became aware
of old cast iron banisters leading deep down
some stone steps, so fumbling in my pocket
for a box of matches, taken from my dads little
smoking table, to see if I would be the first
child to find a casket of treasure.
Descending the staircase
while striking the matches, the smell of damp
The only sound was an occasional
drip of water dropping from a great height
into a puddle in the dark.
When I suddenly noticed
that piled up against one wall was a “coffin
Coffin upon coffin neatly
piled all along one wall, how strange I thought,
and walking along while using up the last
of my matches, the thought flickered across
there was no treasure just coffin stacks”
so having walked around this under ground
vault, I disappointedly decided to leave.
So, looking up for
the light at the small door’s
entrance high above, I groped my way
back to the stone steps and with the
help of the cast iron hand rail, slowly
found my way back to the entrance, thinking,
“no treasure, no nothing, how
It was actually as
I had come out from the darkness, and
left the stench of death, damp and decay,
emerging into the daylight, when as
I was closing the ring handle to the
little shabby pointed gothic door that
Before the door closed,
it was wrenched in, almost pulling me in with
And there with a brown skin
like old parchment, and a shock of white hair
flowing round the most mad staring eyes I
had ever seen, was a little old lady dressed
in rags, she appeared not to see me, and I
guessed she was blind.
I was a nine year old boy
and in utter terror I ran home as quick as
I could, I could not tell my parents as they
would tell me off for playing in what were
The thought occurred to
me that all the time I was in that dark damp
place, lighting matches and looking round
at the “coffin stacks” the old
woman was in there too, and she said nothing,
the cobwebs at the base of the quaint gothic
little door, said no one had been that way
in a very long time, so how long had she been
in there ? and living on what ? and what could
she have been doing ?
I could find no rational
explanation for what really was not a paranormal
situation but a physical one, but with paranormal
ruined church of St. Columba. are now
a block of flats, but whenever I pass
by I always have a quick look out of the
corner of my eye, for a little old lady
with brown parchment like skin and, a
shock of white hair flowing round the
most mad, staring eyes I had ever seen,
I do not know what happened to her but,
local legend has it that when the V1 or
revenge weapon hit the church, a man and
his son were in the building as it collapsed,
and on moonlit nights, a small lady would
be seen looking amongst the ruins for
her men folk , her husband and son, and
she swore never to be taken away from
their bodies, and was inconsolable.
Whatever the truth, the
sight of this white haired old lady to me
The old ruined church of
St Columba which became a block of flats,
perhaps even today, hides a grisly secret.
studies lecturer copyright 2003