I was nervous. OK, I’ll admit it: I was scared.
Actually, let’s be entirely honest here: I was nerve-janglingly, stomach-churningly petrified.
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I mean, here I was sitting on my own in the darkness in a remote Lincolnshire farmhouse, one which had been the scene of a catalogue of paranormal incidents.
It was the early hours of the morning, but the old grandfather clock behind me had stopped at midnight. It was a misty, moonlit night – and here I was, waiting. For what, I wasn’t quite sure. For what, I didn’t really want to imagine.
Cold spots, doors opening and closing, strange smells, items going missing then unaccountably reappearing – all manner of peculiar “occurrences” had been witnessed over the years by the house’s occupants, Mark and Andrea Pettitt. “It’s beyond coincidence,” Mark, a third generation tenant here, had told us.
It had seemed such a good idea back in the office. A good idea when, a few weeks earlier, some bright spark had come up with the idea of finding “Britain’s Most Haunted Farmhouse”. Readers inundated us with tales of strange occurrences, but one stood out:Ferry Farm near Gainsborough.
Andrea told us of how a door into one of the bedrooms had been held against her when she tried to go in. “The force behind the door,” she said, “was like a gale-force wind blowing through the house. It was like somebody had their whole bodyweight against it.”
It was the stairs that Mark reckoned were the focal point of much of the activity.
“I always feel there is someone by the window looking at me. The spot really gets me, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I’ve had that feeling on those stairs ever since I was a boy.”
And he was right. All three of us from FWi felt a strange, cold sensation as we went up the stairs. Then there were the cold spots. None of us are strangers to farmhouses, we know about drafts and air currents and the heating problems peculiar to old farmhouses, but this was different.
All of us, at least once, encountered a cold spot, a cold that made you shiver and disappeared as quickly as you walked through it. It tied in exactly with what Mark had mentioned – how a cold area had once materialised next to him while he sat on the sofa.
But it’s Andrea who is now involved in more of these unexplained “episodes”. Things started happening to her almost the day she moved in and since then all manner of occurrences have taken place.
She has often heard footsteps and lost track of the number of times she has rung Mark to ask him if he was just in the house, only to find he is where he’s been for hours – working miles away on a tractor.
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“In one incident,” Andrea recalls, “I felt like someone was in the bed with me. I could sense somebody next to me, as if somebody was staring at me. If ever I’m on my own, I’ll sleep with the light on dimmed. I hate lights, but I can’t sleep without any.”
If it is her that is attracting most of the attention, it certainly ties in with local legend which holds that an old guy lived in the house many years ago who disliked women.
Indeed, a distant relative of this “old man Baron” once asked Andrea – before they’d even mentioned their suspicions – if anything strange happened at Ferry Farm because he was convinced this long-dead relative of his was haunting the place.
Andrea reckons the ghost isn’t harmful. “It’s more that he’s trying to intimidate me a bit,” she says. “I’m not uncomfortable being in the house on my own. If I felt it was malicious, I would be scared.”
What did it for me, though, was the door. A bedroom door opened itself – and no, we hadn’t been drinking – in front of our eyes. We crept up and closed it, but then it wouldn’t open again. It was like someone was on the other side of it, holding the handle.
OK, the logical, rational part of me says it might have been expansion or contraction or a dodgy handle or any one of a number of different explanations, but the fact of the matter is, it opened.
Midnight came, and Andrea tried to make contact. “Is there anybody there,” she said, her and her husband sitting together, the three of us around them in a circle. “Give us a sign, a signal,” she said. “We mean you no harm.”
We sat silently. A little bit of me thought: I’m not paid enough for this. I mean, I haven’t checked my job description lately, but I’m pretty sure if I did, it wouldn’t say anything about attempting to call spirits down from the other side.
We sat in silence. Whatever was, if indeed anything unexplained was in that house – and I have to say, I came away thinking there was – it didn’t make contact at that point.
We left the room, walked down the stairs. And it happened again – the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I shivered.