Up until Google came along, Pocklebridge didn’t appear on any maps. We took down the signs during the war to confuse the Germans and we never put them back up, so our station remained anonymous, tucked away on a side spur that trains rarely use. We don’t have many amenities so road signs only appear within about a mile or so of the village green, when you’re too close to turn back. The village hid from the world, and we were happy with that.
But even we couldn’t hide from a satellite, and eventually, Pocklebridge appeared on maps. Sat navs could find it through its post codes. People still had no reason to come here, so for a time, it didn’t really matter. We kept on with our little quiet ways, and everything seemed fine. But word of mouth is a powerful thing, and it spreads faster than most viruses. After all, how many places do you know of that don’t just have a haunted house, they have a whole street of them?
It started off with Eiderdown Cottage, the first house on the left in Willow Street. Its elderly owner died, a lovely old thing named Edith Crabtree, and she left her tiny place to a niece from London. The niece arrived, and soon started complaining of noises in the night, strange lights at the windows, and all manner of disturbances. I can’t say any of us were surprised.
Then No.3 Willow Street was next, left empty by the death of its owner, gap-toothed old Freda Smacksmith, and again the house was inherited away to a cousin from Birmingham. More disturbances were reported, including ghostly whispering over the back fence at midday. No.12, all the way down at the end of the lane, right where the street turns into scrap ground, was next.
So it went on for months – the old folk died, leaving their houses to long lost relatives, who soon complained that things were going bump in the night. Eleven months after Mrs Crabtree died in Eiderdown Cottage, every resident in Willow Street was talking about ghosts – even the hard-nosed physicist who scoffed that they even exist. He soon changed his mind, I can tell you.
Of course, the internet found out, as the infernal thing always does. People began to visit Pocklebridge to see the haunted houses, bringing cameras and picnics. Tourists would loiter in the gardens, listening to the whispered conversations over the fence. The family in no.6 discovered that their resident ghost liked to rearrange the linen cupboard according to threadcount and people started paying a fee to come and see it. We even had TV crews come in, letting their hysterical hosts loose in the houses with thermometers and infra red. The ghosts stopped being pests, and became more like pets, pottering about the house playing with the furniture. The families that moved in started to see just why you wouldn’t want to leave Pocklebridge.
That’s the thing, you see. No one ever leaves. And let me tell you, we’ve got twenty more houses in the area with ageing occupants. That’s twenty more houses to be left in wills, and inherited by outsiders. Twenty more houses just waiting for newcomers. Twenty more houses with phantom footsteps, flickering lights and knocking in the walls.
This town…it’s becoming like a ghost town.
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Ghosts & goddesses
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