"And sometimes he's so nameless"

My Own Ghost Story

Posted in Paranormal, Uninteresting to others whitterings about my life by Chris Jensen Romer on March 5, 2010

Time to tell ghost stories!

OK, here is my ghost story. It was the reason for my involvement in parapsychology, and almost twenty years on I believe it to be true, but no longer can rely on memory. This account was written in 2001 (for a book introduction, hence narrative/genre style).

“It was 1987 and I was at a wargames meeting with four friends, all aged about the same as me – I was the youngest at just about to turn 18. We were driving through a town called Thetford in Norfolk, England, when one of us needed the loo badly, so we turned in to a cul-de-sac off the flyover which runs through the middle of town, looking for an alley or something for a call of nature!

At the end of the lane we stumbled across one of those delightful secrets English medieval towns spring on you – flanked by modern housing estates we found a medieval Priory, laying in ruins, built of the local flint stone and clad in ivy. A sign in the car park informed us that it was Thetford Priory, a victim of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in the mid-C16th.

Thetford Priory - Almost Haunted pic

Well we were not that enthralled by this (we were from Bury St Edmunds with its beautiful monastery ruins), but we wandered through the evening light – it was about 8-8.30pm on a warm August day, (August 8th 1987) which in England means it is still light, day in fact – and eventually found a secluded part of the ruins, where the urgent business could be undertaken behind a bush. As the other chaps gathered we turned to look at the ruins one last time.

It was then we became aware of a joker wearing a black sheet over his head, pretending to be a ghost. I think it was Darren who saw him first, and remarked on this guy in a very light hearted tone – he was looking at us from a first storey (thatone above the ground) window, and was obviously watching us. Now if you imagine someone whose skill at Halloween costume making seems to go as far as throwing a bed sheet over his head, well that is what we saw – at least that is what I think I saw!

THetford Priory

The small arch to the right of the main arch is where the staircase was.

Darren, being the most headstrong of us said ‘lets scare him!’ and charged forwards, towards the facade of the building, which has one large arch and a smaller one in which there was a staircase up to the room we had seen the chap in. As I followed, partly to restrain Darren, partly in a spirit of Scooby Doo ‘and I’ve of gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you pesky kids’ I’m not sure what I was thinking.

And then we saw him coming down the stairs – the sheet billowed out like a woman in a ball gown, and there were three dark spots on his stomach area. At least that’s what I saw, and as I was running – well I was not the most observant. We threw ourselves up the staircase at the guy, who was now well within reach, halfway down the stais; which is why our impact with the flint wall at the back of the room came as a surprise. No stairs existed.

There was no floor in the room the figure had stood in. I struck my head, as did Darren. We were both nauseous, and I felt like i might vomit a few minutes later. There was also a distinct feeling of coldness, and I completely lost the plot.

Thetord Priory: from The first Mousetrap site

Thetord Priory: from "The First Mousetrap" site which interested me - the photo is a link...

What had the others seen? Well everyone agreed that there was a very real and very tangible staircase. They all also agreed that there was a figure, though David described it as a smoky mass – but if he did not think it was a joker in a sheet, why did he not challenge our statement before? Axel said it looked like a monk – but any shadow can look like a monk, hence the hundreds of spectral monks said to prowl English towns. Marcus later described the figure as like spiderman in a black costume.

Anyway on the way back we had a curious mix of nausea and extreme emotional reactions, along with a strong feeling of being cold, and a lot of shakiness. Eventually we got home (16 miles) and on the way David forbade us to discuss what we had seen. Only David had any previous belief in the paranormal, and he suggested we created independent signed testimony. . The statements were kept, and then compared – it was then that the fairly major differences in the description of the figure first came to light – apart from an agreement on the staircase, the figure being male, and wearing black, there was however a complete consensus on the order of events.

There was one more rather bizarre aspect to this sighting – as we left the Priory we had a sense the building was in somehow rebuilding itself, making its self more real, around us. Axel shouted ‘jump the walls – break its reality’. We missed that off the documentary – it sounded too sensational. Yet it was exactly what I felt, and evidently Axel too, and as I ran for the car I also felt as if with every step I was plunging deeper in to mud or wet sand – possibly a physiological response to extreme fear, the legs turn to jelly sensation.

At this point I had a major crisis of belief. At that point I was an absolute atheist materialist and advocate of scientific reductionism, despite my family’s firm belief in spooks etc, maybe because of it. The experience convinced me that people did see ‘ghosts’ – that experience is genuine. What those ghosts are – hallucinations, tricks of the light, abnormal mental phenomena, ESP, spirits of the dead, demons cavorting, whatever – I did not and still do not have sufficient data to judge. It just became obvious to me that people had profoundly unsettling experiences which were hard for those who had not been there to relate to, and which lead you to question your sanity, your place in the world, and what the heck really happened.”

I welcome any comments. My position: the experience of having encountered a “ghost” is undoubtedly a real experience, but that tells us nothing of the mechanisms or causality underlying the experience. I recently asked the lads what they thought we experienced that night — now if the confabulation theory is correct, we might ahve expected the story to grow in the telling. Tow responded – Marcus wrote

I remember me, you, Munch, Axel and Darren going to the Priory on a misty night. We all (even me the arch sceptic saw a stairway in that door way.  Some of the rest of you (Axel and Dave esp) also saw a monk with some stab wounds. We all freaked out and ran off for a bit. When we came back nothing was there apart from a ‘vibe’. There you go that is all I can remember, it was circa 20 years ago.

Then Axel responded —

TBH Chris, I have very limited memories of the event.
Dave, Darren, Marcus, you & I were there.
We say a black, robed figure come out of the arch.
We ran away.

Now bear in mind this is despite having occasionally discussed the story between ourselves over the years, and having even featured on a documentary show talking about it in 1996. We really now have very little idea of precisely what happened that night — and I don’t think any of us would pretend otherwise, though I have not heard back from Darren or Dave. Still that in itself bears out one of the findings of the Census of Hallucinations - and makes me doubt the widespread assumptions that stories of ghost experiences grow in the telling, or are crystal clear in the memory.

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank those who have donated so far to the blog; you know who you are, and i think I have talked to each of you, and to the gentleman, he knows who he is, whose sixty pound donation astonished me and means that I have food and electric till my next money comes through. What can I say but a very sincere thank you to you all?

cj x

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15 Responses

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  1. Darryn said, on March 5, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Aha! I found this blog searching for info on the Cardiff poltergeist “Pete” having recently seen the Ghosthunters episode featuring that case. And it is your blog! See, I remember you from the Most Haunted forums.

    If you’re at all interested in having a recent address and phone number for Fred Cook, who became the nexus for that spuk when the mower shop shifted premises, let me know. Might make anice follow-up piece.

    • Chris Jensen Romer said, on March 6, 2010 at 2:16 am

      Hey Darryn, best not as i don’t know the chap. I know the case well, but only from David Fontana’s articles in the JSPR. Anything still happening around the chap?

  2. Tony Robinson said, on March 5, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    I know you’ve told me many times before, but I hadn’t heard the stab wounds mentioned before.

    Presumably you’re well aware of the prior of Thetford called Stephen who was stabbed during a quarrel with one of his monks in 1248 ??

    • Chris Jensen Romer said, on March 6, 2010 at 2:15 am

      Hi balders: after the event we found a reference (well Dave did) in Thetford library in a 19th century book to a murder of a Prior. It was the 2000’s before I actually found the date – the middle of the 13th century, not the 14th as I had previously believed, and the full story. It’s in Matthew of Paris’ chronicle – as I was reading it for an Ars Magica related project I found the reference. Stephen de Charun stabbed the Prior Stephen, who died before the door fo the the great church. No we saw the figure in the Prior’s lodgings – but nowhere ear the door to the Great Church – well maybe 20 yards away. I don’t have a copy of Matthew Paris’ chronicle – I have Bury and Jocelin of Brakelonds but not that one – so I can’t check the reference. I don’t know if the vents are in any way linked ot our ghost story, but it is interesting – but then Thetford Priory had a 400 year history, and I have no idea what the murder rate was in medieval priories… so no idea if related – insufficient data.

  3. Axel said, on March 5, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    I had put aside my memory of the part about seeing the figure appearing in the top floor window and walking down the stairs until I read this.

    Now that you remind me, I do remember, very clearly, the realization that there were no stairs which meant the figure was doing something impossible.

  4. […] My Own Ghost Story « "And sometimes he's so nameless" […]

  5. Tom Ruffles said, on March 6, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    “Presumably you’re well aware of the prior of Thetford called Stephen who was stabbed during a quarrel with one of his monks in 1248 ??”

    Christianity just isn’t any fun these days.

  6. Sir Gannayev said, on September 13, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Hey Jerome!

    This is a very interesting story, too. But what happened to the ‘ghost’ when you arrived at the ‘staircase’? Did he disappear? To me this issue isn’t fully clear.

    Kind regards :)

    • Chris Jensen Romer said, on September 14, 2010 at 11:46 am

      It’s so long ago that I am now remembering telling the story rather than what happened directly, if that makes sense (see previous comments for how little any of us can recall now!) My memory is that the others were aware of the figure retreating back up the stairs, and so was I vaguely; so if there had been a staircase then Darren and myself would have arrived at it after the figure had reached the upper floor. I actually don’t know what happened to the figure as a result!

  7. […] in many instances it would seem hallucinatory; my own experience in “seeing a ghost” (previously discussed on this blog) collectively suggested strongly to me that we all did NOT see exactly the same […]

  8. Andie said, on December 6, 2012 at 7:47 am

    How many magic mushrooms had you consumed in the woods? :D

  9. stephen said, on June 19, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    interesting comments i live in thetford this is the first i have heard or a black figure but i have heard of monk sightings. the only sighting of a black figure i have heard of was at the warren lodge in the forrest, i myself have had an encounter there i was tapped on the shoulder while warming down from a short run this was at dusk around 8pm time

  10. Kelley said, on August 12, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Hi, just read you’re story and found it very interesting. I have spent many nights down at the Thetford Priory (and other locations)just taking random photo’s in different areas and then reviewing at home to see if anything shows up. I have many orb pictures from there, even in the window you saw the image. I do also have an image with a Cluniac monk on it. You can clearly see his robes, couldn’t see his face though as he was walking away from me. Many people have also told me over the years that they have heard the monk’s singing, although I have never experienced that myself. I have also seen the dark figure at Warren Lodge, he scared the living daylights out of me. I realised he was just peering over my shoulder to see what I was doing. He doesn’t mean any harm. From what I could tell he looked like a gamekeeper as he was wearing the same clothes that I have seen in old photos.

  11. meditativedishwashing said, on November 14, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Ah, so it *was* you I saw on Ghosthunters just now. I discovered the episodes on Amazon Instant Video just tonight and watched several, then decided to end with an intriguing-sounding one about Time ripples. So fascinating! And so funny to recognize my fellow blogger and SPR enthusiast. :-)

  12. Dan said, on October 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Hi. I remember watching this programme “ripples in time” a good 15yrs ago and I couldn’t believe what I was watching.!
    I grew up in thetford and we used to play in the grounds of the priory when we were young. I’d say I was 13 or 14 when one summers evening (around 1991 or 1992) me and two friends were mucking around in the grounds of the priory when one of us said “look over there, someone is watching us from the window” we all stopped and looked, we all see that someone was watching us from the large upstairs window to the right of the small window that the people in the programme saw someone looking at them!!
    We joked maybe it’s a ghost and all of us ran towards the ruins and window but when we got close there was nothing there.!! To us it looked like a shadowy figure or someone wearing dark clothes. We didn’t see any stairs or see the figure move. But we did see it watching us for the upstairs window. Even though there is no upper floor.
    We all sort of laughed it off, making up excuses for what it could of been, but in the back of our minds we knew what we had seen couldn’t be explained.
    Many years later I see the programme ripples in time on sky tv and it sent shivers down my spine…….

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