Sussex writer and ghost walk tour guide Robert Stevens introduces readers to ghosts and ghouls from years gone by including the infamous Crumbles Murder.
“It was a dark and stormy night ...” is the start of many ghost stories – and was a line invented by Edward Bulwer Lytton the Victorian writer.
But as a storm rages over Eastbourne, like last week, sometimes strange things have happened.
The Lamb Inn in Old Town and St Mary’s Church are reputed to be haunted by a woman in white who walks a passageway from the inn to the back of the church.
And at Motcombe, a Black Hooded Monk walks silently.
One Victorian evening some thought they had raised the ghosts.
It was an awful night when the meeting of Eastbourne Literary Society took place at the Lamb Inn.
But that night there was a special guest – Dr Darling had been invited to give a talk on ‘mesmerism’.
Mesmerism is now known as hypnotism, but a lot of the Victorian audience were convinced it was a ‘psychic’ phenomena.
Many had heard or seen the spiritualist or mediums of the day and thought this must be some strange demonstration of unearthly powers.
They crowded nervously to hear the start of the talk.
Dr Darling stood up, outside rain rattled on the windows, and just as he began there was an enormous flash of lightning and a deafening crack of thunder.
Immediately the room erupted in panic: there was pandemonium as members of his audience ran screaming and fighting to get out the room - they thought they had invoked the wrath of the spirits.
Dr Darling stood in the now empty room, packed his bags and left without his five guinea fee.
Meanwhile in 1924 on the Crumbles, Patrick Mahon was busy disposing of the body of his mistress Emily Kaye he had just murdered, and cut up, in one of the Coast Guard Cottages.
The police found many parts of the body but there was no trace of the head.
Mahon explained to the trial why not.
The jury and gallery of the court heard Mahon tell them he had put the severed head on the fire one night.
He took his poker to try to get the fire burning better but at that very second there was an enormous peal of thunder outside and instantaneously her hair caught fire and her dead eyes suddenly opened.
He ran screaming out of the door onto the lonely shingle.
She still to this day is said to haunt the site of her murder.
Way back in the 1100s a ship was making its way along the English Channel, called The Nicholas packed according to legend by pilgrims returning from Jerusalem.
As they came close inshore to the Sussex coast a violent southern gale began to blow.
Too near to shore to avert disaster they must have narrowly missed the rocks of Beachy Head and eventually crashed ashore in Brighton where the storm broke the ship into matchwood and drowned everyone on board.
Since then whenever a southern gale begins to blow and bring in a storm the ghostly ship can occasionally be seen on the horizon replaying its last fatal voyage.
So as the storm approaches, pull the bedclothes over your head and remember the words of Longfellow: The moon is hidden behind a cloud...On the leaves is a sound of falling rain...No other sounds than these I hear. The hour of midnight must be near..So many ghosts and forms of fright have started from their graves tonight.
* Robert Stevens runs Sussex Guided Walks in Pevensey, Lewes, Alfriston .
He started walks 22 years ago having always been interested in local legends and folklore and having published several small books. He originally taught some adult education classes locally and everyone attending kept asking to go and visit some of these places hence the start of the Ghost Walks.
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