Wicca, WKD and an absence of ghosts

I do not think I have ever been happier. It is not yet noon and I am knee high in grass and the half buried remnants of Hollinshead Hall, hidden and almost forgotten in this wooded copse on the west Pennine moors.

There are no other people here, there is no entrance fee, just an old sign, which wonderfully states that the well house is an ancient sacred site, and there are many ghosts (well, one man is stated to have somewhat extravagantly seen six before sunrise.)

Other people have been here before me. Some have made a fire pit and enjoyed some blue WKD, a surprising choice for those choosing to spend a night at an abandoned manor house in the middle of inhospitable moorland. I would plump for something with a far higher alcohol percentage.

There is a quite fresh very dead rat sprawled nearby. It is all very intriguing. There must be hidden treasure here in the shape of an 18th century sapphire ring in a crevice (I am nothing if not optimistic) but a search yields nothing until I find a small square rusted bolt which must be from an old mysterious thing from the past. My boyfriend thinks it might be from a JCB when the Liverpool Corporation Waterworks demolished most of the Hall but I prefer not to listen to him.

I am so, so happy here, in history reclaimed by nature. You are not told the details of everything that happened here. The sign optimistically and enigmatically states something along the lines of ‘What really happened here, no-one really knows, maybe someday we will find out the truth’

We won’t though but it is pleasing to not have the past of this manor house described in such detail that we know what they had for dinner. We are not looking at a roped off chair a famous bum once sat upon although we do know from an old quote on the sign, there was ‘much revelry here.’ I’m sure there also was when the blue WKD was drunk too.

The old well house remains intact and is the most terrifyingly gothic building ever. I peep through the barred windows at the gloomy interior that someone has clearly penetrated judging by the tea light husks within when my boyfriend suddenly does a ghostly noise behind me and despite the blazing July day I am suddenly cold. Then angry.

I walk around the Well house and discover a black gloomy slick of water. Then see something else. Against the black, the white. A note of paper carefully rolled up and tied with the delicate stem of a foxglove with the fresh head still unwilted. A dead tea light stands guard nearby, together on a rocky outcrop hazardously near the water. It is the most exciting thing I have ever seen. I want to lean over and uncurl the paper but I can’t.

It might be a 13 year old who has read A Beginners Guide To Wicca and thinks the letter might make Andy Moore fancy her, it might be a curse, a suicide note, a picture of a Lolcat. I want to know and I don’t want to know. I am now sitting here in my house writing this and still not knowing which makes it so much more exciting than the guilt of breaking that carefully weaved foxglove seal to look at the secret within which I suspect is not for my eyes.

Or is it?

Anyway, it’s all better than Christmas. This is a memory that will stay with me forever due to not being signposted, planned and researched and because I did not open the letter. But I will never ever sleep again.

Our original intention on this trip was Smithills Hall, a haunted historic place of repute near Bolton. Now I have found an abandoned manor house in the woods I am suddenly unimpressed by a place I have longed to go to and sneer condescendingly at a Bolton council van parked outside its bulging ancient exterior.

Things aren’t helped by a gift shop selling reduced Bounty bars and the merry hum and chatter by women in a conference room with a large amount of cakes and donuts beside them. Ghosts will not appear when there is a conference meeting of women with donuts. Everyone knows that.

Everything is roped off and despite me reading on the net about the rope occasionally suddenly moving of its own accord in these areas, I have a sudden chilly feeling that no ghost will appear on a bright bold July morning in a municipal building where women on plastic chairs say  ‘ooh, I mustn’t, go on, just the one then’.

However the entrance fee of three pounds is a bargain compared to similar but non-council owned buildings of antiquity smattered across the landscape of this country. It has a fascinatingly bloody pedigree and there are acres of historic woodland and parkland to walk in. It is a gateway through centuries – the wooden shell of the medieval kitchen remains along with the clear diamond in the servants frosted window panel for them to spy upon their lord’s comings and goings. The history is too much for a blog, could fill a thousand pages of intrigue, death and betrayal. I will leave it to you to look it up rather than badly recite it. People who lived here were burned for their beliefs. I would betray everyone I know should I be threatened with a paper cut.

I do not see a ghost. But I see history. Although it is hard to feel you are in the past when modern signs about the past repeatedly remind you that you are in the present.  So much is recorded, fenced off, dusted, rebuilt. I talk to a lovely man at the desk who doesn’t openly mock my opening gambit of ‘Have you seen any ghosts here?’ He is a prosaic friendly man who states his disbelief and then mentions he saw a door open and close by itself. He talks about the second storey abandoned, spooky and derelict since it was an old nursing home and I nearly wet myself. But we can’t go up there and I am glad in a way because like Hollinshead Hall I want the mystery.  And I want to imagine.

And I am so glad I never opened that letter. Because now mystery still remains.



2 Responses to “Wicca, WKD and an absence of ghosts”

  • The Jazz Teacher Says:

    Another great entry – I like the musings on what makes a day special.

    The element of ritual in the foxglove note reminded me of something one of my friends does every year on her birthday (which falls neatly on the Summer Solstice). She and her female friends write their wishes for the year on pieces of origami paper. Then they fold them into boats, take them to a quiet riverside spot at midnight and float them down the river with lit tealights in them.

  • Top Ten Unicycle Emptiness Places Of Wonder Thus Far | Unicycle Emptiness Says:

    [...] 1. The random manor house buried in the woods somewhere in Lancashire-Because it was a random manor house buried in the woods. And haunted. And had a shrine. Nuff said. Share this with the world! Hide Sites This entry was posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2011 at 9:14 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. [...]

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