Monday, 7 May 2012

The Mysterious Stranger of Chester

Strangely the haunting the ruined priory of St John, just outside Chester city walls began only in 1881, though the ghost itself is much more ancient. It was on 14 April that year that the church tower suddenly collapsed. The priory church had been in ruins for centuries, but even so the crashing to earth of the tower still came as a surprise.

Even more of a surprise was the fact that a ghostly monk at once began to be seen in and around the ruins. So solid and apparently real was he that at first the townsfolk took him for some prankster in fancy dress. Only when one or two witnesses saw him vanish into thin air did it become clear that this was a ghost. The falling tower must have disturbed him in some way, and he has not yet found rest for this ghost walks the area still.

The ghost at once revived an old legend in Chester. During the later 11th century the priory attracted a tall stranger who begged to be admitted as a reclusive anchorite. He was taken in and allowed to build himself a small cell in which to devote his life to prayer and to study. The man was clearly a nobleman from his bearing and education, while the scars on his body showed that he had fought in more than one battle. In particular he had a jagged scar down one side of his face and had lost an eye.

Perhaps inevitably gossip circulated that this was none other than King Harold Godwinson. Harold had been killed at the Battle of Hastings after being severely wounded in the eye by an arrow. The good folk of Chester came to believe that their anchorite was the king, who had somehow escaped death and now sought the consolation of a holy retirement after a lifetime of fighting and ruling. When the man died at a great age, he was buried in the priory graveyard.

from GHOSTHUNTER GUIDE TO  ENGLAND by Rupert Matthews. Buy your copy HERE

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