It’s the time of year when thoughts turn to muffled walks along the beach, when winds and gales storm in from the vast reaches of the oceans to pluck the leaves from trees which are themselves battening down for the harshness of winter. Walks down country lanes and over fields see the desperation of small animals trying to find shelter from the desolation which is to come. But yet this is no armageddon. It is just the turn of the seasons which give such richness to our lives. It was Keats, about two hundred years ago, who penned the immortal phrase “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” which so brilliantly summed up the gentler side of autumn.
But there is a more mysterious side ... felt best at night. About one hundred years ago the poet Alfred Noyes wrote:
“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas”
How evocative. And it is true that the moon seems to come into its own when summer has departed and cold windy nights hold sway with threats of darkness, storms and unexplained events. And this mysticism is compounded by the way the moon changes its shape during its cycle. Imagine how primeval man must have lived in such awe of this fearful influence which often hangs, huge and remote, and then seems to shape-change in a baleful silent mystery. Watching and waiting, while the affairs of men continue in fear.
So imagine my delight when driving through a small mediaeval village in Somerset called Stoke sub Hamdon. There are rows of delightful old terraced cottages, many of which have boston ivy clawing a purchase on the honey coloured sandstone, and in the middle of which is a pub called “The Half Moon”. Images of the Occult immediately rose to mind. Finding a parking space I could then look more closely and get a feeling for the building. This appears to be an old coaching inn which according to the most hospitable landlady Anne, then became two cottages before being turned into a pub.
|The Half Moon in Stoke sub Hamdon, Somerset|
The sign outside is a slight anomaly in that it is actually a waxing crescent moon, with the horns pointing to the left. A half moon by definition has no horns. But who cares? When the moon is waxing, or getting larger, it is a wonderful time for magic, curing of illnesses and generally is a “good” influence. So this pub is definitely worth a visit without any danger!
Going through the heavy wooden coaching doors you are instantly taken back to a more simple age where wood and natural materials give a secure ageless feeling of warmth ... a sympathetic background from the steel and glass of the modern era. And, for those sensitive to such things, it is an obvious playground for the spirit world. So, settling down with a few drinks, Anne told us some entertaining stories about her ghostly experiences since taking over the Half Moon. These included:
- Unexplained footsteps upstairs when there was nobody there
- Midnight voices, some raised in argument
- The front door mysteriously becoming unlatched
- Barrels being moved in the cellar in the early hours of the morning
But the piece-de-resistance is the Coachman. He has been seen standing in the main bar area dressed in nineteenth century boots, stove pipe hat and hardy coaching gear as protection against the vagaries of the weather which he must face through all seasons. But he quickly vanishes when observed. It is perhaps he who has followed Anne at midnight, whistling in an eerie fashion?
But that’s not all. There is a Roman soldier who has taken up residence behind the bar; perhaps he was wounded in the many battles which took place around that part of England. Maiden Castle is just thirty miles away, and Roman soldiers have been seen marching in columns down from Ham Hill which dominates the skyline above the village. Perhaps the soldier died on the premises and has been unable to “move on”?
And so the stories go on. Anne is a wonderful entertaining host who revels in the Half Moon’s history. It is definitely worth a visit....maybe on a clear night when the halloween moon is at its brightest?
Buy P J Cadavori's Catacombs of the Damned
P J Cadavori's supernatural horror novel, Catacombs of the Damned, is available to buy at Winstone’s of Sherborne, and online at Waterstones or Amazon, in paperback and e-book formats. Click on the book covers below to view Catacombs of the Damned at Amazon.
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