So, there was this old church with a belfry that stood to it’s side. It was a unattractive octagon shaped construction that had only 2 rooms inside. The entire bottom floor was considered 1 room and above it, was the rope room. Not considered a room, was a small vault beneath the main level where lumber and other supplies were stored.
Now, the old guys that were in charge of ringing the bell all had a firm belief that the belfry was haunted. Nobody ever wanted to talk about it, when they were asked they would all have this same weird expression on their face that said they knew something but they weren’t talking. There was only one who had, and it was said that he lost his mind after relaying his ghostly encounter.
None of these old guys would go into the belfry alone after dark, and whether it was day or night, not one of them would venture into the vault. So along comes the younger generation, a group of local dudes from the same area that were being trained to care for the belfry and ring the bells. None of these guys believed the old dudes when they warned that the belfry was haunted. They laughed it off and called the old timers superstitious. Even though they didn’t believe the legends, none of them had bothered to venture into the vault. They spent most of their time in the rope room.
Now this belfry was creepy as hell, even during the daytime. The exterior was beat up and weather-scarred and the interior, dank and uninviting to say the least. There were long, narrow, stained-glass windows on the ground floor, and in the rope-room; but the glass was covered with so much dust that no sunlight was filtered through to light the joint. So now that you have a pretty good idea of how creepy this place was, I’m gonna tell you the best part of the legend.
One New Year’s Eve, at eleven o’clock, a group of the younger bell ringers show up at the belfry, ready to toll the bells at midnight. They’re all sitting around on a bench in the rope room waiting for twelve o clock. Now everybody in this group had been out celebrating and they were for the most part, drunk off their asses. While they’re sitting there passing the time, they’re also passing a bottle around.
So as they’re talking, they realize that they’re missing the party because they’re obligated to ring these dumb-ass bells at midnight. They start joking around about how lame the tradition was and then the conversation turns to the crazy old men that thought the belfry was haunted.
The youngest of these inebriated punks, John Grieves, who was also said to have been the most wasted, grabs a candle and heads off down the stairs. The other guys didn’t even notice him leave. John was off to prove a point. Now, whether or not he would have considered his next move while sober is anyone’s guess, but, drunkie drunk decides he’s going to go down into the vault and prove there was nothing going on there.
So, he stumbled down the stone steps until he reached a small landing. He pushes the heavy door open and entered the vault. He found the room was empty. It was a square shaped cell with a flagged floor. The walls were dry and covered with a thick layer of dust and cobwebs, but the floor appeared to have been swept recently.
The one odd thing that John noted was that the room was as cold as death. In seeing that there were no ghosts hanging out in the vault, Grieves scoffs and heads back to the door to join his drunk friends. As soon as he turns, an ice cold gust of wind blows by him, snuffing his candle. He took one more step forward and his toe was caught on something, he stumbled and fell. Well, your boy was so lit he couldn’t manage to get back up so he crawls over to the nearest wall and passes out.
While he’s out, he has this weird dream. In his dream, he woke to find himself in the vault, it was pitch black and he didn’t know how the hell he’d got there. All of the sudden he hears these heavy footsteps on the stone steps, two monks in black habits come walking in. One of them was carrying a lantern. The monks acted as if they didn’t see Grieves.
They walk to the center of the room and pry up one of the large flags with an iron bar. Underneath the stone was a square hole. The monks descended through the opening, Grieves could hear the scraping sound of their feet climbing down. Now he’s freaking the hell out, he’s pinned as close to that wall as he can get, and he’s listening so intensely to what these monks are doing down in that hole that he was hardly even breathing. He could hear them talking but couldn’t make out what they were saying. After that, he hears the unmistakable sound of a pick and a shovel working the soil.
Eventually curiosity overcame his fear, he crawled to the opening and peeked inside. He saw one of the monks digging a hole, the other one was examining a corpse that was clad in a monk’s habit. Grieves has his oh shit moment and clammers back to the wall. He continues listening. The digging stops and all the sudden there’s a dull thud, the corpse had been thrown into the hole. After that, he hears a voice, clear and distinct. “Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,” it said. “Et lux perpetua luceat eis,” another voice responded.
The monks were reciting a burial service. After that, he hears the shovels go back to work. It was around that time when he woke himself up babbling something incoherent. He rolled over then went back to sleep. Midnight had come and gone, the bells didn’t even wake him.
It was nearly daybreak when something cold and damp brushed across his face. He rubbed his eyes and looked around. It took him a minute before he realized where the hell he was, but he didn’t have any idea how he’d got there. He fumbles around in his pockets and found a match, then lit his candle.
His dream then came back vividly in his mind. So, he takes the candle and starts looking around at the floor, looking for a flag with a ring on it. He was sober now and his head was pounding but he was compelled to keep looking. Suddenly the largest flagstone in the center of the room began rising on its own. It fell away from the hole but made no noise. Grieves could see the square hole that it had been covering, just like in his “dream”
A moment later a monk in a dirty black habit emerges from the hole. The skin on his face was stretched tightly across his bones like parchment paper, there was no flesh on him. His eyes were missing yet their sockets were glowing, in his hand he carried a wooden crucifix. This monk, just like the others, didn’t seem to notice him. John watched as he mouthed something that appeared to resemble a prayer, yet no sound came from his gaping mouth.
The Monk walked across the floor and then passed through the closed door. At this point John follows him. The monk passes across the ground floor and starts up the steps to the rope room. He reached for the rope that was attached to the tenor bell and began to pull it. John saw the rope move with his own eyes but no sound came from the bell. For those of you that don’t know, the tenor bell is rung to signify someone’s passing, the poor bastard was ringing the bell for himself.
Well John had seen enough. He hauled ass from the belfry and never returned. A week later a priest was surprised to receive an envelope containing two sovereigns and a note requesting him to say masses for the repose of the soul of an unknown monk.
John Grieves never told anyone what he’d seen until many years later. He was walking to town with his family on the road where the church stood. They passed a procession of monks with their heads bowed, the last of them looked up to acknowledge him, John was face to face with the ghost of the monk he’d encountered in the belfry. That very same day, the belfry was destroyed by fire.
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