By Rosemary Ellen Guiley
Haunted church and manor house near Colchester, Essex, England. Peter Underwood investigated the haunting activity over a 12 year period and said the church was the most haunted he had ever come across.
Underwood met the church's rector, Reverand R. A. Merryweather, who arrived at Langenhoe in 1937 and immediately began experiencing poltergeist and haunting phenomena. The first occurrence was a heavy door violently slamming shut by itself. Then, Merryweather's valise mysteriously locked itself and in such a way as to resist efforts to open it. Objects were moved or disappeared. Disembodied voices, especially of a woman, were heard. The credence bell rang by itself, footsteps, thumps, and strange noises were heard, and an oil lamp burst into flames on its own.
In 1947, Merryweather had his most unusual experience, but not in the church. He paid a call at the manor house, summoned by owner Mrs. Cutting because of unusual phenomena, especially in one bedroom. At the house, he walked into what Underwood called "a tactual phenomena that is almost unique in the annals of psychical research." When Merryweather entered the active bedroom, he went to the window to admire the view. When he turned, he found himself suddenly embraced by an apparition of a naked young woman. The experience was fleeting. Merryweather described it as "one wild, frantic embrace and she was gone."
In 1949, Merryweather saw the apparition of a young woman inside the church while he was performing Holy Communion. She appeared to be about 30 years of age and was wearing a white or gray dress and flowing headgear that reached to her shoulders. She was above five feet six inches in height and walked with a slight stoop, as though she were sad. At first he thought she was a live person, but she disappeared into a wall.
The same year, Underwood conducted an investigation one night. He scattered "controls," or objects, throughout the church to see if they would be moved. White powdered chalk was spread where the phantom woman was seen and phantom footsteps were heard. Threads were strung about to see if they would be mysteriously broken. Doors and windows were sealed and various objects were marked with rings around them. Underwood also left about pieces of paper and pencils in hopes of getting a message. A violent thunderstorm erupted that night, making it difficult for Underwood to hear anything unusual. In the morning, nothing was disturbed.
Merryweather saw the woman apparition in 1951. The same year, an impression of a woman's hand appeared on the vestry door and lasted for 10 days. In 1952 Merryweather saw another apparition of a young woman in a cream dress.
According to research done by Underwood, the church and manor house, as well as several other houses and cottages, all had once been part of an estate and had been documented to have paranormal disturbances. Reports of a ghost of a gilr went back to the turn of the 20th century and were associated with a story that the former rector had murdered his illicit lover.
Merryweather left the ministry in 1959. Landgenhoe Church sat empty and decayed. It was demolished in 1962.
Though paranormal activity had been documented well before Merryweather's arrival, he may have been an unwitting activator, causing phenomena to become more pronounced. Others also witnessed phenomena.
Merryweather gave Underwood the afflicted credence bell, and Underwood hoped it would ring on its own, but it remained silent.