As you can see, my name is Steven; I am a professional man in my mid-30's. I have only recounted this tale to a number of trusted friends in the past, some look at me as though I am an idiot and others, those that were fortunate enough to come to our wonderful old house understand the authenticity of my story whole heartedly.
And so, this is my tale of sadness from an old house in the county of Hertfordshire, south England.
Our house dated back to the 16th century and though it had been manipulated and extended over the years, the original structure of the 12 bedroom house remained in excellent order.
My parents, elder brother and I moved into the house in the early 90's, I was only 11 and the move to this magnificent old house with 12 acres of private land was an unbelievable adventure to me, as you can all imagine, my own private park!
We moved the last of our belongings into the house over the last weeks of Christmas, English winters can be harsh, however we were fortunate that this year was mild and my Father and I enjoyed the last elements of the move in relative comfort, exploring the house together, searching dark old areas like the cellar, my father with the full beam of the torch under his chin with frightening effect. Happy memories to be sure.
The 1st sighting was a cold January evening, I was walking our black lab Ben round the grounds, taking the usual route by the river and through the oldest part of the house to the old coach house, never afraid as it was an area of the house I knew well and associated with happiness as we had converted this part of the house to an amazing games room. Ben suddenly stopped and was visually frustrated, although he did not bark, just whimper. He backed away from the area of the house we had walked through together so frequently, I wondered if there was another dog in the coach house, the dark coach house, maybe shadows were playing tricks on his eyes and he was spooked by shadows of the street light. I beckoned him on, muttering under my breath, you know that annoyed feeling you get when a dog or pet just won't do as you ask? You start raising your voice, but try as I may, he would not move forward.
it was as I walked away from the coach house that something caught my attention, from the top window of the now converted coach house I saw a small girl, maybe 12 yrs old, sat at the window, dark black hair, white gown (sounds such clichd ghost story material, but I swear) she sat peacefully looking out of the window, not at me just staring. Well, I bolted, straight to my Father, 'Dad, Dad someone's in the house, in the games room. Don't be ridiculous!' Typical of Father, ever the sceptic. Indeed the games room was empty as we opened the door, my Father gave me that, stupid boy glare as I, embarrassed apologised yet still trying to explain myself.
The sightings continued for years, my best friend Scott, Richard, Tanith, William, Neil and there's more friends and family that saw Francis over and over again.
'How could you know her name Steve?' You may ask; well, the gardener's son and the gardener both knew the little girl when she was a child. The owner?(tm)s of the house in 1926 had documented their time at the house in a book and sold it on with the property. A sad time as Francis suffered with cystic fibrosis and was moved to a room above the coach house, shunned by the family as an embarrassment. So sad, but explains why over the years we all heard Francis calling for her mother, not mummy but mother.
To finish, I would like to tell you my most memorable time in the house, remembering and writing the words down now sends chills down my spine.
Again, one late winters night, my very best friend and I mad our way through the old chauffeur?(tm)s cottage to the games room. Although both Scott and I together had seen glimces of Francis, this night would change our thoughts on the supernatural forever. We were in the a part of the oldest section of the house, with typical wooden frame and beams, the cottage creaked and groaned under the strain of the two of us, teenagers eager to play table tennis and chill out before school the next day. Please remember that although boys, we were not under the influence of any substance what so ever, just keen to finish our ping pong tournament. And so, we made our way through the various old rooms adjoining the cottage and the coach house when Scott stopped in his tracks, stopped dead and asked 'did you hear that? 'What?' I asked, is your Father in the coach house? No' I responded. 'Why' I asked, 'someone just said Mother' Scott said, my heart pumping, I looked at the back of Scott's head, desperate to leave, intrigued to move on. 'Probably the creaks of the house playing tricks on you' I said. 'No, no I heard 'Mother'' he confirmed. 'Come on' I suggested, and I pushed past him to the black lead spiral staircase that led to the games room and outside. It's useful to note that staircase was installed with the sole purpose of entry for Francis to and from her, then room into her fenced off area of the grounds, thus negating her use of the main house and its public areas.
As we walked together toward the games room, I and Scott saw a white gown and the back of Francis, with neck tingling and our hearts thumping we both stopped dead, scared witless yet amazed with what we saw and that were less than 10ft from her, we watched her make her way down the staircase and to the large wooden gate to her area in the grounds, yet as soon as we watched her she was also gone. When I recount this, I must emphasise that she never seemed in a glow or an aura as such, just as though she were actually there.
Over the 10 years we lived in the house we all saw little Francis on numerous occasions, I truly believe she was never aware of us, just trapped somehow. She was obviously unhappy, that was obvious from the feeling you had when in her presence.
Lastly, at the age of 29, some 8 years after we left the house together. I now lived on Block Island in R.I I visited my old house and asked the now owners if I may come and have a look around, with open arms they welcomed me, gratefully I walked with them through the house, very few changes had been made and the wonderful memories over powered me, almost to tears. I asked the owner if he had....seen anything, immediately he looked at me, 'the young girl' he asked, 'yes' I said, 'Francis' 'by God' he said, 'I thought I was going mad' 'know one would believe me and I've blocked the room up and forbid anyone using that part of the house, still,' he said, 'I still here 'Mother' from time to time.'
I contacted my Father and asked if he'd mind sending the history of the house onto the new owner's, he did and every Year, Mike sends us a card, always with the same message 'a very merry Christmas from the Thomas family, and Francis.