|Copyright Janet Cameron|
A phantom nun from an ancient burial place terrifies the tough soldiers in the Drill Hall next door.
An article in the Brighton & Hove Gazette dated 21 May, 1949 tells the story of a strange paranormal vision emanating from the churchyard of St. Nicholas Church. The writer's name did not appear on the article; possibly they preferred to remain anonymous.
The incident happened in the Sergeants' Mess at Queen's Hall Square at the Drill Hall, and the article was aptly entitled: "Ghosts in a Mess."
While in the mess, the writer heard someone chanting: "Don't hang about or the old grey nun will get you." He asked the RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major) who the old grey nun was, and his colleague took him to talk to sixty-three-year-old Sergeant Welfare in the billiards room. Welfare threw open the windows, revealing below the graveyard of St. Nicholas church next door. This place of burial dates from Saxon times, and all the gravestones, where monks and nuns had been buried centuries before, looked eerie in the moonlight.
"There was a saying in the mess, before my time, about the old grey nun," Welfare said. "There have been stories. One night I was working too late to go home, so I slept in the billiards room. Something woke me up in a fright. It felt like a cold, clammy hand touching my face. There was something uncanny about it."
Gravely, the sergeant continued with his story, explaining how, about two years ago, he was back from Germany, having spent a month in hospital recovering from his wounds. While in the Drill Hall workshop, late at night, he had a sudden peculiar feeling. The atmosphere became cold and clammy and something - he wasn't sure what - made him feel uneasy. Then, every door in the long passageway opened and closed as though some phantom presence was passing through. But - there was no human being present.
Sergeant Welfare decided to get out of the building immediately. But this was not the end of his ordeal, because in the passageway he fell over a life and force pump. This had clearly been moved by some unforeseen force, as he remembered it being stacked close to the wall when he walked down the passage to the workshop. No human agency had moved it - so what had? Sergeant Welfare was confused and scared.
"I am not superstitious," he said, "but I have not worked in that place since."
· "Ghosts in a Mess", Staff Writer, Brighton & Hove Gazette, 21 May 1949.
· Adapted from: Cameron, Janet, Paranormal Brighton and Hove, Amberley Publishing, 2019.