Wish hounds under a harvest moon


It is almost Michaelmas, one of the two quarter days of the year when night and day are of equal length. The dying summer is fading now into the mists and frosts of early autumn. The harvest is nearly all gathered in. The harvest moon will light the way of the last carts and weary workers as they make their way home from the fields.

The hob tells me this time of year has always been important, and has always been celebrated. The church celebrates the feast of the Archangel Michael, the saint to whom Crowfield Abbey is dedicated. But long before the abbey was built, and long before Michaelmas, the people who lived in clearings in the forest lit bonfires and feasted. They prayed to their gods and goddesses and made pilgrimages to their sacred places, to stone circles and hallowed trees, holy wells and rivers. Echoes of these old ways still linger and from time to time I glimpse something I cannot explain. People in nearby villages and farms tell stories of the Whistling Hollow, a strange and haunted place close by the abbey gates. The hob remembers a time when offerings were made to the spirit who inhabits the pool at the heart of the Hollow. I sometimes wonder if the malevolence that can be felt there is because the spirit resents being abandoned and forgotten.

There can be few people within a day's walk of Crowfield who have not heard of the Wish Hounds. They are the wild black dogs who hunt in the forest with the Unseelie king. They have fiery eyes and brimstone breath, and their baying cries chill the blood. Autumn is the time of the Wish Hounds and people travelling along the forest tracks are careful to be safely home by dusk.


The face at the window: a ghost story

Crowfield Abbey is haunted. We who live here do not talk about it, we simply accept it and get on with our daily work. Perhaps it is the curious nature of the haunting that allows us to forget it for eleven months of the year, for the ghost only appears in September.

The Crowfield ghost is only seen through windows, and there are a great many of them in the abbey. It is never seen in the same window twice in a row and there is no way of knowing when or where it will be glimpsed next.

This morning, Brother Mark was working in the vegetable garden when he had the strongest feeling that he was being watched. He looked around, puzzled, and then noticed a face at the small window of an empty store room overlooking the gardens and orchard. The room is kept locked, and as it is empty, nobody has any need to go inside. It was, he thought, the face of a young boy, pale and frightened. The boy's mouth moved as if he was calling out, but Brother Mark heard no sound. He hurried to find me, for I have keys to all the rooms and cupboards and chests in the abbey, and together we went to the store room and unlocked the door. It was empty and cold, as we had known it would be.

Whoever he was, that troubled soul, he had gone but we know he will be back. Today is only the first day of September, and there are so many windows here at Crowfield...