|An Archaeological Tale!|
few years ago, the 'Mary Rose' - one of Henry VIII's great sea-going
castles, which sank in 1545 - was raised from the sea-bed. Oz, a friend
of mine, was studying archaeology at University, and had the chance to work
on the bones of the sailors that perished in this great naval disaster.
She went to stay at the home of one of the project's archaeologists, an
old cottage in Portsmouth. It was a small, cheerful nest of
a place, with polished floorboards and rag rugs; old sofas and large
potted plants in china pots. There were three rooms downstairs, and
three up - two bedrooms and a bathroom. The staircase rose from the
living room and ended at a small landing, onto which all three of these
One evening, a few weeks later, her colleague had to go out for the evening. Being a scientist, she was quite comfortable to be left alone in the cottage, surrounded by boxes containing the last earthly remains of the poor unfortunates who died that fateful day. She bade farewell to her friend, and after checking that the back door was locked, returned to her work table in the living room. Some half an hour later, she was startled to hear footsteps moving across the ceiling above her. The front door was firmly shut only four feet away from her. She moved into the kitchen to check that the back door was securely fastened, and it was quite definitely locked. This was disturbing, since it meant (she thought) that an intruder had gained access through one of the upstairs windows!
Screwing her courage to the sticking place, she grabbed a rolling pin from one of the kitchen cupboards, and made her way slowly up the stairs. She opened the door of the room in which she had heard the footsteps, but the chamber was unoccupied. She turned to the door of the second bedroom and cautiously peered in. Again, no sign of life nor indeed forced entry! The bathroom was similarly void. Thinking that she must have imagined it, she returned thoughtfully down the stairs and resumed her station at the table.
A few minutes (perhaps ten) later, she was startled to hear, once again, the pacing of feet across the ceiling above, starting at the bedroom door and moving to the window, where they stopped. She sat in terrified wonder, and was relieved when not sixty seconds later, her friend returned.
Naturally, she immediately blurted out the details of the strange phenomenon, but her friend was unsurprised! Indeed, she was most apologetic that she had not warned her guest that this happened on a fairly frequent basis!
It was mid-summer, and she was working on a Roman excavation in C**bridgeshire. She was sleeping on-site in a tent, as were several other of her colleagues. One morning, a couple of days into the dig, she set to work and was delighted to brush away a layer of dirt to reveal the white sheen of a piece of bone. She decided to concentrate the day's efforts into the excavation of the skeleton, and after long hours of work was able to stand and survey the shape of a Roman horse, buried with all its regalia.
Obviously, she was thrilled with the discovery, and decided to remove the skull, to work in the sanctity of her tent and discover as much as she could from it.
Day melted away, and soon it was time to sleep. She kept the skull in her tent, rather than attempt to return it to the site in the pitch black of night. Not long after, she fell into a deep sleep. Some hours later, she was woken to the sound of a horse whinnying outside. She crept sleepily from her tent, armed with a torch, but was unable to discern anything in the darkness.
Deciding that she had dreamt it, she returned to her sleeping bag and snuggled down again for the night. She slept only moments before the noise roused her once again. She lay still, trying to decide whether it was, yet again, a figment of her imagination. Just when she began to drowse, the noise returned, accompanied by the sound of a hoof, pawing the ground outside the tent flap! This was no dream, so she once again accoutred herself with torch and undid the tent flap. Yet again, no horse - nor any other living creature!
Being of a stoic disposition, she was able to return to her bed, undaunted by what was undoubtedly a spectral manifestation. The rest of the night passed, but she was to remain awake for the remnant - each time she began to drift, the whinnying returned. Having disturbed its grave, the horse had unquestionably decided to return the compliment and keep her up too!