Following our theme of weird South Devon, here’s a local incident that fits in to that most rare of paranormal experiences- the timeslip.
Timselips are a reversal of the traditional Torbay ghost. Many ghost sightings are explained as individuals who appear out of their normal location or time. Timeslips, however, are an alleged paranormal phenomenon where a person, or group of people, travel in time, without the aid of a time machine.
Timeslips bear similarities with folklore – a person journeys to a strange place, sees odd things, and is not always believed upon their return. You can find people sharing their own personal accounts on lots of blogs and website forums, where they report experiences which they clearly believe are true accounts.
Such accounts of such events have been a recurring phenomenon for centuries – in Torquay-visitor Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843), Scrooge goes forwards and backwards in time.
Yet, many of these reports have generally turned out either to be hoaxes or to be based on incorrect assumptions, incomplete information, or interpretation of fiction as fact. Many are now recognized as being urban legends.
Perhaps the most famous of the time slip tales is the 1901 Moberly-Jourdain Incident where witnesses claimed they had seen ghosts including Marie Antoinette and others in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles (pictured above). Their story caused a sensation.
Our particular timeslip incident comes from the vicinity of Berry Pomeroy Castle – where else?
The ruined castle has long been known for its ghost stories, the most well-known being the White Lady, and was the focus of a day-trip for Victorian visitors to the Bay. It looks like tourist guides either invented or transferred ghostly sightings from other places. They’re the usual – apparitions, fake histories, terrified dogs – and are reviewed in a 1982 book by Deryck Seymour ‘Berry Pomeroy Castle’.
However, one story in the book stands out as unusual as it is our very own timeslip experience. And, unusually, there was more than one witness.
Related by a Miss E Beveridge, it takes place on an afternoon in May:
“A South African friend was staying with me, and going out late one afternoon we turned down a lane… leading to the Castle Mill of which I knew nothing. Half a mile or so along this lane my friend’s easy flow of chatter died away and an uncomfortable silence ensued which I found impossible to break…
“We had both simultaneously become aware of something strange and oddly disquieting in the atmosphere; then I was struck by something unusual in our immediate surroundings which I could not at first identify. I puzzled over it for a moment before I realised that the fowls scratching in a sloping field beside the track were of a breed I had never before encountered, scraggy, long-necked creatures, and in lieu of ordinary chicken houses were rough shelters of turves and branches, while certain domes of plaited straw like old fashioned bee-skeps apparently housed a few broody hens sitting on their eggs.
“It was perfect afternoon in May, no breath of air stirred, sunlight lay warm and golden (but) there was something very eerie in the atmosphere. The silence was profound, uncannily so, for the environs of a mill even so remote and small as this.
“Suddenly we rounded a corner and found ourselves in a tiny farmyard, the house to one side, some ramshackle sheds on the other side and before us a swiftly flowing stream.
“The house was small, low and incredibly shabby, with small, deep set windows overhanging with ragged thatch. The only living creature was a little girl of eleven or twelve who was sitting on the low wall which partly enclosed the yard next to the pool or stream. I never saw such a little savage – dirty and unkempt, with swarthy skin and coarse black hair which looked as if it had never known a brush or comb, and smouldering black eyes which were fixed on us in an unwinking stare of such intense malignity that we felt ourselves more than ever intruders where we had no right to be. Her dress looked like nothing on earth but a filthy sack with holes but in it for head and arms, and a piece of rope loosely tied about her waist. She was sitting hunched with chin on hands and elbows on knees, bare legs drawn up so that the soles of her feet were pressed vertically against the wall. Without moving a muscle she crouched there, glaring at us in a deadly silence that could be felt.”
Feeling uneasy, the ladies reversed their car and fled. A fortnight later Miss Beveridge visited the Mill again:
“The strange fowls and the rude shelter had vanished, and in their place were wooden henhouses of the usual type.
“When the mill house came in sight, I noticed at once that it had been completely rethatched. The roof appeared much higher too, to provide a second story… the windows seemed larger, the leaded panes winking in the evening light where before had been dark gaping holes innocent of glass. A new wing had been added… there was no dark, malevolent little damsel crouching on the wall and the atmosphere was perfectly normal and serene…”
We’ll never know what the two ladies really saw.
On the other hand, there do upper to be trigger factors- people have to be interested in their surroundings but not concentrating on them. There also may be a link between migraines or the use of medication. Reported incidences are, notably, more common in the twentieth century suggesting that there might be some exterior influence at work such as a TV series or a movie.
Or perhaps the space-time continuum has a glitch and they briefly glimpsed an earlier version of the space we now occupy.
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