The Folk of the Now, The Folk of the Everyday
Source – Local Studies (Swindon Libraries)
I'm sound asleep when suddenly, I'm awoken by something.
It's never clear what that something is,
but it leaves me breathless with shock and terror.
Then I hear the car pull up outside, and later,
the inevitable limp, lifeless tapping on the wooden front door.
I stumble downstairs in the twilight.
The sick lump of dread in my stomach rises as I open the front door,
expecting to be confronted by them.
But they're not there.
Frozen to the spot, with the awful metallic taste of fear in my mouth,
I can hear the footsteps approaching now, crunching and dragging on the cold gravel.
The Horses of the Gods recorded their album, We wish you health, over a number of years, in a multitude of recording locations around Somerset and Wiltshire.
A favourite place of theirs to work was Langridge village hall.
This remote building, located high on the hills above the city of Bath, lies literally yards from the Somerset border with Gloucestershire.
It stands exposed to the elements, with far-reaching views across the glorious landscape to Cherhill Down and over to the Wiltshire/Oxfordshire Ridgeway in one direction, and if you take a short walk across the Racecourse opposite, the bridges crossing the mighty River Severn and beyond to the Welsh mountains, in the other.
The hall also lies close to the site of the Civil War Battle of Lansdowne of 1643, where Lord Hopton's Royalist army forced Sir William Waller's Parliamentarian forces to retreat to the city of Bath, but it was a Pyrrhic victory for the Kings men.
Over 300 lives were lost that day, and the area is rife with stories of ghostly sightings and strange phenomena.
One such tale concerns a Drummer, in English Civil War period attire, who has been spotted on numerous occasions, during dark winter evenings around the Lansdown area.
Little is known of this man, but it is believed he was a Roundhead, brutally killed whilst beating a parley to Royalist forces, who accused him of spying and, showed him no quarter.
For many years, residents of the nearby Swainswick Valley have reported hearing the sound of a beating drum, late into the night.
One warm summer evening in 1975,a farmer driving a tractor down Freezing hill lane reported swerving into a ditch to avoid a figure in the road who appeared to be playing a side drum, hanging from a strap around their neck, who seemed to just disappear into the twilight.
But the strangest story of them all happened during a Horses of the Gods recording session late one evening at Langridge village hall in the winter of 2008.
Whilst doing vocal takes for their rendition of the 17th century protest ballad "the Diggers' song", the lights in the hall inexplicably turned off and on again, at 10 second intervals for well over a minute.
The atmosphere in the hall suddenly changed and the temperature plummeted.
Just then, the distant sound of an adult male, crying out in pain and anguish, was heard coming from the fields beyond the hall, in the direction of the battle site.
Mike Ballard and Matty Bane from the band went outside and called out into the darkness to offer assistance, but there was no response.
Upon returning to the hall, they noticed, written in large, italic style scrawl in the condensation on one of the windows, what looked like the word "slanin"
It had been written from inside the hall.
Neither Bane, nor Ballard had noticed it before, at any point that evening, and neither had any idea what it could mean.
A quick search of the hall revealed they were the only people there.
At this point, they decided to pack up and leave.
The next day, Mike was in his home studio, listening to a playback of what they had recorded the previous evening.
It was then that he heard it.
A tabor part had previously been recorded, and was the only percussion part on the song.
Only now, it had been joined by something else.
From about a minute into the track, there was the distinct thud of a drum, beating an ominous, repetitive pulse on the one and three of the bar.
Mike attempted to isolate the drum by muting the other tracks, but was shocked to discover it had been recorded on one of the vocal takes from the hall the previous evening.
Whoever played it, was joining in with the singing at the time.
Was there someone lurking in the background at the session?
Were they responsible for the portentous drumming and the strange scrawl on the window?
In an attempt to try and shed more light on this mystery, they researched the Battle of Lansdowne, to discover that one of the Royalist Army Commanders at the Battle was Sir Nicholas Slanning.
After much discussion,Mike and Matty decided to keep the vocal take with the eerie drum part.
If you listen closely to the Diggers' song from the We wish you health album, you can hear it for yourselves.
The band don't like to speculate too much on how it got there, or who played it.
A ghost story . . .
Ok, I have one ghost story. Well I have a few but this is the only one I can't really explain. I grew up for part of my life in a house next door to a church. I was always uncomfortable about the fact that the side of the house looked onto gravestones. It probably didn't help that I was a teen in the 80s and a fascination with all kinds of horror, the paranormal and the strange and eerie.
My mum was quite interested in this stuff and also delighted in telling M.R James stories and the like. She said one evening shall we watch this story on TV, it's probably not any good. It was the BBC adaptation of the Woman in Black. Yeah, thanks mum. Our house was quite creepy anyway with various bells ringing and doors tapping and I often heard or saw other strange things but I always managed to convince myself that it was my imagination. I was once sat down reading a book whilst sat next to my dog one morning, and whilst engrossed in the book, heard a loud cracking sound, I immediately looked up to see that the dog was about 3 feet away from where she had been lying sleeping, so that was weird. But this isn't the story.
Another morning, I went down to the kitchen for my breakfast and could see past the gravestone immediately outside the kitchen window to the gates entrance of the church. I saw a young boy no more than about 3 or 4 years old but he was wearing a wide brimmed hat and a dark navy almost black top and dark shorts to the knees. As I was eating my cereal, I stood there watching him and could see that he had a kind of nautical neckerchief thing with strings hanging down. At that moment he moved a long a little and bent down to pick something up or tie his shoes but then he looked up and ran as if called by someone.
He ran behind a tree but then didn't come out the other side. I stood there watching for maybe half an hour but he didn't appear. There was nothing the other side of the tree as it was a yew tree and on its own. It wasn't wide enough to hide behind. There was a toddlers group that often met behind the church. I though he could be in fancy dress but there was no toddlers group that morning . . .