The True Story Of The Poltergeist That Terrorised Epworth Rectory

Back in the early 18th century, Epworth Rectory, Lincolnshire, England, was home to daily, terrifying poltergeist activity.

Ghosts of Epworth Rectory
The reportings of the paranormal activity at Epworth Rectory remain a mystery to this day

Epworth rectory was given to Reverend Samuel Wesley by Queen Mary, but his family wasn't keen on moving out into such a rural village, his daughter Hetty was particularly upset about it.

The village locals were not overly welcoming to the family either and took a dislike to the stern clergyman, they even set fire to the rectory in 1709 resulting in a number of cattle being injured.

Samuel Wesley however, was a strong man and made the decision to stay in the village and rebuild the fire-damaged rectory.

It was December 1, 1716, when the reported poltergeist activity began at the Epworth Rectory, the first complaints came from the servants and the children. Over the course of several nights, they reported hearing mysterious groans in their rooms as well as the sound of loud footsteps walking up and down the stairs throughout the night.

They would hear the sound of plates crashing and bottles smashing in the adjoining rooms, but every time anyone checked them, nothing had been disturbed. On at least one occasion, one of the daughters, Nancy, was left petrified when her bed levitated whilst she was on it.

Samuel Wesley was skeptical about the stories of unusual noises and ghostly paranormal happenings occurring within his house. He conducted a week's worth of surveillance during the night throughout the rectory and uncovered nothing out of the ordinary. Whilst having dinner he told his family that their worries were over nothing and explained he hadn't found anything to be unusual within the property.

The Wesleys had four grown daughters who had started getting to the stage of having friends and boyfriends over to the rectory, one of the daughters said that she hoped a ghost would go and start knocking or their father's bedroom or study and give him a fright to make him believe them.

The girls were so angry towards their father's refusal to listen to their complaints that they decided to ignore the noises and strange happening until they became so loud and apparent that he would have no choice but to acknowledge them.

The next night, nine loud bangs thudded through the walls of Samuel Wesley's bedroom.

Following on from the noises the night before, Wesley said to his wife in the morning that he would buy a large dog "big enough to gobble up any intruder."

That's exactly what he did, he went out and bought a huge mastiff and took it back home to the rectory, telling his family that the new family brute would be able to deal with any unwanted spirits.

That very night the sounds started, the footsteps were heard and the banging began, Wesley couldn't believe it when his new guard dog was whimpering and cowering behind his terrified children, one of the older girls scoffed that the dog was even more scared than they were.

Two nights later, the sounds became so aggressive that Wesley and his wife jumped out of bed to go and investigate. They claimed that as they walked down the dark corridors of the rectory the noises appeared to follow them.

They said that they were overcome with the sound of clinking metal that sounded as if it was coming from all around them, they continued their search into every room of the rectory but found absolutely nothing.

The paranormal activity had now become a nighty event, starting at around 9:45 pm each time. Before the usual noises started they would claim that it always began with the sound of something like the winding of a large clock, the noises also appeared to follow a pattern and very rarely altered. They said that the sounds would begin in the kitchen, then suddenly shift up to one of the children's rooms, before a loud knocking would be heard on the foot and head of the bed.

One night Samuel Wesley shouted out to whatever was causing the disturbances and demanded that it meet him in his study room, almost as an acknowledgment to his demand a sharp, loud knock came from the door of his study, the knock was so aggressive that Wesley thought it may have damaged the wooden paneling.

Nothing else happened that evening, however, it quickly became apparent to Wesley that his invitation into the study had not been ignored, one evening he reported that "an invisible power" pushed him up against his desk with force, and on a separate night he claimed he was slammed into the door jamb of his study just as he entered the room.

Samuel Wesley eventually accepted the fact that he needed help with the evil forces that he believed had taken over the rectory. He brought in the Vicar of Hoxley, a man by the name of Mr Hoole, and told him everything that had gone on.

Mr Hoole believed what Wesley was telling him and agreed to stay that night and see if this apparent malevolent force would dare to manifest whilst in his presence.

The ghost or ghosts were not in the least bit intimidated by the Vicar of Hoxley and showed such a powerful example of their paranormal power that the clergyman fled the rectory in terror and left Wesley to deal with the unseen force by himself.

By this time the children had overcome their fear of the invisible visitor and had accepted the fact that it was just the way it was, almost as a way to pass the boredom of rural village life. They even named the entity "Old Jeffery", giving the ghost an almost pet-like status within the rectory.

The girls described "Old Jeffery" as temperamental, and told how if any guests to the rectory doubted the spirit by claiming the noises were just due to natural causes the unseen entity would often become much more intense in making itself heard, quickly correcting anyone who doubted its existence.

Some local townsfolk believed that the spirit was that of "Old Ferries," which was the nickname of someone who had previously died in the rectory, although the sounds were very apparent, the family had never seen any actual apparitions in the house.

Once, Mrs. Wesley remembered an ancient remedy for riding a house of evil spirits. Old folklore and texts recommended that those afflicted by bothersome entities should obtain a large trumpet "and blow it mightily throughout every room in the house," she told the family.

"The sounds of a loud horn are unpleasing to evil spirits." Then she tried to scare the ghost away by blowing a loud horn throughout the house. The poltergeist responded by doubling its efforts to both day and night.

The children seemed to welcome the fact that Old Jeffery would be available during their playtime hours as well. Several witnesses swore that they saw a bed levitate to a considerable height while a number of the Wesley children squealed merrily from the floating mattress.

The only thing that started to scare the children was a sound that started to happen, they described it as sounding like a trailing robe was following them around the house, staying with them wherever they went.

One of the girls declared that she had seen the ghost of a man wearing a long, white robe that dragged on the floor. A number of the servants testified that they had seen the head of a creature that resembled a rodent peering out at them from a crack near the kitchen fireplace.

As suddenly as the poltergeist activity started, it abruptly stopped at the end of January 1720. While the entity never returned to harass Epworth Rectory with its mischief, the memory of its disruptive period of occupancy has remained to challenge both scholars of Christian history and the paranormal for more than two centuries.

Among the 19 children of the Reverend Samuel Wesley who witnessed the phenomena were John and Charles, the founders of Methodism and the authors of some of Christendom’s best-loved hymns.

Now you have read the story of the haunting of Epworth Rectory, make sure you read the dark story behind the black eyed children of Cannock Chase.


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