BLACK DARRELL – A Ramsbury Ghost Story

All the kids at school were talking about the ghost story. They said if you counted all 100 nails on the church door at midnight, the ghost of “Black Darrell” would rise up and get you.  Tom didn’t believe a word of it but when he told everyone ghosts didn’t exist, they dared him to try it.

That night, Tom went to bed early and waited until his mum and dad were asleep. As soon as he heard his dad snoring, he got changed back into his clothes and crept out of the house.   Outside, the village felt cold and damp.   A pale half moon shone through thin clouds, and the night was full of strange noises.

It wasn’t far to the church but everything looked different at night. He reached the lychgate at the entrance to the graveyard and saw the clock on the tower was showing nearly midnight. It was hard to see the path and he inched his way over to the church door.  He was nearly there when he tripped over something in the shadows and fell to the ground.  As he picked himself back up, his hand closed on something small and heavy.  It was long and pointed and felt old and rough – like an old-fashioned nail.  A shiver ran down his body.  Suddenly he wasn’t feeling as brave as before but he was determined to go through with it.

He stood in front of the massive oak door. “Come on,” he said to himself, “let’s do this.”  He began to count: 1… 2… 3… In the dark, he had to feel for each nail in turn.  97… 98… 99…  That was all of them.  There weren’t even 100 after all! Tom laughed out loud.  It really had just been a silly story.   But then he realised what he was holding in his hand.  He uncurled his fist and looked down at – another door nail.  He heard a voice.  “Onnnneeee hunnnnnnddreddddd….”  It was a harsh whisper, like a cold wind blowing through old bones.   Out of the corner of his eye he saw a dark shadow.  A shadow?  At night?  How could that be? The shadow rose up, like a tall figure draped in black, arms outstretched. Tom ran.  The shadow seemed to chase him.  Tom sprinted for the gate.  He could feel cold breath on his neck.  He could imagine long, bony fingers reaching to grab him.  He flung himself through the lychgate and fell sprawling on the tarmac.  He looked up and saw the shadow melt away with an angry sigh. Tom ran all the way home.

When he awoke next morning he thought he must have had a terrible nightmare, full of dark shadows, ghostly whispers, and graves. It couldn’t have been real, could it?   But his knees hurt and, when he looked, they were scabbed and grazed like he had fallen over in the playground.  And he could also see, still clenched in his right hand, a single, rusty door nail.

By James (age 9)