MEETING HOUSE PHANTOMS

The Friends’ Meeting House, in Prince Albert Street, Brighton, dates 1805. It was originally a rather modest establishment until further extensions were added in 1875. It was built on land that once belonged to the Priory of St. Bartholomew. The gardens were originally a Quaker burial ground where some 54 adults and 34 children were placed in unmarked graves.

Enter the gardens and you might sense a strange, muted eeriness about the place. Those more attuned to the paranormal have frequently felt ill at ease while approaching the building. Peer through the heavy wrought iron gates in the shadowy twilight and you will understand why. An overwhelming sadness seems to emanate about the place. There have certainly been many reports of unexplained sightings and strange goings on in the building over the years.

The rear wall to the building has long been associated with the spirit of Brighton’s famous wandering nun. Revisionists, however, have claimed that the apparition is more likely to been that of a Quaker woman who plain nineteenth century costume could easily be mistaken for a nun’s cowl. Certainly the figure of a grey haired woman has been seen about the building. Some years ago a former warden witnessed the vague figure of a grey haired woman walking about late at night in the cottage where he lived. On entering the place he found no one there.

One evening a choir had been practising in the Meeting House. Following their rehearsal several members of the choir approached the warden to ask who the grey haired lady was who had been watching them. The warden was startled to hear this as the doors to the building had been locked for the duration of the rehearsal. Furthermore, there had been no one else in the building.

More recently, the current warden, Terry Byrne, was alone in the Meeting House one evening and had been convinced he had seen a grey haired lady going up the stairs. He went to investigate but, on searching the upper floor of the building, found no one there.

Interestingly, the figure of a little girl, dressed in nineteenth century attire, has also been seen in the grounds of the Friends’ Meeting House. She made her fleeting appearance perched on the steps to the rear of the building in Meeting House Lane. A local man, who claimed to have had several paranormal experiences in his lifetime, caught a brief glimpse of her one evening in the spring of 2009. Whilst walking past the back gate he saw a little girl of around three years of age sitting quietly on the doorstep. Glancing back he noted that the child had suddenly disappeared. The man’s double take had been so swift it would not have afforded the child enough time to scamper off. Curiously, in the same vicinity in 1997, a little girl of around the same age had been seen in the basement of a shop called Bears and Friends. The child was said to have looked dejected and of unkempt appearance. A customer was quite taken by the child and was about to speak to her when she simply vanished.

Perhaps the most famous account of ghostly activity, surrounding the Friends’ Meeting House, was when two young ladies, attending an evening class, found themselves locked inside the building. This unfortunate incident occurred one evening in 1997.

Following their class, the two ladies went to use the toilets. When they came to leave, however, they discovered the place was in darkness and the doors locked. The two girls sat at the foot of the stairs and made several attempts to contact the lecturer on their mobile phone, but received no reply. They therefore left a recorded message and waited in the hope that he might soon pick up on it. They sat in the semi-darkness pondering who else they might call should they fail to get a response. The hollowness of the deserted building now seemed to echo their every move, causing them to feel particularly ill at ease.

Nevertheless, they settled themselves down and waited patiently for the phone to ring. They were about to make another attempt to phone the lecturer when they were surprised to hear keys turning in a lock. An overwhelming sense of relief swept over them. They immediately assumed it was the warden doing his rounds and so got up to greet him. The sound of keys was heard once more, followed by a prolonged and uncomfortable silence. Suddenly posters and notes, which were pinned to a notice board, began to flutter as if someone was brushing past. Confusion turned to fear causing the two young ladies to huddle close together. Eventually the sound of jangling keys began to fade and the posters rested silent and still against the noticeboard once more. Whatever had passed down the corridor had now gone.

Eventually the two girls managed to contact a relative who, in turn, called the police. Finally a key holder was located and the two rather shaken young ladies were released. Following their disturbing ordeal the two girls were cautious enough never to use the ladies’ facilities again following an evening lecture.

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