A disappearing ghost story
'Want to hear a local ghost story?' one of my lovely colleagues at ProperJob asked.
'Yes please,' we all replied. 'It is that time of year, after all.'
'My mum told me this,' she said-
A long time ago, high on the white cliffs of Beachy Head, there was a monastery famous for its plainsong. One night, during a terrible storm, the cliff collapsed, as chalk cliffs do. The monastery’s chapel and all the monks within it fell into the sea and perished. On stormy nights, their song can still be heard.
'Ooh,' we oohed.
I love Sussex folklore, but the singing monks did not give me the story tickles. They didn’t feel true to me. Not because I can’t make myself believe in ghosts, that’s easy, but because Beachy Head is too wildly exposed a spot for monks to hang out (robes a-flapping) or for anyone to be there during a storm in order to be haunted.
Being too often wrong, I checked for the folklore down a rabbit-hole.
Where I found the Black Monk. He is a frequently spotted singular and fair-weather ghost of Beachy Hea
d. He steers walkers closer to the cliff edge and urges them to jump off. On other days (and at low tide, presumably), he stands at the cliff’s foot beckoning and calling passers-by to jump. In 2017, a German tourist reportedly took the monk's photograph, though the local paper didn’t print it. Many people have reported feeling themselves strangely drawn to the cliff edge, even police officers and jazz musicians.
Spooky dillows, right? Except Mr Monk’s said to be from way up the road in Michelham Priory. What’s he doing on Beachy Head? Frankly, I’ve been into Michelham Priory, once and in some rooms only for a goosebumpled moment, and I reckon Mr Monk would fit right in there. Even worse, the story goes that Mr Monk wants to tempt walkers to their death because he’s still a bit peeved about The Reformation.
Poof! Incredulity restored.
A local ghost expert (gosh, what a job title) has confirmed that nobody mentioned the Black Monk of Beachy Head until after a suspiciously similar character appeared in the coincidentally entitled Demon of Beachy Head comic book, which was not from The Reformation but from 1961.
Ah. Mystery solved, just like in Scooby Doo, but with fewer comedy chases.
However, part way along the rabbit-hole, I found the strange-but-true tale of Parson Darby’s Hole. Now, that one really does give me the story tickles. Delicious.