Mar 2 2010

The Ghost Of A Wheelbarrow

A couple of years ago we bought a house. Half a house, really, as it was the end of a 19th-century cottage. We’d been living there for a month or two when we found something peculiar in the letterbox. It was a sepia photograph of the house, which you can see below. (Click for full size.)

The print was in a cheap cardboard frame of the kind you might have used for class photographs in at school. There was no writing on it, no leaflet, nor any other explanation. It had almost certainly been delivered while I’d been in the house, so whoever had dropped it off clearly had no intention of explaining themselves. We put this mysterious gift above the fire and occasionally pointed it out – along with the accompanying tale of anonymity – to visitors.

Months later and my mother had come by. She – as is her inclination – went off to nearby second-hand bookshops, returning with random publications for us and the rest of my family. One of these included a book of photographs of the local area. Two of these photographs were of our house, and one of them was the photograph which had been put into our letterbox.

The caption read: “(c1903.) Here the photo-grapher has gathered a small group of ladies, and a dog, to stand still long enough for this superb picture to be constructed.”

That isn’t a dog. It’s a wheelbarrow.

Intrigued by this mistake, we began to discuss what this could mean. We soon realised that our house, being old and creaky, must be haunted by the ghost of a wheelbarrow. Perhaps the wheelbarrow was already dead when this picture was taken, and its appearance in the photograph is actually some kind of warning. The wheelbarrow could quite easily be the West Country equivalent of the black dog of legend.

Later, when clearing away the heavy undergrowth in the back garden, we found a standing stone. A gravestone. Who or what could be buried here?

The answer seemed clear: our house had been built on an ancient wheelbarrow burial ground.