Shirley Ross had
just moved into one of two apartments built in a 500-year-old English farmhouse,
when her friend named Stella Herbert came from Australia for an extended visit
in July, 1965.
Mrs. Herbert was
exhausted from her journey and went to bed early. Sometime later, she awoke to
find a young boy dressed in white pajamas, kneeling beside her bed. He stared at
her with the saddest eyes she had ever seen. His face was so thin and drawn she
was sure that, if he tried to stand up, he would surely keel right over.
The boy's silent
expression pleaded with Mrs. Herbert. She sat up in bed and studied his face
more carefully. As she did, she heard a voice inside her head: "Call mummy,
call mummy. She's in the next room."
Mrs. Herbert knew
that the boy wasn't one of the Ross children; they were all grown and living
She looked at his
face again. His expression was so insistent that she finally said out
hands began to claw at her arm.
his face said. "Please I need your help. Please."
His pleading look
upset her so much that her eyes filled with tears.
she said again.
He reached toward
her and placed his hands on her shoulders, as if he were begging her to call his
she called in a loud, clear voice.
At that moment, he
disappeared. And Mrs. Herbert was so overcome with fatigue that she fell asleep
and didn't awake until Mrs. Ross knocked on her door the next morning.
She told Mrs. Ross
about her encounter with the boy.
"I never heard
a sound," Mrs. Ross said.
"I'm not sure
how loudly I was speaking," Mrs. Herbert explained. "I'm sure I
thought I was screaming. He was so desperate. The look in his eyes was so
pitiful. And when he clawed my arm, the sensation was so vivid that I can still
feel it now." She rubbed her forearm.
"I'm sure I
would have been quite scared, Mrs. Ross said. "Being a ghost and all."
"But that's the
odd part.," Mrs. Herbert replied. "I wasn't frightened at all. I just
felt so badly for the boy. "
By evening, Mrs.
Herbert was so upset about the boy's visit that Mrs. Ross questioned her
next-door neighbor who had lived at Vicarage Farm her entire life.
"Did a little
boy ever die in the house?" she asked.
brother Johnnie," the neighbor said.
"Then come next
door with me and listen to my friend. She has had an experience you'll want to
Mrs. Herbert's story
upset the neighbor so much that she cried. "You saw Johnnie-my brother-who
died when he was five," she said. Forty-four years earlier, in 1921, he had
become ill. At that time, the house had not been divided, and Johnnie's bedroom
was the one now used by Mrs. Herbert.
meningitis," the neighbor said, "and he became terribly thin. The way
you describe him is how he looked before he died. It was such an awful time for
all of us. Sometimes he had spells when he seemed quite normal; then there were
times when he'd shout with pain and cry and call for Mummy, as if he couldn't
During the last few
months of his life, he lay in his mother's bedroom-the one now used by Mrs.
Ross. During that hot summer, his mother and sister took turns placing ice on
his forehead in a futile attempt to reduce his temperature. Finally, on August
21st, he died, an emaciated boy of five.
believe that you saw him," the neighbor said to Mrs. Herbert.
"Oh yes, he was
definitely there," Mrs. Herbert said. "It was no dream."
overjoyed," was all the neighbor could say. That night, and for the rest of
her stay at Vicarage Farm, Mrs. Herbert's sleep was undisturbed. The little
boy's ghost was never seen again.
ŠJames M. Deem.
Originally published as Chapter 5 in Ghost Hunters
(Avon Books, 1992). All rights reserved.