Grisley Happenings in Holbeach - An extract from Tales They Tell

We all, it seems, love a good ghost story. On a frosty night in mid-winter and under a full moon there comes a masochistic delight in gathering round the fire and scaring the wits out of each other with stories of the traditional ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties; not to mention the things that go bump in the night! Perhaps this fascination for the mysterious and unknown is an in-built legacy we have from the days when superstition ruled the lives of everyone, from the lowest swineherd to the king himself. The fens are, of course, rife with ghost stories fit to chill the blood, including this grisly little gem from the pleasant Lincolnshire market town of Holbeach. The story tells us of 4 friends who would meet to play cards on a regular basis at the Chequers Inn. In fact it was so regular that they seemed to spend all their time there, making merry and gambling at their cards, much to the disgust of their respective wives no doubt. In those far off days, the licensing laws were very lax, if non-existant, providing a cosy haven for the menfolk during winter when the land was frozen for weeks on end. So it can be seen that our 4 farmer friends had plenty of opportunity to imbibe the nut brown fluid at their leisure. Just occasionally their game would end in argument and the odd fist would fly, but generally speaking they got on well and enjoyed the rowdy nights spent at their table in the Chequers. Then, suddenly, one of the 4 died. He was farmer Guymer and the three remaining friends mourned his loss deeply. The card school was abandoned for several weeks until at last the memory of Guymer began to fade. Then one night, during a drunken spree at the Chequers the 3 friends decided to have a special game of cards as a kind of final testimonial to their departed friend. They staggered off to collect picks and shovels and met again at the entrance to the graveyard about half an hour later. The night was pitch black, but they managed to find their way to Guymer's grave where they proceeded to dig until they reached the coffin. When they felt their spades strike the wood they all paused, as if uncertain whether to continue. The cold night air was having a sobering effect and the idea of playing cards with a dead man was beginning to loose its appeal. However, they had a break where a flask of whisky was produced which quickly returned them to the original jovial state of mind. Without a second thought they tore the lid from the coffin and dragged their stiff friend from the dark depths. They all 4 then proceeded to the church, where they entered and set up their gaming table by the alter. What a macabre sight this must have produced as well as one of total desecration. The cards were dealt by candlelight, Guymer playing as Dummy. When it came to his turn one of the friends played his hand. This went on till midnight when suddenly a terrifying scream filled the church and the 3 friends saw the figure of Guymer slowly turn into a horrible, leering beast with saliva trickling from its lips. The table, cards and money were all overturned as the farmers made as if to beat a very hasty retreat. They never reached the door. As the blood curdling scream reached its crescendo, 3 strange figures shot from the church floor, each grabbing one of the farmers by the waist. Frozen stiff with fear, the farmers were then dragged into oblivion, and as far as I know they rest there to this very day. The following day was a Sunday, so the worshippers were the first to see the horrid and grisly sight of Guymer propped against the alter rail, with an ashen grin of triumph on his face! Sweet dreams dear reader!

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