Epworth Old Rectory
Epworth Rectory has a lot of historical interest, being the childhood home of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. His father, the Revd. Samuel Wesley, arrived at the rectory with his wife Susanna in 1696. Thirteen years later, the original house was destroyed by fire. Thinking everyone had been evacuated, it was only by chance that someone looked up to see the figure of the Wesley’s four year old son, John, standing at an upstairs window. John was rescued by the others forming a human ladder, and his mother was sure that her son’s lucky escape meant he was a “brand plucked from the burning for a special destiny”.
A new rectory was built on the site the same year, and soon afterwards Emily, the family’s eldest daughter, began to hear scratching, knocking and footprints which could not be accounted for. She named the spectre ‘Old Jeffrey’ after a man who had died in the previous rectory.
Old Jeffrey began to be heard by other members of the family. Visitors and servants also reported unaexplained experiences. Samuel Wesley reported that whenever he said family prayers for King George the sounds became more violent, but did not occur when they were omitted. He therefore assumed Old Jeffrey was a Jacobite!
The phenomena got gradually worse over time, with the family reporting chairs and bottles spontaneously breaking, doors bursting open, beds levitating and the family dog becoming very agitated. Old Jeffrey began to be see occasionally although no-one seems to agree on what he looked like. Emily reported he looked like an old man in a white nightgown, while her mother claimed he was a white rabbit. A maidservant even claimed he was a headless badger!
The family’s experience with the poltergeist left a lasting impression on John Wesley, who wrote “With my latest breath will I bear witness…..one great proof of the invisible world, I mean that of witchcraft and apparitions, confirmed by the testimony of all ages.”