All Saints Church & The Holbeach Gamblers
There were once four men of Holbeach, by the names of Slator, Watson, Barker and Codling who would, in the closing years of the 18th century, would regularly meet at the Chequers Inn in the town. Their heavy drinking was always accompanied by rowdy gambling over the card table, until, one day in 1793, the death of Mr. Codling put and end to their sport.
The day before the funeral, the three remaining gamblers met at the Chequers and, as usual, began drinking heavily, bewailing the loss of their friend and lamenting that their days of fun were now over. Mr. Watson, however, had an idea. He suggested that they head over to All Saints Church, where Codling’s body was waiting, and spend one last night in his company before they consigned him to the cold ground. They called for another pitcher of ale each and staggered along the road to the church.
They stumbled inside, and finding the coffin, lifted off the lid and took out the body, sitting it beside them. They then overturned the coffin and began to use it as a card table, each of them taking turns at playing the corpse’s hand! Codling did well, and was congratulated on playing much better than he had done in life!
When the clock struck midnight however, the gamblers where horrified to see the corpse’s face turn towards them with a ghoulish sneer. The friends’ terror increased as Codling’s body began cackling hysterically. Mr. Slator made a dash for the door, and as he did so, he looked back to see his two living companions being pounced upon by several impish looking goblins.
Slator ran back to the Chequers for help as fast as his legs could carry him, breathlessly screaming his story to everyone in the packed pub. A few of the bravest men agreed to accompany him back to the church, but the blood-curdling screams and demonic laughter coming from within were enough to make them all steadfastly refuse to enter until morning.
When daylight did finally arrive, they found no sign of Watson or Barker. Codling’s body was laid in its coffin upon the floor, but the lid was missing and there was a malicious grin on his face.
Slator never recovered from the shock of what he’d seen, and died a few weeks later. No one ever heard from the two missing men again, and the belief in Holbeach was that they had been carted off to hell where they belonged for gambling in a church, and with a corpse to boot. It is said that if you pass All Saints’ church late at night you may still see a light in the window. Those brave enough to enter the church then will be met by Mr. Watson and Mr. Barker, playing cards upon a coffin and inviting their unexpected guests to join their game! Of course, it would be very unwise to do so……..
Author: P A McHugh