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The Ghost Light of BaconsCastle and LawnesCreek Church

Ben N. Keys, Jr.


For more than fifty-five years I have been closely associated with the phenomenon of the ghost light of Bacons Castle and Lawnes Creek Parish Church, one of the most famous and reliable of legendary ghosts. My association came about as a result of having spent much of my life in the immediate area listening intently to tales from local folk who had either seen the ‘light’ or knew someone who had. Being of an inquisitive nature, I became intrigued and could not let go of the subject without knowing if it really did exist, why it performed the way it did and if it could possibly be related to some austere or tragic event in history. In the early days before the age of the computer, there had been only one method available to research historical data and it was an exercise far too cumbersome and time consuming for just the average person. I guess that is why no one had heretofore bothered to research and publish any information on the subject. Now that I am an ‘old timer’ and seem to have more time to devote to such matters plus now having a computer to assist me, it has become easy to research in a matter of minutes what would have taken months or years in the old days. As a youth I once read an old proverb which embedded itself indelibly in my mind and would always justify my insatiable curiosity: "A wise man asks, a fool wonders." I considered this to be extremely good philosophy and never failed to use it in my favor. Whenever I became perplexed by something I did not understand, I simply made a mental note or jotted down all pertinent information and then put it aside to research at a later date. As a youth, I was far too active to take time to research and compile data, much less trying to write an article but the idea stayed in my head and has only recently resurfaced. Such was the case with the ‘ghost light.’ It became so deeply imbedded in my psyche that it would not go away and some fifty-five years later I am continuing to read and hear many convoluted and distorted tales about the ‘light.’ I find myself perplexed at how seemingly real facts (sic) could get so twisted over the years. One tale I still hear repeated over and over, relates how the ‘light’ is really an ‘orange fireball’ that will often chase people, strike them, set their hair and clothes on fire and kill them! In my fifty years of living in the immediate vicinity and knowing practically everything that went on, I was never privileged to hear of anyone being chased or killed by an ‘orange fireball’! But to some this tale does heighten the intrigue surrounding the ‘light!’ Even today where we have the computer and the internet along with the very latest in sophisticated electronic equipment to assist and fill in the voids, to my knowledge no one has attempted to research and compile anything that would explain the existence of the ‘light!’ So it looks like it will be up to me. It would please me to share the knowledge I have been able to amass over the years with others before I become too senile to ‘get it all together.’ I will soon have my seventy-second birthday and that realization was enough to start me writing.

I would like to point out first and foremost that this is in no way a scientific or historical document. I will simply try to enlighten you with existing data I have extracted from historical files as well as from all the local legends that have persisted since the ‘light’ first came into being a long, long time ago. A great deal of what I have currently uncovered appears to be quite contradictory even to some of the data I collected from the hand-me-down local legends I heard back in my youth. Putting my best foot forward, I have tried to correlate all that old legendary data with my latest findings. All too often I have become ‘stonewalled’ when my best efforts turned into a frustrating exercise in futility. Bear in mind however, I have researched only those dates and events that could shed light on the subject and refrained from contradicting any associated historical data. All too often unsubstantiated changes to historical writings can be instrumental in forcing erroneous conclusions to otherwise real happenings.

My most challenging research came into play when I attempted to learn the origin of the first Arthur Allen to arrive in Jamestown in 1649. There was not one iota of information in any historical document I could locate that explained where he came from, why he came to Jamestown or why he came at such a late period in his life. Where had he obtained his apparently immense wealth and why had he built such an extraordinary example of a Jacobean mansion in this primeval ‘New World’? Who had designed his ‘great manor house’ for him?

The first mention of him was in 1649 when he recorded his first parcel of land in the ‘New World.’ Several years later after acquiring several other additional land parcels, he started his ‘great manor house.’ It was completed in 1665 as he reached the age of fifty-seven. Unfortunately, he only got to live in and enjoy it for three years before he passed away. Why had he done all this so late in life? That question still bothered me and I ran into a stone wall until I found a tiny clue in some of old hand-me-down information I had remembered from my youth. I took this one tidbit and it led me off into an entirely different direction. Needless to say, I was astounded when it began to pay off. This particular research took me to Ashover in Derbyshire England, the ancient seat of the Allen and Allyn families. I stumbled onto data there that might tie Arthur Allen back to the House of Hanover, the Royal Family in Germany and ancestors of the English Monarchy of today. From there the research mushroomed out into a multitude of other directions with none ever proving conclusive. I may not live long enough to research and tie it all together but at least a great deal of what I uncovered is beginning to come together which may provide an explanation for the existence of the ‘light’.

Hopefully, before I leave this world I will have at least some of the answers I have sought for so long. If after reading this article, your curiosity has been tweaked and you are not satisfied with what you have read, then go off on your own with the same information I have related to you and who knows, it may be you and your computer who will uncover that one little tidbit of information that I overlooked and with it may finally come that much sought after clue as to why this ‘ghost light’ exists. Again I re-emphasize my purpose has not been to challenge or distort established historical facts but to try to uncover the mystery surrounding the ‘light’ and then tie it all together. If all our efforts prove successful, then someday we may be able to understand one of life’s great paranormal mysteries.

©BNKeys, Paranormalplus.com2003

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