Sunday, October 31, 2010

WATERWORKS VALLEY

WATERWORKS VALLEY, in the parish of St Lawrence in the Channel Island of Jersey, is named after the great number of reservoirs and pumping stations found along it. Even in the daytime, it is a brooding, haunting place, overcast as it is by a thick layer of trees and foliage. It is damp and dark, and people are often forgiven for seeing or hearing things. Sometimes there is no mistaking the ghostly sights and sounds that occur. Countless people have seen it pass by, and even more have run away after hearing it approach. This, they say, is the ‘Phantom Carriage’.

The stories often follow a similar pattern. Usually the events occur in the evening and begin with the muffled ringing of bells – the unearthly music is said to sound more like wedding bells than anything sombre. Gradually, mixed with ringing, another noise becomes discernible. It is the sound of horses trotting along the valley, accompanied by the spinning, bumping rattles of a carriage. Emerging from the gloom, witnesses spot the procession which is clothed in eighteenth century costume. They see that the coach’s passenger is a bride in her wedding dress, but as it rolls past witnesses see the face behind the veil. It is the haggard skull of a corpse.

One tale of explanation claims that in the early eighteenth century a girl who was due to be married at St Lawrence parish church was disappointed at the altar. It is said she committed suicide that evening, and the apparition is a representation of her timeless sorrow. Another variation of the story is that she committed suicide on the eve of the wedding, but her ghostly figure appeared at the church the next day anyway. It was only as the groom lifted the veil that he noticed the pale lifeless face of a corpse underneath. Many people believe the phenomenon happens only once a year at a specific time. But there are so many sightings, and such vivid recollections, that perhaps this poor girl’s misery is constant and never-ending.

*) Matt Lamy

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