People sometimes find some strange things just lying around. All sorts of things have been found in old basements, attics, and even the walls, but the strangest of these are arcane or haunted objects, and here we have a tale of one such haunted item that was not only found in the most unlikely of places, but also managed to find its way to be displayed at a haunted house. Our strange story here begins in 1988, at a humble jeweler’s shop on East Street, in the seaside town of Brighton, England. The shop had gone down under in 1984, and at the time, the jeweler, a Mr. Tony Benyovits, was going about having the shop demolished. It went fairly normally at first, but as one of the walls was being torn down, he noticed something tucked away within. There, walled in for who knew how long was a large, battered old leather-bound book of some sort, which upon closer inspection turned out to be a ledger for the shop. It was dated to 1915, with many of the entries cryptic or illegible, and a large portion of it seemed to be missing, having been torn out at some point. Benyovits brought it to his home in Kent to examine it further, finding that the parts that could be read were mostly just normal everyday shop talk such as transactions and jewelry listings, and although there was very little indication of who exactly had written it or why it had been locked away in the wall one thing that did become clear was that something had followed this mysterious book home.
Almost immediately after the book arrived, Benyovitz and his family began experiencing various paranormal phenomena around the house, including anomalous noises, disembodied whispering, and most frightening of all, full on apparitions. Benovitz’s daughter, Josephine, apparently received the brunt of most of this paranormal activity, and would claim to have seen the apparitions of a group of men, women, and children, as well as that of a soldier atop a steed and other shadow figures. This all got steadily more intense, with the father seeing the specters as well, until one evening the phantom soldier spoke to them, giving them a mysterious command to return the ledger to Brighton for the centenary of its first entry, which was dated December 7, 1915. While it doesn’t appear that the ghost specifically gave any consequences for if the book wasn’t returned, they apparently got the impression that it would be dire if it wasn’t. Not knowing what to do, they contacted the owners of a location called Preston Manor, which would open up a new strange chapter to the story, as it is every bit as haunted as the ledger.
The Preston Manor has been around in one form or another for a while. Originally built when the area was the 13th century Sussex village of Preston, now part of Brighton, the house we can see today was built in 1738 by Lord of the manor Thomas Western. It has passed through several owners over the centuries, including the rich and powerful Stanford family, who in 1932 donated it to Brighton Corporation, who turned it into a museum and exhibition venue. It has also accrued a long tradition of hauntings, and indeed it is said to be one of the most haunted houses in England, a fact they proudly display by offering frequent ghost tours.
The cast of ghostly characters at the manor is long. There is supposedly a spectral lady in white, a lady in grey, another lady in black, and a phantom 16th century Roman Catholic nun who calls herself Agnes, supposedly buried on unconsecrated land after being excommunicated in life. Adding to the roster are phantom men, various shadow figures, a little boy riding a toy tractor, and an “immensely evil” presence that lurks in one of the bedrooms at the southwest side of the building and is purportedly very vicious. This evil entity was long said to terrorize anyone who stayed in the room, shaking the bed ripping off covers, or looming over the bed. Indeed, the entire southwest area is said to be the most haunted area of the manor, with all kinds of strange things going on, including frightening phenomena such as guests being pushed or shoved, or having holes inexplicably cut from their clothes. Another very haunted area of the manor is what is called the Cleve Room, a leather clad room once used as a smoking room and sitting room for guests and later used for séances in an effort to try and communicate with the various spirits roaming about.
This incredibly haunted place was where the Benyovitses wanted to send their incredibly haunted book, and so they spoke with the manor’s venue officer, Paula Wrightson, whose job partly involves organizing the ghost hunts and the paranormal researchers, as well as TV shows such as Most Haunted, who come through looking for the strange. She was apprehensive at first, but ended up accepting it, sensing that the family was truly upset about what they had been experiencing since receiving the ledger. She has said of receiving the enigmatic book:
At first we weren’t sure whether we’d take this apparently ordinary, 100-year-old shop ledger – until the family impressed on us quite how scared they were of having the book in their keeping. When I had a phone conversation with Josephine she seemed petrified! I had the family deliver the book to Preston Manor, which they did immediately from Kent, and it sat on my desk for a couple of weeks. During that time, I had a meeting with a spiritual medium who was taking part in an event here, and she said she felt the book had ‘bad things’ emanating from it. For me personally, the most interesting aspect of the book is that the entries show what was sold in the shop exactly 100 years ago – but it remains to be seen whether there’s more to it than that.
The supposed haunted ledger has remained at Preston Manor ever since, where it is even put on display on occasion, although considering the large amount of paranormal activity that the manor already has, it is hard to know if the book’s spirits have been appeased. Whatever the case may be, it has found a new home, although we may never know just who put it in that wall or why. In the meantime, the Preston Manor is open for ghost tours, and it is by all accounts plenty haunted enough with or without the book.