A Ghost in Souldrop?
Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service has some work on Souldrop done by 21st Leicester Scout Group under its leader Dave Utting. One of the entries refers to the alleged ghost of a railway worker. In the early 1970s a woman moved into a house in the High Street: “Not long after moving in, a man appeared in her room one night. He was bare to the waist and wore labourer’s coarse trousers with a belt. He had not a flicker of expression and he seemed transparent: the mirror could be seen behind him. She said “hello” to him but he did not answer and eventually she dropped off to sleep”.
“He reappeared a few weeks later – again she said “hello” but got no response. This time he turned towards the partition dividing the upper room and disappeared through it. He has put in two or three more appearances, but since the furniture has been moved around he has not been seen”.
The house in question was a Bedford Estate cottage. The report indicates that the man was believed to be John James. The only John James buried in Souldrop was a six week old infant in 1852. On 21st December 1881 a man named John Jones, whose age is given as 35 in the register, was buried. He was constructing the nearby railway tunnel when he fell down a shaft and was killed.
The Bedfordshire Times for 24th December 1881 describes the inquest thus: “Mr. M. Whyley, county coroner, held an inquest at the Bedford Arms, Souldrop, on Wednesday [21st December], on the body of John Jones, aged 47. The deceased was employed at the new railway works in this parish, and was at work at No. 5 shaft. He was in the night “shift” on Monday night helping a man named Taylor, loading skips with bricks. The deceased was standing near the top of the shaft and seemed to slip when a trolley was approaching him. He fell down the shaft and was picked up dead. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidentally killed”, and recommended that the proper protection be fixed upon the trolleys so as to prevent the men falling down the shaft in case of their missing their hold”.
On the face of it, it seems most unlikely that the dead man had any connection with a cottage in the High Street. His address is given as “Railway Huts” and High Street properties would have been occupied by agricultural tenants of the Duke of Bedford.