Paranormal Politics

A polarising poltergeist sowed division in 18th-century England. 

Epworth Rectory, 19th century. Alamy.
Epworth Rectory, 19th century. Alamy.

On the first day of December 1716 one of the Wesley family’s maids heard groans in the rectory. She described them as sounding like someone on the point of death. It was the first appearance of the ghost that for four months would haunt the rectory at Epworth in Lincolnshire, where Samuel Wesley, father of John and Charles, the founders of Methodism, was rector. In the days that followed, the family, including eight children at home, all heard knockings, usually in the nursery. At first, Samuel was the only family member who did not hear it; Susanna, his wife, feared this meant that it might be a warning of his impending death. Susanna also wondered whether it was a sign that her two sons, who were at school in London, were in danger. 

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