Tag Archives: foxes

Ghostly Presence

costumed man

"Tower Ghost", by Kerry McFall

Finally finished a piece from the Tower of London “Locked In” session… it’s really all about the outfit, obviously, but I was trying for a ghostly effect!  If being in the Tower of London at night doesn’t confirm your belief in ghosts,  seeing a fox glide around an ancient churchyard on a moonlit night will…

sketch of fox moving

"Churchyard Ghost", colored pencil by Kerry McFall

We are now staying in “The Watch House” in the Bethnal Green/ Shoreditch area of London.  The Watchhouse on the corner of St Matthew’s Churchyard was built in 1754.  With the growing trade in human corpses for dissection, in 1792 it was necessary to appoint a watchman who was paid ten shillings and sixpence a week to be on permanent guard against resurrectionists. A reward of two guineas was granted for the apprehension of any body-snatchers and the watchman was provided with a blunderbuss and permission to fire from an upper window, once a rattle had been sounded three times.  The churchwardens still hold this right.   Our understanding is that by being residents of that room, we hold the rights, and we take our responsibility seriously.  Which is why I was looking out the upstairs window last night, secretly hoping to spot some kind of spiritual goings-on… when something actually floated between me and one of the park benches.  I caught my breath, thinking, “Careful what you wish for, dearie!”.

Never mind that there are no longer any graves here.  As our host Sebastion told us, “Hitler cleaned out the church and the graveyard with two direct bomb hits.  The former residents were scattered to Kingdom Come…”  Ironic, given the lengths to which the good people of the church had gone to keep them here.  The church yard is now essentially a city park, with just one surviving grave marker, all pinkish-grey at night because of the nearby street lamps.  But graves or not, something was out there.  I leaned closer to the window, which of course fogged up because of my heavy breathing.  I rubbed a circle in the fog with my sleeve, and there it was again.  I called Griff to come see, but by the time he got up the winding, creaky, narrow stairs (it comes with the 250-year-old territory) it had vanished.  No, wait!  There!  By the foundation of the church, a fox crept along in the shadow, its impossibly fluffy tail floating behind it.  So graceful, so quick…then it vanished again.

This morning I checked on Google to be sure I hadn’t dreamed it.  Nope – there are evidently as many foxes in London as there are coyotes in California urban areas.  Sebastian confirmed that there are plenty in this neighborhood, he’s even found evidence that they have followed the cat through the open back window into the house!  They are not a healthy population, lots of mange and other diseases, so they are considered pests, but you’ve got to admire their chutzpah.  And my theory is that the foxes are probably one reason we haven’t seen a single rat here in London.