Wesley Bros: Old Jeffrey

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10042014

Believe it or not, the childhood home of John Wesley was haunted by a specter the children named “Old Jeffrey.” While the three boys were all off at boarding schools, Susanna, the Wesley sisters, and the servants at the Epworth Rectory experienced one of the most famous poltergeist encounters in British history. It started with loud noises and moving objects frightening the servants and children. Susanna and Samuel wrote it off as cruel neighbors playing pranks, until Susanna began to experience the phenomena as well. Samuel insisted that if it wasn’t the neighbors than it was the lovers of his older daughters sneaking into the house and up to no good. The superstition of the day was that haunting was an omen of imminent death for the person who was NOT experiencing it, so the family first feared for Papa Samuel, who was the last to hear or see anything. Samuel bought a large mastiff to protect the family, but once he confronted the unknown intruder, the dog cowered in fear and whimpered every time the sounds filled the house. Old Jeffery took different forms: Susanna saw him once as a headless badger-like animal scuttling under the beds; one daughter witnessed a body-less men’s gown clunking behind her in the dark. The family feared one of their sons at boarding school had died and was haunting them. When all their sons finally wrote back, anxiety diminished and they assumed Old Jeffrey was the ghost of someone who had died on the property before they moved in. The family grew accustomed to Old Jeffrey, even fond of him, until one day all paranormal phenomena ceased as quickly as it had begun.

John Wesley was a bit of a ghost hunter (which I hope to explore in the future), believing ghosts were evidence of the spiritual world, and therefore an imperative part of convincing non-believers in the existence of God. John (called Jackie as a child), wrote that Old Jeffrey was a curse on his father for abandoning Susanna and the children for about a year because Susanna had supported a different king. Almost every member of the Wesley household wrote letters or journals about Old Jeffrey, even years after the commotion ended.

Charlie Baber

Rev. Charlie Baber is author and illustrator of the weekly web comic: Wesley Bros. When he isn’t finding new ways to mash-up church history with modern culture, he has actual responsibilities as a Deacon serving at Highland UMC in Raleigh, NC. Check out Charlie’s site at www.wesleybros.com.

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