Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmission No.89: The Other Sounds

The oxidised copper cladding of the belltower in this image lends a quaint charm to a church with an otherwise strange and sinister recent history. Built in the late 1800s on the border of Northwich and Harlowe, the Church of St. John the Divine was inexplicably deconsecrated in the 1900s, and subsequently purchased by James Boreham. Needless to say, it was not long before stories began circulating regarding the unhallowed rites supposedly being enacted on once-sacred ground - unearthly sounds and atonal piping heard emenating from the place at ungodly hours being treated as clear evidence of this fact. During this period, renovations were undertaken to the church's belltower, resulting in its current layer of copper cladding.

After Boreham had been legally declared dead, the church was sold to the Methodist Church of Great Britain, in whose hands it remains to this day. A few years ago, however, one of the congregation was found hanging - his neck broken - from the rope used to ring the bell in the church's belltower. This individual - one John Stanley - was, in fact, the person to whom the role of bell-ringer had belonged exclusively for over a decade. At the time of his passing, the church's pastor noted that Stanley had, in fact, been suffering from severe tinnitus; from this it was inferred that Stanley took his own life.
Having personally suffered from the condition myself, I can attest to the hellish, alienating horror that an extended period of tinnitus can produce. 

In this instance, however, it appears not to have been Stanley's tinnitus alone that prompted his suicide; rather, his act of self-immolation may have been the result of what he sometimes referred to as 'the Other Sounds': an awful sonic presence which apparently lurked just beneath the surface of the constant, interiorised ringing of his tinnitus.

Indeed, it seems that his desire to remain as the church's principle bell-ringer was because this activity, whilst probably causing his tinnitus to worsen, nonetheless sublimated those 'Other Sounds', ridding him of them for a short while. A confidante of Stanley later admitted that it was his friend's fear of losing his hearing entirely - subsequently becoming trapped in a world otherwise silent but for the constant ringing and the presence of those 'Other Sounds' - which precipitated the taking of his own life in such a spectacularly grotesque fashion: the conclusive peals of the church's bell coinciding with the snapping of his neck, thus announcing the decisive and terminal cessation of those 'Other Sounds'.

There is a sequel, of sorts, to this tale. The investigation in the aftermath of Stanley's death revealed some unusual features about the belltower: curious symbols had at some point been carved into the inside of the tower walls, and the bell itself - soon after replaced with a new one - was discovered to have similar symbols inscribed about its circumference. In addition to which, the campanologist who examined the bell claimed that these inscriptions were not only later additions to the piece, but had somehow lent the bell a subtly-distorted and sinister tonal quality when struck.

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