Who was the weeping child who flitted in and out of the old house? When I turned round the doorway was empty but I sensed the presence of someone. It was disturbing and my instinct was that I had been visited by a child
Pondering on his forthcoming sermon on the virtues of kindness and compassion on a warm Wednesday afternoon in August, The Rev George Carr glanced from his study window ... on to a scene which made his blood run cold.
Across the lawn of his Wiltshire vicarage a man was dragging a small weeping girl. Anxious to put his philosophies into action, the vicar hurried from the room and out into the garden. But when he reached the lawn it was empty. He scoured the garden but no one was there.
During the summer of 1938, George Carr, his wife and two daughters would become increasingly familiar with the phenomenon which became known as "the girl in white."
Today it is still regarded as one of the best documented of British psychical phenomenon, prompting followers of the paranormal to regard it as evidence of the existence of a world beyond our sight.
The Carr family had only moved into the vicarage for a few weeks before the two daughters, Janet aged 10 and Frances seven, began to talk about "the little girl in the garden."
Frances apparently told her mother: "When we're playing she comes up quite close but when I speak to her she runs away into the orchard and disappears.
"Sometimes there's an old man with her but I think she is frightened of him. I've seen him hit her and make her cry. I think someone should tell him off for being so unkind."
At first Mrs Carr assumed it was all a figment of the child's imagination. Then one day a week later, she saw the child for herself.
On that afternoon, Mrs Carr and a friend from the village were sitting in deckchairs in the sun when they heard the garden gate open and footsteps on the driveway.
They later claimed that they both saw a girl of about seven wearing a white dress and carrying what appeared to be a parcel. They were unable to see the child's face as she kept her head bowed as she walked by.
As they watched, the girl walked up to the front door and when the door opened, entered the house. Supposing it was a child from the village on an errand, Mrs Carr was about to go and investigate when their housekeeper brought out a tray of afternoon tea.
"When I asked what the child had brought, Mrs Rogers our housekeeper said that no one had come to the door and no parcel had been delivered to her knowledge.
"And yet both my friend and I had absolutely no doubt that a child in a white dress had visited and been admitted into the house.
"What made the whole thing even more puzzling was that my husband, who had been in a room with a window overlooking the front door, confirmed that no one had called that afternoon."
The Carr family claimed that after that incident the girl became a regular visitor to the vicarage and late at night could be heard moving about in one of the upstairs rooms.
One evening Mrs Carr was reading a bedtime story to her youngest daughter. "Frances had just dropped off to sleep and I closed the book and was about to get up from the bed when I heard the door open behind me.
"When I turned round the doorway was empty but I sensed the presence of someone or something. It was disturbing but not frightening and my instinct was that I had been visited by a child."
Eventually the Carrs left the vicarage and it was requisitioned during the war for military occupation.
During that time there was several claims that a child had been seen wandering in the garden.
Later, a London psychic investigator, Dr Robert Palfryman researched the history of the house and found that in the 1780s an elderly bachelor had lived there with the orphaned child of a relative.
The girl, aged about seven, disappeared without trace and there were claims of ill-treatment which were never investigated.
After the war the vicarage lay derelict for some years until it was finally subject to a demolition order in 1954 to make way for agricultural college accommodation.
When workmen moved in to demolish the building they found an area at the end of the drawing room had been bricked up to form a tiny windowless room.
There was nothing in the room, but when floorboards were removed it was a different story.
In a shallow grave under the floor-joists horrified workman found a tiny skeleton, later identified by a police pathologist as that of a girl of around seven years old.