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The Story of Arthur

It all began 26 years ago when I started work for the Civil Service at an office building in Euston, North London, which was supposedly haunted by Arthur Beresford Pite, its architect, inexplicably I felt right at home, I encountered many strange things over the years particularly after I carried out some research into his life and work. There were just too many coincidences the way information suddenly just turned up, like tracking down a distant relative who provided me with the family tree and finding out that he was buried in Cowgate cemetery, Dover. I became totally fascinated with Arthur to the point that it almost an obsession. I obtained copies of his birth (Newington, South London), marriage (Whitfield), and death (Beckenham) certificates along with his will and my prized possession - a letter he had written in 1917 whilst teaching at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington. I discovered it on an antiques website whilst looking for something else!

I believe Arthur looks after me as I looked after his building. I would often hear footsteps on the floor above when I’d been in the building with only one security guard who was sitting opposite me. On another occasion I was talking about Arthur to a new member of staff as he was stacking binders into a bookcase, within minutes they all flew out of the bookcase and landed in a heap on the floor. Lights would regularly turn themselves on and off. You would have to get up and flick the switch down again, it wasn’t just a case of the light tubes going out these turned themselves off! The photocopier would regularly copy a blank sheet of paper all by itself at 8:30 am (I turned it on around 7am so it wasn’t doing a test print or warming up!)

The sound of wheels turning could be heard in the basement (workmen have said they won't go there.) An architect refused to return after I argued with him about his unsympathetic plans for refurbishment, an oak door behind us which weighs a ton closed by itself. It had been propped open with a heavy weight. I've never seen someone run down the stairs so fast. Needless to say his plans were never carried out I now had the building Grade 2 Special listed due to its significant architectural importance.

The most memorable event though must have been when he stopped me from falling headfirst down a steep flight of stairs and out of an open window on the landing. I turned around to thank who ever had pulled me up by the shoulders but there was nobody there. No one could have passed me on the staircase without my seeing them. When I first saw a dark grey figure in one of the conference rooms, that convinced me that my time was up and the grim reaper had come to get me but it was a few years ago and I'm still around!

A new security guard had a strange experience too. He had heard the stories about Arthur and mentioned he'd love to see him but quickly added that he didn't believe in ghosts or such like. He arrived early one morning and was walking through the office to open the back door for the builders when he noticed someone sitting at a desk. Puzzled as he was the only one in the building at the time he turned around to put on another light and when he turned back there was no one there. He was a total sceptic but I think this has convinced him that Arthur was not happy with those particular builders! Staff would often get an overpowering smell of old fashioned sweet tobacco even though it was a non-smoking building (Arthur smoked a pipe.)

It became my mission to find out where Arthur was buried, it took me around 18 months to track him down and once I had it was no problem in finding the cemetery in Cowgate Hill Dover. I climbed the steep stairs running alongside assuming this to be the way in, naturally it wasn’t, and I ended up in a field! My second attempt was more successful, I spied an iron gate. On closer inspection I realised it was locked and there was a notice stating, "For cemetery information please call............" I hadn't come this far to give up so I did what any anyone in my position would do - climbed over the wall! The vault is by the boundary wall. The cemetery itself is quite small with no surviving church. Volunteers who have logged the names on the graves had recently cleared the grounds. It was quite emotional and I found myself talking to him saying "Typical, I have a job to find where you're buried and when I do I'm locked out"! I acquired a small piece of the vault stone (it was on the ground and wasn’t from any obvious place I could see) and took loads of photos and video footage. At one point I heard two-way radios and given the fact the cemetery is overlooked by an old people’s home and several houses, wondered if someone had called the police? After lying low for a few minutes behind a convenient tree I heard them move on. I spent around 45 minutes there before heading back to climb over the wall again where yours truly slipped on a piece of wet marble hidden beneath some ivy, thankfully climbing back was much easier and no damage was caused to me or the marble!

I took refuge in a pub by the station and had just sat down with my drink when a police car pulled up outside. I could almost visualise the newspaper headlines "Civil servant arrested for breaking into cemetery and carrying out satanic ritual"; bearing in mind I was carrying twigs (for my bird) and the piece of stone from the grave! Luckily it turned out there was a far more important suspected terrorist incident!

I ordered a book about his architecture “The Golden City, Essays on the architecture and imagination of Beresford Pite” which is now out of print and flicking through it saw a portrait of him. It was the first time I’d seen his picture and I wanted to know what he looked like and if I had actually “seen” him in the building. I was astonished because he is the man I’d recently seen on several occasions outside the office and often accompanied by a man in an old-fashioned railway uniform. I could have almost believed that he was someone working in the area until I turned up in Wembley which is miles away for a meeting one morning only to see them walking across the road!! He looked almost otherworldly with bright blue eyes and glowing white hair. On the last occasion I glimpsed him and his railway worker friend I was determined to approach him and ask who he was but just as I caught up with him he disappeared and I never them again......

I still visit Arthur’s grave in Cowgate Cemetery in Dover and ‘talk’ to him. I had a wonderfully life like dream about him recently in which he told me I’d made him more famous now than when he was alive!


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