top of page

The Pale Boy

A ghost story in rhyme...


In the drifting of December

at the greying of the year

When the skies were dour and


And the air was still and clear

In a rectory in Norfolk, down a

long and wooded lane

Sat Rachel at an escritoire

drinking tea and writing

Listening to her younger brothers

squabbling and fighting.

The house, which they were sitting,

her family, for that season

Was beautiful, she noted, rather old.

The mobile phone reception

fell out for no good reason

And everything about the place

was cold.

But the ivy-covered walls

lent the place a pleasing look

with its gables and its stables

like an etching from a book.

On the evening of the second day,

she met the pale boy.

Quaintly-dressed, he idled

on the landing

"And who are you?" asked Rachel.

He answered her, "I'm Jack.

The Rector and I have…an understanding."

"You work here?" Rachel asked him."

The boy then shook his head.

"I haunt the house." he told her.

"And have since I was dead."

"I was useless as a stable-lad

and everybody said

Had it not been for the kindness

of my host,

I'd never find another way

to earn my daily bread

And look,

I'm quite as useless

as a ghost.

I can manage atmospheric

or kinetic interference

But it takes me all my energy

to master an appearance."

Now, at that very moment,

her mother called upstairs:

Thomas? Edward?


It's ten o'clock, near on!"

The sudden interruption caught

the pale boy unawares

Rachel turned around and he

was gone.

Then the Rectory was quiet

bar the periodic chime

of a clock's remorseful ticking

through the warp and weft of time

When Rachel rose at morning

in the glimmering of dawn

A weak and weary sunlight lit

the bookshelf by the bed

She gazed out of a window

at a minted frosty lawn

The memories of the pale boy

went waltzing around her head.

A tap-tap-tapping startled her;

her mother with a tray.

Traditionally, they'd decorate the

Christmas tree this day.

The hours fell like skittles

in a classic Christmas flurry

Of pick-up times and people

in a panic

The happier disruptions of a

household in a hurry

Her younger brothers

absolutely manic

By then, the friends and relatives

had started to arrive.

Yet, only one observed the figure

standing in the drive.

"He was in a fancy costume!"

Piped an auntie to her father

"A tricorn hat, a jerkin;

I assumed a pantomime."

Rachel pricked her ears up

concluding that she'd rather

Broach the subject at a

better time

Her father being a rationalist

who rarely suffered fools

Was guaranteed to bridle

at talk of ghosts or ghouls.

Outside, the sun retreated

A linen mist came down

And draped itself around

the tired day

While Rachel left her chamber

and walking in her gown

She heard a youthful voice

beside her say:

"It's not so very different

at the dying of the year

From when I was a boy alive

with all that I held dear."

"The Master bellowed in

the hall

The maids ran round excited

We boys did little, if at all

While everyone invited

Supped and ate and danced

at night

Kissed each other's cheeks

It was a time of laughter, light

to warm long winter weeks

Until that year wherein I died...

So, I return at Christmastide."

It happened on the landing,

this last encounter made

The pale boy was standing

beside the balustrade

While Rachel, fascinated,

unsure if he was there

Reached out to touch the vision

which vapourised in air

By then, she'd made her mind up

To best not say a word

And anyway, from this time on

Nothing more occurred

Then during Christmas dinner,

with portraits on the wall

Their kindly former rectors

looking on

A grace was said for everyone.

"Of all faiths, or of none

For all of us now present

and all of those who've gone."

She saw her solemn father

His hair somehow, more grey.

"...And lastly, Lord, for Rachel,

Who passed six years today."

Now Christmas blessed the table

and sunlight dressed the room

Slipping out discreetly,

as the best of guests will do

With oil lamps and candles

to aid its dying light

Until the day went seamlessly

melting into night.

And having seen this season

of comfort and of joy

Rachel took her leave of them,

beside the pale boy.


Painting: William Conor


  • Bandcamp
  • Spotify
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
bottom of page