With sheep that far outnumber residents, a cluster of cottages, a handful of farmhouses, and a single train station, Oxenholme, England, seems a strange place for two Latter-day Saint missionaries to live during the summer and early fall of 1978.
Stranger still were the inexplicable encounters these missionaries had while staying in the old servants' quarters of Oxenholme House.
As the last railway stop before Kendal and the Lake District, Oxenholme has managed to stay a tiny, isolated community of green fields crossed by low-lying stone fences.
But despite the tranquil scenery, Oxenholme has a surprisingly graphic and violent history.
“Talking to members of the small branch, you could tell this was an area that had a history of ghost stories,” says Ron Beckstrom, one of the missionaries who stayed in the Oxenholme House in 1978.
“There were a lot of ruins in the area that dated back to the Romans. There was a hill right outside of town that people speculated contained Roman or Druid ruins, but archeologists don’t know for sure what was there.”
Built in 1890, the same year three men were killed at the train station just below the property, Oxenholme House sits two miles from the nearest town, Kendal.
"The house itself was a little creepy because it sat by itself on a hill overlooking the town and the train station," Beckstrom shares. "It was all alone. I had just come from the city of Liverpool where there were several million people, so the quiet was a little strange to have."
But the eerie quiet wasn't the only unusual part of Elder Beckstrom's arrival at Oxenholme House. "Two new missionaries were moved into the area, which was unusual. Typically one missionary is left who knows the area and can help introduce the new missionary to investigators,” Beckstrom recalls.
However, Elder Beckstrom and his companion, Elder Taylor, were excited for the change and quickly forgot about the curious arrangement.
An Uninvited Visitor
Not a month after moving into Oxenholme House, the elders began experiencing unnerving noises and supernatural events.
It started with small objects moving to bizarre places in their apartment while the missionaries were out tracting during the day—shoes placed on top of beds, chairs left sitting on tables or mattresses, and milk bottles pulled out and stacked in pyramids on the counter.
Elder Beckstrom asked the farmer living in the main house if a cleaning lady or other person ever entered their apartment during the day. "He told us, 'No. We’re the only ones up here.'"
Though it seemed unlikely for this "gruff, no-nonsense" farmer to play a trick on the missionaries, the elders soon began suspecting the 60-year-old man when their items continued to inexplicably move throughout the day.
That was when the missionaries decided to test whether anyone entered their apartment while they were away. "At one point Elder Taylor said we ought to put a piece of tape on the door to see if it was broken or removed when we came back," Beckstrom shares.
The missionaries left tape at inconspicuous places on the door on several occasions, even at times when they would enter to find things moved around in the apartment. "[But] the tape was never broken or disturbed," Beckstrom says.
Along with these disturbing occurrences, the missionaries often heard rustling, creaking, and strange sounds in the attic.
A single-room with broad oak beams across the ceiling, the apartment was detached from the main house. One day Elder Beckstrom and Elder Taylor discovered the access to the attic in their corner of the house, finding nothing but sheeted mirrors, an old-fashioned sled, a decapitated manikin, and dusty furniture.
Though they discovered no cause of the noises, they began passing the sounds off as the usual adjustments of a century-old house battered by wind and rain.
Until the footsteps began.
"My bed was just a few feet from the door, and there was a window just above my head," Beckstrom shares. "Around 10:30 one night, it was just getting dark, [very] dark outside, and I was just dozing off when I heard footsteps coming up the stone steps."
These steps were distinct, unmistakable. "I was wondering who would be coming this late. Occasionally zone leaders came late or early in the morning, so I was just rolling over getting ready to open the door."
Beckstrom heard the steps reach the top landing as he opened the door. "Nobody was there," he remembers. After looking down the old stone flight of steps leading to the apartment, Beckstrom thought little of it. "I thought it was strange but figured it must have been someone walking around the house."
But just as he was attempting to sleep again, he heard the footsteps a second time. "I immediately opened the door and looked down the staircase. Again, nobody was there. This time I walked down the staircase and started looking around the outside of the house."
After discovering nothing, Elder Beckstrom returned to the apartment where he told his companion about the strange footsteps.
A few days later, the footsteps returned. "I said, 'Do you hear that? Somebody is on the steps again.' Elder Taylor started getting up to see as well. We opened the door and he even walked down the stairs and all around the house." But neither missionary ever found the source of the noise.
The isolation of the house made the footsteps seem even more sinister. Thoughts began entering Elder Beckstrom's head of people creeping around his apartment during the day and late at night to "mess with the missionaries."
Other possibilities seemed even more ominous, though they did cross the missionaries' minds. But the elders kept explaining away their fears, making a joke of their apartment's "ghost."
That is until Elder Taylor woke his companion in the middle of the night with the words. "I think it's got me. I can't move my arms or legs."
A Midnight Scare
"It was a long day," Beckstrom remembers, recalling how twilight was just barely descending as the missionaries knelt for companion prayer around 10 at night.
After saying a quick personal prayer, Elder Beckstrom climbed in bed while his companion said his own prayers.
"I don’t know how much time elapsed, but [when I woke up] it was very dark. And then I remember hearing Elder Taylor say, 'I think it’s got me. I can’t move my arms and legs.'
"I woke up startled. . . . I was disoriented. It was dark. The moon was just starting to come through the window and I saw him on the floor and began wondering what was happening . . .
“I tried to find the light switch, and I couldn’t, even though I knew it was right there at the side of the door.
"So I half walked, half crawled, and I bumped into Elder Taylor on the floor."
When Elder Beckstrom bent down to touch Elder Taylor, he found that his arms were trembling and his skin felt ice cold.
"He said, 'I can’t move my legs. Something’s wrong. I don’t know what it is,'" Beckstrom says.
“I wondered if it was some medical thing. [Then Elder Taylor] said, 'It feels like somebody’s holding my legs so they can’t move.'"
That's when Elder Beckstrom went over to try turning on the lights once again. This time, he found the switch. Elder Taylor's knees were bent, almost as though he were in a crouching position huddled up on the floor. Then he began feeling as though pins and needles were filling his arms and legs as he slowly began straightening and moving them on his own.
"As we got talking, we realized he didn’t remember getting into bed and falling asleep," Beckstrom says. "He just must have fallen asleep while praying, and his legs fell asleep and he fell over. I guess when he hit the floor it woke him up and he realized he couldn’t feel his legs."
After discovering the source of his companion's sudden paralysis, Beckstrom says, "[Elder Taylor] said something like, 'For a second, I thought that ghost had come in and got me.' We laughed about it. . . . he was laughing his head off."
Just before his transfer out of Oxenholme, Elder Beckstrom experienced something he couldn't explain or laugh off like he could the praying incident.
"It had been raining for a couple of days . . . so there was quite a bit of fog when we were coming back from Kendal that night. It was hard to even see the hedgerow on the other side of the road," Beckstrom says.
The two reached their apartment just as darkness was setting in. Beckstrom recalls, "[Elder Taylor] was just sitting by the window reading a letter and he looked out the window and said, 'Look. There’s somebody out in the field.'
"I asked, 'What do you mean?' and he said, 'There’s a light out in the field.'"
After coming over to the window, Beckstrom could see the "glow of [something] like a Coleman lantern, but softer," out in the pasture.
"We looked to see if we could see anything [else], but there was quite a bit of fog. But then we saw the light coming back toward the house. It came to the first row of stone fences and I expected it to stop or hesitate while someone made their way over the fence, but it just continued to float past."
The light came down the pasture to within 100 feet of the missionaries' window before disappearing in a cluster of trees a little beyond the house.
Elder Beckstrom never saw the shadow or outline of a person holding the lantern. He never saw it pause while it went over stone fences. He never saw it bobbing as though someone were holding it while they walked.
"I asked [my companion], 'Did you see anybody?' And he said, 'No.' . . . .
"The next day we ran into the farmer as we were coming out of our apartment and we asked him if he had been out in the field late at night because we had seen a light coming down from the outer pasture.
"And that’s when he kind of chuckled and said, 'I’ve seen that light before, too.'"
After asking who it was, the farmer told Elder Beckstrom and Elder Taylor, "I think it is my grandfather. I think he comes back to check on the farm and the house."
"That’s when we knew he was talking about a ghost," Beckstrom continues. "He said, 'Yeah, he comes to check out the house from time to time. My wife and I will hear him in the house as he moves things around or opens a door.'”
"After that, Elder Taylor and I started to wonder if Grandpa was coming up to our apartment and moving things around," Beckstrom adds. "[The farmer] never seemed creeped out by the visits. He seemed comforted that his grandfather was coming back to check on things."
An Unexpected Phone Conversation
Shortly after this conversation, Elder Beckstrom was talking with his zone leaders. That's when he brought up a question that had been bothering him since he first arrived at Oxenholme: Why did they bring two brand new missionaries into the area?
"The zone leaders said the other missionaries had claimed weird things were going on," Beckstrom explains. The zone leaders thought these were just tales the missionaries kept spreading among themselves, so they brought in fresh missionaries to kill the rumors.
That's when Elder Beckstrom told the zone leaders a bit about what he had been experiencing, asking if these encounters were anything like the "strange stories" the other missionaries had shared.
Not long after, he and Elder Taylor received new orders from the mission president: find a new apartment.
About the whole experience, Beckstrom says he never felt threatened or truly frightened—mostly curious.
“I always have wondered about the whole concept of ghosts. You hear so many ghost stories and I wondered about the idea that spirits would be left on earth to wander around and move milk bottles and other strange things. [This experience] didn’t make me believe any more [in the supernatural]. It was just random and interesting to see that the paranormal stories you hear maybe really could be happening."
Much of his calm reaction to these events Beckstrom credits to the knowledge he had as a missionary.
“Part of [why we never felt scared] was we had a perspective on the afterlife," he says.
Now, nearly 40 years later, Beckstrom still doesn't have an explanation for most of what he experienced, but he laughingly admits, “to this day that farmer could be laughing his head off about spooking the missionaries.”