The Moco Ghost or Ghosts?

Moco (more about Moco) was renowned as the location of the murder in 1734 of Elizabeth Pateman, but it took 167 years for her ghost to appear! One has to wonder if in fact the ghost came from the imagination of a lonely housewife living in an isolated spot. Perhaps she decided enough was enough and saw her way out? If so it worked as by the end of March John & Hannah Steggles, the gamekeeper, had moved to a safer spot and were living on The Green. Horace and Mary Levett, the shepherd, were more resilient and remained living at Moco, although by 1911 they had moved to Sussex

Below this tale of the Haunted House is a further account of later ghostly manifestations experienced by Shepherd Rule, who lived for a while (about 1913 to 1919?) with his family in a cottage at Moco. Please scroll down for both accounts of ghostly happenings at Moco.

A Haunted House at Steeple Morden

Groans, Thuds and Rustling Dresses

Gamekeeper’s Sensational Story

A Forgotten Tragedy

“The visit of a “ghost” to the cottages of Steeple Morden, known as “Moco” and occupied by a gamekeeper and his wife named Steggles (in the employ of Mr Sandeman), and a shepherd named Levett (employed by Mr J Hunt), has caused a great sensation in the village, and , indeed, to such an extent has the matter affected the gamekeeper and his wife, that they have refused to remain in the cottage, and, in consequence, they have for the time being taken up their abode with the shepherd who lives next door. On making enquiries on Wednesday, our representative gathered that the gamekeeper and his wife have resided at “Moco” (which is situated on the banks of a brook, some distance from the village) for the past12 months, while the shepherd has lived at the place for over two years, and up to within about three months ago everything went on in the usual way. Then the gamekeeper’s wife seems to have been seized with an idea that the place was haunted, and in due course mentioned her suspicions to her husband, who at first ridiculed the idea. However, about a fortnight or so ago, the gamekeeper himself declared that he had heard strange noises, as from a person in agony, emanate from the party wall which divides the two cottages. Of this he was more than ever convinced when a few nights later, on retiring to rest, he heard the same strange groaning, and furthermore heard the rustling of a lady’s dress in the bedroom. He then distinctly heard a thud and the firing of a gun in one corner of the room. Becoming terrified with the strange noises, which were repeated several times, the gamekeeper informed his master of what he had heard. The result was that Mr Sandeman and his son paid a visit to the cottage, and stayed the night in the hope of elucidating the mystery, but as both have since left for London, it is not known what was the outcome of their visit. It is stated that one if not two murders were perpetrated at this place many years ago. A packman who used to visit the village hawking his goods slept tat the farmhouse, and one night, it is said, was seen to wend his way to the farm, although never seen to leave the house again, either dead or alive, and it is supposed that he was murdered; in fact, rumour has it that his dead body was thrown into a well in the farmyard, as after that date the water in the well was never used, and eventually it was filled in. To add to the mystery a maidservant at “Moco” was overheard to say to her sweetheart, when visiting her on one occasion, that the next time he came she had a secret to unfold. The occupants, thinking that what she desired to tell her sweetheart was in connection with the murdered packman, with which facts she was acquainted, they deemed it advisable to do away with her, in order to elude detection, and one night shortly afterwards she was brutally murdered. The words on the tombstone, which have been almost obliterated by the weather, are as follows “Sacred to the memory of Elizabeth Pateman, a maidservant, who was murdered at “Moco”, in her 19th year, and interred in the parish churchyard at Steeple Morden on the 21st February 1734”

The implements with which the poor girl was done to death are still visible on the tombstone, and consist of a coulter, pea hook and a penknife. The following is a copy of the lines inscribed on the stone, but they are now indecipherable. They supplied to our representative by Mr Robert Gray, the Parish Clerk :-

“Here lies interred a harmless maid,

By cruel hands to death betrayed,

And through the murder is concealed on earth,

In heaven it is revealed.

Nd they who did it soon shall know,

The righteous judge sees all below.

Therefore repent whoe’er ye be,

Or I’ll foretell your destiny.

In hell’s dark furnace dark and deep,

Your wretched soul shall wail and weep,

While she, I hope, in heaven on high,

Shall live above the lofty sky”.

As may naturally be conjectured this crime has been made much of not only by the occupants of the cottages at “Moco”, but by all the inhabitants of the village, and the cottage has been visited by several people during the past week both by night and day. So much has the affair preyed on the gamekeeper and his wife that they refuse to enter the cottage either by day or night. It is stated that blood stains are still visible on the floor and door of the cottage.

The people of Ashwell have during the past week been much terrified by the rumour that a ghost has been seen, and so frightened are some of the inhabitants that they will not venture out of house after dark.”

The tale above was reported in the Cambridge Daily News 3 January 1901.

Rule the Shepherd and Ghost

Shepherds often lived in lonely spots and were peripatetic, changing farms and employer on a regular basis.  It was common for their employment to becme their nickname – Shepherd.

Charles Rule was no exception. He was born in 1868 at Radwinter, Essex and after marrying Louisa Woodley at Ashdon in 1895, they had children Frederick Charles Woodley Rule in 1895 at Ashdon, Alice Emma in 1900 at Lt Chishill and Nellie Louisa at Lt Henham in 1905 and by 1911 the family was back at Lt Chishill, living in a cottage at North Hall Farm. Charles was known as Shepherd Rule.

After their time at North Hall Farm, Charles moved his family to Moco at Steeple Morden, probably around 1913, where his employer was almost certainly Charles Frohock the tenant of Church & Moco Farms. By this time, the farmhouse and cottages at Moco were largely disused and the Rule family were probably the only residents.

Not long after their arrival the First World War started in July 1914. Son Frederick, just 19, was an early enlister on 6 November 1914. He joined as a Private in the Hertfordshire Regiment, later transferring as a lance-corporal to the Labour Corp. The Royal Air Force was created 1 April 1918 and Frederick transferred to the new service. He married Violet Lois Lee from Aylesbury in the third quarter 1918, when he was presumably still serving? The relevance of his military service will become clear.

Soon after moving to Moco the family decided that the cottage felt strange. They lived in one half of a double tenement and the other was empty. With the arrival of the War it felt stranger as they would hear footsteps along the passage and imagined it was Frederick home on leave, however, there was never anybody there and the footsteps seemed to stop at the same point each time.

Shepherd Rule wanted to know what was going on and enlisted the help of a neighbour (presumably a distant one?). They worked out where the steps apparently stopped and reckoned there was a cavity or small blocked-off room, so they knocked an opening and accessed the empty void, which offered no clues as to any strange goings on.

That night, Shepherd Rule woke feeling an enormous pressure on his throat. It eventually eased, although there was no rational explanation. Describing what happened to his neighbour later that day, the neighbour said that he had had exactly the same experience. Difficult to explain and to believe? Apparently, thereafter, there were no more footsteps or strange experiences. It seems possible that the family had somehow picked up on the other ghostly experiences, which had been reported only 13 or 14 years before? Or perhaps living in an old cottage in such a lonely spot took the human mind in odd directions?

The family may have been the last residents of Moco? They moved to Bassingbourn after the War and were living there in 1921 and Shepherd Rule died and was buried at Bassingbourn in 1944.

To find out more about Moco:

Moco Farm     Moco Farm Modern     Murder of Elizabeth Pateman 1734     John Charter of Moco died 1884


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Last Updated on October 28, 2022