Category Archives: Christmas Ghost Stories

Tales from the Crypt

I see dead people

“If you do feel the need to run, please turn your torch on before you do so.” So enthused our Medium, Paul Roberts, he’s obviously been busy since he left The Stranglers, not that one clearly.

Now, when you think of Mediums you most probably think of Tangina from Poltergeist or most likely Derek Acorah, not forgetting his spirit guide Sam. Paul was like neither, he wasn’t short or a silver fox with an earring for a start. He did however have a long leather coat, which he could swish dramatically.

At the bottom of the tower we stood in our first circle and Paul gave a great ghost hunting 101 on the difference between a ghost and a spirit, according to Paul a ghost is like a recording in time that is on constant replay, like a paranormal sky +, that does not alter or change. A spirit on the other hand has can interact and be interacted with. Oxford Castle was open to both.

Paul said: “A ghost energy, a tape recording, can’t interact with us; they don’t know we are here. The stone tape theory basically says your aura is laid down in the fabric of the building, the stonework, the floor. So, if you did something at the same time in the same place for say 40 years the stone tape theory says that in a hundred years time a group like this could see a ghost of you doing that very action. But it’s just a recording.”

“ If you Sky + EastEnders and have Pat Evans walking through a door, if you wave at her she will not wave back because she is just a recording, that is a ghost. “

Pat Evans is a ghost .Check.

He went onto say that a spirit, of which we had one in there, is the opposite. “They are aware of us, aware of the environment and they can interact with us, touch us, pull hair, whisper into our ears or even say their names out loud. They can even move things, throw things or show themselves as apparitions.”

Paul certainly had the crowd hanging on his every word; it was almost like watching a magician on stage as he took command of the audience. Apparently, one of our spirits was male, about 5 “3 and from 1347, the year, not the time obviously. A Norman type figure.

Surprisingly awake at 2am, the two fuel stops for coffee helped for sure, most people were still in high spirits, no pun intended.

Feeling a little like Ten Little Indians we were divided into two smaller groups of about 15 people, which helped give the proceedings a more intimate affair, which was a neat touch as it helped keep the evening’s exploits fresh. The vigil in the crypt with the medium was an interesting space and experience

As instructed we turned out our torchlights one by one until blackness remained, not dark in your hallway dark but complete. By taking out your primary sense, your eye sight your other senses are heightened, including your hearing.

Holding hands of men I’ve never met, well even men I’ve met generally as a rule, is not a common occurrence for me but when told the one thing you must not do in a vigil is to break the circle, you grip that hand like you aren’t going to let go. I was concerned in the darkness that I might sneeze in such a dusty environment, but my sneeze (and boy can mine be loud) reverberating never materialised.


Although it was pitch black in the crypt I was the only one that anyone was able to pinpoint where I was owing to me wearing my glow in the dark Ghostbusters hooded top, from those nice folk at Last Exit to Nowhere. Initially some people mentioned this floating apparition to the medium when I chipped in.

Seeing as I was one of the only people that could be located I was an obvious choice for the medium to use as a reference point every so often, all the time me thinking, yes Dean, that was clever I may as well have come down there covered in glow sticks and a sandwich board saying please haunt me.

Paul asked the spirit to talk “as lively and loudly as it could” into my tape machine. Upon reviewing it, only the voices that were there at the time of recording could be detected. Phew! He did admit in the 17 years he’s been involved in this world of the paranormal he has never seen anyone harmed by a spirit.

Alas I was also guilty of dashing other members’ of the groups’ hopes of paranormal proof after they heard inhuman type noises reverberating around the stone walls, it was just my stomach growling and squeaking as if I had swallowed a dolphin.

However, Sarah was blown on the neck twice, the first time she dismissed it as just her mind playing tricks and the environment we were in but the second sent her arm body popping and almost wrenching Shona’s out of her socket, fair play though, the circle remained complete. Shona’s legs also went extremely hot at one point and it was certainly interesting that Paul mentioned, after the fact, that people are more prone to feeling hotspots, insert own Michael Barrymore joke here, rather than Hollywood’s more traditional cold spots

Two members of the circle, who’d been a little annoying all night with their quips, mentioned sensations of having their ribs be squeezed and a jabbing in the ribs, to be honest I scoffed at this and it seemed to smack of playing up to the crowd. However, it turned out that the medium revealed at the very end that one of the spirits in that room specials in poking people in the ribs just above their waistband…

He was very careful not to lead us so didn’t give very much away in the way of what these spirits generally did to anyone in the space they inhabited.

GSI: Ghost Scene Investigation

The evening of paranormal investigation flew by and was extremely varied so it becoming mundane or boring was never an option. It wasn’t just stumbling round with torches a la The X Files, we also tried moving glasses and using a pendulum, and I had very little success with divining rods, which are meant to be effected by ley lines.

Noises were heard in other parts of the building but with it being night, another team several floors up, who can tell if it just wasn’t noises from them carrying through?

Later that same morning and a hearty breakfast is the first order of the day, which gives us chance to the events of earlier that morning. We played our dictaphone back in the hope that we might have picked up some EVP. The hiss from the dictaphone is quite distinct, no Amityville Horror-style ‘get out’ noises or anything like that to report, our voices and the mediums alone.

The night was a great experience that lets you be both the investigator as well as the participant with the freedom to explore on your own in the darkness – worth the price for the sheer Hardy Boysness of it all alone.

fastest finger first

The glass moving with the finger on top, divination, was something of a none event as it didn’t really move or even shuffle for anyone, which I guess is at least better that way than someone just forcing it, it did however make it seem more like an even lamer version of Touch the Truck, if such a thing is even possible.

Although we left without anything conclusive, as dawn approached the earlier words of Medium, Paul Roberts, echoed in our thoughts. He said: “At the age of two you don’t know that ghosts exist, because you don’t know what they are, you don’t know the difference. Later, every time you mention seeing a ‘ghost’, you are repeatedly told again and again that there are no such things and you are conditioned to believe that they don’t exist.”

He added: “I’m not the type of Medium that runs round saying that you will believe, as far as I’m concerned you have to make your own individual decision, whether that is based on tonight or based on other nights as to whether or not there is anything there. I love sceptics. If we here a stone drop a sceptic will not say. ‘we’ve got a ghost’, they’ll wonder what it was that could have made that noise and that is the way everyone should be, everyone should be on the fence.”

And that was certainly where we remained, but eager to try out another Fright Night location and see if we have any luck in capturing things that (may or may not) go bump in the night.

Did you hear that?

A Haunting We Will Go

The cloudless sky and warmth of the sun didn’t exactly scream a night of ghostly goings on to come. We’re we being lulled into a false sense of security? But then it was hardly going to be Scooby Doo with grotesque shaped trees or fork lightning on cue. One thing was for sure though, with all those murders on Inspector Morse, no wonder Oxford is meant to be so haunted!

Seven hours of ghost hunting awaited us on our first Fright Night’s ghost hunt, but first we enjoyed a few spirits of another kind in a couple of pubs dotted round near the castle. Established in 1999, Fright Nights is the oldest ghost hunting company in the UK with such evenings taking place at over 100 locations across the country

To say my brother, Gavin, came prepared was an understatement, deep breath,  seven torches, including a wind up one, you know, just in case the spirits sap all the energy, a night vision camcorder, a dictaphone and some crystals to keep us from harm. He’s pretty much the Tackleberry of the paranormal!

Sarah and I had already discussed what would make a successful evening, moving glasses and a wobbling table not being part of the equation. Noises and footsteps in such an old building where groups were split up, not to mention the hordes of drunken students roaming the town like Zombie extras, were also not conclusive.

We wanted items moving or being moved, or even good old orbs. Not too much to ask of somewhere with such a history is it?

Sarah said she was even going to do a Yvette Fielding and ask a spirit to throw something, not Gavin with his bulging rucksack though. I’d like to see them try.


And so, as day became night, we began our night locked in Oxford Castle…

The Castle itself dates back to Saxon times, 1004 to be precise, and has a rich and sumptuous history as it was both a court and a prison, part of it now forming the rather posh and plush Mal Maison, although I’m not sure if the guests realise they might be sharing their beds with some uninvited guests. It was a prison until the 90s and was utilised as one for the screen in everything from Bad Girls to 101 Dalmatians and The Italian Job.

Tantalizingly, as we stood outside the dark foreboding walls of the castle we were told that it would take all night to recount all the paranormal activities witnessed here. Our guide went onto say that her most unnerving experience took place right here at the castle and spooked her so much that she did not return to the castle for six months!

To the back of us a mound where seven human remains were excavated, a mound that was also fondly referred to as hangman’s hill, as this was where the locals got the best vantage point of where the executions took place, which is now, rather ironically, a swish restaurant we were a stone’s throw away from called The Living Room. Tales of floaty mist were also recounted before we finally entered the dark, dark castle and headed up the dark, dark tower. The evening had begun and the stench of death was definitely in the air, or was that just the nearby peri peri chicken van parked nearby?

A winding staicase

The sounds of heavy breathing filled the cramped winding staircase of the tower as we headed to its very top and the clear Oxford night air, an area not normally accessible to the public in the day, one woman even getting strange orbs in a few snaps taken from the top. Surely is was too early for capturing any activity yet?

"I'll get you Butler!"

As we were getting acclimatised to the surrounding, firstly in light before we were plunged into darkness we made mental notes of where the liberal numbers of mannequins were so we didn’t getting spooked by the dancing shadows created by torch lights bouncing off them would make, truth be told, even then it took us all a while to be totally at ease in spotting them.

A particularly interesting area we scoped out was D Wing, otherwise known as the hospital prison, complete with a padded cell no less and the ghostly shadow of a tall stocky man, surely that’s just my brother? A story goes that a security guard had a dog with him that heard a noise, it broke free and entered the room only to be heard whimpering, a day later the dog died. Don’t hold back with their tales do they?

The cells

We then travelled through the cells, it almost like being on a film set or a nocturnal version of the Crystal Maze, minus the gaudy jump suits, on our way to the area most hotly anticipated the crypt. The name said it all really, it was dark obviously but it never felt foreboding, it was just rather a cool setting.

This is where our guide had her experience that saw her not return to the Castle for six months. The back wall of the crypt is where the experience took place, where our guide felt her arm be grabbed. Of course, throughout the rest of the evening the crypt and its wall were a popular location, bring on the wall appeared to be the mantra of the night.

Shona and Sarah in the Crypt

It was no surprise then once we told we could break off until small groups, surely the one thing you should never do in a haunted house, that this location was a popular choice as we wielded our mini torches left and right as the walls came to life like a giant zoetrope. Once a larger group of people had moved on only five of us remained and one by one we extinguished our light sources to be left in the pitch black with only our own breathing and the whirring of recording equipment for company, interjected with trying to talk to the spirits.

Forget Sam and Dean Winchester, make way for Gav and Dean Newman, minus the rock salt and sawn off shotgun you understand, wouldn’t have minded that car though.

The second chapter of the evening would raise the paranormal stakes, with the introduction of a Medium…

I ain’t fraid of no ghosts

So mused Ray Parker Jr, ghosts may have not given him sleepless nights but Huey Lewis and the News did when they sued him for the Ghostbusters theme sounding uncannily like one of their tunes.

We’ve got our first ever Fright Nights ghost hunting experience lined up at Oxford Castle, this was penned prior to but posted after that experience, and like the Ghostbusters we, myself, Sarah, my brother, Gavin, and his partner, Shona, are taking on the paranormal as a foursome, albeit minus matching jump suits.

Of course we will have maglites aplenty, doffing of cap to Mulder and Scully, along with some trusty chocolate and caffeine fuelled soft drinks, Mountain Dew with their luminous green bottles, a subconscious nod to Slimer no doubt, to get us through the night. We aired on the side of caution and decided to stay clear away from Stafpuft Marshmallows, just as a precaution you understand.

So, am I a believer or sceptic? Neither really, I’m not expecting rattling chains or Hollywood Paranormal Activity shenanigans, of course who hasn’t seen Most Haunted, who have even spent the night at Oxford Castle in the same areas we are set to tread in the dead of night, or programmes of that ilk.

I spent huge chunks of my childhood mesmerised by the likes of the Usborne Book of Ghosts, Peter Haining’s Book of Hauntings and Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World, so am faintly aware of my Borley Rectory to the Enfield Poltergeist, not to mention all things Amityville Horror.

Dean and Gav Winchester, I mean Newman

Back to the Ghostbusters side of things, my brother is certainly the Ray Stanz of the group, equipped with his night vision camcorder and several torches, including a wind up one if the spirits zap the energy in all the others. Not to be outdone, I’d like to think of myself as the Peter Venkman of the group, but with slightly better skin, although am sure the glasses and quiff is more Egon in nature, I’ve got a dictaphone and two stills cameras packed.

I’ll be leaving the likes of Poltergeist and White Noise at the door with the sceptical but open to possibilities me taking those steps into the darkness of Oxford Castle and the secrets that await…the only white light I plan to be walking into is the one into the burgeoning daylight of 4am in the morning.

Tis the season to be jolly…scary: Debt the Halls

In this final festive frightfest we discover that you should never underestimate little old ladies…

Debt the Halls

It was Christmas Eve and Alex Cryer, complete with Santa hat, could be found knocking on doors. The inhabitant of the house recognised the knock, as Alex Cryer was more prone to spread Christmas fear than cheer.

A series of locks were unbolted to reveal 79 year old Hazel Richmond. The frail woman trembled, a combination of the cold and her fear of Cryer. He entered the house, his cold breath still eminating as he muttered: “You know how Christmas is the time of giving, well I’ve come for my present a day early.”

The front parlour featured a barely lit fireplace, a Christmas tree and some tinsel that had seen better days. Hazel rummages in an old biscuit barrel and brings out a handful of notes. He counts the meagre pile. “You know this isn’t what we agreed for a monthly payment, that loan stated 1000 per cent interest.”

Hazel shakes, pleading. “But that was in the small print and since the passing of my husband I’ve not coped very well.”

Cryer grows impatient. “I’m just after what I’m owed. Give me that and I’m gone like the ghost of Christmas past.”

Hazel’s voice falters: “That’s all I have…you took my television last time, I have nothing else to give.”

Cryer looks around the room, it is practically bare, save for the Christmas tree. Atop it he spies an intricately carved fairy. He removes it and shows Hazel. “This must be worth a bob or two” he sneers.

Hazel sobs. “Please, I beg you, my husband carved that for our very first Christmas 60 years ago and I use it every year to make a wish, which always comes true, it’s the only thing I hold dear.”

“And what’s your wish this year old lady?”

“That I would be able to pay you and afford some coal for the fire.”

Cryer looks back at the carving in his hand that must have taken hours to make.

“It’s your lucky day”, he calmly states. Hazel smiles, the first time in years. She reaches out for her angel and Cryer hurls it into the fire.

He laughs. “That should keep you going for now. My money, Boxing Day or else.”

With that he exits into the night leaving Hazel crying with her burning angel lighting the room a fiery red glow of dancing shadows.

Cryer was now at home. Actually he didn’t care if he got her money as he’d just finished counting that evening’s taking, which were bumper. Then, all of a sudden he began to feel ill and wretches. To his surprise 12 pence in coppers lands on his floor from his mouth, then again bringing up more random amounts of change.

No one would find Alex Cryer for days as he continued choking up coins, slowly drowning in a sea of pennies. His muffled screams went unheard as for once in his life, at the moment he really needed it, no one paid him any interest.

Tis the season to be jolly…scary: Driving Home for Christmas

A deserted county road at night, it was snowing heavily and only a matter of hours before Christmas morning. David Cooper had been travelling in the warm cocoon of his car for the last four hours. Not long now he kept on telling him self.

It was then that David saw a woman flagging down his car, he slammed on the brakes and swerved in the snow. He put his hazard lights on and wound down the window.

“Thanks for stopping, my car broke down in all this snow” said the young woman.

“Lets get you home, can’t have you stranded out here Christmas morning like Scott of the Antarctic” said David.

The pair of travellers thrust together by the elements reached their destination. David exited the car and walked up the drive through the pristine snow. The front door of the house opened before he reached it, a welcoming glow surrounded two elderly people. “We’ve been expecting you”, they said in unison.

David was confused and turned to motion to the woman in his car but was no longer sat in the passenger seat. David looked up and down the street into darkness…nothing, and there were no footprints leading from the car apart from his own.

A hand rested on his shoulder, it was the man from inside the house. “Come inside, Mary’s just put the kettle on.” The pair trudged inside. David walked into the dining room to see a table covered with food, candles surrounded in tinsel and three places set.

Cautiously David took a seat. His eyes darted around the room, the walls were covered with photos of the two elderly people in younger days with the woman from the car. At least I’m at the right house he thought.

The man and woman sat at the table. “We owe you an explanation as to why you are here”, they said. “We did not know that you would be at the door…but knew we would find someone. It’s been the same for the last five years since Angela went away.”

“Went away?” queried David.

Mary spoke for the first time. “Angela was coming home for Christmas, but she never made it. That’s what we are trying to tell you…this has happened for the last five years. Angela was killed in a hit and run accident on the road you picked her up on…the driver was never caught. But you’ve helped our daughter complete her journey and return her to us on Christmas Eve. Her spirit lives on through people like you.”

“She said that this would be the last time she could visit and that she had to move to somewhere far from here, what did she mean?” said David trying to take it all in.

“She must have found peace.” Sighed the old man, he turned the television on just as a newsreader announced that a Range Rover had crashed killing its driver instantly, they were five times over the drink drive limit.

 The old man turned off the television and raised a glass of orange juice. “Merry Christmas.”

Tis the season to be jolly…scary: Yule Tube

As you plan what not to watch on the television this Christmas spare a thought for those who see the flickering box in the corner as their friend, but beware, if you get too close it may not just be your eyesight you will have to worry about…

Yule Tube 

Trevor loved his television. So much so that he had no real friends – well apart from the pizza delivery people.

He used them so much that he got Christmas cards from them – the only card that he ever got. Not that he opened it, it sat on his mat as he could not bear to tear himself away from the TV…he might miss something.

Trevor would only read if it was the TV guide and his favourite tome had to be the bumper double issue of the Radio Times. All those films and Christmas specials just itching to be scored through with felt-tip.

He’d mark off the entire two weeks – a festive feast for the eyes he called it – planning out every televisual minute for the 14 day period, only to be interrupted by toilet breaks and grabbing a drink, but he’d try and time that with the appearance of Sian Lloyd or John Ketley, as he had no interest in he weather. Why would he, he wasn’t going out.

So as a present to himself, Trev ordered a giant 50-inch plasma complete with surround sound and built in freeview. This was his Mecca. Finally something worth worshipping. How he wished that he could have seen Morecambe and Wise in full HD glory.

After several marathon days Trev fell asleep in front of his giant box. He awoke to find himself fused to the TV – slowly being sucked in.

He had watched so much television that he hadn’t just got square eyes but his TV clearly saw him as a square meal.

He’d have to take it back to the shop – he was not sure how he would get it on the bus but somehow he would figure it out. No, not to worry he thought. If all else fails Watchdog will be back in the New Year.

By this point Trev could no longer reach his remote and was stuck on ITV, his favourite was always the BBC.

He’d always been a fan of Christmas with Auntie Beeb. In his mind you couldn’t beat a bit of Del Boy, The Two Ronnies or Noel’s Christmas Presents.

To be perpetually stuck on ITV with their token Bond film would be a living hell for Trev, but he knew that as he disappeared into the bright light of his giant screen he was passing through to what he always called ‘the other side’.

Even Channel Four would be better than this, he thought, at least they have The Snowman. He shouted ‘Help’ to no avail as his TV was too loud, besides it was only fed back to him through his surround sound.

The subwoofer sounded good though. And that was his last thought.

So this Christmas, if you are watching ITV, look out just before the adverts with a square in the right hand corner. That’s Trev trying to cross over from ‘the other side’.


Tis the season to be jolly…scary: On the Feast of Stephen

Over the next four nights I’ll be presenting four self-penned Christmas ghost stories that hopefully owe more to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents rather than Christmas presents.

Our first tale of seasonal chills sees a man who discovers the hard way that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas…

On the Feast of Stephen

Steve hated Christmas. He hated everything about it. In fact he went out of his way to make it as horrible an experience as he could for as many people. His only pleasure was other people’s misery.

He knew that people loved their animals, so every year on the run up to Christmas Steve would go round trapping and hiding other people’s cats and dogs in his cellar and then enjoy hearing the distraught owners travel out in all weathers to try and find them, but they never did…and this year would be no different.

This had gone on for years and whenever people came prying or asking too many questions he would simply pack up his few belongings and move on. It wasn’t a problem as there was only himself to worry about and no one ever noticed him when he was there so they would miss him even less when he was gone.

This year he had done himself proud and managed smash his own ‘previous best’. His haul this year though had been gained at considerable risk as normally he would pick up cats and dogs from the street or tied up outside shops, but this year for the first time he had broken into backyards and garden sheds.

There was no doubt that he would have to move before next Christmas as such daring raids had undoubtedly aroused suspicion, but he knew that no one could touch him. He even used to joke to himself that even the police had no leads, when in fact often that was all that often remained of people’s canine companions.

Still, just to be on the safe side Steve had joined hordes of locals on searches of the local area such as woods, streams and the local quarry. He had even helped fly poster the usual local shop windows and lampposts.

Steve always ensured that he kept one of the photocopied ‘missing’ photos that he would neatly put into a ring binder file, alphabetically in the name of the pet of course, so he would always have a memento.

And to think that his teacher had always told him that he would amount to nothing and he would never make a difference to people’s lives. Well this would show his English teacher, Mr Orsett, this would show all of them. Indeed, all those years ago Mr Orsett’s cat, Bilbo, a beautiful tortoiseshell, had been his very first ‘prize’ and from then he had never looked back.

The ‘booty’ Steve had collected was plentiful and varied as he laid claim to the usual menagerie as well as rabbits and even a ferret! Time for celebration indeed as Steve purchased the largest turkey that money could buy.

Come Christmas Day, Steve, complete with crumpled paper crown from a cracker, ate like a King and gorged himself. He ensured that no morsels were tossed to the animals below. If he heard their cries and whimpers then he would just turn up the volume of the tirade of festive repeats on television to drown it out.

As usual Steve fell asleep in a drunken stupor in the chair. As he slept he felt something suspiciously like a cat brush against his leg. Can’t be, he thought, as he knew the door to the cellar was firmly bolted. Then he felt his hand licked by something that felt like the tongue of a dog. He woke with a start and peered round the darkened room, lit only by the flicker of the television…nothing.

He drifted back into sleep. Again he felt something against him, this time he heard the noise of padded feet on the floor. It sounded like a small dog, a Jack Russell he thought. He rose from his slumber as he remembered that he had not “kept” a Russell for at least a couple of years. Suddenly he felt the clenching of teeth against his naked hand. The wound burned as the Jack Russell hung on for dear life.

As Steve whirled round in pain he sent empty beer cans flying in all directions. He stopped momentarily as he noticed that the entire room was full with rag-tag dogs and cats, dogs and cats that he had thought he had long seen the back of, dogs and cats that had come for some justice. Stood at the front leading the army of quadrupeds was a tortoiseshell cat, its fur stood on end, claws drawn for attack and eyes wild with revenge. It let out a migraine-inducing hiss that penetrated every bone of Steve’s body.

Finally he managed to prize the Russell from his hand, along with half of his skin, and retreated back to the only safe haven that he could find, the cellar door. He hadn’t heard any noises down there for a while so knew he would be safe. As the animals crept slowly forward, Steve finally managed to flee into his dark, dank place of sanctuary.

He stood at the other side of the door until the noise of clawing and whining ceased. Through a crack in the door he could see that the living room was now empty. Steve chuckled to himself as he knew those animals wouldn’t be getting out no matter whether they were upstairs or down below in the cellar. There was no food left as he had eaten it all just as his beloved mother had taught him to.

Satisfied that the coast was now clear Steve went to open the door and when he found those ‘vermin’ he would start pulling fur as any normal person would pull crackers. He’d be ready for them as was something he had been looking forward to all day, feeling somewhat rejuvenated after his Christmas Day snooze.

Steve yanked at the door but it would not budge. He hammered at the heavy wooden panels until his hands bled. Whether it was the noise he was making or the smell of blood from his self-inflicted wounds that had roused them he wasn’t sure, but roused them he had, there was no doubt of that. Steve heard several large growls and hisses. These noises were not the ghosts of pets past but the very real and very hungry ones of those of Christmas present.

The other side of the door Bilbo the cat curled up by the door and purred contently. The purring increased in intensity and Steve held has head as it shook his very brain. Holding his head he moved back from the door and stumbled backwards landing awkwardly. He felt something snap as he fell.

Steve fell from the steps right in front of the dozen or so dogs and cats, even the rabbit and ferret were there for the ensuing fun. The huge German Shepherd was the first to investigate but certainly not the last to enjoy the feast of Stephen.