HOLLY THE COLLIE DOG THAT SAW SPIRITS
It all began with a family day out that was no different from any other, at the outset. In the early summer of 1995, Steven Johnson decided to take his wife Carolyn and their sixteen-year-old son Christopher on a day trip to Yorkshire. They had almost unbroken sunshine all the way to the beautiful Wharfe valley on the edge of the Ilkley Moor. Holly, the family dog, had been sniffing the fresh air through the open window of the car as they drove over the moorland.
They stopped for a rest at a village called Burnsall. Holly demanded a walk, so Christopher let her out of the car, and together the family set off strolling along the tree-shaded lane that runs alongside the river Wharfe. Reaching the old village church, they went through the gate to have a look, and strolled along a winding path towards the vestibule.
The ghost in the graveyard
In the quiet graveyard of Burnsall church, the grey Victorian headstones slant at a strange angles towards the sky. Just as they were passing a moss-covered grave, Holly suddenly stopped in her tracks and refused to move. Staring upwards into what the Johnson family thought was empty space, she snarled and growled as if facing an enemy.
Steven called to Holly to come away, but she refused. Lowering herself to the ground, as collie dogs do, she bared her teeth and barked as if in warning to an unseen presence that stood before her. Christopher and Carolyn looked on in wonder as their pet faced something only she could see. The fur on Holly’s back stood up in terror as the dog tried to defend herself against the unknown entity from beyond the grave. Then, fearing for Holly’s wellbeing, Christopher bravely ran forwards and threw his arms around his pet.
For a moment there was total silence. It seemed that no bird sang, no gentle breeze eased the leaves of the tall trees, and even the rippling waters of the river calmed. Then everything returned to normal. Something had moved between this world and the next, but only Holly knew what this was. Christopher’s bravery had saved his pet from further torment: whatever it was that had been there had gone.
Forgetting any idea they had of going into Burnsall church, the Johnson family turned around and went back to their car. They were thankful that Holly seemed none the worse for her experience, but it had certainly scared Carolyn and Christopher.
Old Mr Smith
An old gentleman called Mr Smith lived close to the Johnson family in the same street in Birmingham. He was eighty years old but loved to play with Holly, often bringing the collie biscuits and other little treats. He told Carolyn that years ago, when he was a young man, his family had a dog just like Holly. Their friendship lasted many months, with Holly becoming tuned in to the old man. The collie seemed to know several minutes in advance when her special friend was on his way and would sit barking happily at the front door, wagging her tail in anticipation. It was as if Holly could pick up Mr Smith’s vibrations.
A last farewell
It was a dark and stormy night just before Christmas 1995, and all the Johnson family were asleep in their beds. Holly, who had been out playing in the garden most of the day, lay resting in her box downstairs. It was long past midnight when Carolyn heard Holly barking. Quickly she woke Steven, thinking someone might be trying to break in.
Running downstairs, Steven saw Holly wagging her tail and looking up towards the front door. Every now and then she gave a friendly little bark, as if she were welcoming someone – just the way she did when her friend Mr Smith called.
Steven wondered whether old Mr Smith was outside, needing help. Quickly he opened the door. Holly ran to the front step, dancing and jumping as she often did when greeting her friend. But there was no one there. The still, dark street was empty, save for the shadows of night and the cold north wind.
The next morning after breakfast Carolyn answered the telephone. It was the next-door neighbour of their friend Mr Smith. The old man had been taken ill during the night and died in hospital at three o’clock, the exact time Holly had woken the house with her barking.
Carolyn believes that Holly was visited by the departing spirit of the old man, who called in on his way to paradise to say goodbye to Holly, the dog who had been his friend.