|High Street Ongar, Essex|
"Essex is the most haunted county in England, there are loads of [spirits] here," said Anne with a wide smile etched upon her face.
"There are three [ghosts of] children who live on the top floor of the Kings Inn. One of them has poltergeist tendencies. It takes keys and moves glasses, according to the barmaid who worked there. They lived up in the attic."
Intriguing as it sounds, I am not convinced, although I begin to wonder whether the developers of the pub know about its spooky tenants.
"There's a man who sits in the corner of the room downstairs as you go in [the Kings Inn]. He makes the room go cold, it is very inhospitable. They have had trouble using that room for anything," Anne added.
The former teacher, who has never seen a ghost herself, does not know the identity of the children or the man who reside in the pub.
But the child that haunts Senners newsagents across the road has a name and a story.
Geoffrey, a ten-year-old boy from East London had tuberculosis. His parents brought him to Ongar for the fresh air, but he died in the town aged about ten.
Now he spooks paper boys in the newsagents and can be heard moving around upstairs.
Senners manager Delyth Armes spoke of "strange happenings" at the shop.
"Sometimes things go missing and you get strange senses," she said. "My colleague was standing at the bottom of the stairs and she could have sworn somebody walked by. You just get a feeling that he is about.
"When strange things happen, we normally blame Geoffrey."
I mutter something about Senners having its very own Casper, before Anne continues the virtual tour down the High Street.
"In one of the cottages next to the vets at the bottom of the High Street, the housekeeper haunts. She is very tidy."
"Tidy?" came my reply.
"She tidies the room," Anne said.
That's my sort of ghost.
By this point I was engrossed in the spooky tales, but not entirely convinced. That was until we moved on to the villages of Greensted and Toot Hill where, as I was about to learn, there are as many ghosts as people.
"There are all sorts of things in the village," said Anne, who has previously run ghost tours around Ongar and surrounding villages.
In the old rectory in Greensted Road, there have been sightings of a child who drowned in the moat around the house.
Another two cottages along the road are haunted, according to Anne. One has a mother and baby who have been seen walking on the landing, another has a presence in the garden.
"My favourite story is Mr Edwards," said Anne.
Mr Edwards was a cattle drover in the 19th century. Having herded his cattle for the day, he went down to The Two Brewers pub.
Like many men, his downfall came over a woman – the publican's daughter, who he fell in love with.
Not wanting his daughter to marry a cattle drover, the landlord said Mr Edwards must fill a hat with silver for his daughter's hand in marriage.
Mr Edwards sold his cows, got the money and married his lady. Convinced the drover could no longer work the land, his friends challenged him to scythe the grass along the road to feed the cows.
Mr Edwards took up the challenge, but scythed his femoral artery. He bled to death by the side where he was, leaving his ghost to wander the road.
While Anne recounts her ghoulish tales, husband Rob is sat quietly by her side.
But he has his own anecdote about a tree on Drapers Corner in Greensted, said to be used to hang a sheep rustler.
"Two lads were cycling down the road and claimed they had seen a man hanging there," Rob recounts with the sort of quiet assurance that is difficult to question.
"The police were called to check it out, but they couldn't find any thing, so it went down as a ghostly experience.
"The next night I did feel something strange. I went through an experience which is quite different. I can only remember the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, those boys are not the only ones who have seen him," he said with more than a hint of cryptic reflection.
Anne goes on to tell of countless other ghosts in Greensted and Toot Hill.
"You could go for hours," said Anne, "once you start asking about ghosts you just get loads of tales. I know there are lots more in Ongar."
Anne's fascination with the subject is unsurprising, given her claim that her mother's farm at Toot Hill was haunted.
"Friends would come to stay and ask my mother who the lady in the garden was, and my mother would reply 'that's our ghost'.
"I didn't tell the new owners of the house about her, but they soon met her.
"I never saw her, but my mum and friends did. I don't think I am very perceptive."
Anne believes youngsters and animals are particularly receptive to spirits.
As I sit and listen to the stories, there is one clear theme – all of the ghosts have come from people who died in tragic circumstances.
"I believe we have two souls," said Anne, "I think if you die in a violent death your second soul comes back for your soul mate."
Having spent an hour in the company of Anne, I was converted.
Forget your Ghostbusters, Ongar has the real thing.
Source: Ongar Gazette