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Attic Nights | by luminousowl
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Attic Nights

This is West Bilney Hall, a house with very special associations for me :) In the winter of 1907/8, Norfolk was agog with reports of strange lights flickering amid the woods and over fields. Mr Frederick Rolfe, formerly gamekeeper at the Hall, wrote to the Eastern Daily Press and recounted an experience here many years before. For several nights he had been startled by a bright blue light passing close to his face. And then at last I saw the light skimming over the ground, I waited till it came within a few yards of me, and then fired at the light. It being dark, you may fancy my surprise when I found a poor old half-starved barn owl dead on the ground. I thought it had been gathering glow worms, as it was getting late in the winter, but I have seen a great many owls since then, but I never saw one before give out any light.


The luminous owls of Norfolk vanished with that Edwardian midwinter. Lights still glowed mysteriously, but were now described as "phantom airships". Indeed, Mr Rolfe's letter appeared in the EDP on January 16, 1908, and the paper printed the first airship report on January 29. Were the Genius Loci again at work, spinning their web of warning for perhaps the last time? One could read a great deal into that poor old half-starved owl, dead on the cold grass.


Curiously, none of the writers who quote Rolfe's account seem to realise who he was. He too was a mystery and legend - the self-proclaimed "King of the Norfolk Poachers" and anonymous author of "I Walked By Night", one of the classics of the English countryside. Rolfe is now the subject of a pioneering new biography. I doubt if it mentions the owl. But we'll remember :)


West Bilney Hall, West Bilney, Norfolk. Minolta SRT 201, Rokkor 58mm f1,2, Fuji Neopan 1600, f1.2@1/125th.


EDIT (2011): Does this picture look too dark :( ? Please look here :)

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Taken on December 20, 2009