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So great a noise that the man of the house, on a sudden, thought the house was going away

from Noisome Spirits [album] by John Harvey



Like the accounts that inform ‘Incomparable singing’ and ‘This sweet bell ringing’, the apparition took place within a domestic rather than landscape setting, and was entirely auditory. Some of the noises were made by the impact of objects thrown by an ostensible poltergeist – the spirit of female relative, it was conjectured. Its loudest manifestation – the causality of which Jones did not either know or disclosed in the account – was of seismic proportions and extensive: ‘so great a noise that the man of the house, on a sudden, thought the house was going away’.

The composition is, again, programmatic beginning with the ‘Mr W. E.’ quietly praying by his bedside prior to two abrupt interruptions; followed by the extremely loud and terrifying noise; and, then, the sound of a pad being thrown against the door while a religious meeting was taking place at the house. The compositional material is made from collaged samples taken from a reading of the source text, the sound of crumpling of book paper, books dropped from a height onto a hard surface, and dried twigs being crushed. These have been variously stretched, re-equalised, adjusted harmonically, and desynchronously overlaid.

Source Text
One time – Mr W. E. (the author of this letter), being there, at prayer by his bedside – it struck the bed so violently (though it was but a trencher) that it made a report like that of a gun, so that both the bed and the room did shake. And, it did do twice – which greatly surprised him. Here was a pure room for a Sadducee to sleep in for two or three nights. One time, it made so great a noise that the man of the house, on a sudden, thought the house was going away, and was greatly terrified. It never after this made so loud a noise. Once, when they were at meeting, it threw a pad against the door, at the foot of the stairs, which made so great a noise as surprised and terrified those who were near the door especially.

One time, the Revd Mr Richard Tibbot (a Dissenting minister from Montgomeryshire), being come to preach that way (and he is an evangelical, holy minister of Christ), came into this house. Being in bed together with another person, and expecting the stir, he continued awake and talking along time. At last, Mr Tibbot slept; his companion, keeping awake, heard the spirit come and awaked Mr Tibbot. It began to pluck the clothes. They held them and prayed, and it let them alone a while. But, they being thoroughly awaked (by this time, kept awake), expecting it would come again to pull the clothes, therefore turned the clothes about them as well as they could. Accordingly, it came to pull them (which they held with all their might), so that they thought the clothes were broken between them (which, really, they were not). Having not prevailed this way, it struck the bed with the cawnen (a vessel to hold corn), so strongly that it removed the bed out of its place, and with so loud a stroke that W. T. heard it. He brought light with him (they also calling for it), and they had quiet the rest of the night. They had, I think, been keeping the day before in a day of fasting and praying, which, it might be, enraged the spirit.

I imagine, in myself, how dreadful his companion’s word was to Mr Tibbot (just newly awaking in the dead of night): ‘Here it is coming!’, when they expected to feel his power. Here was a pure place for a couple of infidel Sadducees (as to be in Mr Tibbot and his companion’s place for the time). The proud bantering Mr S. B. and his companion in infidel mirth, Mr A. T., who have need of this conviction, which Mr T. and friend had not. (Though, even to them, it was a confirmation of what they rightly believed before.) It deserves to be observed, how this evil spirit was limited in its ill doings. For when the good man of the house (and such he certainly was) was shaving, it would not touch him while the razor was on his face. But when he would take it off, it would strike him on the side of the head.

The manner of its going away, and ceasing to trouble, was this: the man of the house, being in bed with his wife, Catherine Thomas, thought he heard a voice calling upon him. He, then, awaked his wife, and rose up a little in bed, and said to the spirit: ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus, what seeketh thou in my house? Hath thou anything to say to me?’ The spirit answered it had, and desired him to remove some things (telling what they were) out of the place where they had been mislaid. The good man, thinking it to be a devil, one of the fallen angels, made answer: ‘Satan, I’ll do nothing that thou biddest me any further then my Bible gives me leave; I command thee, in the name of God, to depart from my house’. Both of them perfectly knew the voice to be that of a dead relation (at least, that it perfectly resembled it). This gave them both a great concern, lest it should be the spirit of that relation of whom they hoped better things. However, from that time forth it gave no disturbance. For my part, I believe it was the disembodied spirit of that relation – which fought an alleviating circumstance to its bad state by the removal of those mislaid things (and wish they had removed them, as it always gives ease to them who appear on such accounts, and cease to give trouble to those to whom they appear) – there being no reason to be given why one of the fallen angels (properly called devils) should personate a disembodied spirit, but reason against it. It was the voice of a female relation more nearly related either to Mr, rather than Mrs, Thomas which they heard (of whom they hoped better things). Oh, that both men and women were more concerned, and laboured to the utmost to avoid a miserable, and to secure a happy eternity after life and death.

Source Reference
'The Appearance of Evil', 74–75.


from Noisome Spirits [album], released July 15, 2021


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John Harvey Ceredigion, UK

I’m a practitioner and historian of sound art and visual art, and Emeritus Professor of Art at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University, UK. My research field is the sonic and visual culture of religion. I explore the sonic articulations of the Christian religion by engaging visual, textual, and audible sources, theological and cultural ideas, and systemic and audiovisualogical processes. ... more

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