Saturday, 19 April 2014

A Spooky Walk around Penshurst, Kent

A Spooky Walk around Penshurst, Kent

Distance:            6 miles

Ghostly Rating        ****

Route:                Penshurst - Chiddingstone - Penshurst

Map:                OS Explorer 147

Start/ Parking:        Penshurst village

Conditions:            This walk covers both village centres, where the going is over paths and lanes, linked by a bridleway which is well surfaced, but can be slippery in very wet weather.

Refreshments:        There is a pub in Penshurst and another in Chiddingstone, both offering meals. Penshurst Place offers a small cafe.

This walk links two of the more charming villages in Kent, both of which are dominatedby historic houses. The families that once lived in these grand houses were, of course, friendly with each other. That friendship has left its phantom mark on this walk for the realationship between the two led to one of the hauntings that make this a more than usually spinechilling ramble.

from "Ghosthunter Walks in Kent" by Rupert Matthews

Get your copy HERE

Monday, 14 April 2014

Ghosts in Beaminster, Dorset

Ghosts in Beaminster, Dorset

The phantoms of the land around Beaminster are a varied group, and the scenery is equally diverse. There are narrow, quiet lanes, wide open hillsides offering sweeping views and dense woodland rich in wildlife. The more challenging sections of this walk can be bypassed by those who prefer an easier outing, but this short cut also misses out the finest views and most impressive scenery. Beaminster itself is an engaging little town with a surprisingly diverse range of shops to visit. There are pubs and restaurants in plenty. All in all, Beaminster is a lively little place that makes a good centre for the surrounding countryside and a welcoming place to halt awhile.

The Walk

1) Park in Beaminster, if possible in the Market Square but if this small area is full use the nearby car park. Leave the Market Square by way of Church Street. At the bottom of Church Street is the parish Church of St Mary’s with its recently restored 15th century tower.

It was just at this church that a murder most foul was unmasked on 27 June 1728. The victim was a schoolboy named John Daniel. He had died around six weeks before from what appeared to have been a fit. Then his ghost was seen by a group of his fellow shoolboys sitting beside a phantom coffin in the nave of the church. When the boys approached him, the ghost looked up mournfully as if to say something, but then vanished. The boys included one who had moved to the village just a week earlier and had never met the deceased John Daniel, but he could give an accurate description of the dead boy merely by seeing the ghost.

Colonel Broadrepp, the local Justice of the Peace, heard about the sighting and questioned the boys closely. Believing that the appearance of the ghost signified something, but not sure what, Broadrepp ordered the corpse to be exhumed. Although the body had begun to decompose, there was enough evidence of foul play to persuade Broadrepp to investigate. He found that the coroner had been drunk at the hearing and had ignored a witness who claimed that young Daniel had told her he was in fear of his life. Suspicion centred on Daniel’s stepmother Elizabeth Daniel, but there was no real evidence that she had killed the boy. Local opinion was firmly against her, however, and she had to leave Beaminster. In contrast, the ghost of poor young John has never left Beaminster. He is seen from time to time sitting quietly in the church, perhaps forever waiting for justice to be done.

From "Ghosthunter Walks in dorset" by Rupert Matthews
Get your copy HERE

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Odd Things in Lancashire

Odd Things in Lancashire

Lancashire is a county of mixed aspect. There are the great industrial cities of Manchester and Liverpool, both now separated from the county for the purposes of local government. There is the county town of Lancaster, still dominated by its ancient castle, and a scattering of prosperous market towns. This has long been an important county to England. The Queen of England still draws much of her income from the estates she holds as the Duke of Lancaster and the county is the only one that has a seat in the national government, for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a member of the cabinet.

But it is the landscape that defines the county. Lying between the great natural boundaries of the Mersey to the south, the Pennines to the east and the Cumbrian mountains to the north, Lancashire has long looked out across the wild waters of the Irish Sea to the west and beyond them to the Atlantic. And with over a hundred miles of coastline, the county has a lot of looking to do. Nowhere have the good folk of Lancashire looked out across the waves more often than from Blackpool, playground of the north.

Some of those who have gazed out across the sparkling waters have seen a very odd sight indeed. Somewhere, out among the haze between sea and sky, have been seen the spires of churches. And those who have taken pleasure boats out on to the sea have heard the distant sound of church bells. This is the ghostly lost city of the west. Centuries ago, Lancashire stretched out much further to the west than it does now. Sadly a great flood poured in from the Irish Sea, drowning the land and driving out the inhabitants. The ruins still lie beneath the sea and the bells can be heard in rough weather, while on calm days the phantoms of the lost parishes rise above the waves.

Nor is there any respite at Blackpool for those who turn their eyes inland. In the early hours of the morning, when all is quiet and still, a lone tram will trundle down the Promenade. Its lights are lit, but it never stops to collect passengers nor does its driver slow down for any reason. This is the ghost tram that has been running this route for the past century.

from "The Ghosthunter's Guide to England" by Rupert Matthews

Get your copy HERE

Monday, 7 April 2014

A Poltergeist in Herefordshire

A Poltergeist in Herefordshire

A particular class of haunting is known these days as a poltergeist, German for ‘noisy ghost’. In years gone by these visitations were generally held to be due to a visiting member of the fairy race, or perhaps a junior demon - sometimes called a familiar. In 1670 such an event took place at Burton, as recorded in a contemporary letter written by a gentleman of Hereford to a friend.
“There is a farm in Burton, a village in the parish of Weobley, which Mr William Bridges, a linen draper of London, has in mortgage from one Thomas Tomkyns, a decayed yeoman. This farm was taken in lease of Mrs Elizabeth Bridges about Michaelmas 1669. Soon after this tenant was entered on the farm, some familiar began to act apish pranks by knocking boldly at the door in the dark of the evening, and the like early in the morning, but nobody to be seen. The stools and forms [wooden benches] were thrown into disorder, heaps of malt and vetches mingled, loaves of bread laid on a table carried into another room, or hid in tubs covered with cloths. Cabbage plants dug up and replanted in various patterns; a half roasted pig demolished except the bones; the milk turned sour with vinegar, some cattle died and among others a sow leaped and danced in strange postures and at last fell down dead; a mow of pulse and pease likewise.
“After these one John Jones, a valiant Welshman, undertook to keep watch with a sword, a mastiff dog and a lantern. He had not long lain on the bed when he heard a knocking at the door, and as he conceived many cats came into his chamber, broke the windows and made a hideous noise. The mastiff howled, the candle went out, the Welshman fell into a cold sweat, left the sword unused and with much ado found the door and ran half a mile without looking behind him, protesting next day he would not be another night in the house for a hundred pounds. These particulars I received from eye witnesses of unquestionable credit and you may no more doubt the truth of them than distrust the affection of
“Your humble servant

The haunting of the Burton farmhouse caused quite a sensation at the time. From the description it would undoubtedly be classed by modern ghosthunters as the activities of a poltergeist.

from "Haunted Herefordshire" by Rupert Matthews

Friday, 28 March 2014

The Cavalier of Littledean Hall

The Cavalier of Littledean Hall

An anonymous cavalier haunts Littledean Hall in the heart of the Forest of Dean. This is said to be England's oldest inhabited house having Saxon foundations visible in the cellars and standing on a site with pre-Roman ruins clearly visible. This haunting dates from the Civil War when a troop of Parliamentary troopers rode up to the hall just as two prominent local supporters of the king were visiting. Colonel Congreve and Captain Wigmore were taken by surprise, but managed to grab their weapons before the Roundheads were upon them. A brutal swordfight took place in the Hall, with the two cavaliers being killed after accounting for several of their enemies. The ghostly royalists give no hint of this violent end, sitting quite happily to one side of the room. The bloodstains caused by the fight can still be seen.
From Haunted Gloucestershire by Rupert Matthews

Get your copy HERE

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Rasputin - The Early Years

Rasputin - The Early Years

The story of Rasputin is a remarkable one, with the events of his life exceeded in peculiarity only by the truly inexplicable circumstances of his death. During his time he was a healer and self-proclaimed holy man, as well as the most unlikely of statesmen, enjoying incredible influence over the rulers of Russia.

The real name of the man who came to be known as Rasputin (the word means ‘debauched’ in Russian) was Grigory Yefimovich Novykh. Born in 1865 into a typical Siberian peasant family, he could never have envisaged, in his early years, how much he would go on to accomplish in his life. When he was about 18, Rasputin underwent a religious experience and decided to enter the monastery at Verkhoture, where he stayed for some months. Despite his famous soubriquet of ‘the mad monk’, however, Rasputin never actually became a genuine monk, perhaps because he was illiterate and unable to read the scriptures for himself. Whatever the reason, it is unlikely that any monastery would have been able to contain for long such an unusual character as Rasputin.

While at this monastery, Rasputin became familiar with the Khlysty religious sect – which mixed its own brand of mysticism with a degree of sexual hedonism not often found in the church, and which had actually been banned in Russia on heretical grounds. In spite of the fact that he was married, Rasputin launched himself into this world of fornication with considerable enthusiasm, even holding orgies in the marital home. At this time he was beginning to be aware that he might possess some unusual powers, and believed that these could be directly attributed to his sexual indulgences – for this reason he took part in these excesses at every opportunity.

Rasputin gained a reputation as a healer and clairvoyant. He had developed an unusual ability to cure ailments without even having to make a diagnosis, almost as if he detected the nature of the problem through psychic means alone. He travelled as far as Mount Athos, in Greece, and Jerusalem, where he demonstrated his skills to the religious dignitaries, to great acclaim. And so he established his reputation as a ‘staretz’ (the term for a self-proclaimed holy man and faith healer). Needy people would travel great distances to meet him, rewarding him for his services with gifts or money.


Get your copy HERE

Monday, 3 March 2014

Bigfoot - and others

Bigfoot - and others

If we are to take the reports at face value it would seem that there are gigantic upright hominid apes stomping about North America in large numbers. They steal food from campsites, attack cars and leer through bedroom windows. They might run off as soon as a human approaches, but are just as likely to kidnap the hapless intruder and force them to live in the forests for months on end. They also smell terrible. They are called Bigfoot or Sasquatch. Other apes wander the jungles of South America, though they are smaller and less human-like than those of the north.

It is not just in the Americas that these apes are to be found. The high Himalayas are home to the enigmatic yeti. The Sumatran jungles harbour a short hairy man called the orang pendek. Central Asia is stalked by a being that might be a primitive form of human, and which locals call the Almas. Over the border in China reports are made of an almost identical beast called the Yeren. Even Australia gets in on the act with a big hairy ape called the Yowie.

What all these animals, or perhaps humans, have in common is that conventional science does not recognise that they exist.

All these creatures are classed as “cryptids” or “hidden ones”. These are animals which have been reported to exist, but for which there is not enough evidence to satisfy the scientific community. The standard of evidence needed is exacting, but simple. Until an example - living or dead - is produced for examination a beast remains a cryptid. Once an example, a type specimen in the scientific terminology, has been produced the beast becomes accepted as a known animal.

And yet there is ample evidence that some, at least, of these cryptids are real animals. The sheer mass of evidence for the Sasquatch is impressive. The quality of some of that evidence is also most convincing. It must be admitted that some of the evidence is of poor quality and other evidence has been falsified by hoaxers. The evidence for the other man-beast cryptids is less great, but not always less impressive.

And yet science and most scientists refuse to accept the reality of these beasts.

from "Sasquatch" by Rupert Matthews
Get your copy HERE