Friday, 16 July 2010

The Dancing Ghosts of Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove does not go in for subtlety. At the exit from the car park is a large sign with bold letters advertising a shop with the words “Cream Teas”. The access to the army’s gun ranges is guarded by an equally frank sign reading “No entry. Risk of sudden death.” The scenery is spectacular as well as charming, offering sweeping views as well as quaint cottages and the very epitome of a chocolate box cover version of an English village. The ghosts, on the other hand, are not quite what one might expect in so obviously English a place.

Park in the main car park provided for visitors. The charges here are high, so it is as well that this is a short walk. Exit the car park through the walk way to the right of the Heritage Centre and bear right down a narrow lane towards the Cove. The end of the lane opens out on to the beach.

This beach is a quaint and attractive one now used only by a few local fishermen who have managed to, so far, evade the axe wielded by the European Union. In its time, however, it has been a small, but busy port which imported all sorts of goods for the uses of local people. It has also had its share in the smuggling trade. What, if any, of these have given rise to the strange phantoms of the beach is unknown.

The ghosts first came to be known about during the Second World War. Along with all other beaches and coves which might offer a suitable landing place to German raiders or even invaders, Lulworth Cove was closed to the public. The beach was strewn with mines and barbed wire, while the road leading inland was blocked with anti-tank traps and other obstacles. It was, quite simply, impossible for anyone to get on or off the beach by land or sea. To make doubly certain that the area was proof against Hitler’s invading hordes, lookouts were posted on the hills to sweep the seas and skies with binoculars.

It was with some amazement that the lookouts one night saw people down on the beach. They seemed to be dancing in the moonlight. Then they were gone. The area was carefully searched and the defences tested and repositioned. But the dancers came back a few weeks later. It subsequently emerged that the phantom dancers had been seen before. A yachtsmen who anchored here in the 1930s reported that the young people attracted his attention when they waded up out of the sea, and only later did they dance on the sands.

This is an extract from Ghost Hunter Walks in Dorset by Rupert Matthews

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