Sunday, 29 August 2010
The Mysterious Heights of Eggardon Hill
The wind-blasted heights of Eggardon Hill are not a place to linger. The wind howls in off the English Channel and this towering hill is the first high point it reaches. Even when the air is still and calm in the valleys below, the treeless slopes above are whipped by the wind. In winter this is a bleak and lonely spot, in summer exposed and sombre.
Eggardon Hill is one of the most impressive in Dorset. It rears up over 800 feet above sea level. The crest of the hill is dominated by powerful earthwork fortifications that in pre-Roman times protected a prosperous Celtic settlement. Around the slopes of the hill are dotted burial mounds and field works from even earlier eras. This is a place steeped in history.
It may be steeped in much else besides for this is a strange place. There is said to be a phantom white deer that lives on the hill and which brings bad luck to all who see her, while disembodied screams have the power to shock all who hear them. In the days when horses provided the motive power for carts and carriages, the hill was notorious for the fact that horses would unaccountably refuse to pass over it. Although the driver could see nothing, the horse most certainly could and would refuse to budge. Dogs were also liable to turn tail and flee when asked to trot up Eggardon Hill.
These days most people prefer the internal combustion engine to horses, but the hill has not lost its power to cause problems. Several motorists have reported that their engines will cut out quite suddenly, only to start again without difficulty a few minutes later. One person who suffered this in 2005 reported that “I was driving along happy as larry, when the car just cut out. That is a narrow road up there and there was no passing space close enough, so I just coasted to a stop. Of course, I knew the stories about the Devil and such and did not believe a word of it. But I tell you this. Being stuck up on Eggardon Hill all alone with the dusk closing down and not a living soul in sight is a spooky experience. Suddenly the stories did not seem so silly. Fortunately the car started up again when I fired the ignition. I drove off pretty smartly, I can tell you.”
All this bother may be related to the very solid apparitions that are sometimes seen wandering around the slopes of this hill. These phantom creatures come in the form of gigantic black dogs with glowing eyes and long shaggy hair. These monstrous dogs are, as elsewhere, said to be the hounds of the Devil. But at Eggaron Hill the Evil One himself comes out to put his pack on the trail of their quarry. On stormy nights, it is said, the Devil will sit on top of Eggardon Hill scanning the Dorset countryside for those who had been evil enough to deserve a place in Hell. When he spies one, the Devil lets loose his pack of demonic dogs to race over the countryside and hunt down the souls of the damned.
This might be dismissed as merely an old story were it not for the strange events that are reported to swirl around the hilltop. And for the fact that in the 1950s a man out walking his own dog met a tall, dark haired man apparently exercising two large black dogs. For some reason suddenly nervous, the dog walker hurried back to his car. As he glanced over his shoulder he saw the stranger and his dogs set off at a run, and thought he saw sparks flying from the man’s boots as they struck the ground.
And it may be entirely coincidental that Eggardon Hill is the place in Dorset where UFOs and flying saucers are seen more often than anywhere else.
It is a strange place indeed.
This is an extract from Haunted Places of Dorset by Rupert Matthews