Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Ghost Flyers in the 1930s - or were they UFOs?

Before UFOs became widely known, there had been other sightings of unusual flying objects. Among the more enigmatic had been the so-called “ghost fliers” of 1930s Scandinavia. These odd aircraft were seen hundreds of times over Finland, Sweden and Norway between 1932 and 1937. When seen in daylight the ghost fliers took the form of extremely large aircraft, bigger than anything then flying, coloured grey and without markings of any kind. At night the aircraft often shone dazzlingly bright searchlights down to the ground. The ghost fliers usually came alone, but sometimes appeared in groups of two or three.

At first the various Scandinavian governments thought that they were being overflown by top secret scout aircraft from Russia, Germany or Britain. It soon became clear, however, that the ghost fliers were performing aerobatics and achieving speeds utterly impossible to any known aircraft - and with hindsight impossible even today.

Having tried to shoot down the strange intruders and spent fruitless days searching for their hidden bases, the Scandinavian authorities lost interest. The sightings faded in 1937 and ceased altogether in 1939 - by which time everyone had more important things on their minds.

This is an extract from Alien Encounters by Rupert Matthews

Monday, 28 June 2010

Kenneth Arnold makes UFOs respectable

Most UFO books and articles date the phenomenon to the famous 1947 sighting by Kenneth Arnold. The story has been often told, and its main features can be given quite quickly.

On 24 June 1947 Arnold, a highly experienced pilot, was flying his private aircraft over the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. His attention was caught by a flash of light, such as that caused by the sun flashing off the polished wings of another aircraft. Idly glancing in that direction he was amazed to see a formation of nine strange aircraft flying at extraordinary speed. The craft were crescent-shaped, bright silver in colour and flying in a military-style echelon formation. As they moved the craft did not fly in a straight line, but bobbed or skipped along.

The idea that these objects were alien spacecraft, ghosts or anything at all paranormal did not occur to Arnold. He assumed that the craft were made by humans and at first thought that they were some form of top secret US military aircraft being tested. It was not until after he landed that Arnold thought that the craft might not be from the USA, but might be secret, high-performance Soviet intruders (this being in the early days of the Cold War). It was for this reason that Arnold reported the incident first to the FBI and then to the Press. When a reporter asked Arnold to elaborate on what he meant when he said that the aircraft bobbed along he replied “They moved like a saucer does when you skip it over the water”. The term “flying saucer” was born.

In hindsight something very much more important happened that day than the mere coining of a phrase. Arnold was the first person to suggest that the strange flying objects were mechanical craft piloted by intelligent beings of unknown origin, but possibly hostile intent. The idea might seem fairly obvious to us now, but before that fateful day in 1947 other, similar objects were explained in a variety of other ways.

Something else that Arnold did, this time inadvertently, was to make it respectable for a person to report seeing a “flying saucer”, or an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) as the things soon became better known. As researchers were later to discover these things had been seen for a great many years before 1947, but had not been recognised for what they were.

This is an extract from the book UFOs by Rupert Matthews.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Roswell UFO Crash - the official cover up begins

At 4.30pm on the day that the press reported the UFO crash at Roswell, Major Edwin Kirton, the intelligence officer of the 8th Air Force at Fort Worth, issued a statement that declared the supposed saucer to be “a rawin high-altitude sonding device”. The statement got no further than the local media. It was overtaken by the exciting news that General Ramey would make a live announcement  on radio about the captured saucer. The broadcast would be made over the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) network courtesy of the Fort Worth based WBAP radio station and its studios.

At 4.59pm the AP wire service carried an alert from Washington alerting reporters that a major new development in the story was expected. This was, presumably, following an announcement from Vandenberg’s office that an important official statement was about to be made. The statement did not come out over the AP wire until 5.29pm. It began:
“Roswell’s celebrated ‘flying disk’ was rudely stripped of its glamor by a Fort Worth army airfield weather officer, who late today identified the object as a weather balloon.” The story went on to review events to date, then repeated Newton’s firm identification of the debris that he saw in Ramey’s office as coming from a weather balloon. Not noticed at the time was the fact that Newton said the debris was the remains of a “rawin target balloon”, not a “rawin sonding device” as claimed by Kirton. Again the discrepancy would years later acquire a significance it did not have at the time.

Across the nation interest in the story died rapidly. On 9 July Hughie Green reached his destination and dashed out to buy the morning papers. There was nothing in the story about the captured flying saucer. This puzzled him as the radio stations in New Mexico the previous day had talked about nothing else. A few newspapers elsewhere carried the USAAF explanation that the crashed saucer had, in fact, been a weather balloon, but only as a small story on inside pages.

This is an extract from Roswell by Rupert Matthews

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

What is a Poltergeist?

The word “poltergeist” is a German term that has been adopted by researchers in the English-speaking world to refer to a particular type of paranormal event. There are many other types of paranormal event that are witnessed by people from time to time but are not recognised by formal science. But the poltergeist is in a league of its own. The witnesses are often impeccable and the material results of a poltergeist visitation are very real for all to see.

The word poltergeist is usually translated as “noisy ghost”, but that does not quite capture the full meaning of the term. The ghost is “noisy” in much the same way that a party thrown by drunken teenagers is noisy. Not only is there a large amount of noise, but there is a rumbustious, anarchic degree of movement and jostling that at any moment might turn to violence as if one drunken teenager takes offence at what another says. It is noisy in the sense of being unwelcome, unpleasant and with an air of potential mayhem about the place.

Nor is the ghost part of the translation entirely accurate. In German the word might mean a spirit or a disembodied intelligence as easily as it might mean a ghost. While some researchers do think that a poltergeist visitation is caused by a ghost, others disagree. It is but one possible explanation among many.

In this book I shall be using the conventional term of poltergeist to describe the events, but do not want to imply that I accept the ghostly interpretation. I think that something else is causing the manifestations.

I shall also be using the word “visitation” to describe the period of time during which a poltergeist is active. Typically a poltergeist visitation has a beginning, a middle and an end. It lasts for a definite period of time, though this can vary considerably, and once it is over it very rarely begins again. I do not mean to imply that the house or person involved is in fact being visited by some entity that causes the poltergeist activity, again that might be the case or it might not. What I do want to imply is that just like a visit by an elderly aunt, there is a clear start and end to the career of any given poltergeist. Some researchers prefer to use the term “poltergeist attack”, but while some poltergeist events are violent and create mayhem the word “attack” implies a purpose to the events that may not be the case.

This is an extract from the book "Poltergeists" by Rupert Matthews

Friday, 18 June 2010

The Ghosts of Loseley House, Surrey

Loseley House is a fine Elizabethan mansion that is still inhabited by the descendants of its builders. The current Mr and Mrs More-Molyneux open the house to the public, but also continue to run the estate as a farming business. They are best known for the Loseley ice creams and yoghurts which can be found in many Surrey shops. There are said to be two phantoms here, both of them ladies dating from the 18th century. Although the two ghosts look similar, they are very different entities. One goes by the name of the Pleasant Lady, the other is known as the Unpleasant Lady.

The different names are prompted by the emotions that the two ghosts inspire in those that encounter them. The Pleasant Lady emits an aura of charm and friendliness. Those unfortuante enough to meet the Unpleasant Lady report that when she appears the room is filled with a feeling of hostility and hatred that can be astonishingly intense. One American visitor who met her in the 1930s fled not only the room, but also the house. He refused to re-enter and waited outside while somebody else did his packing for him. Then he left.

This is an extract from Paranormal Surrey by Rupert Matthews

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Brown Men of Simonside, Northumberland

The wilder areas of Northumberland do not often feel the tread of a human. But it was not always so.

In days gone by, before the advent of off-road landrovers and quadbikes that can whisk men up to the sheep pastures in minutes, shepherds used to walk the hills on foot in all but the worst winter weather. These men knew that the hills were not empty, that much older creatures than they stalked the uplands and were best left alone. Some said that they were the evil angels swept out of Heaven by St Michael after the rebellion of Satan against God, others that they were the little people who had lived in the hills before humans came to the land, but whoever they were the shepherds knew to treat them with respect and to avoid them whenever possible.

And the most dangerous of all these little folk were to be found on the Simonside Hills. These towering heights dominate the southern side of Coquetdale west of Rothbury. Simonside itself rises to 1,409 feet and present a dramatic and rugged face to the world. It dominates the scene, although the neighbouring Tosson Hill is actually some 40 feet taller. Theses hills are covered with heather, gorse and bracken as well as rough grazing for the sheep.

Some years before the railways came to the area, two young men of some wealth came out of Newcastle to enjoy a week or so of hunting up in the hills. They chose the Simonside Hills for their expedition. After obtaining lodgings in Rothbury - at the time something of a health resort for the gentry from the industrial cities - they set off up into the hills with their guns. Sometime around noon, they stopped to eat a bite and drink some water. They were in a quiet green opening in the heather and gorse on the upper slopes of Simonside.

Suddenly a short man dressed all in brown woollen clothes the same shade as dry bracken stepped into the open space. The odd figure had a broad, muscular chest and stout arms. His head was topped by a wild mop of red hair and his eyes bulged unnaturally. The short man seemed to be as surprised to see the young men as they were to encounter him.

“Do ye know who I am?” the newcomer demanded belligerently.

Thinking that it would be best to be polite, the younger of the two Newcastle men replied that he took the short man to be the Lord of the Manor. The short man grunted, but continued to glare at the two hunters. The younger man then suggested that he would be willing to hand over the game birds that they had shot, if the Lord of the Manor liked.

The dwarf shook his head, declaring that he did not eat flesh. He preferred, he said, to eat whortleberries, cloudberries, mushrooms and nuts in the summer, feasting on crab apples, plums and sloes in the winter. He finished by asking if the two young men would like to join him for a meal. The younger man was all for accepting, but the older of the two stammered out a polite refusal and dragged his friend off down the hill toward Rothbury. There was, he said, something about the dwarf that had upset him.

When the two men got back to Rothbury they told their landlord about the “little brown man” that they had met. They were surprised that their tale evinced no surprise, but that the locals declared that the men had been wise to refuse the invitation. The claim to be vegetarian was false, it appeared, for the dwarves of Simonside were notorious for eating any humans who they could entice into entering their lair and turning their backs, even for a moment.

This is an extract from Mysterious Northumberland by Rupert Matthews

Monday, 14 June 2010

Carrier the Lane Dog of Berrow Bridge

The B3254 from Liskeard to Launceston is a pretty road, popular with the motoring tourists who come to Cornwall for just such picturesque drives. Some of those tourists might see more than they expected, for this is the home of Carrier, one of the more active of the many Lane Dogs of Cornwall.

Carrier is typical of the Lane Dogs. It is big, black and sinister. It is seen loping along the road oblivious to everything in its path. It takes as little notice of modern cars and lorries as it did of horsemen and coaches in days gone by. Drivers have been forced to swerve out his way to avoid colliding with this great dog with shaggy hair and staring eyes. Carrier’s single-minded pursuit of his journey is all that counts.

Unless, that is, somebody is foolish enough to block his path.

If Carrier is stopped from following his ever-repeating journey up the B3254 he becomes angry. Stopping in his tracks, the dog snarls maliciously. His eyes glow a fearsome red - like hot coals it is said. In most instances this has persuaded the person blocking the path to get out of the way, but the damage has been done. Bad luck will inevitably come to the person who dared to cross Carrier.

Carrier is seen more at Berriowbridge than at any other spot along the road. He comes down the hill from Middlewood at a steady run and lopes over the bridge before continuing up the hill the other side towards Launceston. Descending from the southwest corner of the bridge is a narrow flight of stone steps, now much overgrown. These lead down to a small pool of water beside the river. No doubt it was built so that travellers could drink or fetch water for their horse on hot days. Today it provides an eerie perch from which to watch the road.

It is interesting that Carrier should frequent this spot. The river which the bridge spans is the Lynher. Some miles downstream on the Lynher is St Germans, the site of one of Cornwall’s most famous hauntings. This is where Dando and his pack of hell-hounds ride in search of the souls of the damned. Perhaps there is something about the waters of the Lynher that make it attractive to mysterious dogs.

Having crossed this river, Carrier continues on to Launceston where - according to one version of the story - he vanishes outside the medieval church of St Mary Magdalene.

This is an extract from Mysterious Cornwall by Rupert Matthews.

Carrier the Lane Dog of Berrow Broidge

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Poltergeist of Havelock Road

Not far to the west of Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland is General Havelock Road. When I heard it was haunted, I did wonder if the phantom was that of that great Sunderland man, General Havelock himself. This military man was born in Bishopwearmouth in 1795 and joined the army twenty years later. After campaigning in Persia, Afghanistan and Africa, Havelock found himself in India when the Indian Mutiny broke out in 1856. Taking command of a column of 1,000 men, Havelock set off to fight his way through the swarming masses of mutinying Indian troops and rebellious princes to save the isolated British garrisons at Cawnpore and Lucknow.

He reached Cawnpore too late, finding the corpses of the massacred soldiers littering the defences and the bodies of the women and children thrown into a pit. Pushing on, Havelock fought eight battles to reach Lucknow in time to save the hundreds of civilians trapped there. Worn out by his exertions, Havelock died in Lucknow a few weeks later. His son later served as MP for Sunderland and, in his turn, joined the army and died fighting in the Khyber Pass.

Unfortunately it is not this heroic man who haunts the street named after him. Instead the phantom was a nameless poltergeist most active in the 1950s. It would knock on doors, throw plates and cutlery around, hide keys and generally make a nuisance of itself. This particular poltergeist made a habit of opening doors, then slamming them shut with great violence. It also took a strange dislike to a landscape picture hanging on one of the walls, taking it down and hiding it with great frequency.

These sorts of mischievous invisibles are known as poltergeists, from the German meaning ‘noisy ghost’, but in northern England they have traditionally been termed ‘boggles’. Nobody is entirely certain what causes these strange manifestations, but they do fit a common pattern which would indicate that they originate in a common cause.

Poltergeist hauntings usually begin slowly, in the Havelock Road case the haunting began with door knocking but the sound of banging on furniture is also common. Some hauntings get no further than this and quickly fade away. They may even be dismissed as some prankster playing tricks. If things do turn more serious, the poltergeist typically begins to move objects around. Things go missing, then turn up in places where nobody put them. Keys are found in sock drawers or socks in the fridge. It can all get quite annoying. Finally, objects may be thrown around a room while people are actually present and watching. This can be terrifying for those involved, but poltergeists rarely cause any real damage. Even fragile ornaments may fly from one end of a room to another, then settle gently to rest without damage. It would seem that on the few occasions when an object hits a person it is more by accident than design.

Investigators who have looked into these matters have noticed that poltergeists almost invariably strike a family home in which there is a teenager. And often the teenager is undergoing some sort of stress, such as crucial exams or an unhappy love affair. Whether the teenager somehow causes the events, or if the poltergeist is attracted by the stress, is unknown.

As in the General Havelock Road case, however, things quieten down after a few weeks. Eventually the poltergeist departs, never to return. The events can be distressing and upsetting, but long term damage is rare. They to be something that must simply be endured until they go away.

This is an extract from Haunted Sunderland by Rupert Matthews.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Justice from beyond the grave in Beaminster, Dorset

Colonel Broadrepp of Mapperton Manor was the Justice of the Peace for the area around Beaminster in the early 18th century, and he took his job seriously. In 1728 he was faced with a situation that would have daunted many men, but Colonel Broadrepp was equal to the task.

He was contacted by the parents of Hannah Daniel, a good lady who had died in childbirth 14 years earlier. They said that they wanted to exhume the body of their grandson John, the boy whose birth had inadvertently caused the death of Hannah. Foul play in the death of the boy was suspected. When the Colonel asked why they had not voiced their concerns before the funeral, the old folk replied that they had not had any suspicions then, only now more than a month later. And it was the haunting that had made them change their minds.

John Daniel had died in the last week of May 1728, his body being found in a field on his father’s farm. The boy’s stepmother, Elizabeth Daniel, told the coroner that the boy had periodically suffered from violent fits. This was accepted as the cause of death and the poor boy was buried.

Then, on 27 June, twelve schoolboys had been playing the churchyard, the gallery of the church doubling up as their schoolroom. The boys heard the sounds of singing, although the church was empty, but do not seem to have been unduly worried by the manifestation. A few minutes later one boy went back to the gallery to collect his books before going home. The boy was startled to see a white coffin sitting in the gallery, though there had not been one there earlier and nobody had entered the church. The boy ran off to call his companions and together the twelve boys returned.

When they got back, they found the strange coffin was still there, together with a ribbon tied around one handle. It had now been joined by the apparition of a teenage boy who was sitting at a desk with a pen in his hand as if doing some schoolwork. Around his hand was wrapped a white cloth. “There sits our John” piped up the dead boy’s half brother Isaac, “with a coat on such as I have and with a pen in his hand”. The boy snatched up a stone and threw it at the apparition, which promptly vanished.

Colonel Broadrepp sent for the boys and quizzed them. He paid particular attention to the testimony of a boy who was new to the Beaminster and had not known John Daniel in life.  Broadrepp then sent for the couple who had prepared the body for burial to ask if they had noticed anything unusual. The woman recalled that the boy’s right hand had been bandaged to cover a cut that appeared to be a few days old. The man remarked that he had thought it odd that Elizabeth Daniel had already got the boy’s body into its shroud as this was a job usually left to him and his wife.

Agreeing that something was odd, Broadrepp ordered the body to be exhumed. The shroud was pulled back and there, around the neck, was a clear black line. The boy had been strangled with a piece of string or thin rope. Suspicion at once centred on Elizabeth Daniel. It was she who had put forward the story about fits and who had prepared the shroud. Perhaps she wanted the Daniel lands to go to her own son, rather than to John, or perhaps she had simply lost her temper with her stepson one day. There was, however, no real evidence against her so she escaped trial. She did not escape the condemnation of her neighbours, however, for all the locals believed that she had caused the boy’s death.

Strangely it was not the ghost of John Daniel that continued to be seen in and around the church at Beaminster in the years after 1728, but that of his mother Hannah. She is seen still from time to time. Wearing a dark-coloured dress that falls to her ankles, with a brightly coloured floral print scarf wrapped over her shoulders, the ghost wears a wide-brimmed straw bonnet. She has a pale face and those who see her report that she seems to be looking for something – or perhaps for someone.

This is an extract from Haunted Places of Dorset by Rupert Matthews