Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Green Lady of Swanbourne, Bucks

The charming village of Swanbourne is, for many, the typical Buckinghamshire scene. The old Manor House has stone mullioned windows, scarcely having changed since it was built in the 16th century. The nearby cottages of Smithfield Close date back as far and form a picturesque scene of thatch and low eaves. Everything about the village clusters around the Winslow Road, which runs past manor and church. It is here, too, that the ghost is seen.

The phantom of Swanbourne is an elegant lady dressed all in green. She is seen in the main street, walking quietly towards the Church of St Swithin with her head bowed and hands clasped. There is no doubt about the identity of this Green Lady for the ghost was first seen only a few weeks after the lady’s death and was instantly recognised by several villagers who had known her in life.

The ghost is that of Elizabeth Adams, wife of Thomas Adams. The Adams family has been connected with Swanbourne for generations. Only the Fremantles, one of whom fought alongside Nelson at Trafalgar, can rival the Adams family for the length of time spent in and around Swanbourne.

This particular Adams had a sad and tragic life. She married into the Adams family young, bearing the handsome Thomas four children. Everything seemed set fair for a long and happy life, but in October 1627 disaster struck. Thomas was waylaid by thieves who took not only his valuables and money, but also his life. The widow Elizabeth never really recovered from the shock of hearing of her beloved husband’s death. She was devoted to her children and brought them up in the village as well as anyone could hope, but the joy had gone from her life. Every evening she would be seen walking towards the church to pay her respects at the tomb of her husband.

Gradually poor Elizabeth faded away. As her children grew older, she seemed to lose the will to live. Finally, she slipped away quietly in her sleep. Elizabeth’s body was brought to St Swithin’s to lie alongside her husband for eternity. And then her ghost began to be seen, following the route she had taken every evening in life.

And she takes it still.

This is an extract from Haunted Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire by Rupert Matthews

Monday, 26 July 2010

The Strange Shape at the Wheatsheaf at Braishfield, Hants

I spent a happy half hour strolling the lanes around Braishfield. It really is a very pretty place and there is a comfortable bench beside the pond where you can rest or a quaint church to look around if you prefer.

But by then I felt it was time for lunch and made my way to the Wheatsheaf near the centre of the straggling village. The landlord, Peter Jones, was most welcoming. And he had news for me.

“You don’t want to waste your time walking around the village,” he said. “We’ve got our own ghost here.” He pointed at a table in the corner of the front bar. “Early in the morning we sometimes see a shape lurking over there. Not sure what it is. Just a shape. And sometimes the table and chairs have been moved overnight as if phantom revellers have been sitting there eating or drinking.”

And well they might for the pub offers some tempting dishes. I treated myself to a sirloin steak stuffed with stilton and served with chips. But I had to pay with boring modern notes for I had found no gold coins belonging to the Miser of Braishfield. But you might have more luck.

This is an extract from Haunted Hampshire Rupert Matthews

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Sad Spectre of Robertsbridge, Sussex

This is a short, gentle walk that takes in a varied collection of historic buildings and scenery as well as some spooky ghosts. It can be completed fairly quickly, but still has much to offer the walker.

From the railway station, head east along Station Road to cross a small brook, the Glottenham Stream.

You are unlikely to meet the ghost that haunts this bridge, unless you are visiting after heavy and prolonged rain. And in that case some of the later stages of the walk might be decidedly uncomfortable. The village is named after the bridge over the River Rother that will be crossed later, but this little stream was for generations crossed by a simple ford.

It was here in the later 1700s that a sudden flood of waters rushing down from the hills to the west caught the villagers of Robertsbridge unawares. The floodwaters rose rapidly, tumbling down the valley with ferocious speed. A little girl aged 9 was swept away and drowned, her body being found miles down the Rother a few days later. Her ghost has returned here whenever floods rise to turn this gentle little brook into a raging torrent as on that fatal day so long ago. Presumably she comes back to ensure that no other children fall victim to the Glottenham.

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

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Ghosts of Pluckley Church, Kent

Pluckley is without doubt the most haunted village in Kent, and its residents will tell you it is the most haunted in England. There are certainly ghosts in plenty here, and some are quite spectacular. The most dramatic haunting lies a mile or more south of the main walk, and a two-way excursion is added to this walk for those who feel energetic enough to make it.

Park in the High Street near the church.

The first ghost to be encountered is in the churchyard. This is the Red Lady Dering, one of the more active ghosts in this village. She seems to be searching the churchyard for one gravestone in particular, but it is a gravestone she will never find. The ghost is that of a Lady Dering from the 17th century. She died in childbirth, as did the baby to which she was giving birth. Lady Dering herself was properly buried as befitted the lady of the manor, but the baby has no headstone to mark its grave. It died before it could be baptised and although buried in consecrated land it had no tomb. It is presumed that it is for the grave of her beloved baby that the sad Red Lady Dering searches so diligently.

Inside the church is to be found the Dering Chapel, a small space set aside for worship by this local family and for the burial of their dead. One of the Lady Dering’s interred here was buried inside three lead coffins, each placed within the next. It was said that this was because her husband knew her to be a wicked woman and was determined that her burial should be final. If this were so, it is not clear why the grieving widower should lay a single red rose on the lady’s breast just as the first coffin was closed. Whatever the truth, the spirit of this Lady Dering, carrying her single red rose, has not rested quietly. She has been seen several times kneeling in the Dering Chapel as if in prayer. Perhaps to seek forgiveness for her wickedness, whatever it was.

There are stories of a second ghost being seen inside the church. This is of a woman in fairly modern dress, that of the 1970s. She is seen entering the church as if on a casual visit, but promptly vanishes and is never seen to leave. There is also said to be a white dog, but firm accounts of this spectral hound are elusive.

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

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

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Phantom Roman Soldier of Chester

The county of Cheshire has long guarded the northern end of the border between England and Wales. Even before the two nations existed, the Romans built a mighty fortress here to block the wild mountain tribes from raiding into the rich lowlands. The English king of Mercia, Offa, built his dyke here for much the same reason and medieval kings of England dotted the county with castles.

In these peaceful days the fortresses have long been abandoned. There are prosperous farms where the rich red soil is ploughed for arable crops, and the flourishing towns of Tatton, Runcorn and Chester give the county a more modern, urban face.

The ghosts are fairly widespread across the area, but do tend to congregate in the older towns and villages. The ancient county town of Chester boasts perhaps the oldest in the form of a Roman soldier. This ghostly legionary paces endlessly between the ruined Roman tower beside Newgate in the city walls and the excavated ruins of the amphitheatre.

Local tradition has it that this was a decurian of the XI Legion Adiutrix, which was stationed here soon after the Roman conquest. This decurian fell in love with a local girl and was in the habit of slipping out of the fortress city, then known as Deva, to meet his lover. Unfortunately a band of tough Celtic warriors got to hear of this and, one evening, followed the girl to her secret assignation. As soon as the decurian appeared, the warriors pounced on him, bundling him into a ditch while they slipped into the city through the open postern gate to steal and plunder as much as they could. The decurian broke free and rushed to raise the alarm, but was then cut down by a Celtic sword. His route is presumed to be that along which he ran while trying to save his comrades.

This is an extract from Ghosthunter Guide to England by Rupert Matthews.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Strange Ghost of Callow Court, Herefordshire

A more conventional spectre is the gentleman in the wide-brimmed hat who haunts Prior’s Court at Callow. The fashions of the ghost seem to place him in the 17th century, while the flamboyant hat and jacket on which witnesses remark have encouraged many to state that he is a cavalier. Tradition has it that he was walled up alive here during the Civil War and left to die by heartless Roundhead troopers.

There is no documentary evidence that the story is true. However, it is known that Lord Levan and his Scots army swept through here in July 1645. Levan’s Scots acquired an ugly reputation for looting and violence, though whether even they would have been capable of such coldly ruthless treatment is not certain. The Civil War was, with a few notorious exceptions, fought out according to the rules of war as they were generally accepted in the 17th century.

This is an extract from Haunted Gloucestershire by Rupert Matthews

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Ghostly Monk of Hailes Abbey, Cloucestershireire

An altogether more serene spectral visitation from the turbulent times of the Reformation is to be found at Hailes. The Cistercian Abbey that once dominated this charming village was founded in 1251 by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, as a result of a vow he made when being shipwrecked off the Isles of Scilly. The earl endowed the abbey generously and arranged that it should be dedicated by none other than King Henry III himself. In its day, this was a fine abbey and one of the richest in Gloucestershire. In 1271 the east end of the large church was rebuilt in the latest fashion to house a most sacred relic, brought all the way from Constantinople (now Istanbul), then capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire which ruled much of the eastern Mediterranean. This was a small glass phial containing drops of the blood of Christ.

The monks were almost wiped out when the dread Black Death struck England in the 14th century, but one survived to pass on to the new clerics the relic. In 1539 the monasteries were closed down by King Henry VIII. Once again, only one monk remained at Hailes. Like his fellows he had been pensioned off by the king in return for agreeing to the closure of his abbey. But this monk remained for a reason. He watched while a furnace was setup on the site of the high altar to melt down the lead roofs and while the stones of the church were carted off for use elsewhere.

All this time the lone hermit hoped for the restoration of the Catholic faith and, meanwhile, he kept hidden that sacred glass bottle so that it would not be destroyed by the Protestants who thought it a fake.

That lone monk is long dead, but he is not gone. He still walks the ruins of Hailes Abbey, which stands close by the Norman parish church to which the monastic stained glass was moved when the abbey was closed. This phantom monk has a mission. He still guards that sacred glass flask of blood. It is carefully hidden, even the archaeologists who excavated the ruins did not find it. Most of the visitors who today wander the romantic ruins do not even know it is there, never mind make any effort to find it. And if the ghostly monk has his way, they will not find it even if they look.

This is an extract from Haunted Gloucestershire by Rupert Matthews.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Hypnosis and Reincarnation

The fact that hypnosis subjects are suddenly able to speak in a foreign language is one of the oddest and most compelling pieces of evidence about past lives. Other positive benefits such as the relief of long term illnesses, nightmares or phobias have been felt when the harm supposedly caused by past life injuries or experiences was addressed.

Opponents to hypnosis believe it is perilous and that beneficial results are unproven. They believe that symptoms people put down to past existences are more likely to be caused by inherited or suppressed memories. Hypnosis might even be making the problem worse by creating a multitude of personalities in a subject, rather than pinpointing true past life experiences.

The experience of a Colorado housewife who regressed into a supposed past life as Bridey Murphy of nineteenth-century Ireland was documented in a book. But the account was swiftly debunked when it was proved that no woman of that name was born in the year she had claimed. Nor was her death on record anywhere. Her command of the old Irish language and lifestyle was later deemed to have been learned through a close relationship with an Irish woman in her early years.

Still, the stories relating to hypnotherapy remain intriguing. In 1983, psychologist and former sceptic Peter Ramster featured in a documentary with four women who recounted their past life experiences. One woman remembered a life in Somerset, England, in the second half of the eighteenth century. When she was taken to the rural village in question – a place she had never visited before – she was able to find her way around and identify local landmarks, some of which had been long forgotten. Furthermore, it became clear that she had a thorough knowledge of local legends, dialect and families.

This is an extract from the Encyclopedia of the Paranormal by Rupert Matthews.

Friday, 2 July 2010

The Sasquatch / Bigfoot in Native American folklore

The oldest sources of stories about the Sasquatch are the native peoples of North America. As might be expected each tribe had its own name for these creatures. The Iroquois called them wendigo or wittiko, the Micmac called it chenoo and the Penobscott used the name kiwakwe. European folklorists who were the first to come across these stories in any number used the general term of Wendigo. They treated the tales as little better than fairy stories, and concentrated on the story element of the tales, no matter how much the native peoples insisted that the creatures were real. The problem with these early reports, from a scientific point of view, is that they are not only rather vague but contain no details of time or place. They simply talk about the animal as they might talk about bear or elk. The creature is described as looking like a very large human, covered all over in fur. It is said to live in remote forested areas, to be active mostly at night and to avoid humans.

Interestingly the further away from forested mountains that researchers got, the more the stories they collected about this creature became detached from reality. While the tribes of British Columbia treated Sasquatch as just another animal, albeit a rather special one akin to humans, the Ojibway of the plains regard it as a messenger from the gods. The appearance of a Sasquatch is seen as a bad omen, a sign that supernatural trouble is on the way.

The name Sasquatch comes from the writings of J.W. Burns who was a teacher on the Chehalis Indian Reserve in British Columbia. It is an anglicisation of the word that is more properly rendered as sesqec. The name has stuck and although it was at first used more widely in Canada than the USA, many researchers now prefer it to the tabloid-sounding Bigfoot. So far as Burns was concerned he was collecting folktales and legends with no basis in reality. Like others working with the indigenous peoples, he did not take seriously the stories of gigantic hairy man-apes.

Having coined the word, J.W. Burns soon realised that the tribesmen considered the Sasquatch to be a very real animal. In May 1938 Burns was at a local festival when an official from the Canadian government touched on the subject. “Of course,” the speaker said “Sasquatch are merely imaginary Indian monsters. No white man has ever seen them and they do not exist.” The speaker then found himself pushed out of the way by Chief Flying Eagle of the Halkomelem.

“The white speaker is wrong,” declared Flying Eagle. “Some white men have seen Sasquatch. Many Indians have seen them. Sasquatch are still all around here. I have spoken.”

Chief Flying Eagle was right, white men had been reporting seeing the hairy ape-man of the woods for some years. As far back as 1793 the Boston Gazette was reporting on a big, hairy and unidentified creature called the chickly cudly, a term that seems to be an anglicisation of a Cherokee word translating as “hairy man thing”. Details of what the creature looked like or what it did are, however, lacking.

This is an extract from Sasqutch by Rupert Matthews.