Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Ghostly Flame Coach of Woodchester

The charming village of Woodchester lies astride the A46 where that main road runs through a narrow valley with sides exceptionally steep for Gloucestershire. Down the eastern slope runs a narrow lane which meets the main highway at a crossroads. It is down this slope that the terrifying Flame Coach makes its journey. Leaping into vision, the coach and four begins its journey as it comes lumbering at speed over the crest of the hill. Flames pour from its windows while dense clouds of smoke and glowing sparks trail in its wake. The coachman is hauling on the reins in a desperate attempt to pull the clearly terrified horses to a halt, but nothing stops them. Down the hill plunges this startling apparition, the coach swaying alarmingly and seeming on the point of tipping over. Then it reaches the village and vanishes, just as suddenly as if an electric light were switched off.

There are other phantom coaches in Gloucestershire to which neither story nor famous name is attached. One drives through Saddlewood, a second gallops across Rodborough Common and a third drives up to Kingswood House at Wotton under Edge. The apparently similar phantom carriages of Wickwar and Frocester Hill have not been seen recently, but the apparition at Coleford made a spectacular entrance in the 1990s. It came from nowhere on the Bream Road, materialising right in front of a motorist driving down the lane. He slammed on his brakes and lost control of his vehicle, which slid off the road. Fortunately the man was shaken up, not injured, but it was clearly a narrow escape.

This is an extract from Haunted Gloucestershire by Rupert Matthews.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Video for the book Mysterious Northumberland



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A view on Mediums

Humans operate at the lowest frequency of existence on the densest level, the physical plane. Naturally, we tend to believe that what we perceive is real and that anything that we cannot touch, taste, see, smell or hear does not exist. Our world appears solid but, as science has recently discovered, this is an illusion. We cannot see the spaces that exist between matter at the subatomic level. Our world is mostly composed of empty space. Although our apparently solid, physical world is an illusion, it is a reality to us while we remain within our physical bodies, but there is another world of finer matter operating at a higher frequency in the spaces in between our own.

However, we all possess an innate sixth sense which is merely an acute sensitivity to the more subtle forces and presences around us and not something abnormal or supernatural. There are some people who are not only aware that they possess this heightened sensitivity but who have developed it to a remarkable degree. We call them psychics and attribute all manner of paranormal powers to them such as precognition (foreseeing future events), psychometry (picking up impressions from personal objects) and remote viewing (projecting consciousness to another location). Those psychics who claim to be able to communicate with the dead are known as mediums and are either regarded as gifted by those who have received comfort and closure from having been given compelling evidence of their loved ones’ survival after death, or as charlatans by those who remain sceptical.

When the dead try to communicate with us we tend to block them out, either because we fear that acknowledging their presence will disturb our sense of reality or because we need to be grounded in the material world. Many of us have been conditioned to dismiss their influence on our lives as coincidences or as figments of our imagination. However, if we continue to ignore their presence they may intensify their efforts, moving small objects around and contriving to arrange uncanny coincidences. To this end, mediums are able to facilitate a meeting of minds between this world and the next, until we are willing and able to do this for ourselves.


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

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Early reports of the Orang Pendek cryptid

Somewhere in mountainous forests of southern Sumatra there is said to live the Orang pendek – the “short man”. The local villagers of the more densely forested regions appear to take the creature for granted, much as they do the tiger and rhinoceros which, although rare, frequent these woods. When told that western scientists do not recognise the Orang pendek as a real creature, the locals are inclined to scoff.

The first reference to this creature to be written by an outsider was made in 1917 by a Dr Edward Jacobson. The good doctor wrote about the creature to a scientific journal published in the Netherlands, Sumatra then being part of the Dutch colonial empire. Jacobson said that he had been camped near Boekit Kaba when the local men he had hired to hunt meat for him cam strolling in to announce that they had just passed an Orang pendek looking for insect larvae in a fallen log. They said that the creature had run off when it had seen them and, when questioned, insisted that it did so on its hind legs.

Jacobson thought this odd as the only apes he knew of, gibbons and orang utan, would have swung off through the trees. He went to investigate and found a footprint that looked exactly like that of a human, except that it was very small.

Jacobson’s letter prompted another from another European living in Sumatra, L.C. Westenenk. Westenenk reported that a friend of his had been leading a gang of workmen into the forest near Loeboek Salasik to cut timber when they came across “a large creature, low on its feet which ran like a man and was about to cross the path. It was very hairy and was not an orangutan. Its face was not like an ordinary man’s. It silently and gravely gave the men a disagreeable stare and ran calmly away. The workmen ran faster in the opposite direction.”

Also joining the correspondence was a Mr Oostingh, the manager of a coffee plantation at Dataran who, in 1917 had managed to get lost in the forest. He emerged into clearing to see what he took to be a man sitting with his back to him. “I saw that he had short hair, cut short I thought, and I suddenly realised that his neck was oddly leathery and extremely filthy. ‘That chap’s got a very dirty and wrinkled neck’ I said to myself. His body was as large as a medium-sized native’s [the average height of a native Sumatran is about 5 feet 7 inches] and he had thick square shoulders, not sloping at all. The colour was not brown, but looked like black earth, a sort of dusty black, more grey than black.

“He clearly noticed my presence. He did not so much as turn his head, but stood up on his feet. He seemed to be quite as tall as I am, 5 feet 9 inches. Then I saw that hat it was not a man, and I started back for I was not armed. The creature calmly took several paces, without the last haste, and then with his ludicrously long arm grasped a sapling which threatened to break under its weight and quietly sprang into a tree, swinging in great leaps alternately to right and to left.

“It was not an orangutan, I had seen one of these large apes a short time before. It was more like a monstrously large siamang [a type of gibbon], but a siamang has long hair and there was no doubt that it had short hair. I did not see its face for it never once looked at me.”

It has been suggested that what Oostingh saw was, in fact, a very large siamang. The average height for these animals is about 3 feet, but old males are known to grow rather larger. This would certainly fit the description of the creature swinging off through the trees. Other reports of the Orang pendek usually say that it runs off on the ground.




This is an extract from Sasquatch by Rupert Matthews
 

Monday, 20 September 2010

Investigating the UFOs

In the years since the US Government definitively turned its face against investigating the UFO phenomena, at least in public, the study of the mystery has been largely in the hands of journalists, amateur enthusiasts and a few full time investigators.

The quality of the investigative work undertaken has been mixed, with some pursuing open-minded strategies that would do credit to any scientific institution while others adopt a highly superficial approach. Some have approached the problems posed by UFOs with quite open minds, others seem to have decided in advance on one particular solution to the mystery. Among what might be called UFObelievers the most common fault is to try to adapt all evidence to fit the theory that aliens are visiting earth. While among UFOsceptics the determination to establish that all UFOs are natural phenomenon can lead to evidence being ignored or to witnesses be accused of lying or living fantasy lives.

Whatever their viewpoint and methods, however, nearly all UFO investigators have come to agree on certain things. Perhaps the most important of these is the classification of UFO sightings into six or more categories with generally agreed names and meanings. The classification system was developed in 1972 by Dr J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer who had formerly helped Project Sign and Project Blue Book.

When Hynek was initially called in by the USAF he was a sceptic, thinking that UFO witnesses were mistaken or fraudulent in what they reported. He gradually came to change his mind, however, as he gathered data and interviewed witnesses. By the later 1960s Hynek had become convinced that UFOs were real, though he studiously kept an open mind as to what they were. He died in 1986 after setting up the Center for UFO Studies, generally referred to as CUFOS by those studying UFOs.

Apart from Hynek, serious scientists have generally steered clear of UFO studies. In general this is because they believe, as Hynek did initially, that UFO witnesses are either mistaken in what they report or are not telling the truth. They tend to follow the line of reasoning most publicly followed by Project Blue Book: that UFOs cannot exist according to known laws of physics and so therefore they don’t exist.

Scientists are also human beings, and there is general fear of ridicule from colleagues. Moreover openly supporting a theory or claim that is not only against the consensus, but is later proved to be false can be harmful to a career in science. More practically there are virtually no funds available from either governments or universities to support research into UFOs. Since scientists need employment to pay  the bills and put food on the table they can hardly be blamed for preferring to study more mainstream subjects that supply them with paid jobs.



This is an extract from Alien Encounters by Rupert Matthews

Saturday, 18 September 2010

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Friday, 17 September 2010

The earliest UFO reports

The first Flying Saucer (the term UFO came later) hit the headlines in 1947. But, 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.

Take, for instance, a report from Japan in 1361. “An object shaped like a drum and about [20 feet] in diameter” was seen to fly low over the Inland Sea. Another Japanese report, this time from May 1606, records that a “gigantic red wheel” hovered over Nijo Castle for some minutes, then began to spin and flew off.

Meanwhile other records show odd flying objects were active in Europe. In 75bc a Roman priest recorded that “A spark fell from a  star and grew larger as it approached the ground to become as large as the moon and as bright as the sun seen through thin clouds. On returning to the sky it took the form of a torch.”

On 5 December 1577 a number of “flying objects shaped like hats” that were “black, yellow and bloody” flew over Germany, and at least one of them landed temporarily. Given the date and place, the objects would seem to have been round with a low, domed shape and a flange around the base.

On 15 August 1663 another odd object was seen in the skies over Robozero, Russia. It was about 11.30am and the local peasants were gathered in the church when “a great crash sounded from out of the heavens and many people left the church of God to assemble outside on the square. Now Levka Pedorov [a farmer who dictated this account to a local government official] was amongst them and saw what happened. To him it was a sign from God. There descended upon Robozero a great ball of fire from the clearest of skies, not from a cloud. Moreover it came from the direction from which we get winter and moved across from the church to the lake. The fire was about [45 metres] on each side and for the same distance in front of the fire there were two fiery beams. Suddenly it was no longer there, but about one hour of the clock it appeared again, above the lake from which it had disappeared before. It went from the south to the west and was about [500 metres] away when it vanished. But once again it returned, filling all who saw it with a great dread travelling westwards and staying over Robozero one hour and a half. Now there were fishermen in the boat on the lake about a mile away and they were sorely burnt by the fire. The lake water was lit up to its greatest depths of nine metres and the fish fled to the banks. The water seemed to be covered with rust under the glow.”

Although the physical descriptions of many of these early reports clearly fit them into what we would today categorise as being UFOs, the witnesses of the time had quite different explanations. In September 1235 a Japanese nobleman named Yoritsume saw strange lights in the night sky. The lights were bright, round and moving in circling or swaying paths to the southwest. Yoritsume summoned the scientific experts of his day, described what he had seen and asked for an explanation. After some days of debate, the scientists came back with the answer that Yoritsume had seen the wind blowing the stars about.


This is an extract from UFOs by Rupert Matthews
 

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Roswell UFO Crash - The Debris Field is reported

When rancher Mac Brazel walked into the office of Chaves County Sheriff George Wilcox some time late in the morning of 7 July neither man could have had any idea of what events were about to unfold. Wilcox was later to say that if he had known what was going to happen over the next few days he would have handled matters very differently. Brazel would soon be of the same opinion. But neither man knew then what they would realise later, so events unfolded as they did.

At first the rancher in his old clothes come in to report some odd debris on his land was dealt with by a deputy, but when the deputy saw the odd debris in the box he called Wilcox over. Wilcox fiddled with the strange pieces of what seemed to be metal and fabric and asked Brazel a few questions. Brazel seemed to Wilcox keen both to report what he feared may have been an aircraft accident of some kind, and to have somebody come and clear the rubbish off his land. Wilcox called Roswell air base, suspecting that if anything odd fell out of the sky then it was most likely to be something to do with the secretive USAAF bases in the area.

A few minutes later Frank Joyce, the announcer and news reporter for local radio station KGFL, called the Sheriff’s office. This was a usual routine for Joyce who called most days to ask if anything newsworthy had happened that he could pass on as a matter of public information, or as an interesting anecdote to live up his programme. Still not taking Brazel and his debris very seriously, Wilcox passed the phone to the rancher. Brazel and Joyce had a quick chat that resulted in Joyce broadcasting a short item about a mysterious crash of strange debris taking place near Roswell.

In hindsight, this small incident would come to assume great importance. If those who believe that an alien spacecraft did crash at Roswell are correct then Joyce’s short news item was the catalyst for everything that would follow. Up to this point, the USAAF had managed to keep a tight lid on the crash and had stopped news leaking out. Barnett, Holden and others who had seen the Crash Site had been effectively silenced. The area around the Crash Site had been cordoned off by armed guards. Everything had seemed to be under control. But now news was out. As we shall see later it is alleged that it was at this point that a highly complex and effective cover up was begun.

Meanwhile, the developing chain of events was dragging more and more men into the Roswell Incident. 


This is an extract from Roswell by Rupert Matthews

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Rev. Gibbs and the Poltergeist

Another English case blamed on a witch with no real ending dates to the 1660s. The case was investigated by Reverend Gibbs, prebendary of Westminster, who wrote an account of the visitation that regrettably ends before the events came to an end. Gibbs was alerted to the “witchcraft” by an unnamed gentleman for Essex. This man said that he was doing business with a weaver named Paul Fox, who lived in Bow near Plaistow. A few months earlier, he had called on Fox to be given the sad news that the weaver’s youngest daughter had died a few days earlier. As she lay on her death bed, the girl had complained of a cold hand that touched her repeatedly on the leg. The Essex gentleman muttered his commisserations, concluded his business and moved on.

Some weeks later the Essex gentleman called again on Fox, but this time was told that the household was being attacked by witchcraft. The gentleman was sceptical and said so. At that point an upstairs window opened and a lump of wood was thrown out, missing the man by inches. The man denounced the stunt as “knavery”, whereupon the window opened again and a brick was lobbed out, which the man had to move smartly to avoid.

Still convinced that some prankster was throwing the objects, the gentleman pushed past Mr Fox and made straight for the stairs. Fox managed to halt the man on the stairs and warned him that the upstairs of the house was no place to go. He told the gentleman that he and his family had abandoned the entire upstairs area a week before so as to escape the constant noises and the frequent rain of missiles that took place up there. The gentleman harrumphed and went on up.

He found himself confronted by a scene of utter mayhem. Furniture and clothing was scattered about in confusion. Bricks and stones were piled up around the place. Gallantly the man stepped over the mess to reach the room overlooking the front door and where he supposed the person who had thrown objects at him to be hiding. As he pushed the door open, he saw a bed staff that lay on the floor begin to move of its own accord. He stepped forward and stamped his foot down on the object to bring it to a halt. He then picked it up to look for the wire or thin string that he guessed must have been making it move. There was no sign of any trickery. That was when a wooden pole lifted itself up from the floor and whacked him over the shoulders.

The man promptly fled from the room, pulling the door shut behind himself. He paused on the landing, but the door to the room was wrenched open by unseen hands and a mass of clothing, candlesticks and other objects came floating out at speed as if to attack him. He ran downstairs to be greeted by the worried Fox family. They all retreated to the kitchen to discuss things, but had barely sat down when a clay pipe rose into the air from the sideboard, flew across the room and shattered to a dozen pieces as it hit the wall opposite. The “witch’s familiar” had come downstairs.

The Essex gentleman called in Gibbs, who fortunately knew how to unmask the culprit. He ordained that one of the wooden staves that had been the object most often moved about by the familiar should be slowly roasted over an open fire. This, it was confidently stated, would cause the wizard or witch who controlled the familiar to come calling. The fire was lit and the stave placed over it. The Fox family sat down to wait. At first nothing happened. Then there was a knock at the door. Paul Fox threw the door open and pounced on the person outside. It turned out to be an elderly woman who lived up the road and had come to see what the column of smoke was for.

Convinced that they had the witch, Fox and Gibbs tied her up and sent for the magistrate. When the local magistrate arrived he was unimpressed. The old woman was of good character, attended church regularly and was about as far from being a tool of Satan as could be imagined. He let her go. Gibbs then lost interest in the case and we do not know what happened next.


This is an extract from Poltergeists by Rupert Matthews

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Yhe poltergeist at the Percy Arms, Surrey

Another poltergeist most active in the 1970s was the entity nicknamed “George” who took up residence in the Percy Arms at Chilworth. This poltergeist failed to inspire terror, more curiosity and puzzlement. The visitation seems to have begun in the later 1960s, though again it began with minor incidents that were only recognised as being paranormal with hindsight. The landlady was a Mrs Testar who had been landlady since the 1950s. For some years the poltergeist contented itself with moving object about during the night. Mrs Testar would come down in the morning to find chairs and tables all pushed to one end of the bar, or that the glasses had all been carefully removed from their places and setup on the tables. It was  all a bit of a nuisance, but that was all.

In the 1970s, things began o become more serious. Doors would open by themselves and then be slammed shut with terrific force. The shutters over the bar would be rattled violently and noisily by unseen hands, waking up everyone sleeping at the pub. Then things began to move when people were present. Perhaps the first object to do this was a chair which was seen to shoot backwards across the bar room floor as if somebody had been sitting in it and had then stood up suddenly, but there was at the time nobody near the chair who could have caused it to move. Other chairs and tables were seen to move about, but they would usually stop moving as soon as anyone turned to look at them. It was as if whatever was doing the moving wanted to attract attention and, having done so, was content.

Then glasses began to shift about. Beer tankards were the most often moved. They would levitate from wherever they were, drift silently across the room and then settle down on a table or, sometimes, on the floor. One thing that was noticed was that although the glasses often moved very quickly as if they had been thrown, they never broke. It was as if the glasses were being carried and placed down with care. The sole exception came when Mrs Testar served her cousin with a pint of beer. She was telling him about the latest phantom incidents when the foaming glass of beer suddenly slid off along the bar with ever increasing speed. It flew off the far end and smashed against the wall, spraying beer everywhere.

This is an extract from Paranormal Surrey  by Rupert Matthews

Monday, 6 September 2010

An Unsolved Murder in Northumberland

Another unsolved murder took place in 1873 at Eglingham, though it is more than likely that we can now identify the killer. By this date a regular constabulary had been established in Northumberland, each man having a regular beat which he walked around to keep an eye on the people and places of his area. Thus it was that at 3am PC Grey was tramping along the lane just outside Eglingham.

It seems that Grey saw something suspicious in a nearby field for he climbed the fence and began walking, then running over the ploughed ground. He was then shot at close range with a shotgun, falling to the ground and dying soon after. The sound of the gunshot brought men running from the village, one of whom saw three men running off toward some nearby woods.

The police were called, and they searched the area. They found the bootmarks of three different men in the field, together with some discarded game. Clearly Grey had come across poachers, given chase and been killed for his devotion to duty. One of the bootmarks showed a clear split or cut along the heel.

The police went out to round up all the known poachers of the area in order to inspect their boots. One Charles Richardson was found to have a boot with a cut along the heel. He was promptly arrested along with George Edgell, a known accomplice of his. Despite the evidence of the boot mark, Edgell and Richardson walked free. There was no evidence that either of them owned a shotgun, and both had witnesses who stated that they were miles away from Eglingham on the night in question.

Then, six years later, Edgell was arrested again, this time for poaching. When he was searched Edgell was found to be carrying goods that linked him to a burglary at Edlingham in the course of which the houseowner had been shot and seriously wounded. Realising he had no defence against either charge, Edgell decided to turn queen’s evidence and testify against his fellow burglar who had fired the almost fatal shot: it was none other than Charles Richardson. There can be little doubt that Richardson had also shot and killed PC Grey, though this was never proven.

This is an extract from Mysterious Northumberland by Rupert Matthews

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Buried Treasure in Cornwall

Nobody seriously doubts that great treasures lie hidden beneath the soil of Cornwall. They have, after all, been found often enough. The vast majority of these treasures are of ancient coins. While their quantity and value may vary greatly, they do tend to have a common origin.

In past centuries when there were no such things as bank accounts, credit facilities or even bank notes, most people kept their wealth in the form of coins. Before around 1920 these coins were made of bronze, silver and gold and contained the precise quantity of metal worth the face value of the coin. Thus a florin coin, with a face value of two shillings, contained twice as much silver as a shilling. There were occasional alterations caused by fluctuating relative values between the three metals, but generally the coinage was composed of precious metals. The design on the coin was simply a guarantee from the king that it contained the prescribed amount of metal.

While most actual wealth lay in land, buildings and goods, hard cash was the main way in which transactions were carried out, taxes paid and surplus wealth stored. Since coins were easily stolen, moved and it was hard to prove ownership, it made sense to hide them. Most homes had a hiding place that was not immediately accessible. A popular place was under the hearthstone, as this could not be reached unless the cooking fire was put out. These ruses were designed to frustrate casual burglars or passing bandits.

When serious danger threatened more secure hiding places were needed for coins. If an enemy army came by, they could be relied upon to seek out and unearth coins hidden in the more usual places. Only treasure hidden in less obvious places would survive. It was for this reason that men buried pots of coins in fields, under trees, beside bridges and the like. Such hoards usually date from times of invasion or civil war. The Wars of the Roses, the Civil War between King and Parliament, the Viking invasions and the collapse of the Roman Empire all led to violence and looting - and so to the burial of treasure hoards. When the owner of the hoard was unable to retrieve it - usually by having been killed - the treasure remained where it was hidden.

Sometimes these treasures have been turned up by accident. Ploughing has unearthed some, building works have revealed others. The sheer scale of these treasures is often staggering. Some contain thousands of coins which, even at the time they were hidden, must have been astonishingly valuable.

The recovery of these treasures could deeply affect not only those who found them, but even the history of nations. In 1199 a peasant ploughed up an enormous mass of gold. The bulk of the gold was promptly seized by the landowner, Ademar of Limousin. Ademar in turn sent off a share of the gold to King Richard the Lionheart. Richard, however, found a lawyer who declared that all such treasure belonged to the king, not merely a share of it. He marched an army against Ademar of Limousin and in the petty skirmish that followed, King Richard was mortally wounded. So died the Lionheart, hero of the crusades, in an unimportant squabble over buried treasure.

If even kings and lords could come to blows over treasure, it is no wonder that more ordinary folk would treat the subject of buried treasure with awe and a great deal of interest.

This is an extract from Mysterious Cornwall by Rupert Matthews