Saturday, 30 April 2011

Ghosts at Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire

The little town of Edwinstowe lies in the heart of ancient Sherwood Forest, so it is apt that stories of Robin Hood abound here.

The charming 12th century church, for instance, is said to be the place where Robin married Maid Marion one summer’s day after he was pardoned for his outlaw ways by King Richard the Lionheart. Two miles northwest of the town is a huge hollow oak tree, known locally as Robin Hood’s larder. It is said that the outlaw used to hang his poached deer from the upper branches so that it would mature nicely before being eaten.

A second oak, the largest in England, stands north of the town and goes by the name of the Major Oak. This tree, too, is linked to Robin Hood as it is said to have been the spot where he had his main camp in the forest. It is here that the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre has been built with its car park, cafeteria and displays. Although the Forest once spread from Nottingham to Mansfield, this area contains probably the oldest trees and may be as close to the forest known to Robin Hood as the modern world can get.

Robin Hood apart, the woods around the Major Oak are haunted by a strange entity. It does not seem to have any definite form, but it is most definitely unfriendly. Some people walking the paths around here have felt that something is following them and have the distinct impression that they are unwelcome. They leave hurriedly.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Ghostly Aircraft of Romney Marsh

Around Old Romney a rather more dramatic haunting takes place, usually in mid-afternoon. The customary quiet of Romney Marsh is disturbed by the throbbing roar of approaching aircraft engines. These are not jet engines, but the piston engines that power propeller driven aircraft. The noise gets louder and more insistent, though no aircraft can be seen anywhere in the sky. Suddenly the engines take on a more urgent and dramatic tone which turns into a terrifying scream. Clearly the aircraft is diving down at great speed. And it is in trouble if the shriek of tortured metal and the rising howl of the engines is anything to go by. As the volume of noise reaches a crescendo of ear-bursting intensity it suddenly stops. Quiet returns. It is as if nothing has happened.

Locals claim that this noisy performance is given by the ghost of a German bomber shot down over Romney Marsh during the Battle of Britain in 1940. No wreckage has ever been found around Old Romney, but the marsh is a deep place and could easily swallow the wreckage of an aircraft, especially if it hit the ground fast enough to bury itself in the deep, soft earth.

 

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Ghost of Lydford Castle, Devon

The straggling village of Lydford runs for hundreds of yards along the high street. It is, today, a quiet and peaceful little place, but a thousand years ago it was a flourishing centre for the tin mining industry and a bustling town.

It was the money generated by the mining which brought much government activity here. There was a royal mint in the town and the smelting of lead and silver was carried on on an almost industrial scale. There was also a royal court which handed down severe sentences for those who transgressed the stannary laws, which imposed hefty taxes on the mining and smelting industries. A local ditty runs:

I oft have heard of Lydford Law
How in the morn they hang and draw
And sit in judgement after.

At least two of the three ghosts in this village owe their sad existence to the notorious Lydford Law. Dominating the centre of the village is the massive bulk of Lydford Castle. This square, granite tower set on a high mound of earth was always more of a prison than a castle. Its walls plunge as deep below the ground as they stand above, and hide dank, dark dungeons where all manner of terrible deeds may have been done.

It is within these grim walls that the first ghost is to be found. It is reported to be a dark, opaque cloud shaped something like a man, but which sometimes seems more like a pig. Whatever this is, it exudes a feeling of deep evil and malevolence. Few who have seen it care to stay around to look too closely.






Thursday, 21 April 2011

The haunted Bell Inn of Toddington

The Bell Inn at Toddington stands facing across the village green to the busy A5120. During rush hours, the main road almost segregates the village into two it is so tricky to cross on foot.

Back in the days when the ghost of the Bell was a real living human, there was no such problem. In the 1850s, the A5120 was the rather more mundane Dunstable Road. It was busy enough for its time with farm carts, passing country folk and the occasional gentry in a carriage, but getting from one side to the other rarely presented a problem.

There were, however, problems a plenty at the Bell. The landlord of the time had a daughter of more than usual prettiness. This was no bad thing, for travelling gentlemen and local farmboys were more inclined to drink their ale and purchase their snacks at a pub with a pretty serving girl than at a pub without one. Unfortunately the girl had the most appalling temper. She was liable to fly into tantrums on the slightest provocation, and at such times customers fled rather than have a tankard of ale upended over them or food thrown in their faces.

The girl’s father, of course, knew his daughter and gradually got to recognise the signs that spelled an imminent outbreak of violent temper. Wasting no time, he would bundle the girl into a back room and lock the door. There she would remain until she had vented her anger on pots, pans and other unbreakable objects. An hour or two of mayhem later, and the girl would calm down enough to be released.

But one day the sounds of crashing pans and stamping feet lasted barely ten minutes before an unnatural silence spread through the pub. After a few minutes, the landlord warily opened the door to find his poor daughter dead of a seizure. Perhaps the tantrum had been too much for her.

Ever since then, the Bell has been subjected to occasional outbreaks of ghostly temper tantrums. Pans will be thrown across the kitchen, pictures jump off the walls and glasses slither along the bars. Strangely, nothing is ever broken nor does any customer find himself drenched with the good, honest ale that the pub still serves. The sudden outbreaks of flying utensils and moving furniture are more a nuisance than a problem.

Perhaps the girl’s rage has calmed down with the passing years of being a ghost.



















    

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Ghostly Soldiers of Odiham, Hampshire

Lunch over, it was time to investigate reports of ghosts out at Odiham Castle. The ruined fortress stands a mile or so west of the town just off the towpath of the old Basingstoke Canal. By the time I had finished lunch the wind had dropped and a bright autumn sun had come out. Nevertheless, there was something brooding about the ruins of Odiham Castle. The atmosphere was decidedly odd.

The day was chilly and dry, but around the castle the air was damp, almost clammy. The tall, overhanging trees cut out much of the sun and blocked any sounds from distant roads. The only noise was that of the fallen leaves rustling and tumbling over the ground in the breeze.

No doubt the strangeness of the place is enhanced by the fact that it is difficult to find for there are no signs to guide the visitor to these tumbled ruins. You could walk to the castle from Odiham, but it is a bit of a stretch and might take you an hour each way. I would recommend that you drive. Either way, leave Odiham village and get on to the B3349 heading north. At a small roundabout, turn left down the road towards Upton Grey. Almost at once there is a narrow road on your right which carries no signpost at all, but does warn drivers that there is a ford which is unsuitable for motor vehicles. There is, indeed, and this is where you should park your car. Follow the footpath to the left just beside the ford. This path takes you across a field and through a gate to emerge on the banks of the canal. Turn right along the towpath. The castle is about 100 yards on your right.

Once you eventually get there, there is only a forlorn notice erected by the Council giving information on the place. This is how ruins used to be, overgrown with weeds and neglected by the hand of authority. These are no tidy heritage-style ruins which have been all spruced up and made safe. They are falling down ruins. It is as if the castle’s owners just got up and went away one day. Since then nature and the wild wood have had the place to themselves.

The site has definite atmosphere. But does it have a ghost? And if so who is it and is there more than one?

An old book that I found in the archives of the British Library was in no doubt about it. “The ghost”, it declared confidently, “is that of a minstrel boy from times long past. The youth’s charming pipes can be heard drifting romantically through the ruins. The beauty and charm of the haunting need no emphasis for this tumbling ruin is the perfect backdrop to such a phantom musician.”

Someone of more practical opinions had obviously been to the ruins since then. It is now plastered with signs loudly proclaiming “DANGER” and warning of falling masonry and loose stones. Any romance or beauty was clearly lost on the Council engineer.

A man was walking his dog along the towpath when I called. Had he heard the phantom minstrel?

“Ah, well. No.” The man said as his large dog bounded around like a puppy. “Not me. But there is a ghost here, no doubt about it. Bloke in a helmet. They do say that King John was here before he went off up to Windsor to sign Magna Carta, see. And a right foul mood he was in too. Perhaps he’s here still.”

Perhaps.

I got more detailed information from a lady named Vanessa, who lives in North Warnborough. She told me a more detailed story.

“Way back in the middle ages the English captured David, King of Scotland. They wanted to hold him to ransom, as was the custom back then when you had an important prisoner. And they needed to hold him in a secure place a long way from Scotland. They chose Odiham Castle. It had been built to be a fortified home by King John so it had comfortable rooms for the Scottish King as well as being surrounded by thick stone walls. Obviously the King of Scotland was none too pleased to be held prisoner, but he had plenty of money and was allowed to buy in various luxuries. One of the things he paid for was a minstrel. The young lad would soothe the imprisoned king with his pipe music. And that is what the haunting is all about. The pipe music is the King’s minstrel. The ghosts people see are the guards who kept the King of Scotland imprisoned.”









  

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A ghostly walk around Ardingley, Sussex

Distance:            5 miles
Ghostly Rating        ***
Route:                Ardingley Reservoir - Balcombe - Ardingley Reservoir
Map:                OS Explorer 135
Start/ Parking:        Ardingley Reservoir
Public Transport        Balcombe is served by the railway. Leave the station and walk half a mile north along the B20436 to join the walk at Point 2.
Conditions:            This walk is largely around the shores of Ardingley Reservoir, along modern footpaths with reasonably good surfaces, elsewhere it on surfaced lanes and only one short section is over open country where the surface may be muddy in wet weather.
Refreshments:        There are pubs in Balcombe that serve good food, and shops selling snacks and soft drinks.

This is one of the gentler walks in the book with only one short hill and little in the way of obstacles to be overcome. The phantoms to be encountered here are a rather sad collection. They do nobody any real harm, but they still have the power to shock and surprise the unwary. 


The Walk

1) Park in the car park that has been built beside the dam that holds back the waters of Ardingley Reservoir. Follow the signs to the Disabled Car Park. From here head north up a grassy slope to a prominent four-fingered footpath sign. Continue roughly straight on, keeping the yacht clubhouse to your right and enter a patch of woodland via a stile. Follow the path through the woodland to reach a flight of steps at the top of which is a small gate. Beyond the gate cross a large open field to a finger signpost on the skyline, then follow the sign down the slope to pass a wood and so emerge on to a surfaced track beside Stone Hall. Follow the track to a lane. Turn right.

2) Follow this lane into Balcombe. The lane becomes Haywards Heath Road as it enters the village, and meets the B2036 at a T-junction. Turn right into London Road, then left opposite the church into Handcross Road. After a short uphill climb this road crosses the railway line, running through a cutting below. Look north along the railway line.

It is along this stretch of line that the three ghostly soldiers of Balcombe may be encountered. These unfortunate men came here in 1915 while training as infantry before going over to France to fight in the trenches. At the time it was hoped by the generals that trench warfare would prove to be merely a temporary situation and that the war would quickly revert to previous styles of conflict with manoeuvring and marching across open country. Thus it was that the three soldiers were taking part in an exercise that involved their forming a flank guard to their column on a long cross-country march.

As the men reached this section of rail line a mass of dark clouds indicated that a short, but heavy shower was about to break over them. Quite how long the three men spent in the tunnel nobody ever discovered. They were run down and killed by an express train racing from London to Brighton.

The ghosts of the unfortunate men were seen several times in the years that followed, lurking in the tunnel or sauntering about nearby. In 1940, a Home Guard man was usually put to guard the strategic tunnel against attack by German agents or paratroops. One such sentry saw the three ghosts very clearly late one evening. Like them, he was sheltering inside the mouth of the tunnel but in this case he was hoping to escape the German bombs that were falling in the area rather than heavy rain.

The three figures were approaching along the rails from the south when he first saw them. The sentry recognised them as British soldiers, but the uniforms appeared odd to him – as well they might being some 30 years out of date. Suspecting the men might be German agents, the Home Guard sentry marched out to challenge them. The three ghosts at this point slowly dissolved away to nothing. Perhaps they had come to warn the man against sheltering in the tunnel and, having got him out into the open, felt their task was done.

The ghosts have been seen right up to the present day, with one particularly clear sighting making the local press in 1995. WALKS IN SUSSEX

  

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Ghosthunter in Farnborough, Hampshire

On Wednesday 13 April I went to Farnborough in Hampshire to talk to the local WI about Ghosts in Hampshire. The venue was the Community Centre in Meudon Road, which has got to be the most difficult venue to find I have ever had on a speaking jaunt. I could see the building easily enough from the bypass dual carriageway, but actually getting there was a nightmare. Found it in in the end, and the WI ladies were wonderfully welcoming with tea and biccies. The audience of 90 packed the hall out and we all had a jolly good time.

To find out about the range of talks I have on offer and to book me for your event, contact me via MY WEBSITE

   

Canadian Ghosts in Appledore, Kent

Walking Distance: 16 miles
Ghostly Rating ***
Route: Appledore - Ivychurch - Old Romney - Brookland - Appledore
Map: OS Explorer 125
Start/ Parking: Appledore high street.
Public Transport Appledore Railway Station and level crossing are on the walk at Point 2.
Conditions: This route is mostly over lanes and surfaced paths.
Refreshments: There are pubs at Appledore, Ivychurch and Old Romney that offer meals and a shop in Appledore that sells soft drinks, crisps and snacks.

This is the longest walk in the book, but is over the flat Romney Marsh where no steep hills offer problems. It is a gentle stroll, although a long one. The ghosts are a mixed bag, but hark back to the history of this surprisingly remote and windswept area of Kent.

1) Park in the high street of Appledore, and walk south towards the church.
This area of the village is haunted by a boisterous group of ghosts. These four young men wear the ill-fitting khaki uniforms of World War II infantry with, for those close enough to see such detail, the flash “CANADA” on their shoulders. They seem jovial enough as the stroll around the village, laughing and joking with each other, but paying no attention to the modern world around them.

These four men came to Appledore in the summer of 1942 from their homes in Canada. Like many other brave young men from Canada they had come to Britain to help our nation defy the armed might of Nazi Germany. Their stay here was to be short and happy, but was to end in tragedy. Along with the rest of their unit they were billeted in Appledore so as to be close to the South Coast and ready for the mission in which they were to take part.

During 1941 and early 1942 a series of highly successful raids on the coasts of occupied Europe had been made by commandoes and other units. It had been decided to follow these up with a major raid. This raid had a dual purpose, on the one hand it was to destroy a major port and so deny its facilities to the Germans, on the other it was to test the feasibility of capturing a port intact. The acquisition of a port would be vital to supply any future invasion of occupied France, as eventually took place on D-Day in 1944. The target port for the raid was Dieppe.

In the weeks before the raid the Canadians staying in Appledore became popular. Their easy going manners and cheerful good humour made them good companions, and they always paid their way. Then, in August, the Canadians marched away to raid Dieppe. Due to poor planning by the Allies and quick responses by the Germans, the raid was a disaster. Several of the Canadian units that took part were effectively wiped out – every single man being killed or captured.

Soon after news of the massacre reached Appledore these four soldiers began to appear in spectral form. At first people took them for other soldiers, but none were staying in the village. Laughing, joking and larking about the men seem to be recreating their last happy days on Earth before they went off to meet death in battle.

GHOSTHUNTER WALKS IN KENT

   

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A Ghost Walk around Lyme Regis, Dorset. Part 1

Distance:            4 miles
Ghostly Rating        *****
Route:                Lyme Regis - Up Lyme - Lyme Regis
Map:                OS Explorer 116
Start/ Parking:        The Cobb car park
Public Transport        Lyme Regis is served by an hourly bus service from Bridport and less frequent services to other towns.
Conditions:            A fairly long walk which has one or two steep hills included. This route takes in the town centre of Lyme Regis, including the famous Cobb harbour and waterfront, as well as some quiet inland country areas.
Refreshments:        As a commercial town and favourite of visiting tourists, Lyme Regis has many pubs, cafes and snack bars.

The spectacular centrepiece of the walk is the Cobb, Lyme Regis’s famous harbour waterfront which has featured in movies and television dramas. Lyme itself is a charming little town with much to offer the visitor. It also has its fair share of ghosts, most of them linked to the tragic Monmouth Rebellion which took place over three centuries ago, but which still has dark memories in the West Country.


The Walk

1) Park in the Cobb car park, signposted from all routes into Lyme. From the car park walk on to the Cobb to view the harbour.

The supernatural came to the Cobb in truly spectacular fashion in the later 17th century. As evening drew in one moonless evening a ship of foreign appearance put in here. The sails were black and the men who worked the rigging neither spoke nor seemed to have any interest in their surroundings. They moved as if bereft of all hope. The ship tied up to the Cobb and the captain came ashore. He spoke to no one and looked neither to left nor to right. Dressed in black clothes of fine quality and fashionable cut the mysterious captain strode along the Cobb and into Lyme.

Marching up Silver Street, the foreigner came to the house of Mayor Jones. Mayor Jones was one of the richest men in Dorset, but not one of the most popular. He was a religious zealot of fervour who used his wealth and position to persecute those who disagreed with him. He scorned any who questioned his views, was contemptuous of Catholics, but had a special hatred for non-conformists.

The stranger eyed the house for a moment, then kicked the door in. The entire wall of the house collapsed into the street with a thundering crash. “I’ve come for you Jones” shouted the stranger as he walked amid the debris. As terrified witnesses stared, the man grabbed Jones by the shoulder and dragged him down to the Cobb. Jones seemed powerless to resist as the silent crew cast off and hoisted the sails. As silently and mysteriously as the ship had come, it glided out to sea.

Bizarrely, the body of Mayor Jones was found among the tumbled wreckage of his house, although dozens had seen him dragged on board the strange ship. It was widely believed that the Devil himself had come to Lyme in his dreaded Black Ship of Death to claim the soul of Old Jones.







Friday, 8 April 2011

Haunted Hampshire - the video

This well-researched book showcases almost 100 ghostly encounters from around Hampshire. The stories are arranged as a tour around Hampshire, guiding the reader on a journey through the New Forest, Winchester, Southampton, the edge of the Downs, the Test Valley and the hills around Overton. Here you will discover ghostly seamen haunting the King's Bastion at Portsmouth, spirits of the Roundheads galloping through Crondall and a haunted megalith at Mottistone. Each entry includes not just the story of the ghost but also eerie eyewitness accounts. Exploring everything from pubs and churchyards to castles and ports, Haunted Hampshire will appeal to anyone interested in the supernatural history of the area.




















WATCH THE VIDEO

The Ghost Hunter in Franklands, Sussex

The Phantom Horseman of Bramber
Yesterday evening I went over to Franklands in Sussex (just by Haywards Heath) to talk to the Franklands Evening WI on the subject of Ghosts in Sussex. I hope I did not scare them too much, nor cause too many sleepless nights. All good fun and a very welcoming crowd - I even got a cup of tea and a choccie biscuit.

To learn more about my range of talks and to book me to speak at your event, contact me via MY WEBSITE.




Thursday, 7 April 2011

Royal Ghosts at Fotheringhay

In 1452 a boy named Richard was born in the Great Hall of Fotheringhay Castle to the Duke and Duchess of York. His father, also Richard, was Protector of England while the king, Henry VI, was going through a spell of weak-mindedness. However, York’s stern and uncompromisingly honest rule did not suit Henry’s wife, Queen Margaret, who preferred a free-spending court and was not too fussy where the money came from.

In 1460, Richard Duke of York tried to solve the impasse with Queen Margaret by persuading the council of lords to appoint him Prince of Wales and successor to King Henry. Margaret refused to see her son disinherited in this fashion and gathered an army. She ambushed York and his eldest son, Edmund, at Wakefield in Yorkshire on 30 December. Both men were killed, and Margaret moved on hoping to seize York’s other three sons: Edward, George and the boy Richard.

Edward, a clever and notoriously charming youth, moved too quickly for them. He gathered his own army, then hired some lawyers who managed to prove to the satisfaction of Parliament that he was the true king of England. He raced north to crush his enemies at the Battle of Towton, although he was outnumbered by two to one. He was then crowned as King Edward IV.

Only then did Edward arrange the funeral of his father and brother. The bodies were taken to lie in state in the great hall of Fotheringhay Castle. Then, in solemn procession, the coffins were carried out of the castle and along the village street to the beautiful church of St Mary and All Saints. There they were buried, and there they lie to this day. Edward lavished money on the church, installing one of the finest double-canopied pulpits in England and rebuilding the tower to include the impressive octagonal lantern tower that stands today.

The ghosts that lurk here are from the magnificent funeral that Edward held for his father and brother. The sound of trumpets, lyres and other instruments mingles with the gentle singing of mournful hymns. The sounds have been heard intermittently ever since that sad day in 1461.

Monday, 4 April 2011

The Ghost Coach of Homme House, Herefordshire

It must be said that the internal combustion engine - for all the benefits that it has brought to man - has not been kind to the supernatural world, especially in Herefordshire. Many of the more haunted places in the county lie off the beaten track, often on hillsides or beside streams that can be reached only by footpath or bridleway.

In years long gone by the countryfolk used these paths on a daily basis to get to or from work, visit friends or go courting. Now they are trodden only by people out for a quiet weekend stroll, or by ghosthunters curious to locate an elusive phantom. People prefer to drive or travel by bus these days. So there are many ghosts that are rarely reported simply because there are no longer people around to see them.

Nor are cars, busses and lorries prone to become spectral entities after they have been taken to the scrapyard. Perhaps they are simply too mechanical to have a spirit that can return to haunt the world of the living after they have passed on.

But it was not always so.

At the village of Dilwyn there once stood a grand old home named Homme House. One of the servants died in the downstairs areas early in the 19th century. The death was officially put down as being due to a sudden seizure, but rumours and gossip abounded that foul play had been involved.

Soon after the death a servant was in the hallway when he thought he heard a coach and horses draw up on the gravelled drive in front of the house. Thinking that some visitor was calling, the servant opened the door but the driveway was empty. A few days later another servant had the same experience - this time she was even certain that she heard a coaching whip crack as the vehicle came to a halt, but again there was nothing visible outside the door.

No actual ghost was ever seen outside Homme House, but the phantom coach continued to be heard every few weeks through the years that followed. Nobody was entirely certain what the link between the ghostly coach and the mysterious death might have been, but the fact that the phantom began to be heard so soon after the death caused everyone to assume that some link existed. Perhaps, some speculated, the coach was a phantom hearse come to collect the dead. But since nobody ever saw the ghost this could not be known for certain.

All that can be said with any certainty is that the ghost was never encountered again after Homme House was demolished in the 1880s.