Friday, 25 November 2011

The Sad Spectres of Bedern, York

Some unhappy youngsters haunt the narrow alleyway known as Bedern that runs off Goodramgate. This little street was redeveloped in the later 20th century, but before that date it was lined by Victorian tenements that had been built in the 1860s on the site of the old workhouse, known formally as the York Industrial Ragged School. This was an establishment for orphans or children of impoverished parents who could not afford to keep them. In theory the children were given a roof over their heads, adequate food and training in some skill that would help them to earn a living when as teenagers they were turned out to make their way in the world.

The theory was good, but it depended very largely on the honesty and hard work of the man appointed by the city authorities to run the place. Between 1847 and 1855 this establishment was in the hands of a drunk who neglected his duties and handed out savage beatings to any child who complained. Like many drunks, he could be charming and apparently sober when he wanted to be and so managed to fool the authorities for a long time. It was only when dark rumours began to circulate that he was investigated and sacked.

Quite how bad the man’s regime had been is a matter of conjecture. The worst that was proved against him was an overly vicious beating given to children and the pilfering of city funds to pay for his drinking and gambling. However, gossip had it that he had beaten to death more than one child. The bodies were, it was said, hidden in a large cupboard in his room until he could get hold of the only undertaker he could bribe to cover up the bruising and other injuries. Some said that bodies still lay hidden somewhere in the building after he was dismissed, but if so they were never found.

After the institution was moved to improved premises and given a more trustworthy chief, the old buildings were torn down and replaced by housing which survived for a century before they too were demolished. As has become usual in central York, the cleared site was handed over to archaeologists to perform an emergency excavation before the builders moved in. Several of those working on the site felt unaccountably uneasy, as if they were being watched. One man had  a particulalry unnerving experience. He was busy on the dig when he felt somebody tap him urgently and insistently on the shoulder, but when he turned around there was nobody there. When he undressed that evening his wife told him to look at his back in the mirror. On the shoulder where he had felt the taps were parallel bruises as if he had been gripped hard by the fingers of a child-sized hand.

There have been other incidents since the old houses were pulled down. Several people walking past late at night when the city is quiet and still have heard the sounds of children laughing and singing coming from the side street. One person felt an invisible child's hand slipped into his as he passed by, as if the child were seeking the reassurance of a friendly adult.


from HAUNTED YORK by Rupert Matthews

Monday, 21 November 2011

Haunted Badger


The church at Badger stands beside a wide pond, fringed by rushes and inhabited by ducks and geese. Beyond the pond once stood the elegant Georgian mansion of Badger Hall. The old house is gone now, having been demolished in the 1930s, but its site and the route to the church are still haunted by the beautiful Grey Lady of Badger.

When she is seen, the ghost is so lifelike that some have mistaken her for a real person. She has long, golden hair that falls in waves to her back and has a charming smile that some believe has a somewhat sad tinge to it. Her dress is long and full in the skirt, though tighter around the body. Although widely known as the Grey Lady of Badger, her dress is often said to be cream or even pale pink in colour.

It is not entirely clearly who this lady was, nor why she flits so restlessly between the old manor and the lake-side church. However, when the hall was being demolished workmen found a stout wooden casket hidden beneath some flagstones. Inside was hidden an impressively large engagement ring. Did this hark back to some broken engagement that led to a  broken heart? We don’t know, but given the sad smile of the beautiful young lady ghost of Badger, it is more than likely.

From HAUNTED PLACES OF SHROPSHIRE by Rupert Matthews

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Black Monk of Monkton Farleigh

A very peaceful phantom is the black monk of Monkton Farleigh, Wiltshire. As the name of the village would suggest, this manor was once the preserve of a monastery. The monks did not actually live here, but they owned the land, collected the rents and supervised the community. The King’s Arms itself was erected by the monks as the local building where they could do their paperwork, sort out any local disputes and generally manage the lucrative estates. The oldest part of the building dates back to around 1090, though most of it is some four centuries younger. Not far away was a spring of pure water, which the monk’s blessed and pronounced to be holy. They constructed a small stone shelter over the spring and sanctified it again.

Then a monk was found dead slumped over his accounts in what is now the bar of the King’s Arms. At the time foul play was not suspected and the brethren came and took the body of their companion away for burial. But they could not take away his ghost. Unlike the miner who walks to the pub, the Black Monk walks away from it. He makes his way to the small building at the spring, pushes open the door and then vanishes. What strange mission he might be on is unknown.

Nor is it entirely clear why the Black Monk gets blamed for the various odd things that go on around the pub. “We have glasses jump off the shelves, sometimes,” reports Maria. “Stuff like that. And things get moved around. When you know you put them in one place they turn up in another. It’s right annoying.”


From Haunted Places of Wiltshire by Rupert Matthews

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Haunting of Red Hill, Warwickshire

The little village of Red Hill is well named. It stands on the summit of a steep hill where the main road from Worcester to Stratford upon Avon, the A46, crosses from the valley of the Stour to that of the Arrow. This was once a Roman road heading northwest to the wild lands of the Orodvici tribe.

Right on the summit of the hill is the Stag Inn, an ancient building that has stood here for longer than anyone can remember. Certainly parts of the building date to the 16th century, but it is likely that an inn stood here for many generations before that. By 1650 this inn doubled up as the local court and gaol. The old door to the cell, studded with ironworks to make it more secure, is preserved in the bar. The actual courthouse and cell have long since been amalgamated into the pub itself and are today occupied by a small dining area and the ladies toilets. It is this area that sees most of the phantom activity.

The ghost is that of an elderly woman, dressed in dark or black clothes. Whether she wears a coat, cloak or long dress is not quite clear as witnesses differ in opinion. However, all agree that she is fairly short and seems to be looking for something. Even those who do not see the ghost will suddenly feel rather uncomfortable. Ladies using the toilets report that they suddenly feel as if somebody is watching them, which must be somewhat unnerving. Generally, however, the ghostly woman does not cause any upset and certainly does nothing to halt the enjoyment of the splendid meals and welcoming hospitality of this ancient inn.

It is thought that the ghostly woman may be linked to one of the executions that took place at the crossroads just east of the Stag Inn. It was here that any criminals sentenced to death at the court were taken to be hanged from a large oak tree. The bodies were left dangling for days to warn any would-be miscreants of the summary and stern nature of Warwickshire justice. The ghost, or one very like her, has been seen here on rare occasions. One story claims that a man was executed here for highway robbery and that his distraught mother sat beneath the fatal tree until the magistrate finally gave her permission to take the body away for a decent burial, only for the woman to die a few days later.


from the book HAUNTED WARWICKSHRE by Rupert Matthews

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Fading Ghost of West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire

Like many villages around Nottingham, West Bridgford is now almost a suburb of the larger city. It retains its own character and high street, but the network of roads is continuous into the city.

Down towards the river, near the famous Trent Bridge cricket ground, stands the Lady Bay public house. During the 1970s and early 1980s the pub seemed to be bothered by a visitation of strange, ghostly activity. The figure of a man wearing a cloak was glimpsed infrequently in the car park, while inside the building lights would be flicked on and off by invisible hands.

Today the ghost does not seem to be very active. Certainly he does nothing to detract from enjoyment of the fine meals and quality drinks on offer.

from  "Haunted Places of Nottinghamshire" by Rupert Matthews.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Ghosts at Saltwood, Kent

The apparently inoffensive little village of Saltwood is a veritable magnet for the supernatural. If it cannot rival the more famous Pluckley for sheer numbers of ghosts, it certainly has the edge when it comes to oddness. More than one witness has used the word “bizarre” when talking about Saltwood.

The road from Saltwood village to the railway station at Sanding is haunted by a nocturnal ghost which, at first sight, seems to be nothing at all unusual. To begin with the phantom appears as a small light which bobs about. Those who have seen it say it looks like a torch or old-style lantern being carried along. This is not at all an unlikely occurrence given the lack of street lighting along this rural road. When the light gets closer it resolves itself into a lantern being carried by a tall, rather elderly man. The man walks forward hesitantly as if using the lantern to search for something in the roadway. He is the ghost of a local farmer who lived here in the 19th century and was famed for his eccentric behaviour. Nightly rambles to search the roads and paths were typical, though he never told anyone what he was looking for and would hurry off if he saw anyone watching him.

He has not changed on becoming a ghost. Once the phantom gets close to a living person he hurriedly shuffles off and the light is quickly extinguished.

The road near Brockhill School has a pair of  phantoms, though some suspect that they might be one and the same. The most often seen spectre is that of a woman taking her dog for a walk. The lady is dressed in sensible tweeds of around the 1930s and the dog scampers along quite happily. Apart from the slightly old-fashioned looks of the lady’s clothes there is nothing to mark the pair out from a living lady and dog. There is, however, something indefinably odd about the pair. It is not entirely certain what it is that is unusual, but those who have seen them all agree that they are strange. It is said to be like looking at a painting in which the perspective is slightly askew. everything is there and in its right place, but somehow the picture is just ‘wrong’.

The second ghost of the Brockhill area is another lady, though this one does not seem to be accompanied by a pet. She appears quite suddenly standing beside the road, then steps out into the carriageway as if to cross the road. Barely halfway across the road she suddenly vanishes. The lady is not in view long enough for anyone to give a good description of her, but again there is agreement that there is something odd about the lady - in addition to her sudden appearance and disappearance of course. from "Haunted Places of Kent" by Rupert Matthews

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Sad Spectre at Weare Gifford, Devon

A short way downstream of Torrington, the River Torridge winds across wide meadows, which flood frequently after rain, then skirts the little village of Weare Gifford. The road from Torrington crosses the river, then runs across the flood meadows before the reaching the ancient church, built safe and dry on a small rise in the land.

It is along this damp stretch of road that the sad spectre of Louise Dillon has been seen. This unfortunate young woman was murdered here by her farmer husband in May 1887. The cause of the violent quarrel, witnessed by several villagers, was never established. Within minutes of the killing, the husband William Dillon slit his own throat. The soft outline of the woman has been seen walking the fatal road towards their cottage home. Where the couple was not fortunate enough to live out the full years of their lives. 

from "Haunted Places of Devon" by Rupert Matthews