Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A Crisis Apparition in Woking, Surrey

In 1932, the Reverend Mr Marshall of St Paul's Church, Woking, was taken ill. He was moved to hospital and a temporary replacement brought in to take up his ecclesiastical duties. A couple of days later a parishioner was in the church when she saw Marshall standing beside the altar rail in the church. She thought that he must have recovered rather quicker than expected and was back in the parish, but since he appeared to be deep in thought she did not bother him. It was not until a couple of days later that she heard that Marshall had died, and that he had breathed his last at about the time that she had seen him in the church.


from PARANORMAL SURREY  by Rupert Matthews

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Long Lonkin and Lord Wearie

To these days of border warfare belongs the tale of Long Lonkin and Lord Wearie. There are various versions of the tale, but one of the most consistent names Nafferton as being the home of the skilled stonemason Lonkin, known as Long Lonkin because of his gangling long legs and great height. Long Lonkin fell in love with a farmer’s beautiful daughter, but she was well aware of her charms and was determined to make the most of them. Lonkin might have been a skilled mason, but the girl had her sights set higher than that. She spurned Lonkin’s attentions and soon after managed to attract the admiration of Lord Wearie of Welton Hall. The pair were married.

A few years later Lord Wearie decided that his property was not adequately fortified against raiding Scots, so he hired the best mason in the district - Long Lonkin - to improve the defences. Lonkin went to work with his customary skill and produced a structure that could not be captured except by an army with the very latest siege equipment and plenty of time to employ it. But Lord Wearie quibbled about the bill and refused to pay what he had promised.

Unknown to his many clients, Lonkin always included in the apparently impregnable structures that he built a secret entrance just wide enough for a single man to gain access. He had intended to fund his old age by selling the secrets of these entrances to robbers, Scots or whoever would pay the highest price. But with a double grievance against Lord Wearie - for having stolen his sweetheart and refusing to pay the bill - Lonkin decided to use the hidden entrance to Welton Hall himself.

First Lonkin set about seducing the nurse who cared for the Wearie’s new born baby son. With the nurse well and truly under his influence, Lonkin made an appointment to visit her secretly one night, entering by way of his secret door and so bypassing the guards at the gate. On the fatal night, Lonkin entered the building and persuaded the nurse to lead him silently to the bedchamber of Lord and Lady Wearie. Once there, Lonkin drew a long dagger and plunged it into the sleeping form of Lady Wearie, then turned on the baby in the cradle and killed him as well. Lord Wearie was absent, so Long Lonkin took to his heels and fled.

When Lord Wearie came home, he found the scene of slaughter in the bedroom. Distraught with grief though he was, Wearie gave chase. He and his men caught up with Long Lonkin as the latter was hiding in a tree overhanging a deep pool in the Whittle Burn. One version says that Lonkin threw himself into the pool and drowned, another that he was captured and hanged while the nurse was burned at the stake.

What makes the story rather odd is that Nafferton Pele Tower fell into ruin about a hundred years before Welton Hall was built, making it impossible for the owners of the two to have been engaged in a feud. However, Lonkin does not sound as if he were rich enough to afford to live in a tower, so perhaps that part of the tale is wrong. Or perhaps he lived there when it was a ruin.

from MYSTERIOUS NORTHUMBERLAND by Rupert Matthews

Friday, 16 March 2012

Cornish Ghosts - a mixed lot

Cornwall is one of the most haunted counties in England. For any ghosthunter coming this way, it seems that there are more spooks and phantoms packed into the area than you could shake a stick at. Why this might be so is not entirely clear.

Some suggest that it is the Celtic inheritance of the Cornish that predisposes them to play hosts to the ghosts of the past. Whether this is because ghost prefer the Celts, or that the Celts are more credulous depends on the opinions of the researcher. Others think that it is simply that the Cornish are more inclined to talk about their ghosts than folk elsewhere. Some say that the lively tourist industry has served to preserve and publicise old stories that might have been overlooked elsewhere.

Whatever the reason, there are ghosts in plenty. Some are more active than others. A few are more terrifying than the rest. The phantoms of Cornwall are a fairly mixed bunch of spectres. This chapter looks at various types of ghosts in an attempt to bring some sort of order to the vast number of hauntings that the county can boast.



from Mysterious Cornwall by Rupert Matthews

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

More Dangerous than the Loch Ness Monster

The creature in Loch Arkaig is said to be dangerous to humans, though only if they antagonise it. The creature with a head similar to that of a horse was reported by the Earl of Malmesbury when on a shooting trip to the Highlands in 1857.

from A LITTLE BOOK OF THE PARANORMAL by Rupert Matthews.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Macabre Events in Herrington, nr Sunderland


Now, Herrington is as nice a place as you could hope to visit. The Board Inn offers quality ales and some truly delicious food, while Herrington Country Park boasts over ten miles of footpaths and a hundred acres of woodland. All very nice. But appearances can be deceptive.

Herrington has had its fair share of horror. And if the local residents don’t talk about such things much, the ghosts remember.

I came here to try to track down a haunted house that was once the most famous in the Northeast. I pulled up at the Board Inn, where I took the opportunity to fortify myself for the task ahead with a fine grilled 8 ounce rump steak and chips, then I set out to find the much-haunted Herrington House.

The grim events that led to the haunting date back to 1815 when a Miss Jane Smith lived in Herrington House. Now Miss Smith was a good looking and extremely wealthy young lady. She had not married, however, for two reasons. The first was that she was a miser of famously eccentric habits. The second was that she suspected any man who looked at her of being more interested in her great wealth than in herself.

But then she met Sir Robert Peat, who was visiting from London. Young Jane was smitten and Sir Robert found Miss Smith attractive enough to dally in Sunderland rather longer than he intended. Soon it was announced that the couple were to marry. But there was an obstacle, at least so far as Sir Robert was concerned. Jane Smith declared that she loved Herrington House so much that she “would never leave the house so long as it stood”. She also refused to hand over the vast store of gold that she was widely believed to have stashed away in the house. Sir Robert was a Londoner who wanted to live in London. The impasse caused the wedding day to be put off.

In August 1815, Jane Smith set out on her quarterly tour of her properties to collect the rents due to her and discuss any issues with her tenants. The tour took her away from home for several days as she walked around County Durham – a horse would have cost too much to keep. The house was left in the hands of her sole servant, a maid named Isabella Young.

That night the Herrington blacksmith, John Stonehouse, was awakened at just past midnight. Looking out of his window he saw Herrington House in flames. Alerting his neighbours, Stonehouse ran to the blazing house. He found Isabella lying senseless in the hall, and dragged her out to the safety of the road while the blaze was quenched.

The house was damaged, but saved, while poor Isabella died of her wounds. The gold was missing.

Local gossip soon had it that Sir Robert had taken advantage of his fiancĂ©e’s absence to steal the gold and set fire to the house he detested. Presumably Isabella had seen him, and been beaten about the head to keep her quiet.

Miss Smith would have none of it. She blamed a local man named James Wolfe with whom she had had a long standing dispute over an unpaid bill. Wolfe was put on trial, together with his son George and neighbour John Eden. They were cleared, but only after spending some months in prison.

In due course Miss Smith married Sir Robert, but the marriage did not prove happy. Soon Lady Peat, as Miss Smith now was, came back from London. She quickly became as notorious in Herrington for her miserly ways and odd behaviour as she had been before her marriage. She was strangely able to find an excuse to visit anybody who had a stroke of good luck and always had a plausible excuse to help herself to anything on offer. “Don’t tell Lady Peat”, became a standard response to good fortune.

She died in 1842, leaving her fortune to be divided between her relatives and educational charities.

The ghost that haunts old Herrington House might be expected to be that of Isabella Young, but it is not. It is that of Lady Peat. She appears as she was shortly before her death. Dressed in a long black dress of tatty and patched fabric, she potters slowly about the house and grounds. Some have said she mumbles beneath her breath or grumbles unhappily. Perhaps she had rather more to do with the death of her maid than appeared at the time. Was there some dark secret she wished to cover up in case Sir Robert got to hear about it. We shall never know.

from HAUNTED SUNDERLAND by Rupert Matthews

Friday, 9 March 2012

A famous ghostly vicar in Dorchester, Dorset

One of the best recorded ghosts in Dorset haunts, or perhaps haunted, St Peter’s Church in High West Street. The ghost first appeared in dramatic fashion on Christmas Eve 1814. The popular and long-serving vicar, Reverend Nathaniel Templeman, had passed away a few months earlier and the new vicar had left the task of decorating the church for Christmas Day to his sexton, Ambrose Hunt and warden, Clerk Hardy.

The two men were skilled and dedicated, so after some hours of work in the chilly church they had a fine display ready for the parish’s devotions the following day. The two men were understandably tired, so they decided to refresh themselves with a glass of the communion wine that they knew to be in the vestry. They poured themselves a generous glass each and retired to sit down on a pew to enjoy the drink.

At that moment the ghost of the Rev. Templeman suddenly appeared coming towards them. The phantom was obviously angry, waving his fists and mouthing as if shouting, though no sound could be heard. As the ghost drew close, Hardy collapsed in a faint. Hunt threw himself to his knees and began recounting the Lord’s Prayer. The ghost paused, then turned aside and drifted off down the North Aisle, where it vanished. As soon as the ghost had gone, Hunt leapt to his feet and fled into the night. He barged into a nearby inn and gabbled out his story. A few of the more intrepid souls in the bar hurried to the church. They found the unfortunate Hardy lying unconscious on the floor and the two glasses of communion wine overturned, but of the ghost there was no sign.

The ghostly vicar is said to have returned several times since, always in apparent anger. But none of these reports are as well attested as that of the sexton and warden. They, after all, knew the dead man well and encountered his ghost at a range of only 10 feet or so. They were adamant about what they had seen and never changed their story.

from HAUNTED PLACES OF DORSET by Rupert Matthews

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The vanished ghost of the Shambles, York

A religious building used to stand in Shambles, but was demolished in 1887. This was the church of St Crux, which stood toward the southern end of the street. If you look carefully you can see portions of the walls still standing, built into other structures. The most active of the ghosts which formerly haunted this church was the tall, handsome man who would be seen on many morning peering out of one the windows that looking on to Shambles. The man was described as having a calm and serene expression, taking no notice of the early morning bustle in the street outside. Some of the bolder passersby who saw him would call out or wave, but the ghost always ignored them. On one occasion the verger offered to unlock the church early so that folk could go into the church to accost the phantom directly. There were no volunteers.

from HAUNTED YORK by Rupert Matthews

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Ghostly GIrl of Knowbury, Shropshire

The phantom schoolgirl of Knowbury is seen most often around the school, but never in it – which must have been a relief for teachers struggling to keep order in a class.

She is said to be aged about 11 years and to wear a white pinafore dress with full sleeves and, according to some, lacey cuffs and collar. In other words, a fairly typical country girl of the later Victorian era. This ghost was usually seen walking slowly or standing quietly at various spots near the school and St Paul’s church. In the 1950s an outbreak of poltergeist activity in a house in the village was blamed on the girl, though why was never entirely clear.

Visible phantoms do not tend to throw objects around very often, nor to indulge in the many other tricks of the typical poltergeist. In any case the nuisance soon faded, though the ghost remains. Even the closure of the village school has not persuaded this ancient pupil to depart.

from HAUNTED PLACES OF SHROPSHIRE by Rupert Matthews

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The other ghosts at Longleat, Wiltshire

Of all the great houses of Wiltshire, few are as famous, as grand or as haunted as Longleat House. The house is also remarkable as it has been home to the same family since it was built in 1568.

The estate named after the stream of Long Leat was a priory during the middle ages, but after the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII the land was bought by Sir John Thynne, a land owner and dealer of genius. Sir John paid just £53 for the estate, and then proceeded to spend the then colossal sum of £8,016 on the house.

The house that was completed in 1580 has remained remarkably unchanged ever since, though the state rooms were updated in 1807. Longleat remains the earliest and most complete example of a Renaissance house in England. The architect, Robert Smythson abandoned most features of the traditional English medieval manor, though he kept a Great Hall. Instead he built a symmetrical house on a rectangular pattern with large glass windows set into plain stone facades.

A second ghost lurks in the Red Library. Appropriately enough this phantom sits quietly reading and bothers nobody. A third spectre is reported to run along corridors at night banging on the doors as if in great distress. No stories are attached to these phantoms. As with so many ghosts, they just appear, go about their business and then vanish again leaving the hapless human witness none the wiser.

from HAUNTED PLACES OF WILTSHIRE by Rupert Matthews