Friday, 31 August 2012

The Ghostly Boat of Hoarwithy

A few miles downstream along the Wye from Hereford at Hoarwithy a ghostly boat is seen on rare occasions. It is sailed by a woman with long black hair, who steers her craft resolutely upstream irrespective of the strength or direction of the wind. Who she is and why she is so keen to reach Hereford are quite unknown.

from A Ghosthunters Guide to England by Rupert Matthews
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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Devil in Herefordshire

The Devil is a lively character in stories of the supernatural that are found in Herefordshire. Indeed, it is noticeable that the evil one is mentioned far more often in Herefordshire than in most English counties. Why this should be so tends to divide people. Those from outside the county are apt to remark that Satan will find his work easier to do in Herefordshire. Those who live here reply that he has to spend more time in the county for precisely the opposite reason - that Herefordshire folk are less likely to sin and so he needs to put in extra effort.

The figure of the Devil is drawn from the Bible. The name means “accuser” in Greek and is thought to refer to the fact that the role of the Devil was to tempt humans to sin so that he could collect evidence with which to accuse them on the Day of Judgement. His other name in the Bible, Satan, is the same word in Hebrew.

Since the Bible was written a whole and hugely complex mythology has grown up about the Devil and his minions. Some of this is sanctioned by some Christian denominations, but much of it is entirely unofficial and has no grounding in theology. The Devil is generally thought to be hugely powerful, but to have no hold over humans or their souls unless the person involves willingly agrees to this. The idea of selling your soul to the Devil in return for worldly power or wealth is an old one. The Devil is widely held to be utterly ruthless and deeply cunning when agreeing to such pacts. He is skilled at twisting words to his meaning and so cheating the human, but he is also likely to make mistakes and to be cheated in his turn.

The Devil is also believed to be able to take on human form. He will usually appear as a rich and successful stranger, mounted on a fine horse - these days presumably he would drive a Rolls Royce or a Ferrari - and be dressed in the costliest fashions. There is usually something wrong about this disguise that can be detected by the more astute, though sometimes not until it is too late. He might, for instance, leave his foot as a cloven hoof.

Nor does the Devil come alone. He has demons and minions to do his bidding. Some of these have names - Beelzebub and Astaroth are among the better known - but others are nameless. These demons are usually thought of as being less powerful than their evil master, but still to be deeply dangerous.

Whatever the truth, it is certain that the Devil features strongly in Herefordshire tales. Some of these seem to be folktales with little, if any, basis in fact. Others are rooted in truth and use the Devil as a personification of evil to explain events. Still more seem to be authentic tales about seemingly supernatural happenings, but that those involved ascribed the events to the Devil rather than to ghosts or spectres.

from Haunted Herefordshire by Rupert Matthews
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Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Angry Ghost of Deerhurst, Gloucestershire


Thought to be guarding something, though what is unclear, is the belligerent spectre to be found at Deerhurst. This little village stands on the banks of the Severn just south of Tewkesbury. It has long been slightly off the beaten track, as the road that leads here goes nowhere else, except to the equally remote village of Apperley. Perhaps that is why the ancient Saxon chapel of Odda has managed to survive. Built in 1056, the chapel has remained unaltered since - apart from a bit of repointing from time to time.

The ghost haunts the nearby churchyard of St Mary's, itself a Saxon church although it has been overlaid by later work. This is the phantom of a tall, thickset man in rustic clothing of a century or more ago. He is not seen often, but when he is this ghost makes  a real impression. Angry and annoyed, he shakes his fist and shouts at intruders to his churchyard. It seems he does not want particular people there and certainly does not want them straying off the paths. Then, having made his point, he vanishes.

From Haunted Gloucestershire by Rupert Matthews
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Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Morag Monster

One venue for several famous sightings of a water monster has been Loch Morar, where the monster is known as “Morag”. Fishermen Duncan McDonnell and William Simpson were afloat on 16 August 1969, when they had a close-quarters experience with this being of gigantic proportions.

It was 9pm and the fishermens’ boat was travelling at a speed of about seven knots when a splash in the loch nearby caught the men’s attention. Natural curiosity soon turned to terror as the thing churning the water made a bee-line straight for them. As McDonnell recounted: “I looked up and saw about twenty yards [18m] behind us this creature coming directly after us in our wake. It only took a matter of seconds to catch up with us. It grazed the side of the boat, I am quite certain this was unintentional. When it struck, the boat seemed to come to a halt or at least slow down. I grabbed the oar and was attempting to fend it off, my one fear being that if it got under the boat it might capsize it.”

Later, Simpson wrote of the terrible experience: “We watched it catch us up then bump into the side of the boat, the impact sent a kettle of water I was heating onto the floor. I ran into the cabin to turn the gas off as the water had put the flame out. Then I came out of the cabin to see my mate trying to fend the beast off with an oar, to me he was wasting his time. Then when I seen the oar break I grabbed my rifle and quickly putting a bullet in it fired in the direction of the beast.”

The shot was enough to see off the marauder, although neither of the men believed the bullet had wounded it. They estimated that the creature measured about 9m in length and had a snake-like head extending some 0.5m above the water. Its skin was rough and brown.

With a depth of 305m, Loch Morar is deeper than Loch Ness and its waters run clearer. If this were the home of a beast it would remain a private one, as there are no roads running around the loch. One rumour is that Morag is the ghost of a long-extinct dinosaur.

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About the book.
This book tackles the wide spectrum of paranormal events as reported around the world. It does not seek to push any one explanation for the events explored, but instead sets out the evidence and reviews the theories espoused by researchers. Readers are then left to decide for themselves what the true explanation might be - or if anything odd is going on at all.