Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Haunted Theatre in Sunderland

The Empire Theatre in Sunderland is famously haunted – its ghosts featuring with some regularity in the local press. The older of the phantoms goes by the name of “Molly”. She was the stage manager before the Second World War. One night after the show she was walking home with a friend when she said she had to pop back to the theatre to pick up something she forgot. She was never seen again, but her ghost has been seen many times.

In 2002 Molly appeared again. There was a musical show at the Empire and during the final rehearsal, one young male singer happened to look up at the top circle. He saw a woman dressed in white watching the rehearsals. He did not think much of it at first, assuming it was a member of staff. Then the figure just vanished right in front of his eyes. Seconds later one of the canvas bits of scenery blew in a draft and touched him on the back. He fled the building and refused to go back at all. The company had to do the show without him.

The theatre staff treat Molly as quite a friend. “We see her from time to time, mostly in the Circle or Top Circle, but elsewhere in the theatre as well,” said one. “She’s a lady in a white dress walking around. Checking things out, I suppose. Making sure everything is just how she likes it. Must be, I think. She never gives any trouble and is a very friendly ghost.

“Of course, you get funny noises and such in theatres anyway. You know, seats stay down when a person stands up and then gradually works its way loose until it snaps shut with a bang a couple of hours later. And there are all sorts of drafts in an old place like this. They can blow doors open and shut, move scenery and such. That might account for some of the stories. But I won’t hang around after dark, not on my own. You never know.

“I won’t go up to the Top Circle on my own,” he continued. “It can be right spooky up there you know. When you are by yourself. I wouldn’t like our night watchman’s job. Not my idea of fun at all.”

from "Haunted Sunderland" by Rupert Matthews

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Book Description

5 Sep 2008 Haunted
This is a fascinating collection of over 100 stories of ghostly encounters from Sunderland and its surrounding settlements, including Cleadon, Boldon, Hylton and Rythorpe. It features many local landmarks, including the Sunderland Empire, Hylton Castle and Souter Lighthouse, and features stories ranging from the poltergeist of Havelok Road, who caused chaos in the 1950s, to the account of Wicked Lady Peat, who was so evil that when her house caught fire, not one person went to her aid. Exploring everything from pubs and churchyards to collieries, Haunted Sunderland will appeal to anyone interested in the supernatural history of the area.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Ghostly Hog of Burghill

Take, for instance, the strange story of the Burghill hog. Back in the early 19th century what is now the A4110 was then a major coaching route running north from Hereford toward Knighton and Shrewsbury.

Beside the road to Hereford a ghostly pig was seen several times in the later 19th century. The road climbs up north of the city near the village of Burghill.

On the crest of this hill there used to stand an elm tree, now sadly gone the way of so many that fell victim to Dutch elm disease in the 1980s. It was beneath this elm that the phantom Burghill hog used to be seen. The great pig, for it was a massive porker, used to be seen behaving as if it were tethered to the tree. It would watch approaching humans with some apprehension and then back away as if seeking shelter beneath the tree’s spreading branches. Then it would fade from view.

No story ever seems to have become attached to this odd spectre, though it was seen often enough. The tree has now gone and so, alas, has the ghostly hog.

The Devil Came to Gloucestershire

Also irate is the altogether more dangerous apparition of Painswick, north of Stroud. Time was that the panelled courtroom in the beautiful stone manor house was where ecclesiastical trials were held. It may have been the number of errant clergymen who used to troop here to face justice that attracted the Devil. No doubt he took gleeful interest in the wrongdoing of the supposedly godly clerics.

Whatever his reason for coming, the Devil was eventually bound by prayers and forbidden to walk abroad in Painswick so long as the yew trees stood in the churchyard. Visitors can see these magnificent trees standing there still - all neatly clipped to shape and well cared for. It is just as well that the trees are so carefully tended. The Devil is biding his time. Eventually the trees will die or fall and the Devil wants no others in the village similarly able to restrict his actions. If anyone is fool enough to plant a yew, the Devil pulls it out and sets one of his minions to bring bad luck to whoever planted it.

Meanwhile, the good folk of Painswick eye their trees with care and concern. For when they fall the Devil will be loose among them once more.

from Haunted Gloucestershire by Rupert Matthews. 
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Friday, 18 October 2013

The Countess who caught fire

Perhaps the earliest known case of Spontaneous Human Combustion is that of the Countess Cornelia Bandi who met a grisly end in Verona on 4 April 1731. The details of the case were recorded by the local magistrate, Bianchini, who ruled out foul play but was unable to explain what had killed the countess.

On the evening of 3 April Countess Bandi had retired to bed as usual. Her maid had helped her to undress and put her jewellry back in its boxes. She had then sat chatting to the countess for some time before leaving for her own chamber. Nothing had appeared to be amiss. Next morning the maid returned to awaken her mistress. Even before entering the room she could small the pungent stench of burned clothing, but it was not until she opened the door that she realised the full horror of the situation.

The bedclothes where turned back and rumpled as if the countess had thrown them off in a hurry. Four feet from the bed lay what was left of the countess’s body. “There was a heap of ashes, two legs untouched with stockings on, between which lay the head, the brains half of the back part of the skull and of the whole chin burned to ashes, among which were found three fingers, blackened but intact. All the rest was ashes which had this quality, that they left in the hand a greasy and stinking moisture.”

Nor was that all. A thin layer of soot was spread across the chamber, like several days worth of dust in an abandoned room. The floor had pools of a a thick goo which stank and had the texture of glue. Another patch of the same offensive liquid was smeared down one wall underneath a window.

Unsurprisingly the maid fled to call the forces of law and order. They arrived promptly, but very quickly found that the lady’s jewels and money were untouched, ruling out the theory that she had been murdered by robbers and the body then burned. There was, in fact, no sign of a forced entry and no indication of how the body had been set alight. The mystery was abandoned as being inexplicable.

from Encyclopedia of the Paranormal by Rupert Matthews

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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Maricoxi - is it real?

Moving to South America, the reports of the Maricoxi would seem to be descriptions of a type of human that is quite distinct from ourselves. We know that human evolution has produced many side branches, dead ends and detours. There is nothing intrinsically impossible about a distinct subspecies or species of human surviving to the present day. The evidence for it is, however, slim. Such evidence as there is relates back to a time when the vast forests of South America were utterly unexplored. These days, what with logging and forest clearance, there are few areas that are unknown. There is today no such tribe as the Maricoxi and all reports of primitive humans ceased some 30 years ago. The evidence would indicate that there are no tribes of early humans in South America, and most of the reports and stories could be dismissed as folktales and myth.

But then there is the report made by Colonel Percy Fawcett. Fawcett was very definite about what he had seen and experienced. He was a serious explorer who has never been found to have lied or misreported what he discovered - though he admittedly had some rather odd theories to account for it all. I think we must accept that Fawcett really did meet a tribe of hairy humans of rather primitive aspect, but we must also accept that whatever these humans were they are now extinct.

from "Bigfoot" (also published as "Sasquatch") by Rupert Matthews

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Friday, 11 October 2013

UFO Sighting categorisation

Hynek’s first three categories are collectively known as “encounters” and generally refer to UFOs seen at a distance. The first of this trio is the “Nocturnal Light” which occurs when a witness sees a light in the sky at night behaving in a way that cannot be explained rationally. The second category is that of “Daylight Disc”, which includes all UFOs seen in the sky during daylight whether they are actually disc-shaped or not. The final agreed encounter category is the “Radar Contact”, which refers to UFOs picked up on radar. Some use a fourth encounter category: “Radar-Visual” which refers to UFOs that are tracked on radar at the same time as being seen, whether by day or night. 

from "Alien Encounters" by Rupert Matthews.

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This is a fascinating book written in an easy-reading style that makes this complex and baffling subject highly entertaining. The chapters include: From Out of the Blue; Armed Reconnaissance; Casualties of War; Alien Contacts; Human Harvest; The Search for Truth; The Invasion Hypothesis; and, Conclusion.This book includes material from sightings of UFOs to meetings with aliens, contacts with alien cultures and outright conflict between humans and alien invaders. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Hill UFO Abduction Case - after the sighting

A week after their sighting of a UFO the Hills fell unwell, Betty began to suffer from intensely vivid nightmares. Although the details varied, they all centred on Betty being kidnapped and subjected to painful procedures by short humanoids. About the same time, Barney suffered from painful stomach ulcers. Wondering if there was any link to the UFO sighting, the Hills contacted researchers, who were the first to spot the discrepancy between the expected and actual arrival time of the Hills.

The researchers suggested that the Hills get in touch with Dr Benjamin Simon, a psychiatrist who would be able to explore any deep seated emotional trauma caused by the sighting that might be causing the nightmares and ulcers. It was Simon who hit upon the idea of using hypnotic regression to explore the missing two hours of time to see if this revealed anything of relevance.

The tale that came out was consistent between the two Hills, disturbing in its content and unsettling in its implications. Although the emotional responses of both Betty and Barney were so great under hypnosis that it took several attempts and careful questioning to draw out what had happened, the final story was clear.

The “missing time” episode began when Barney got back in the car after seeing the humanoids through his binoculars. The car would not restart, and soon a group of the humanoids had emerged from the UFO and were surrounding the vehicle. From there on it just kept getting worse.

from  Alien Encounters: True-Life Stories of Aliens, UFOs and Other Extra-Terrestrial Phenomena by Rupert Matthews.

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Product Description

In this compelling and revealing examination, author Rupert Matthews looks afresh at key episodes of alien activity on earth, and sheds light on the many mysterious phenomena associated with it. From Roswell to Taizé, the book dissects fascinating eyewitness accounts of communication and contact with alien beings, as well as chilling cases of abduction. It also sifts through sinister evidence of government cover-ups. Ten Special Casebooks give in-depth analysis of the most important encounters, including:
• The pilot who saw a formation of alien aircraft
• The Exeter Incident – chased by UFOs in the darkness
• The Socorro Incident – solid evidence of alien activity
• Betty and Barney Hill – abducted on Highway 3
Rigorously researched, Alien Encounters is a gripping investigation of strange events that continue to spark fierce debate. If you doubt the existence of extra-terrestrials, prepare to be convinced.


This is a fascinating book written in an easy-reading style that makes this complex and baffling subject highly entertaining. The chapters include: From Out of the Blue; Armed Reconnaissance; Casualties of War; Alien Contacts; Human Harvest; The Search for Truth; The Invasion Hypothesis; and, Conclusion.This book includes material from sightings of UFOs to meetings with aliens, contacts with alien cultures and outright conflict between humans and alien invaders.