Drawn from the Haunted Britain and Ireland Website
written and/or collected
by Tony Walker
These stories are from a website I wrote and ran in the late 1990s and early 2000s when I was a ghost hunt tour leader. The website was called Haunted Britain and Ireland. The site was a collection of stories about haunted hotels in Britain and Ireland that you could stay at. That was the fresh new premise then – haunted places you could experience. That was then, and this is now. Now, there is a plethora of websites offering the same thing. But, dear readers, you should believe that I was the first.
I did a lot of original research and collected stories. I put them on the website. The website was then extensively pillaged by the TV series Most Haunted. I’m from Cumbria in the North of England so my geographical bias was evident in the material I managed to get. Then these places would feature in an episode of Most Haunted, without a credit. On some occasions, I got a phone call from the producers, in the early days at least. I remember one where they asked me for suggestions of places in Europe. I gave them to them but the series was never made.
I’m not saying that every place they filmed at was drawn from my website Haunted Britain and Ireland; it wasn’t especially as the series went on and they had to find their own places. Anyway, that’s life. It made me laugh sometimes watching the series and when they visited places I knew well like Dalston Hall, Chillingham Castle, Charleville Castle and Moresby Hall, they would “channel” information that I had in fact written.
Many of the other haunted hotel websites initially just copied paragraphs of my stuff! However, the material I have compiled here is a collection of true ghost stories I collected from various sources. Some of them were sent in my readers of the website, and I am very grateful to them. Others are my re-writes of familiar stories and I even have a few of my theories – much more of that in True Ghosts, which you can also find on Amazon.
I hope you enjoy the true stories.
I want to share an experience that I had when I was young.
The house that I lived in, when I was a kid, was about a mile away from some train tracks. I had always had a sense of the macabre, so I had this fantasy that some murderer would one day jump from the train and find his way to my house. And since my twin brother’s and my room was right next to the window over the garage, I was positive that we would be murdered first, since that was the easiest way to break in to our house.
So, out of this fear i would sometimes get this overwhelming feeling that there was someone in my room, and I would wake up. The only thing is, is that I couldn’t move. My legs were stiff, my arms would not move, but most of all, my head was locked in place and I couldn’t, for the life of me, turn it to, at least, get a look at the intruder. There were also times when I could feel someone’s hand on me or the bed, or feel the bed give as someone leans, or sits, on it.
The only way to free myself of this paralysis was to tell myself that “I can move, just do it”. And, slowly, I would turn my head, and then it would be all over. Of course, I could never find anyone in the room, but my brother sleeping across the room.
I had always remembered those experiences, but didn’t think much of them, after growing up. Until a couple years ago, when the murderer through the window fear reared its head.
One summer night, my wife couldn’t get to sleep, because of my snoring, so she slept out on the couch with the living room window open. At about 3 in the AM, I was woken up by her calling my name, and I ran out to the living room where she told me she was awakened by someone trying to pull the screen from the open window (she actually saw the outline of the mans head and his hands on the screen). The screen was almost off its runners, so whoever it was, was this close to getting in (don’t even want to think what would have happened).
Shortly after that incident, my wife was out of town visiting, and I was alone in the apt. The childhood intruder was back that night. Same thing: body locked, I could feel someone on the bed. But this time I finally realised that it was a dream. I realised it during the dream, and told myself this in the dream, and then I woke up. It’s only occurred once or twice since then. And even though I know it’s just a dream, it still freaks me out.
Cumberland Coal Mine
Here’s a story told to me by my grandfather.
In the early 1960s, he was a coal miner at various pits around the west Cumberland coalfield in the north west of England, moving from one to another as they were closed down. There was a particular pit that he worked at near a village called Siddick on the coast. I remember it from when I was a boy, but the area has been landscaped now and there is no trace that there was ever a mine complex there.
This didn’t happen to him but he knew the men concerned. There was one gallery pretty deep down that had a reputation for being haunted. I suppose that during the course of it being worked men must have died down there, crushed or gassed or whatever, but no one had ever seen anything that resembled a man. In fact, there were no reports of sightings of any kind – just odd noises.
Strangely, the noise was supposed to be similar to the sound of silk rustling – murmuring perhaps. Not a human or animal noise at all. They only heard it when everything was relatively quiet. I think that at the time of the incident, that particular gallery was worked out and the men were elsewhere in the mine. The mines were pretty big and the tunnels could on go for miles. In this case, some of them went out under the sea.
Anyway, two of the younger men, in a show of bravado decided that they would spend the night down there – without the permission of the mine bosses of course – just to show that they weren’t frightened.
One particular night they made their way down the mineshaft in the steel cage and walked along the tunnels to the place they were to stay the night. I can imagine that it was quiet – bereft of human sounds anyway, perhaps the sound of water.
They arrived and sat down with blankets and lamps and sat down to wait. After a long while, nothing had happened and the older one, I don’t know his name, who was braver than the other. Put out the lamp. Perhaps the other one wanted to stop him and turn it on again but he didn’t dare in case he looked frightened. There is a phrase used to convey absolute darkness – as black as a coalmine at midnight. I’ve been down a couple of mines myself and the complete absence of any kind of light is something you can’t imagine beforehand.
They waited. And as if it had been kept at bay by the light and only moved in darkness – they heard the sound. It was like the rustling of material – or something so odd that that was closest thing they could liken it to. It was somewhere in that cavern in the dark. How close they couldn’t say. The younger one panicked and switched on his lamp again.
His companion mocked him for his lack of courage but the lad was in a sweat. He pleaded with the other to go back to the surface with him. He wouldn’t. In the end the younger lad got up and went, still asking his friend to accompany him.
His friend laughed at him and said, come the next day, everyone would know what a coward he was. The young lad went. Pretty scared to be walking down the long tunnel on his own. After a couple of yards, he turned to see that his friend had switched off his lamp again.
The early morning shift workers found the older lad in the gallery the next morning. Stone dead but without a mark on his body. It’s supposed to be a true story….
From: Richard McCulloch
I Thought I’d send you a creepy tale… Don’t know if it qualifies as being a full-blown ghost story, but I think it still rates quite highly on the “Goose-Pimple-O-Meter”
A few years ago, I was involved in the conversion of some 17th Century buildings in Durham City, England, from houses into shops and a cafe.
For those who’ve never been, Durham is an old Cathedral town, with many old buildings crammed into quite a small space. These particular buildings were based around an old courtyard of Saddler Street, and consisted of a large building of about three stories and a narrower one of similar height. These were seriously old and atmospheric buildings; the smaller of the two had beams which were reckoned to have been old ship’s timbers from about the time of the Spanish Armada, and the larger one had lots of narrow passageways upstairs, and a big oak panelled room.
While I helped prepare the smaller building for use, the larger building was being converted into a Cafe. Taran, the daughter of the owners of the Cafe, used to play alone on one of the upper floors of the building while her parents worked downstairs. (At this time she was about three years old, I think, and her parents swore later that they hadn’t mentioned death to her in any particular way – all her grandparents were still alive and she’d never had any pets which might have expired.) On this occasion her parents could hear her thumping about upstairs, and called her down. “Don’t make so much noise, dear!” they said. “It’s not me, it’s Davvy making the noise” she answered promptly.
Like many children of that age, Taran had pretty regular games with imaginary friends, so her parents weren’t too impressed by this attempt to duck the blame. “Well, ask her not to be so noisy” they asked. “I will”, said Taran, “but she likes making noise because she doesn’t get to play much. She says she’s been dead for such a long time that she can only come out to play with me”…
In an interesting development, a few days after this happened, Taran (who had never been spoken to about death, remember) started holding funeral services for her Barbie dolls; putting them in boxes and surrounding them with flowers, saying prayers “for the dead Barbie” and generally being quite alarming. She stopped short of burying them, though!
Over a few months, the cafe was finished and opened, and in time Taran’s fascination with death wore off, and – as far as I know – nothing more was heard of “Davvy”.
It is worth mentioning that the staff at the cafe often receive warnings from people who visit the upstairs toilets that they can hear a child playing in the stockroom…
My interest in (ghosts) is due to my family having a history of interactions with “supernatural sources”.
One of my favourite stories came from my grandmother, a Scottish born and Ireland raised, very Catholic lady.
Grandma took her frequent sightings in stride and saw them as a blessing, but she told me of the one story that caused her the most unrest. She was visiting family in Scotland and they resided in a very old castle-like home of multiple rooms, stone walls and stairs. She remembers it being “always so cold and drafty.” She arrived there in the late afternoon and after visiting for a bit in the parlour, as she called it, she climbed the stairs to ready herself for bed. On the way up the stairs, she looked up and saw two children, approximate ages of 4 and 6. They had reddish blonde hair and had laughing faces. They were charging down the stairs as if to greet her. She held out her arms to welcome them in a hug, thinking they were the niece and nephew of her hosts. As they came into her reach, she felt as if a cold wind blew through her, and she turned to see them running on down the stairs, oblivious to her presence.
Grandma said she shook her head and passed it off as her being weary from the day’s travel and the frequent drafts that the home was known for.
The next evening, Grandma was at the top of the stairs on her way down, when again she heard the children. Looking off to her side, she saw them chasing each other down the hall towards her and again “through” her down the stairs. She descended the stairs and went immediately to her host. She said she didn’t know how to present the situation without making herself seem unstable, but as she began, haltingly, to ask if they had children in the home, her hosts eyes widened and she was interrupted by her host saying, “You’ve seen them too, now?”
Their discussion went on and Grandma learned that since her host’s purchase of the home 8 years previous, there had been numerous sightings of the laughing children, but the host and her family had never witnessed them, only guests to the home. The story went on to say that over 70 years previous, a guest had come to the home and, due to carelessness with a candle, lit the wall tapestries and the home suffered extensive fire damage. Also lost in the fire were the two children of the home, a couple of young children, a boy and a girl aged 5 & 6, with strawberry blonde hair….
Well I stay in Grangemouth Scotland and I also have a caravan in Perthshire in the Countryside at Ballintuim
Grangemouth is the most heavy industrialist town in the U.K. Near the docks there are abandoned railroads. Between about 21:00 and 22:00 there have been about 17 sightings of Ye Ole Lady. At the abandoned station there is suppose to be a lady well clothed holding something crying at the wrecked ex-station. She does not come out every night just some nights. Historians say that the Lady was called Coleen Gregg. He was waiting to catch a train to meet her husband and he would see his baby son for the first time that was what she was holding. She was killed by her other son accidentally when he was playing. He accidentally pushed his mother over killing his baby brother son and his mother.
Ballintuim has many ghosts. Some popular ones are the shepherd boy, The Loch Charles Ghost and The Ghost Dog. The Pond. The Caravan Park is in a field where a young shepherd boy worked. He looked after the sheep in a field. He was out one day when there was a storm and he was caught in it. Sadly, the boy was killed; During February to April you are able to see the Boy sitting on a rock with a stick in his hands.
In Ballintuim there is a loch called Loch Charles. There is an island in the middle. Every year in June sometime there is suppose to be a lady appear in the middle of the island. NO one has been able to discover who she is but next to the loch, there are cottages from the time of the Highland clearances. Was she from one of these cottages? No one knows.
The Ghost Dog is one that I have only heard once. Near Ballintuim (a couple of miles away) there is a little village called Drimmie. There is a grey hound with flaming eyes there. And if you look into its flaming eyes for too long and if it barks twice at you then you’re doomed. Once a couple of my friends and I were at the pond at the site. We were just feeding the Ducks at night when a grey figure ran across the pond. It was a teenage boy that looked like he dated from the 16th century. All of my friends and I saw this person but we don’t know who it is. These are all TRUE stories. I would like to see them in your site.
An Indian Ghost Story
From: Rajagopal Ramchandran
This is another story I remembered – one of my favourites.
There were two friends in a small village in South India, who were close. Both were about 15 years of age. For the story’s sake, let’s call them Ram and Shyam. During one of those summer holidays Ram went to visit his grand mother in a neighbouring village.
He returned in about a month by bus. It was about 10 p.m. in the night and it was quite dark. In Indian villages, during those times at least, electricity was in short supply. Most people rely on lamps. He started walking towards home. On the way, he was met by Shyam. The two friends were walking together and talking. On the way home Ram passed his Uncle’s house. His Uncle who was standing outside saw the two of them coming. He called out to Ram and asked him to come. Shyam stayed back and Ram started going towards his Uncle’s house.
As soon as Ram reached the doorsteps, his uncle grabbed him, pulled him inside, and shut the door. This startled Ram and asked him what was happening. Then his uncle told him that his friend Shyam had died a couple of days earlier. When Ram looked out of the window, there was no Shyam.
Royal Geographical Society, Kensington
I collected this story from a wonderful woman called Cicely Blaylock who used to work at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington London. I took it down as she spoke to me, so forgive any grammatical infelicities If anyone has anything to say about this extraordinary story, I’d like to know.
Cicley is an atheist: she doesn’t believe in things like God and thinks that when you’re gone your dust and that’s it. She has however had experiences with ghosts, or at least with apparitions of the past.
She lived at Charnbrook in Bedfordshire with her American husband, now passed away. At that time, she worked at Unilever and was appalled at the way they treated their animals so she reported them to the Animal Liberation Front. On the tide of local rage that provoked she had to leave and her and her husband fled to London.
She got a job as a telephonist at the Royal Geographic Society on Kensington Gore. The job came with a flat in a building opposite the Society’s Headquarters. She was overjoyed to be in London, starting a new life in the midst of such history.
Her flat was on the first floor. She and her husband had a lot of furniture so they ended up putting up their bed for the first few days in the flat’s large living room. The first night they went to bed she fell asleep quickly, tired after the exertions of moving. In the middle of the night, she doesn’t know why, she suddenly woke up to see the figure of a monk standing over her. She describes him very clearly: “He was a tall thin man, quite nasty looking and he was wearing a dirty white canvas gown. He had a cap on one shoulder that hung down over one shoulder and had a tassel on the end. He had piercing blue eyes and was pointing a bony finger straight at me; I could even see the dirt under the nail.”
She screamed, waking her husband up, and the monk disappeared. The next night, they moved the bed round to see if that would make a difference. She says the second night she wasn’t quite sleeping, just in the half sleep half wake state that precedes it. Then she opened her eyes and looked out into the room. All the modern furniture was gone and instead the place was strewn with straw. On the floor sat a small dwarfish man in a coloured satin costume like a jockey. He had a snub nose and ruddy complexion and was pushing a date into Cicely’s mouth. She jerked back and suddenly the modern room came rushing into being. She says that the corner table reappeared so fast that its corner hit her in the eye. Once again, her husband was awakened and a little disgruntled.
Two things she learnt later were that the horses had once been kept on the first floor so that they wouldn’t be stolen and that dates were often given to horses as a treat. A little later, the librarian, Francis, took her into a room where he showed her a picture of a carriage with a man in a jockey’s costume at the reigns. It was the same man she had seen.
The third night she was a little anxious. She had a cup of cocoa and went to bed. She woke up again to see a large man standing next to the bed. She says he had thick white legs with red hairs all over them. He was wearing canvas boots with laces, dirty blue shorts and a shirt that looked like a safari suit. He had an Australian style slouch hat on his head, also a faded blue, and he had an enormous red beard. He kept looking at the wall as if it wasn’t there. She just stared at him for a while and then with a sob turned to her sleeping husband and cuddled in.
Other experiences at the Royal Geographic Society came later. On one occasion, it was her daughter’s birthday party and the family were round at the flat. They’d run out of wine and she walked over to the door to get some more. She opened the door and saw a tall man in black cloak; she immediately shut the door. Her daughter was standing behind her and said, “Why did you shut the door in that man’s face?”
When the daughter opened the door there was no one there and the door below to the outside was locked.
One day she was sitting at work but things were a bit slack. Strangely, she felt her hand begin to write of its own accord. She watched her own hand spell out in beautiful copperplate handwriting the name: Edmund S Knight 1882. Though she and Mr Holland looked through the list of fellows, she never found an Edmund Knight.
Another time it was a beautiful sunny Saturday and she was alone in the flat doing the post. Her husband was ill in bed upstairs. Suddenly she heard a noise that sounded to her like rushing water. She looked outside; it was still sunny. The noise got louder and louder and suddenly, she realised what it was: it was the sound of a sledge rushing over the snow. In a panic, she rushed out of the door, scattering the post everywhere. Of course, the Royal Geographical Society keeps Captain Robert Scott’s sledge.
She spoke to Leon who said when he’d been a young man, the housekeeper at the RGS had seen things as well, but he didn’t know exactly what…
There’s an incredible set of stories I have in a book called “50 Great Ghost Stories” by John Canning, that chronicle the history of a ghost at the great house of Allanbank which has been the seat of the Stuarts for over a hundred years. They call her Pearlin Jeanne. She was the spurned mistress of Robert Stuart who was said to have once been a bit of a rogue. Jeanne was a nun in Versailles when he met her on travels in the 1670’s… he saw her in the church courtyard from his hotel window. She soon gave up life in the cloister for his charms. Eventually he grew tired of her and she became more suspicious he would leave.
The story goes that the day he left her she ran out to the carriage shrieking “You shan’t go, and I tell you this- if you marry any woman but me, I shall come between you to the end of your days!” and then she leapt on to the forewheel of the carriage, one foot in the hub, clinging to the top of the wheel with her hands. “Drive on” yelled Robert Stuart and the postilion, half-dazed with sleep and surprise obeyed. The story goes that as the wheel turned she fell in front of it. To the end of his life, Robert Stuart heard her scream as the wheel went over her forehead.
Two weeks later, he was riding a carriage home to Allanbank in good spirits hoping to but all the nastiness behind him. But as they approached the gate the horses refused to go on, and Robert saw a visage of Jeanne floating above the gate with blood streaming from her head onto her familiar “pearlin” dress she’d worn in life. The legend goes that Jeanne was restless in the home, throwing furniture and making noise particularly when Robert was home. He lived in constant fear of a glimpse of his dead loves lacy skirts or her revealing herself to him entirely as she sometimes did. Robert after much consternation did end up taking a wife and since Jeanne’s last words were “I shall come between you…” he tried having a portrait maker paint Jeanne and then they hung the portrait between the ones of he and his wife, which did seem to pacify the ghost… but when ever anyone tried to remove the painting the haunting would start again. It has been said the she likely hastened Robert Stuart’s death. Eventually after a long period of silence the painting was removed to the attic, and Pearlin Jeanne continued her perambulations being seen (often, not in her full horror although it’s said she’s scared the heck out of more than a few servants) not only in the house, but in the grounds and gardens. Sightings of her in my book go up to about the nineteenth century. I love this story so well because not only did I read it as a youngster… but I’m engaged to a Stuart. : )…
During the early 2000s I went to a lot of haunted places. The thoughts above are distilled from lots of conversations and experiences. Each evening we would have a discussion and I would inevitably tell of my own experiences but also recount what previous visitors, guests, companions had told me. That way I gathered an enormous amount of first hand experiences of ghosts. Unfortunately, I lost my notes in a flood in 2009.
However, here are some things I wrote about some of the places we used to go most often. Back in the day I had an extensive popular website and we used to lead ghost tours in these places. Since that time there has been an explosion in that line of things but I think we were the first. I also note that the Most Haunted series extensively raided the website for research material and made programmes about the places we “discovered”. Be that as it may, these are my own experiences:
Dalston Hall, Cumbria
I wrote this before I started going and doing ghost tours at Dalston Hall. I did those for years afterwards and many strange things happened. But this piece dates from before all that:
Dalston Hall dates back to Norman times. At night the towers are floodlit which brings out the orange in the sandstone walls. The hotel is approached up a drive through the trees. Look out for the ghost of the Victorian handyman as you drive up at night; he has often been seen in the grounds.
The current facade of Dalston Hall is actually the most modern part of the building – dating from 1899 – and it hides a more ancient heart. The difference between the daylight outside and the subdued dimness inside is notable; all around dark wood paneling makes the place intimate and yet strange. Passing into the hotel from the reception, you go by the stairs and into the Manorial Hall. The hall dates from around 1500. An inscription reads:
“Iohn Dalston Elisabet mi wyf mad ys byldyng”
The letters are in Gothic script, and curiously written in reverse.
Above the Manorial Hall is a gallery. It’s here that the oldest ghost – known to the staff as Lady Jane, can be seen. She appears in Tudor dress and may well be one of the family actually called Dalston who owned the Hall for many decades.
Off the Manorial Hall to the left an old wooden doorway opens onto a staircase. Near the bottom of the stairs is a heavy iron gate which dates from the time the hall was first built. From what is today the back of the hotel, the two ancient towers are plain to see. This staircase spirals, up worn stone steps to the top of the left tower.
The stairs come out in what is now the honeymoon suite complete with a four poster bed. The walls are the original stone and the windows cut through blocks three feet thick. This tower is even older than the Manorial Hall and dates from the early Middle Ages when it was a Pele tower put up as a defence against the Scots.
The Honeymoon Suite is not haunted but it is atmospheric enough despite that. If you climb past its door up the stairs, you emerge onto the battlements and from them you can get even higher to the top turret. From here you look south to the Lake District fells.
Going down again, on the ground floor there is a small library which serves as a lounge for residents. On the same corridor, there is also a cupboard for hanging coats. When the back panel of this cupboard was removed during renovation it revealed a staircase going up to meet a blank wall.
From this floor the staff can go down to the extensive cellars that wind like a rabbit warren underneath the hotel and almost travel in time from modern plaster, Victorian bricks and medieval stone. There are storm drains down here and when the rain is heavy the cellars flood.
More than one of the porters have heard noises from the cellars when making their rounds in the depths of the night. It has been described as the sound of wooden barrels being manhandled and rolled around. But, wooden barrels have not been used for a long time at Dalston Hall. In 1997, during the daytime the noises were heard and one brave fellow called Richard actually went down to investigate. He said he saw the figure of a man, but losing his nerve, he turned and came back up again. He asked the receptionist who the other fellow was. The receptionist told him that he must be mistaken; there was definitely no one else down there.
After I had interviewed the staff at Dalston Hall, I came across another account of the ghost in the cellar in Liz Linahan’s book, The North of England Ghost Trail. She refers to a workman renovating the Hall in the 1960s who met a man in the cellar who helped him by handing him tools. Needless to say the man vanished. It could have been the same spirit, but I’m pretty sure that this was the same man, though Richard wasn’t apparently aware that his ghost in the cellar had been reported so far back.
Room 4 is said to be haunted by a poor maid who threw herself from the Pele tower above. It has an original fireplace with inglenooks to either side. A female member of staff and her partner stayed there one night but both had difficulty getting to sleep. She told me that she had a strong feeling of a presence in the right hand inglenook – as if someone were watching them both while they slept.
One guest came down in the morning and asked to be moved from Room 4. She said that she woke up to hear her dog growling at the door. It kept growling on and off all night, though there was no one to be seen. She said that she herself had begun to feel a presence in the room.
In 1996 another guest awoke to find a lady sitting on the bed next to him. She spoke to him but her voice came from somewhere behind him, not from her mouth. He couldn’t afterwards remember a word she’d said, but had not been frightened at all during the experience.
There are also sounds of things being dragged over wooden floorboards in the night. Yet, these days there are no wooden floorboards – all the floors are carpeted.
Room 12 is perhaps the most interesting. It has half a bathroom. It is difficult to see from inside, but if you go outside the Hall and look into the bathroom window, you’ll see that the room has been cut in half and divided with a false wall. Though the faded decor of the closed off half is visible from outside, there’s no way to get to it without knocking a hole in the wall.
Room 12 has a lovely view of the gardens, perhaps the best view of any room in the hotel. It also has a four poster bed. People who have slept in the room – not everyone but a significant number over the years – have complained of being woken by girls’ voices whispering. No one has said that anything untoward happened, they sound as if they are just having a giggly time. The trouble is – there’s nobody actually there.
Liz Linahan reports that in October 1996, the candles used for the medieval banquets held in the Manorial Hall were seen by staff to flare up by themselves. During the same month, glasses were heard to smash in empty rooms, and were found broken a good distance from the shelf they had been stacked on; pint glasses rose into the air on their own; the library windows were discovered flung open and the night porter reported the sound of planks banging together.
In October 1997 the telephone system went haywire and all the phones began to ring at once. When they were answered, there was no one there, yet they kept ringing every ten minutes until they stopped as mysteriously as they’d begun. Lights also flickered on and off and the fire alarm system reported fires that had not occurred.
This is something I wrote after our first trip to Dalston Hall with Claire (see a previous post with a ghost on her shoulder). She is responsible for the various “sensings”. I notice that this text below has been attributed without credit by various websites… but believe me it’s mine.
A Report into Psychic Investigations of Ghosts at Dalston Hall between 28 March and 1 April 2001
Mr Fingernails in the Cellar
There have been various stories of barrels moving in the cellar and sightings of workmen, even ghostly workmen handing tools to real workmen, but these can be put down to The Handyman below. Two psychics have independently described an entity that is non-human and appears to them as a black fog. It appears to have something protruding from its forehead, which has been described by one psychic as a hat, though the other disagreed. They did agree that it could move fast, move through floors, and had long fingers with long weird fingernails and liked to loom over people to scare them. In fact it turned out to be a big bully and though it got a kick out of scaring people, couldn’t really harm them.
The Handyman lives in the cellar with Mr Fingernails, though whether they get on is unknown. He is described as having tweed or check trousers, being big and physical. He enjoyed his job with the barrels so much he never wanted to leave. It is a physical job but he’s proud of being the breadwinner and a real man. Or was he?. He has a significant armband on his right arm, which is to do with his job – maybe a badge of rank. He also has a horse with long hair on its fetlocks so I guess he’s some kind of drayman.
Girl Being Dragged By Hair
This poor girl who is described as having a pale face, possibly powdered was seen being dragged by her hair, beaten up, raped and possibly thrown out of the window to her death, by a burly man dressed in leather. We have no idea of period for this but it could be 1500s. The psychics felt she was a courtesan or ‘floozie’. This scene happened in the corridor outside Rooms 4,5 and 6.
This poor girl stands by the window in Room 4 gazing south. Three psychics have independently felt great sadness here and two of them reported the sensation that the girl had looked out of the window thousands of times. She is described as having a headdress, like a bonnet, but more in the style of a headband? With flowers and frills in white cotton. It holds her head back. Her waist is drawn in tightly as if by stays. She has a ring on her finger, which she fingers. It is felt that perhaps she is pining for a man who never returned. An older lady comes in to check if she is all right.
There is a party going on in the Baronial Hall, there are fat dogs and people and high-pitched pipe music. Possibly medieval? A woman also haunts the grille at the bottom of the tower that leads into the hall, and there are strong feelings that there is a void under the hall floor (now bricked up) and Mr Fingernails comes up from this. The party may be the same one from which the girl dragged by her hair (above) was taken.
Three Women and a Young Girl
On the stairs, there are three young women and a small blonde girl. They watch people going up and down, but what they are really doing, and why is it a mystery?
We have done a number of this type of investigation at Dalston Hall. I met the Horells from California on the 2nd October and we talked through the ghostly background. We went on a tour of the area the next day including an exclusive exploration of a haunted castle with electromagnetic field detectors and a remote thermometer. Mike was very keen on the gadgets and it sounds like he’ll be making some investments when he gets home…
We had a few odd readings on the EMF detector from the middle of the study room where there seemed to be an electrical field of about 8 volts hovering in mid air.
Claire, our psychic arrived on the evening of 3 October. She confided in me that though the ghosts were around they seemed a little bored with our company. They couldn’t scare us any more so they had lost interest. We sat in the study room and Claire received some personal messages for the Horrels and then she told me that, most unusually, there were some messages from me. I went back into the room later to pick up my mail (!). I began to feel quite uneasy and kept seeing things out of the corners of my eyes. Then my right hand started to shake and I said to Claire, “Have you got any paper? Someone wants to write something.” I have never had this experience before and it was very odd. The handwriting was elegant 18th Century copperplate (I have since looked in books – though at the time it seemed like lots of whirls and squiggles) and it spelled out the name “John” time and time again. It also went through other squiggles which I couldn’t make sense of until daylight the next day. We asked who it was – if John could write his surname and he wrote out very clearly “John Dalston”. Now, there were three John Dalstons at Dalston Hall. The last one of these died in 1711 and from the writing style, I would place our John around then rather than earlier. It also wrote out the name Lesley. Leaving out the ‘l’ the first time, then going back to put it right again. Then it wrote “George” with a real flourish. Over and over again the three names were written out. The only other word was “Love”. Interestingly the ‘v’ was drawn as a heart. I think most modern people would have made the ‘o’ into the heart which is another convincing thing.
Claire also said there were some Gremlin type things in there who had seen an opportunity to manifest themselves. We managed to get them to clear off, but you must be VERY careful not to do anything like this unsupervised because darker energies do like to scare you. Interestingly, Mike got a strong sense of anger. He looked very angry and I wondered whether he was going to bash me!
We did an EMF reading on my hands which both (not just the right one) gave off an electrical field of over 11 volts per metre. Normally I give off about 2 volts per metre.
It was very strange but extremely interesting to have spirits write through my hand; but I must warn you once again not to open uncontrolled channels like this unless you or someone with you knows how to get rid of the nasty things which will try to come through.
Dalston Hall revisited
I went to Dalston Hall many many times. The (then) owner is a lovely man and we got on well (I think). I went with various psychics at different times and the owners would just let us wander round the place – down in the cellars and up on the battlements. The cellars are an odd place and there is a place that gives me strange chilling sensations still.
But there were only a handful of really odd events that I couldn’t explain
The first was when we had a group of American tourists in and typically I would be very busy rushing round making sure everyone was happy. I came up taking a short cut across the gallery above the Manorial Hall. There was no one in there as we were using another room at the far end of the Hall. My mind was on other things but as I emerged onto the balcony I heard music with some kind of inner ear (I’ve had this experience a few times and I can only describe it as being able to hear a sound which sounds like it is coming from an outside source but which is totally different in quality to the real sounds I can hear with my physical ears). This music was the kind you associate with medieval times. I stood there, listening to a band that wasn’t there for several minutes. I wasn’t scared, it was just odd.
As I said I must have had 40 or more trips to Dalston Hall. We got a kind of routine for our paying guests. We would do the tour – have something to eat in the dining room and then retire to the back room. I will see if I can find any photos to post of these. We would just light the place with candles and I would tell stories of my own experiences there and elsewhere, but mainly my material was the stories of all the hundreds of people who had come on our ghost trips across Britain and Ireland and told me their own true stories. Or stories they certainly appeared to believe were true. I have lots of those I might recount at some time. We would also do kind of guided visualisations such as I had learned on my shamanism course. But ultimately I didn’t believe in the ghosts. I would have odd experiences and be “convinced” and then that conviction would fade and I’d explain them to myself by saying I was tired and putting it down to atmospheres the events and the venues and the lighting would produce. But the next thing I am about to tell you convinced me. Though now I’m not so sure.
So, we used to use these electrical field detectors to pick up odd electrical fields. I used them a lot so I can tell you my hands and arms do not usually have a detectable electrical field. But this particular night I had the weirdest sensation in my right hand. I scanned it and the scanner lit up showing some kind of electricity and I knew that it wanted to write. I had never done anything like that before but I picked up a pencil and out came this elaborate copper plate writing saying that John Dalston was there. We asked his name and his dates of birth and marriage. I forget exactly when but it was the early 1600s. We didn’t get much sense out of him but he said he had married an Irish Catholic woman which would have been extraordinary if true for those times. I went into the bar and the bar staff said “Have you seen a ghost? You’re white….”
So, after that I regularly tried to contact John Dalston at Dalston Hall. He came through but he didn’t have much to say for himself. I also got George Dalston who had different handwriting, but again, he was pretty thin as a personality. But then one night totally unexpectedly a different handwriting but still very loopy and joined up wrote “Love”. I thought that was nice and it persisted and wrote “You are a well loved fellow”. It struck me as quite an archaic phrasing so I asked it who it was and it said.”Rebecca Goffrey”. I asked Rebecca who she was and she said, “Your wife.” Now, it so happens that I was married at that time so I made some wisecrack which she ignored. I asked what my name was and she said, “Davey Goffrey”. She said I was “a watcher for the King”. I still have no idea what that means so I might just Google it right now – I got no results…
She said we had a child and that my father was a ropemaker called John. Our son was called John too. I asked her when and where we were married and she said “Tuesday July 14th, 1714 at St Katherine’s Church, London”. When I managed to look it all up I saw that 17th July 1714 wasn’t a Tuesday. Also the name Goffrey exists (I hadn’t previously heard of it) and there are several in the London phonebook but then probably every name under the sun is in the London phonebook. I also looked up churches in London and there is no St Katherine’s. I thought the whole thing was a product of my imagination then some years later I was in London (where I used to live) and I saw a sign for St Katherine’s Dock. In fact I used to go to parties there way back. I even kissed a girl there (don’t tell anyone – especially Rebecca). But it’s a dock (actually a swanky marina), not a church. But as the Wiki entry makes it clear it used to be a hospital founded by a religious order in the Middle Ages, but it was knocked down in 1825 to make way for the dock development. Not only was there a hospital there but there was a church prior to 1825 and it was a densely populated area and people got married there. Go figure.
As for the name Goffrey, it isn’t very common but it does exist. A family called Goffrey is recorded as arriving by boat in New York. I am guessing that the name is a variant of the more common Geoffrey.
The whole episode was odd. Rebecca doesn’t write to me anymore but it’s still nice to think that someone out there in the ether thinks I am a well loved fellow
Chillingham Castle, Northumberland
I wrote this general piece for the Haunted Britain Website:
Stunning medieval fortress with Tudor additions which has benefited from a major restoration programme. It has been the continuous home of the Lords Grey and their relations for over 600 years. Features include a torture chamber, antiques shop, woodland walks, furnished rooms, topiary garden and traditional crafts displays. The castle is becomingly increasingly well known for its ghosts and regularly hosts all night ghost vigils – especially at Halloween.
Chillingham Castle offers something unique to the visitor. Situated in magnificent grounds, which include an Elizabethan topiary garden, a private lake, lawns and beautiful woodland both grounds and castle command breathtaking views of the surrounding Northumberland countryside with local farmsteads and the scenic grandeur of the Cheviots. The castle is steeped in history and once occupied a strategic position as a fortress during Northumberland’s bloody Border feuds. The family of the Earls Grey and their relations have continuously owned the castle since the 1200s. Recent restoration work, along with antique furniture, tapestries and armour, has – brought back to life the great halls and state rooms. Parts of the castle have been carefully transformed into superb holiday apartments offering a truly unforgettable holiday in an unbelievable location.
One strange incident happened at the turn of the last century, when some stones fell from the wall in a bedroom and in the cavity stood two grinning skeletons, the bones of a man and a child. Other bones were discovered in one of the dungeons and workmen were terrified to see a seated figure which appeared to be perfectly preserved, but crumbled to dust as the air rushed in. The dungeon’s walls bear the scratched lines and initials of prisoners captured during the Border Wars and their ghosts still linger in the dark, gloomy vaults.
A more well known ghost is that of Lady Mary Berkeley the wife of Lord Grey of Wark and Chillingham and Earl of Tankerville. Lady Mary is believed to be searching for her husband who ran away with her sister, Lady Henrietta. This resulted in huge scandal during the reign of Charles II. The unfortunate lady was left alone at the castle with only the child for company and to this day, the silky rustle of her dress is heard as the tragic figure moves along the corridors.
The most famous apparition at Chillingham was that of the Radiant Boy, said to have haunted the
Pink Room. On many occasions, as the clock struck midnight, terrible cries and moans of a child in pain and fear could be heard coming from a place near to a passage which had been cut through the ten foot thick wall into the adjoining tower. These cries would slowly die away as a bright halo of light appeared close to the Four Poster Bed. Anyone sleeping there saw the figure of a boy dressed in blue and surrounded by light approaching them. In later years, the bones of a young boy and fragments of a blue dress were discovered in the wall. Once the remains were removed and given a decent burial, the hauntings ceased.
Whatever notes I had written at the time are now lost. But this is from memory around ten years on.
Chillingham Castle is very impressive. It is a big castle in a remote part of Northumberland. When you are there all you hear is the silence of the countryside, maybe some crows, some sheep, the wind in the trees. I always remember it being freezing cold. I must have gone there 10-20 times. Once we even did an event there to launch a video game about ghosts on Halloween.
The aristocratic owner of the castle lived mostly in London and so we didn’t see him much. When we did see him he was pretty scary. He didn’t like “ghost hunters” wandering around at night. On one occasion he rushed out in his pyjamas and threatened to call the police! Whenever he did see us he would go crazy.
The housekeeper and the staff were local people and they were very welcoming. I fondly remember hearty meals of venison and pheasant in front of a huge roaring log fire in the ancient kitchen with its irregular stone walls and tapestries.
Chillingham had a mock medieval torture chamber for its day visitors. We used to go there in the small hours with our equipment. There were always lots of orbs right through the castle but particularly there. I remember one night when all of us were in one end of the long room and at the other the studded wooden door slammed suddenly shut. There was no wind – it was as if it were pulled. I can’t explain that one.
We used to wander in places we shouldn’t – through the empty rooms and quarters in the middle of the night. The combination of the freezing air and silence gave such a stillness. On one occasion there we had people staying in a nice suite of rooms we didn’t normally occupy. There was a piano in there too. I remember standing and watching from the courtyard as the lights switched on and off even though there was no one in the room. As we went up to investigate, we could hear the piano playing from inside, but when we worked up our courage to enter, there was no one there and the music stopped.
By the entrance to the castle there is a small church. We used to go there deep in the night. It was never locked. There is some wonderful sculpture in there – particularly two what looks like alabaster tombs of a man and a woman in Elizabethan costume. Some people asked me whether they were vampires. I am guessing not, but it used to give a thrill as we walked round to think they might be about to rise from their tombs. It was in that graveyard that we observed dancing red lights around the graves on one occasion.
The weirdest thing that happened to me at Chillingham was one time when we had lots of guests for our ghost tour. There were so many that I had to sleep in the stable block. This is a group of buildings down a short track but about a quarter of a mile away from the main castle. I went to sleep that night and woke to the sound of motor engines revving. It sounded like they were coming from the open area in front of the stable block. I looked out of my window but there was nothing there. Even though I could see the area was empty I could still hear these engines. The experience was weird because it was as if I was hearing the noise with some kind of internal ear. My external ears could hear the quiet, but my “imaginative” ears could hear the engines. I’ve had that experience before – hearing something that isn’t there but that sounds like it’s coming from outside. Later I discovered that during the Second World War the Castle was used by the British Army and that the stable block was where they kept their vehicles.
We also used to take bookings from the castle. One time I took a booking from a group of friends who were going to stay there when I wasn’t. One of the girls rang me after they got home and told me she had been drinking a mug of coffee when she looked down the corridor and saw the translucent shape of a woman walking into the wall. She says she threw her coffee at it – not breaking the mug but splashing coffee down the wall of the corridor.
The weirdest story about Chillingham was told to me by staff. They said there had been an old night watchman in the castle. He would sleep there and walk round at night to check all was ok. I never met him as he’d retired by the time we started to go there. He used to talk about a glowing woman he would see around the Castle. However she didn’t scare him. He used to go and talk to her when he met her in the corridors and rooms in the middle of the night. I wonder if this was the famous ghost of Lady Mary Berkley?
Charleville Castle, Co Offaly, Ireland.
Charleville was another place we used to go to a lot. I loved going there because the owners were so welcoming. The food was indifferent, the plumbing appalling, but the people were wonderful. I remember spending a lovely Halloween there in one of the tower rooms – a round stone room like something out of Disney, with a log fire burning in the grate, their black dog Jack loaned to us and lying in front of the fire, a bottle of wine and my family beside me. No ghosts that night.
The owner O’Bonne tells the story of how when her son was young he went missing – the place is vast – she panicked and started looking for him but when she found him she said that he told her not to worry – the little boy and girl were looking after him.
I remember one time I went to the toilet. It wasn’t too late – and I nearly stepped on something. I thought it was a cat but there was actually nothing there.
There was a story of a girl falling down the huge staircase. One particular time at Halloween (I had a lot of Halloweens in those years) we had a big group of people so I’d brought two mediums. I set them off in opposite directions and they wandered round with a group each. Very oddly they both independently reported seeing a girl on the stairs at exactly the same place though they had not conversed with each other (in fact they hated one another but that’s another story).
There are supposed to be ghostly druids there but I never saw any.
On Friday 27th July 2001, we visited Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre, in Cumbria in Northern England, which is now a large forest park with sculpture trails managed by the Forestry Commission. We were there at the invitation of Grizedale Arts Trust who wanted us to investigate rumours of ghosts within the buildings. The day was warm and humid. There were lots of visitors about. The valley is densely forested, though photographs from the 1940s show that this was not always so. The buildings looked like they had been put up between the late 1890s and about 1910, and were characteristic of a large, modern ‘home’ farm run directly by a landed or even aristocratic family. There were agricultural buildings, now converted to forestry and tourist use, as well as associated cottages and houses. Apart from that the farm buildings are a few miles remote from the nearest village – Hawkshead.
The three main areas we were told were affected by ghosts were the theatre and adjoining bar area, an old stable block, some distance from the main complex, and a cottage, which was at that time empty though it had recently had someone staying there. The general information we received from Grizedale Arts Staff was that the complex had been used as a Prisoner of War camp during the Second World War. That the main building, Grizedale Hall, had been pulled down at the end of the 1950s.
The theatre had been felt by many people over a long-term period to have an unpleasant air. I (though not the medium) had been told that there seemed to be presences on the stage and at a certain point among the seats. Footsteps had been heard in the bar when no one was apparently close enough to make them. The offices adjoining the theatre had been subject to bouts of repeated and concentrated failures of electrical equipment – faxes, computers, and photocopiers. There had also been ringing of phones with no one on the other end.
The cottage also had an unpleasant air and a recent resident had reported loud knocks on the door at about 2 am on more than one night. The Stable Block had a room that was being used by an artist as a dark room. But she had felt something watching her and had eventually abandoned the room, which was otherwise perfect for her needs. Other information we were given was that a young German prisoner had hanged himself in the Camp and that some of the British guards had been mentally unstable and one had shot himself.
IMPRESSIONS OF OUR MEDIUM
a) The Theatre and Bar
As soon as Claire entered the theatre she started getting impressions. She said that there was a dark figure hiding behind the curtain on the right side of the stage. He was tall – muscled but running to fat – with leather wristbands and a dark hood over his head with eye slits – very much like our idea of an executioner. There was a nasty air to him and he was watching another man – a young thin man who was standing at the back of the theatre near the lift. This young man was watching the Executioner and there was tension between them. Also sitting behind each other in seats E16 and D16 were two elderly ladies who, Claire said, were waiting for a show to start. They weren’t much interested in the two men and were fairly recent. Claire noted that there appeared to be a mismatch of era between the Executioner and Young Man. We went into the lift, which was very small and uncomfortably claustrophobic – especially as it deposited us in a locked room, which had no working lights. We were let out of the room into a storage area underneath the stage which had its own door to the outside. Claire was left alone here and came back with impressions of the Executioner fighting the Young Man and eventually killing him.
Later we returned to the Stage Area and concentrated on the Bar where footsteps had been heard. Claire was alone in the bar until she called for me. She said, “I can’t understand it; they never ask for you.” Then she got snatches of a song – a minstrel type man like a caricature was playing a mandolin and singing “I am the story teller; my story must be told.” Later on our way back home, she suddenly said that the storyteller was German. I sat quietly there and asked Claire to tell them that if they wanted me to tell their story, I would. She said. “But can you write in that?” I nodded. I knew immediately that they wanted me to write in German. I studied German a couple of years ago and perhaps that is why they asked for me? I got a couple of impressions. I am not normally psychic and was very uncertain where they were coming from – my imagination, or from a spirit presence. I got a few words – “verschliessen” which means “close”; “schiessen” meaning “shoot” and perhaps these two words were meant to be the same and I had picked the first one up. I also got the name “Otto” and a connection with a place called Schliesingen which was somewhere in the East of Germany. I have not been able to find this place. There was a young man, whom I took to be Otto from Schliessingen and I felt that he was 23 years old. From then on a story unfolded itself in my mind.
The young man had been condemned to death and the Executioner was a thought form of his fears. Before he was executed, he took his own life by hanging himself from a beam in the theatre. He wanted desperately to go home but was frightened to leave the building and wanted me to guide him down the stairs. I did all of this – actually walking the steps. I had the impression that he was hesitant and then I saw him stumble and slump with a rope around his neck. The rope he had hanged himself on was holding him back. I mentally cut through the rope and led him out into the fresh air where he disappeared into a mist then a star form. He lingered to thank me and then left. I would stress that I knew nothing about the history of the place at that time, other than a rumour that someone had hanged himself in the camp. If you check the historical section below you will see that there are close similarities with something that actually happened at Grizedale, but certain key details are different.
b) The Cottage
Claire got no impressions at all from the downstairs of the cottage. When she went upstairs, we heard a sharp intake of breath and a flood of information came through to her. She said that there was someone in the trees opposite watching us. He originated from about five hundred yards to the right. (this would actually be about where the Stable Block is – see below). This watcher had once been in the cottage in the room to the right as you go up the stairs. It seemed he was frightened or ashamed of that room as he wanted to shut the door and keep Claire out. She then described him: short black unkempt hair. Very thin with a sharp face and nose. Looks underfed and disturbed. He has a scar on his face by his ear which comes down under his chin. He cackles. The name might be Gareth. There have been lots of people in that cottage – not just Gareth. Gareth hides himself in the woods and he’s carrying a padlock which he was waving at us – laughing. Like he was about to throw it. He was frightened of Claire one minute and then suddenly eager for her to see his notebooks. He has notebooks covered in a dense scribble with lots of underlinings and diagrams. It is the writing of a madman. Suddenly he began singing a song from the Wizard of Oz – “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead”. Is this a clue to his date? 1937 or so?
c) The Stable Block
We tried to get into the Stable Block but at first we couldn’t because despite the hundreds of keys we had none of them worked on the padlock that chained the gates. Claire felt this might have been the padlock that Gareth was waving as if he was taunting us that we wouldn’t be able to get in. We went back later with more keys. This time we managed to get into many rooms – but we couldn’t find the key to the most interesting one. When we went to room next door, Claire said “There’s something here. A blob of some kind. It’s in the next room.” Try as we might we couldn’t get in. This room had paper up at the windows and the Grizedale Staff explained that an artist had been using this room as a darkroom. It seemed perfect for her needs, but she complained of something being in there with her – watching her and eventually abandoned it. As we stood outside, Claire’s impressions about what it was were refined. At first she thought that it was a horse. It certainly didn’t seem human. It was black and had big teeth. Then she suddenly realised that it was a wolf. We couldn’t get into the room to investigate further
Grizedale means “Valley of the Pigs” in Norse, which indicates the land use at that time – 900 AD to about 1300AD In Norman times the area of Grizedale Forest came under the ownership of Furness Abbey. The monks coppiced the woodlands to provide wood for charcoal, basket making etc. The fells were cleared of woodland by this date, and they were used for grazing sheep. Henry VIII confiscated the land belonging to the Abbey during the dissolution of the monasteries. In 1614 James I sold the land at Grizedale and Dale Park to David Rawlinson. The new owner continued to coppice the woodlands to produce wood for charcoal. The charcoal went to the local bloom smithies which smelted iron. Most of the industry in the area was based on the produce from coppiced broadleaved woodlands.
Montagu Ainslee inherited the Grizedale Estate in the early 19th Century. He built a new hall at Grizedale, on the site of the present day Hall car park. In 1903 Harold Brocklebank bought the Grizedale Estate. The Brocklebank Family established the Cunard Line. They owned Irton Hall in west Cumbria as well – also haunted. Brocklebank demolished the existing Hall and built a new one on the same site. In 1937, H Brocklebank sold the Grizedale Estate to the Forestry Commission including the Hall, Esthwaite Lodge, seven farms, 33 cottages, 1200 hectares of farmland and 500 hectares of woodland.
In 1957 Grizedale Hall was pulled down having served as a Prisoner of War camp during the Second World War. The Commission then managed Grizedale to produce timber for the country’s needs. Wartime 1) Franz von Werra Grizedale Hall and its outbuildings were used as a prisoner of War Camp during the Second World War. During the War the locals call it Hush Hush Hall. The British Army called it No. 1 POW Camp (Officers) Grizedale Hall. It had the biggest concentration of German prisoner-of-war talent in wartime England. Gathered together were airmen, navigators, radio operators, and U-boatmen.
a) Franz von Werra
Swiss-born and German- raised Franz von Werra 1914-1941), shown in the accompanying photograph, lived a very exciting life in his twenty-seven years. A Luftwaffe pilot of a Messerschmitt 109 during the Battle of Britain in the early years of World War II, a prisoner-of-war who achieved legendary status, and the subject of a book and a movie several years after his death. Oberleutenant Franz von Werra was shot down over Kent on September 5 1940. Following interrogation in Kensington Palace Gardens in London he was shipped north to a prison camp near Grizedale Hall in the Lake District, which at the time was the only camp in Britain for captured officers. On an escorted exercise march on October 7 with several other prisoners, he dived over a low stone wall. He remained at large until he was spotted by a shepherd on October 12 and was recaptured. Following a punishment of solitary confinement, von Werra was shipped to another camp, Swanwick, near Nottingham. He tried to escape from there and was eventually shipped to Canada, where he managed to escape and flee into the then neutral USA.
Franz von Werra was the only prisoner-of-war captured in Great Britain during World War II who escaped back to Germany. In 1956 two British writers, Kendal Burt and James Leasor wrote a book about his exploits. The title of the book was, not unsurprisingly, “The One That Got Away”. The following year the J. Arthur Rank organization turned the book into a well-reviewed movie with the same title.
2) Bernhardt Berndt
Of more interest to us because of the ghostly impressions we got, is the story of Bernhardt Berndt. In August 1941 the German U-Boat U-570 was bombed on the surface by an RAF plane rendering it unable to dive. The U Boat skipper got rid of the top secret Enigma Code machine overboard, and then somehow disappeared and the submarine was left in the command of the First Officer, Bernhardt Berndt. Berndt was brought to Grizedale, where his fellow PoW officers put him on “trial” for cowardice. Presumably for allowing himself to be captured, though the evidence we had shows that his concern was for the safety of his men. Something that the Nazi regime didn’t regard too highly. The senior German officer in the camp at the time was U-boat “ace” (U-99) Otto Kretschmer. Such a kangaroo court was illegal therefore it was called a “Council of Honour”. Berndt was found guilty. When it was learned that U-570 was on show to the public at the Vickers yard at nearby Barrow-in-Furness, Berndt was given the chance to redeem himself by escaping and sabotaging the U-boat with a home-made bomb. He managed to escape but was recaptured on Carrock Fell nearby by the British Home Guard. At first he came quietly, but when told he was going back to Grizedale – where the other Germans had refused to speak to him because of his alleged cowardice – he ran away. He was shot in the back – the bullet entering his liver. He was brought back to Grizedale where he died slowly and painfully, probably in the building that now holds the theatre. Otto Kretschmer – Bernhardt’s judge – became a high ranking German and NATO officer after the War. He later retired to Spain.
It might be possible to research an insane resident of the Cottage called Gareth – sometime after the mid 1930s, especially because of his scar. The thing in the Stable Block appears to be non human and therefore the only investigation possible is further work with mediums, or technical equipment to record temperature, sound, pictures and possibly electromagnetic fields. The most interesting contact was with the German ghost – Otto. It would seem that this is probably an echo of Bernhardt Berndt and the name Otto that we got referred to Kretschmer. The figure of the Executioner might be a creation of Bernhardt’s fear of execution after the trial. We believe that Bernhardt was 23 so that ties in as well. However, Bernhardt was shot not hanged. Though there are rumours of a hanging at Grizedale, we have been unable to uncover any documentary evidence of it so far. We don’t know where Bernhardt came from – Schliesingen, perhaps? Though that should be easy to trace through German records.
The Mummy’s Curse
London is full of ghosts, but the best supernatural story hereabouts concerns a mummy’s curse. On the first floor of the British Museum are various rooms devoted to artefacts from ancient Egypt. There are a number of mummies and sarcophagi on display but the one in question is numbered 22542 and listed as a mummy case for an unknown singer to the god Amon Ra. The case is covered in hieroglyphs and has a portrait of a very beautiful young girl.
The story begins in the 1880s when some English tourists in Egypt bought the case in Thebes from a local trader. He didn’t say where he’d got it but grave robbing was very common in those times to supply demand from Westerners keen to have something of Egypt’s history. From the day the mummy case was purchased, accidents started to happen. The new owner was injured in a hunting accident the next day. After that, one of the Englishmen in the party mysteriously vanished, never to be seen again. The owner of the mummy case had to have his arm amputated after the accident and believing his bad luck to have come from the mummy case he sold it to a dealer in Cairo. Three people bought it after that and all of them died shortly afterwards, but not before it had been shipped to London. It was bought by a collector, but a friend of the collector was psychic and felt great evil emanating from the coffin. He warned the man to get rid of it or it would kill him. The collector took heed of this and sold it on. The new owner decided to have it photographed professionally, but the photographer unexpectedly died the day afterwards. Once the pictures were developed, instead of the beautiful girl on the case, they showed an ugly old woman – her eyes filled with evil. The owner sold it to a lady and on its first night in the house, all of her pet animals died and every piece of glass was smashed. She herself fell into a strange sleeping sickness that couldn’t be diagnosed by her doctor. When she gave the case away, she, just as suddenly, got well again.
The British Museum obtained the case in 1889, and as the porters carried it in, one of them fell and broke his leg and the other died a few days afterwards. The mummy case got certain notoriety and people came from far and wide. However, nobody was able to sketch it accurately. The security men became terrified to patrol the room at night and claimed that they were followed by an invisible and horrible presence. One of them actually saw it – a thing with a wrinkled yellow-green face. A photographer allegedly killed himself after seeing the photographs of the mummy case develop. All together, thirteen people were supposed to have been killed by the cursed mummy case.
J A Brooks recounts that in 1921 two young men took part in a secret exorcism of the case. They said that the spirit had the face of a jellyfish as it leered at them out of the case. They said that the spirit was a guardian of the case that had been evoked by powerful magical hieroglyphs on the mummy case because the body had been defiled. Luckily, the exorcism worked and the evil spirit was banished.
The Catacombs of Paris
1 Place Denfert Rochereau, Paris, France
Admission: Tuesday – Friday 2pm – 6pm, Sat-Sun 9am -11am, then 2pm-4pm.
Far below the city streets of Paris, in the quiet, damp darkness, seven million Parisians lie motionless. Their skeletons, long since disinterred from the churchyard graves their survivors left them in, are neatly stacked and aligned to form the walls of nearly one kilometre of walking passage. Welcome to the Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary– The Empire of the Dead.
The catacombs are in origin stone quarries and quite extensive. They are filled with piles of skulls and other bones, that were moved there when the cemeteries of the churches above ground filled up as the city’s population expanded.
As for the ghosts. Well in 1999 a Swedish engineer took some photographs which, when developed, had some very odd lights and mists on them. As she stood by him, his girlfriend’s video camera started going haywire and broke. You’re not supposed to take photographs you see…
It is possible to take a tour of these catacombs. Purchase your ticket, but unless you have nerves of steel, don’t do the tour alone.
The Palace of Versailles
Versailles is one of the most visited buildings in France and among the most spectacular Royal buildings in Europe. Despite the tourists, it still finds time to have some extremely weird things happening in its grounds.
On 10 August 1901, two English ladies, Miss Moberley and Miss Jourdaine were walking in the gardens at Versailles. They had an experience there but kept it quiet for ten years while they did their research, then published it under the title “An Adventure”. They had seen various details in their trip through the gardens, which were not there normally. When they researched it, they found that they would have been there in the period between 1770 and 1771.
There have been other records, dated from the period 1901 – 1950, of the same kind of experience at the Petit Trianon in Versailles grounds. In their publication, Moberley and Jourdaine believed that they had slipped back into about 1789 when Marie Antoinette was in residence. However, the form of the park they described was wrong for that time. To explain the thing rationally, various critics said that they had walked in on a fancy dress party, which were actually given round that time by Count Robert de Montesquieu.
Their story as they told it, however, goes that in 1901, Moberley and Jourdaine visited the Petit Trianon for the first time. It was a hot August day. First, they saw a woman shaking a cloth out of a window and thought little of it. They then turned a corner and saw farm and garden tools. They then began to feel strangely lost. An extraordinary depression settled on them. They began to feel eerie and uncanny but didn’t for a minute think that the people they were seeing were ghosts. They talk about a ‘dreamy and unnatural oppression’. They saw labourers in grey-green coats and tricorn hats. They found a kiosk but not like the one, which existed in 1901. A man was slouching there in a hat and cloak. There was something about him that the ladies disliked. Later a man ran up behind them. He smiled at them and spoke in a strange accent. As they wandered on, lost, they came upon a lady with a green bodice and a white ‘fichu’. Another man appeared and showed them the way. He came out of a door in a disused chapel in which there had been no door for many years in 1901. They heard the door banging behind him.
They walked on and returned to ‘our’ world. In 1902, Miss Moberley and Miss Jourdaine visited Versailles again. They had an experience, but it was different from the first – the place had changed. In 1907, Mr & Mrs Cooke who were English but lived in Paris noted that they had visited Versailles in July. They saw a lady sketching, and said she looked ghostly. The Cookes also mention an electrical hissing noise. In October 1932, Claire Burrow and her pupil Anne Lambert visited Versailles. They hadn’t heard of Moberley and Jourdaine. They also describe the feeling of depression. They saw a woman and an old man in 18th Century dress and a tricorn hat. They spoke to him but couldn’t understand his French. A London solicitor and his wife visited Versailles on 21 May 1955. The weather was close and very heavy – as if a thunderstorm was coming. They saw a woman between two men. She was wearing a very bright yellow dress. They couldn’t recall the shape of the men’s coats. They came closer then vanished. In 1949, Jack Wilkinson, a poultry farmer from Levens in Westmorland, England, saw a woman, but not ghostlike. His wife also saw it. In 1938, Elizabeth Hatton saw something. Later, people researching found a predating experience from 1870 – it was another English person.
Bury St Edmunds Ghosts, Suffolk
In the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds can be found the ruins of the ancient Abbey that housed the shrine of St Edmund, the Anglo-Saxon king murdered by the Danes and subsequently beatified. The Abbey has a large Gateway and ghostly monks have been seen there on several occasions. No doubt the centuries of devotion have made the spot spiritually powerful. A clergyman called Webling wrote a biography of St Edmund and he claimed that his writing had been influenced by the spirits of some of the monks. He said that one of the monks told him that, at one point, St Edmund’s body had been removed from its sarcophagus and buried deep in another part of the church to protect it from those who would defile it. The Saint’s remains have never been discovered
The Tail-less Black Sow
Adref, adref am y cyntaf, Hwch Ddu Gwta a gipio’r olaf! (A-home, a-home as the first, may the Tail-less Black Sow snatch the last!)
In Wales, groups of youths, known as the gwrachod (hags or witches), would wander from house to house after dark, chanting verses. After chanting their strange rhymes, they would then be given gifts of nuts and apples and an occasional ale that were used to divine one’s future. The “hauntings” of these groups were believed to bring good tidings for the forthcoming year and to expel bad spirits from the home.
Ross Castle was built in the 15th century on the shore of Killarney’s Lower lake by O’Donoghue Mór. When you visit the superbly restored castle you will see the fine vaulted chamber under the roof. It was here, it is said, that O’Donoghue the great chief of Ross became enchanted.
As well as being rich and famous O’Donoghue Mór of Ross was also one of the wisest men of his time. He could do wonders by the power of the black art.
But in spite of his wealth, power and wisdom there was one thing that really upset O’Donoghue. He did not like growing old. He was so worried about his advancing years that he shut himself up in his grand chamber at the top of the castle with his black book and vowed that he would not have contact with another person until he had discovered how he could make himself young again.
The hours became days and the days weeks, but O’Donoghue still stayed locked away. His wife and everybody in the castle were getting very worried. At last, after seven long weeks, he called his wife and explained to her how he planned to become young again. “You will have to cut me up into little pieces”, O’Donoghue told his horrified wife. “You must put the pieces in a tub up here in this chamber and then lock the door and not come in again for seven weeks – and after that time you will find me alive and well, as a three year old child.” “But”, O’Donoghue warned his wife, “If at any time while you were doing of this you were to loose your nerve it would be all over with me”.
“In order to test you I am going to read from my black book,” and he warned, “while I am reading if you cry out at anything you hear or see I will be taken away from you forever.” While O’Donoghue was reading the most terrible things in the world appeared. As well there was a terrible noise, as if the whole castle was going to fall to pieces. Through all of this there wasn’t a word out of his wife. All of this she could bear, but then she saw her own child lying dead on the table before her.
She gave a terrible shriek. With that the castle shook. Whether O’Donoghue leapt or was sucked was not clear, but out of the window he went and disappeared into the waters of Lough Leane. As well his horse, his table, his library were all taken in the same way. It is said that O’Donoghue now lives in a great palace at the bottom of the lake from where he keeps a close eye on everything that he sees.
History of Halloween in Wales
Nos Galan Gaeaf is the Welsh for Halloween, meaning literally, “the Night of the Kalends (or beginning) of Winter” This reflects the Celtic custom that Halloween was the end of the summer and beginning at winter. At times like this – of boundaries, the Celts believed that the Otherworld was close at hand. At Halloween in particular, the dead and all sorts of not necessarily very nice spirits were believed to be able to roam at will. It was also a traditional time for fortune telling.
Ghosts (Ysbrydion) and goblins (Ellyllon or Bwgaod) were said to appear at midnight on the entrances to footpaths. In fact it was a custom to put salt on stiles to stop them crossing – preservatives such as garlic and salt have always been useful against otherworldly beings. The two of the most famous spirits are the terrifying Hwch ddu gwta (tail-less black sow) and the Ladi wen (lady in white).
Bonfires were built all over the Celtic world at Halloween. Traditionally cattle were driven between two fires to purify them for the long winter ahead. Of course this was also the time of slaughter and the Welsh name for November – Tachwedd is also an old word for slaughter. Huge bonfires were lit on the hillsides in particular. The watchers would dance around and leap through the flames for good luck and they were safe only as long as the fires burned. Eventually, the flames would die down and everyone would run for home to escape the clutches of the Hwch ddu gwta crying “Adref, adref am y cyntaf, Hwch Ddu Gwta a gipio’r olaf!” – (Homeward, homeward, lest the Tail-less Black Sow snatch the last!).
In Wales, groups of youths, disguised as old women known as the gwrachod (hags or witches), would wander from house to house after dark, chanting verses. This practise was also found in parts of England where the wanderers were known as “Guisers” from “Disguisers” – and of course this is the origin of the American practise of “Trick or Treating” – itself imported with Halloween by families of Celts when they arrived in the New World. After chanting their strange rhymes, the disguised men would then be given gifts of nuts and apples and an occasional ale that were used to divine one’s future. The “hauntings” of these groups were believed to bring good tidings for the forthcoming year and to expel bad spirits from the home.
Many of these customs have died out, but some still continue in a reduced form, being replaced by customs introduced by television and commerce from America, however these American customs were originally taken to the New World by people of Celtic origin so it has merely come full circle.
The Hellfire Club
The Caves are open to the public.
West Wycombe is a pretty Chiltern village with a single long street of ancient flint and timber buildings. It is dominated by the works of the Dashwoods – the local landowners. West Wycombe Park is a magnificent Palladian building, the seat of the Dashwoods, but managed by the National Trust and open to the public. The house has a number of ghosts who seem to congregate in the music room. An amiable smiling monk was seen there by Noel Coward as he played the piano. There is also supposed to be a very respectable lady who appears there from time to time.
Above West Wycombe is a steep, conical hill. The golden dome of St Lawrence’s church, again built by the Dashwoods, can be seen above the village. The hill itself is the site of an Iron Age hill fort. In Celtic times this was probably the tribal capital for the surrounding area and would have had a defensive and quite possibly a religious function. Many of the hill forts that have been excavated have pagan shrines within them. This might explain the sighting of the church in such an inconvenient place for the villagers – we know that the early Christian missionaries in England had a policy of taking over pagan sites to make the changeover of religions as painless as possible for local people. Next to the church is the huge, and somewhat pompous, flint mausoleum of the Dashwood family.
Below the mausoleum is the entrance to the famous West Wycombe caves. The entrance has been fashioned to look like the entrance to a gothic church. The beginnings of the caves lie far back in time and they may have been an ancient quarry. Then again they may have served as an entrance to the pagan otherworld as at many other sites across Britain and Ireland. The caves were enlarged by Sir Francis Dashwood in the 1750s. He did this to employ the local men who had been thrown out of work by a succession of harvest failures. The chalk from the caves was used for building part of the road to London. Rather than just dig out the side of the hill, Sir Francis had the caves cut in some quite intricate patterns; not quite a labyrinth, but odd enough for some people to accuse the caves of having a magical or alchemical significance in the way they were cut. The caves crossed a stream of water known as the River Styx, which might be a name given in fun, or might have some symbolic meaning. At that time many of the elite of society were rather anti the established church. Sir Francis was certainly a free thinker and he founded the Order of the Knights of St Francis of Wycombe or, as it is better known, The Hell-Fire Club.
The Hell Fire Club was initially based at nearby Medmenham Abbey, which Sir Francis bought and converted into, amongst other things, an erotic garden. There is no dispute that the Hell-Fire club indulged in mock religious ceremonies and used masks and costumes to allow them to indulge in varying degrees of debauchery with wine and women to whom they were not married. When Medmenham gained some notoriety, the Hell Fire club – whose members included peers of the realm, philosophers, members of parliament and at least one American revolutionary, Benjamin Franklin – moved its revels to a more secluded site at West Wycombe Caves. It was here that stories started to circulate that as well as drunkenness and fornication, they were also indulging in black magic ceremonies. Whether that is true or not is difficult to say; groups of free thinkers have formed magical associations (compare the Order of the Golden Dawn in late Victorian times), but any club like the Hell Fire club which had already earned the disapproval of respectable people and was secretive about its doings would almost inevitably gain such a reputation. Whatever the truth about the Hell Fire club, the hill there with its woodlands full of yew trees, certainly has an atmosphere – not an unpleasant one, just a feeling that you might be at a place where the mundane world meets a more magical one.
Herne the Hunter
Windsor Great Park belongs to the Queen. The ghost of a strange figure called Herne the Hunter has reputedly been seen along the Long Walk, and also on the Royal Golf Course.
The story goes that Herne was one of the Royal keepers in the time of King Richard II (1367-1400). Herne had two large black hounds and was hated by the other keepers because of his great skill. King Richard was hunting a stag, but the stag turned on him and he would have been killed if Herne hadn’t stood between the enraged animal and Richard. However, in so rescuing the King, Herne himself was wounded and fell to the ground, apparently dead. At this point a strange dark man appeared and said he could cure Herne. Richard asked him to go ahead and the dark man cut off the stag’s head and put it on Herne’s body. The Dark Man then took Herne away to his hut on Bagshot Heath some miles away, to complete the cure. The King was so grateful to Herne that he swore that if Herne recovered he would make him his chief keeper. The other keepers disliked Herne even more at this and wished that he would die. The Dark Man overheard them and offered them a bargain – if they would grant him the first request he made, he would ensure that, though Herne would recover, he would lose all his woodland skill. They agreed and everything happened as the Dark Man had foretold. Herne, was thrown so low at the loss of his skill that he found a mighty oak and hanged himself from it. Instantly, his body disappeared.
The other keepers didn’t laugh for long either, because they too lost all their woodcraft. They sought out the Dark Man and asked him to help them. He said that if they went to the oak the following night, they would have a solution to their problem. When they went to the Oak, the spirit of Herne appeared to them. He told them to go and get hounds and horses for a chase. This they did and when they returned Herne took them to a Beech tree. There he invoked the Dark Man who burst from the tree in a shower of sparks and flame. His first request of the unfortunate keepers was that they form a band for Herne the Hunter. Bound by their oath, they had to swear allegiance to Herne. After that, night after night, they hunted through the forests. The tale of the Wild Hunt is common in Germanic mythology. Its approach is presaged by flashes of lightning, wind in the tree tops, the rattling of chains and tolling of bells and the terrible din of a pack of dogs in mad pursuit; if you hear the baying of the ghostly hounds in the sky, run away, because if they catch you, you too will be forced to follow Herne and the Wild Hunt, ranging across the night skies for eternity.
Herne’s Oak was treated with some reverence and on 31 August 1868 it fell to the ground. Queen Victoria planted a young oak in its place There is clearly more to Herne than a simple hunter. His name has etymological similarities to that of the Celtic horned god – Cernunnos, also shown with antlers on his head. We should also remember the dances of ancient tradition that take place at villages like Abbots Bromley where the men dance with stag’s antlers on their heads. Herne seems to have caught the national imagination because other stories about him from various times in the past describe him as having red eyes and an owl on his shoulder. Shakespeare mentions him in The Merry Wives of Windsor, where he is clearly a woodland spirit, to be avoided and feared. He is also described elsewhere as being a horseman who appears when Britain is about to face a national crisis – he was seen before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 and again on the death of King George VI. A lady saw Herne as far away as Cookham Dean one summer evening in the 1920s. She said that she saw the figure of a tall man wearing antlers emerge from the undergrowth on the Common. The man disappeared into a group of three oak trees and didn’t reappear though she watched for some time.
J A Brooks tells that in 1976 a young guardsman posted to the East Terrace at Windsor Castle was found unconscious. When he came to, he swore that he had seen a statue grow horns and come to life.
Longdendale in Derbyshire still has an eerie feel even though a road linking Manchester and Sheffield, two very modern cities, runs through it. It has long had a reputation – perhaps unfairly, and in the 1970s there was much talk of local families on remote farms who clung to an ancient earth religion, said to have come down from pagan times. Things are seen in Longdendale to this day. The B Road that runs south of the reservoirs from the main road has a stretch on it called the Devil’s Elbow. A railwayman called John Davies, peddling back on his bike late one moonlit night saw a strange creature ‘like a whale’ he says, slowly pulling itself across the road. Another man from Manchester had the experience of something following him, pulling itself across the moor.
The Radiant Boy of Corby Castle
The Radiant Boy of Corby Castle, Great Corby near Carlisle Corby Castle has been owned by the Howards since 1611 and has a very famous ghost. This story has been told many times, but the ghost is so unusual that it’s worth repeating. The ghost is known as ‘The Radiant Boy’, he appears from nowhere and is full of a golden light. He is said to smile gently and be completely unthreatening. Those who see him are destined to have great power but unfortunately come to a violent end.
A number of the Howards have seen the Radiant Boy. One, later Lord Castlereagh, became Foreign Secretary of Great Britain in the great days of Empire, then in 1822, cut his throat when the balance of his mind was disturbed. A local clergyman from Greystoke also saw the Radiant Boy in 1803. He was lying awake in the dark next to his wife when he saw a glimmer in the room that increased to a bright flame. He thought that something had caught fire, but to his amazement he beheld a beautiful boy, clothed in white with golden hair. He had a mild and benevolent expression, stayed for a while and then glided towards the fireplace and disappeared through the wall. The clergyman lived to be an old man, though not particularly famous, and died in his bed.
A more recent sight of the Radiant Boy was in 1965 when a local postman was cycling to work a while before dawn on a dark winter morning. He looked up at Corby Castle from the road and saw a golden light around the battlements. At first he thought it was the sun rising, but it was too early and besides the castle was to the west of him. He was rather puzzled so he got off his bike and stopped for a while to look. Then he saw the Radiant Boy above the battlements. After that he disappears from history and probably lived to a ripe old age.
The Knights Templar
The Selsdon estate in Surrey had been given to the Knights Templar about the time of the Third Crusade (1191-2). During the crusades a number of orders of fighting monks emerged. Like monks they took vows of chastity and poverty, but instead of merely praying and growing vegetables, the military orders also vowed to win land from the infidel Moslems. They were not renowned for their Christian charity in carrying out this work and very often the poorer sons of noble families from across Europe would enlist in the military orders to find adventure and win fame and fortune. One of the most influential of the military orders was the Order of Knights of the Temple of Solomon, more usually known as the Knights Templar. The order was founded in Jerusalem in 1192 .
The Knights Templar were courageous and helped win many victories, and because of this the Church, kings and noblemen all over Europe gave land to the Order. The knights gave up the coats of arms of their own families and all took the simple red cross on white as their badge. They eschewed luxury and lived a simple life with the most basic food and simple dress. All worldly pleasures were forbidden and they gave up hunting all animals save the lion. Eventually they became very rich and extremely powerful. Even today there are places with Temple in the name – such as Temple Sowerby in Cumbria. This shows that the Templars once held land there and set up one of their ‘temples’.
Philip IV of France accused them of heresy in 1307 and put many of them to death. He accused them of worshipping the Devil in the form of a cat; worshipping an idol; renouncing Christ, the Virgin and the Saints; stamping and spitting on a crucifix and of indulging in ritual homosexuality. As they were admitted to the order they were alleged to have given the Grand Master a kiss on his anus, his phallus and his navel. The idol they were supposed to worship was called Baphomet, which may have been a European mishearing of the name of the prophet Mahomet. This idol was supposed to be in the form of a human head with curly black hair. Some said it was the head of the first master of the order who had not died. It was covered with jewels and was said to be frightening to look at. Many of the Templars confessed to these charges, some after they’d been tortured and some probably because of fear of torture.
The Grand Master of the Order was burned to death in 1314, but before he died he repudiated the confessions of those knights who had been forced to confess. Whether they were really heretics or not we will probably never know, but charging them in this way conveniently allowed the Kings of France and England to seize all of their lands and money.