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Haunted Cumbria

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Croglin is a hamlet in remote hill country south of Carlisle and north of Penrith in Cumbria. The Croglin Vampire The vampire story dates from just after the English Civil War. The owners of Croglin Low Hall were a family called Fisher and the story was told to one Augustus Hare by a descendent of the family in 1896. For some reason of their own, the Fishers decided to go and live in the south of England and rent out the farm. The tenants they found were two brothers and a sister called Cranswell. The new family stayed in their remote farmhouse through the first winter without event. The summer came and, that year, it was stiflingly hot so they slept with the windows open. At that time the Hall was only one storey high – the upstairs has been built subsequently. Near the Hall was a chapel and a small graveyard, which once belonged to the Howard family – great landowners in these parts.

An airless summer night…

One particular airless summer night the men sat with their sister watching the moonrise. After a time they decided to go to bed. The sister lay in her bed, the bedclothes cast off because of the heat. She had closed her window, but not fastened the shutters. She gazed out of her window, propped up on her pillows as the long summer day faded out and night took its place. In Cumbria at midsummer, because it is quite far north, it does not get very dark at all between sunset and sunrise.

Miss Cranswell soon became aware of two lights in the belt of trees some distance from the house that separated the lawn from the graveyard. She watched and, after a while, she made out a dark shape moving towards the house – towards her window. A terrible horror seized her. She wanted to get up and leave the room, but to go to the door would have meant she had to go closer to the window. Besides she had locked the door from the inside and so would have to stand there and unlock it – all the while clearly visible to whatever was out there. Frozen to the spot, she stared at the shape but then it turned and instead of moving closer to her window, it started to move around the house. She jumped up and ran towards the door. Her hands were shaking so much that she found it hard to turn the key. And then her heart nearly stopped. Behind her – close to her though she didn’t dare look – she heard a scratching at the window. It was outside. Just feet away. She stood there petrified with fear still not turning her head. Then she heard the sound of it unpicking the lead that held the glass in place. She forced herself to look and saw that one pane of the mullioned glass had come away and a long bony hand stretched in and turned the window catch. Whatever it was, it came in through the window with a rush and grabbed her – its fingers in her hair, its mouth at her throat. It bit her neck and forced her onto the ground. As it bit her she screamed.

Her bothers battered at the locked door…
Her brothers heard the noise and came and battered at the locked door. The creature looked up and as the door was broken open, and then it turned and fled out of the window, leaving her lying on the floor, bleeding profusely from a wound at her neck. One brother clambered out of the window and went after it. But it was fast and before he could catch it – perhaps it was lucky for him that he didn’t – it disappeared into the inky blackness around the graveyard.

Trying to explain it afterwards, the girl rationalised that the creature must have been a dangerous lunatic. But she was still horribly shocked and her brothers took her away from Croglin to recover – over to the Continent. They stayed away for a while, but then, as autumn came, it was she who urged them to return to Croglin. They had paid for the tenancy, and besides, she joked, it would be very bad luck to come across two escaped lunatics.

They returned to Croglin and spent the winter there. She had the same room, but always closed the wooden shutters. The brothers took to carrying loaded pistols with them around the house. But nothing happened until one night in March.

The sister was lying in bed when she heard a terribly familiar scratching at the window. She struggled to get fully awake and scrabbled for a candle and something to light it with. When she got a flame she saw that the shutters were opened. Staring in at her was a brown shrivelled face and she saw its long bony hands picking at the lead of the windows. This time she screamed immediately. Her brothers rushed in with their pistols. She pointed to the window, but the creature had gone. The brothers ran out of the front door and saw it moving across the lawn towards the graveyard. They fired and one of them hit it in the leg. It scrambled away into the darkness and they lost it.

The next day…

The next day the brothers summoned their neighbours, and with their help they went into the graveyard. The tenants of nearby Croglin High Hall had also been suffering visits from it and their young daughter had bite wounds at the throat. The father had thought that she had been bitten by a rat, but when the Cranswells said what had happened to their sister, they feared the worst and the father joined the party as it made its way to the graveyard.

One of the locals had heard rumours of a particular vault being home to some monster so they opened it up. They stood around, pistols and other weapons at the ready. The vault was full of coffins but most were smashed and the remains mangled and strewn across the floor. Only one coffin was undisturbed. They lifted the lid and there they saw the mummified and shrivelled figure that had moved as if alive the night before. To confirm what they feared they looked at the leg and found a recent wound from a pistol ball. There and then they set fire to the dry coffin and burnt the vampire in it. In his book Legends of the Lake District J. A. Brooks tells that in the early years of this century the tenants of Croglin Low Hall had to deal with a fire in the dining room chimney. When the fire died down and they were rebuilding the chimney, they found an ancient burnt corpse in there. Though the tenant wanted to rebury the corpse in a churchyard with proper Christian rites, he died before he was able to do this. It is possible that the corpse is still there in the chimney….

 

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.

Grizedale Forest

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

HISTORY
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.

Conclusion
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.

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

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.

Sad Emily

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.

    The Dogs and Party

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

Ghostly Music
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.

Automatic Writing
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

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….

 

Bewcastle

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The Shrine of He Who Kills in Red.

Bewcastle, Cumbria, England

Bewcastle is a hamlet in a very remote part of Cumbria, Northern England, right on the border with Scotland. The countryside is wild hills, empty moors, bogs, forests and more emptiness.  Really all that is at Bewcastle now is a farm, a ruined castle, a church and a couple of houses. Once it was more important and probably more populous.

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Bewcastle probably got its name from Bueth whose name is probably Gaelic related to Buadh,  endowment related to Welsh  “Budd ” victory, gain  “Byddin” army – the same element is found in the Boudicca, the famous British Celtic queen who defeated the Romans.  His father was Gille, who gave his name to nearby Gilsland. This was in the 10th Century or so.  It’s Bueth’s castle that stands in the nearby farmer’s field in ruins, inhabited only by crows and cows now.   Before even Bueth was here, the invading Anglo-Saxons set up a famous Christian cross at Bewcastle, which can be seen today in the churchyard and is one of the highlights of Anglo-Saxon sculpture. It has a runic inscription on it dating from the first half of the 8th Century, when the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria was expanding west into Celtic lands.  Other authorities date it earlier to around 670 because of it apparently  naming a king Cyneburh the wife of Aldfrith who was king of Northumbria until around 664.

bewcastle-cross

The impulse to set up some a magnificent piece of sculpture in such a remote place might have been political or religious. If political, it was to mark the fact that these lands were now Northumbrian.  If religious, perhaps it was to mark this area as Christian?

We presume that Christianity was established in this area by the time of the Roman withdrawal in 410, but there are hints from Welsh legend that perhaps some of the kings of this area remained pagan. For example there is a suggestion that Gwenddolau, who had his fort, not too far away at Caer Wenddolau,  Carwhinley, was a pagan and that he fought against Rhydderch of Glasgow , a Christian and Peredur and Gwrgi sons of the Christian king of York, at a site near Arthuret near Longtown, again not far away.

We know that Saint Kentigern, or Mungo is supposed to have preached at various places in this region on his way from North Wales to Glasgow in the 6th Century, more than a hundred years after the Romans had left.

Of great interest is something that was discovered in the churchyard at Bewcastle.  It seems that the church was founded on the old Roman fort. Church’s were often founded on old pagan religious sites, to cleanse the site maybe, or maybe just take over ownership of it, and claim a place that the locals were already used to visiting.  I think that the change in the religion of the folk was slow and complicated. We see that from another transition at Gosforth, also in Cumbria, where a Viking cross has images of both Christ and Odin.  People have some unorthodox mixes of their views now and some Christians hold beliefs that are not exactly in line with Church teaching. I guess it was always so.

Here within the churchyard was found a shrine to a pagan hunting god known as Coccidius whose name seems to contain the elements coch Welsh for red and an element –id perhaps related to the –ide in Suicide and Homicide meaning death or killing.  There is an Irish God Da Coco – The Red God, though “Da Cocoa” is also cool.

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An Altar to Coccidius

This local Celtic god Coccidius at Bewcastle seems to have had dedications to him in Roman times along the Roman wall built by the Emperor Hadrian and manned by Roman troops for a number of centuries. It is well known that many of the Roman soldiers, if not most, were not Italian but would be drawn from other populations, some of them other Celts from Gaul or Iberia.

There are inscriptions to Coccidius in Latin made by Roman soldiers at Bewcastle. There is a good article about Coccidius and his dedications here.  Two silver plaques were found dedicated to Coccidius and they are now in the Tullie House Museum at Carlisle.  In these plaques, he is shown wearing a helmet and brandishing a spear. It is believed that Coccidius was equated with the Roman god of War Mars, which might explain why he was so popular with the military.  Esmerelda points out that as we travel East along the Roman wall the inscriptions to Coccidius seem to go from a war god to a hunting god as he becomes less martial.

I have been to Bewcastle a couple of times and I have mentioned elsewhere, I am often looking for a sense of the other. So to go to a place that was once holy to our pagan ancestors promises that it might still have an echo of what was once there. This is an interesting thought because, of course, the Christian God has been worshipped there for at least 1400 years, possibly longer than Coccidius.  The church at Bewcastle is great. The last time I went, it was snowing and we’d driven from Brampton about 12 miles away without seeing a car or another human being. We’d passed isolated farms, and lonely woods and seen highland cattle munching grass, that lifted their heads to watch us go. The woods were full of chaffinches and crows at Bewcastle, almost as if the birds were guarding something.  I went alone into the Church, and I definitely felt something, some sense of a peaceful, distant and rather inhuman other.  Whether this was Jesus or He Who Kills in Red, I do not know.

Here’s an excerpt from my Ghostly Guide to the Lake District where I tell a fairy story about Bewcastle.  You’ll see that the facts I wrote in 1998, are not the same facts we have today. That’s facts for you.

In any case, Bewcastle is  definitely worth a visit.

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Church at Bewcastle, on the site of the Roman Fort, and Shrine to Coccidius, dedicated to the Anglo-Saxon saint, Cuthbert.

Bewcastle

From Triermain head west along the B6318 past signs for the strangely named Desoglin and Tercrosset. After you pass a house called Longlands on your left you come to a cross-roads. Turn right for Bewcastle. This area has a remote and uninhabited feel to it. These hills are often haunted by mists and dark shapes loom up on you as you go along, metamorphosing into trees or cows as you get closer.

Bewcastle lies in what most people would feel was the middle of nowhere, but it’s all the better for that. It consists of a small stream – the Kirk Beck, a pub, a church, a farmhouse and ruined castle.

The church and castle sit on a small plateau. There is an exhibition of the church’s history in a building in the churchyard. You will also pass a remarkable monument – an Anglian cross that has lost its head.

The earliest parts of the church date from 1200, but the cross is from about 670. There is an inscription on it in Anglo Saxon runes which commemorate Alcfrith son of Oswi, once king of Northumbria. The carving is quite exquisite and dates from the high tide of Northumbrian culture and power. The carving is wholly Christian and shows links to Mediterranean sculpture – some of the carvings are of vine leaves which even then didn’t grow in this cold part of the world.

The castle, now in ruins, was founded in 1092 probably by William Rufus – the son of the Norman Conqueror, who obtained Cumbria from Scotland. He gave the castle to a certain Bueth, but then Bueth’s grandson Robert actually fought for the Scots against the English. However by 1565 we know that the castle was in a bad state of repair and has stayed that way.

Both the castle and the church are built partly of masonry from the Roman fort underneath them. You can still see the ditches and hummocks in the ground which mark the Roman fort. It was built to police the area to the north of the Roman Wall. Within the Roman fort were found solid silver plaques given as offerings to the Celtic god Cocidius who was a god of soldiers. These are now on display in Tullie House museum in Carlisle. In the western parts of the Wall area, Cocidius seems to be equated with Mars, the Roman god of War. His name could mean something like the ‘red one’. There is an Irish god known as Dá Choc who may be another form of Cocidius.

This area from Bewcastle south to the valley of the River Irthing was apparently the cult centre of this warrior god. At the fort at Bewcastle was also found an interesting relief of the Mother Goddess, sitting in a chair with fruits in her lap.

The mother goddess was handed down in tradition as Modron, and her son was Mabon – the great son. Mabon – or Maponos as an earlier form, had his cult centre at Lochmaben, just over the border in Scotland.

It is interesting that the invading Northumbrians chose Bewcastle as the place to set up an important Christian monument, but this often happened at old pagan sites.

As you would expect with all these gods and goddesses in such a remote spot, the local pub, and the smithy cottage behind it are haunted. One of the figures seen around the pub is a Roman Centurion.

Near Bewcastle on the banks of the White Lyne it is told that a local man, coming home from the pub was grabbed and pulled off his horse by fairies. They were about to drag him into an entrance to the underworld in the side of a hill but he pulled out a Bible and they fled.