Thursday, 30 October 2014

Some of Kent's Ghosts

There are so many purportedly haunted places throughout the world.  The stories are endless. This year I thought I'd learn a little more about the ghost stories of my own county, Kent, in the UK.  Known as the Garden of England, Kent has a wealth of history and, according to some reports, more ghosts appear in Kent than anywhere else in the UK.  When you take into account that this is where you'll find Pluckley which was crowned the most haunted village in England in 1989 and still retains its crown today.

Pluckley, near Ashford has the title of the most haunted village in England and has 12 recorded ghosts, although some sources state there are up to 24 in residence.  St Nicholas' Church is said to be home to the spirit of Lady Dering who died hundreds of years ago.  In hope of preserving her body, Lord Dering buried his deceased wife in an airtight lead coffin encased in two lead coffins and further encased inside an oak coffin with a red rose at her breast.  This quadruple coffin was then buried in the Dering vault, below the Dering Chapel in the south-east part of the church.  The coffins, however, didn't stop her spirit from returning on certain nights, still dressed in the finery she was buried in, still holding the red rose.  There are some suggestions that the lady was as wicked as she was beautiful.
The Dering Chapel also plays host to strange lights seen in the upper half of the stained glass window.  A woman's voice can also be heard in the churchyard, and strange, unexplained knocking noises echo throughout the Dering Chapel at night.

St Nicholas' Church, Pluckley

Another Lady Dering, most often known as the White Lady, is said to haunt the ruins of Surrenden Dering.  Yet another member of the Dering family, referred to as the Red Lady, is believed to haunt the churchyard.  This wishful, sad spirit searches for the baby she once lost.  She is believed to be the wife of one of the Derings who were lords of the manor of Pluckley for centuries.  Popularly, her spirit wanders the churchyard at night, sobbing  and searching for her lost child.  Why she is referred to as the Red Lady is unknown.

Greystone house, just down the hill from St Nicholas' Church, is said to be haunted by a monk from the 16th century.  One story recounts how he was in love with the Lady of Rose Court, a nearby Tudor house.  A more popular story tells thast he was the confessor to the same lady during the time in which Roman Catholic religion was banned.  If this were the case, it is likely that the monk would have met a grisly end.  He has been seen at night as little more than a shadow figure reflected on the walls of some of the newer homes along the path where he and the lady may have walked.

Rose Court plays host to a former owner whose voice can often be heard calling her dogs as she so often did in life.  The house has records to show that it has been standing for 250 years, although the original deeds were lost in a fire.  Rose Court is believed to have been built 100 years earlier than the records show.  The lady's voice can usually be heard between 4pm and 5pm, which is when she died.

Opposite the Black Horse pub a schoolmaster once hanged himself, or was hanged.  In around 1920, Smarden's schoolmaster made weekly visits to Pluckley where he would meet with Pluckley's school headmaster, Henry Tuff.  They would meet at the Black Horse to drink and discuss philosophy.  However, the schoolmaster went missing one summer and, a couple of weeks later, Richard Buss, the then miller, discovered his body hanging from one of the trees which grew just below the mill.  Some believe he can still be seen dangling from the trees which no longer stand here, having long since been cut down.  However, there are no recorded sightings of his spirit.

The ghost of a gypsy, sometimes known as the Watercress Lady for how she once sold watercress at the crossroads, has been glimpsed by people in the autumn near the crossroads.  It is believed that she died when a spark from her pipe ignited the whiskey she was drinking.

There are many accounts of the highwayman in Pluckley.  Unfortunately, there are no records as to who he was.  However, according to one account, in the second half of the 18th century, a local highwayman was cornered by Bow Street Runners and was chased through Pluckley.  At the crossroads is the site of an old, hollow oak, where the highwayman is said to have hidden in hopes the Bow Street Runners would pass him by.  Unfortunately, his horse stopped to graze, alerting one of the Bow Street Runners to his location.  After searching the area, the Bow Street Runner noticed the hollow oak and, guessing that the highwayman was hiding inside, stabbed his sword through a knothole, piercing the highwayman through the heart.  Another account tells of a footpad who hide inside the hollow oak awaiting unsuspecting travellers who he would execute as they passed.  Word of the footpad spread and a traveller decided he wouldn't fall victim to the same trick  He approached the corner, acting as if he were unaware of the danger, until he reached the hollow oak were he swiftly thrust his sword into the hollow, killing the footpad hiding within.

Among the other ghosts haunting Pluckley are the phantom horse-drawn carriage which can be heard clattering down Forge Hill towards Maltman's Hill.  This coach has been seen travelling through the village on several occasions.  One couple, on their way home just after midnight after babysitting their granddaughter one October night, spotted the coach, light streaming from its windows, as it travelled up the hill away from them.  Sounds of a coach turning in the courtyard of a local hotel have also been reported.  In November 1997, at about 7pm, one person claimed that their car was suddenly filled with the sounds of horses hooves on cobble.  The main street was once cobbled.  It should, however, be noted that several residents drive a variety of horse-drawn vehicles in the area.

Park Wood, once an actual wood, although no longer, is home to the spirit of a colonel who hanged himself from one of the trees.  Nothing is known of the colonel except that his spirit can be seen briskly marching through the area.

The Screaming man is said to haunt the brickworks where he apparently met his end, falling to his death into one of the clay holes on site.  While there are no reported sightings of his ghost, nor any reports of this tragic accident, it is believed that his screams can still be heard as his death replays over and over again.

The Black Horse, Pluckley

The Black Horse, which started its life as a farmhouse, then a bailiff's house, now a pub, sees its occupants often complaining about lost items, especially clothing, which go missing for long stretches of time before reappearing.  Despite rigorous searches, the missing items cannot be found until, when almost all hope of them reappearing is itself lost, they suddenly turn up in locations where they could not possibly have been missed.  Some compare these instances to the presence of a poltergeist.

While Pluckley has the title of most haunted village it is, by no means, the only haunted location in Kent.

Bluebell Hill

Bluebell Hill has its own ghost.  Many sightings of this spirit have been reported.  In 1992, three separate motorists reported knocking down a girl who ran into the path of their cars late at night.  Others claim to have picked up a female hitchhiker, who subsequently disappears from the car.  Some believe this to be the spirit of Susan Browne,  a bride-to-be, whose car crashed on the A229 in November 1965, on the eve of her wedding.   Susan, with three of her friends, was returning home from her hen night when her car spun out of control and collided with a Jaguar travelling in the opposite direction.  One of the girls died instantly at the scene of the accident.  Two of the girls later died in hospital.  There are so many sightings of this spirit, it would take me forever to tell you all of them, so I'll settle for the best known.  In 1974, Maurice Goodenough reported having run down a young girl on Bluebell Hill.  He told the police that while the girl's injuries were minor, she was in need of medical attention, so he'd wrapped the girl in a tartan rug and left her beside the road to go for help.  The police accompanied Maurice back to the scene of the accident but the girl had vanished, leaving the tartan rug on the side of the road where Maurice had left the girl.  The police found no blood, no damage to the car and no trace of the victim.  On November 10th, 1992, a man called Ian Sharp had a similar experience.  The young girl appeared, ran towards his car and, just before she disappeared beneath his car, looked him right in the eyes.  Ian Sharp searched beneath his car and the surrounding area but could find no trace of her.  After reporting the accident to the police, another search was conducted, but to no avail.  Yet again, there was no trace of an accident or the girl.  There have also been reported incidents of a young female hitchhiker at the top of Bluebell hill.  The driver pulls over, the girl gets in and on they go.  Then, when the driver stops to let the girl out, she's already disappeared.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral, known for its history which can be traced back to the 12th century, has a few ghosts of its own, although it is by no means the only haunted building in Canterbury.  An Archbishop named Simon Sudbury was murdered - beheaded -  by the head of the Peasants revolt, Wat Tyler, in 1381.  A tower was named after him and Sudbury's ghost sometimes appears here.  Witnesses have described a pale man with a long, grey beard.  Despite his head and body having been buried in separate places, his ghost appears whole.

A passage, nicknamed the Dark Entry, is believed to be haunted by the ghost of Nell Cook, who was once a servant at the cathedral.  After witnessing an affair between her employer and a woman, Cook went into a rage and poisoned both her employer and his lover.  As punishment for the murder's she committed, Cook was buried alive in the Dark Entry.  She is most often seen on Friday evenings just after dusk.  According to legend, any that witness this spirit will meet their end soon after.

There are, of course, many, many more sightings, claims and reports of ghostly goings on in Kent, not to mention the surrounding area... the numerous spirits of Dover Castle... the plague victims of lost village of Dode... the spitfire of Biggin' Hill... the horseman of Eastwell Manor.  There are simply too many to list here.  This is but a taste.
The A-Z of British Ghosts - Peter Underwood


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