Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Ghostly Jaunts in June

Phantom trains, Cavalier lovers, King Arthur and his knights, a spectral black dog and even a schoolboy ghost are on jaunts in June.

In 1944 an ammunition train with 51 wagons and hundreds of 500lb bombs caught fire and exploded at Soham in Cambridgeshire; every window in Soham was shattered and the station destroyed. Bert Ginbert, the driver survived but the twenty-two year-old fireman, James Knightall and Frank Briggs the signalman were killed instantly. The day before the explosion Knightall is believed to have told the driver that he did not think he had long to live.

On 2nd June a phantom train is said to run on the tracks at Soham railway station.

The Civil War has given rise to ghostly cavaliers in more than one location.

Goodrich Castle
(Michael Eccles - CC A-S A 2.0 generic license)

Today Goodrich Castle is a majestic ruin near the River Wye in Herefordshire. A Norman Keep surrounded by a red sandstone square castle with drum towers on the corners it has a natural dry moat. Built in 1806, major upgrades occurred when Edward I was king. By the 16th century it was unoccupied.

In 1646 during the Civil War it was besieged by the Roundheads led by Colonel John Birch. His niece, Alice, took refuge in the castle with her Royalist lover, Charles Clifford. When attempting to escape the couple died together in the river.

On or near to June 14th, particularly if it’s stormy, it’s said their cries came be heard and their wraiths be seen, urging a phantom horse into the swollen waters of the Wye. On other occasions, passersby late at night have seen their poignant specters staring sadly from the ruined ramparts.


In 1980 the caretaker at Hitchin Priory in Hertfordshire was doing his rounds when he sensed that he was no longer alone. He turned round and saw the figure of a woman floating above the stairs at the end of the corridor. He said that the woman was dressed in grey and a short sleeved blouse with a pearl around her neck. The caretaker was so frightened that he refused to go back to the corridor on his own.

One theory has it that the grey lady is the ghost of the sweetheart of a Cavalier named Goring who met his end in the park. At the time of the Civil War Goring was hiding in nearby Highdown House where his betrothed was staying in an attempt to avoid capture by the Roundheads. Goring was forced to flee when the enemy searched the house. He did not get very far and was executed on the spot while his sweetheart witnessed the whole event from an upstairs window.
Now on 15th June every year, the anniversary of his execution Goring’s headless ghost is seen riding on a white horse towards Hitchin Priory. Is the grey lady the ghost of his sweetheart?

Cadbury Castle from Corton Ridge
(Joe D, modified by Jim Campion: CC A-S A 2.5 generic license)

 Between the North and South Barrow, near Castle Cary in Somerset there was an ancient causeway. On 20th June (Midsummer’s Eve) King Arthur, with a ghostly escort of mounted knights and teams of foot soldiers, follows this route supposedly from nearby Cadbury Castle to Glastonbury. (Cadbury is thought to be Arthur’s Camelot.)

Another legend says that every seven years a door opens in the hillside so that Arthur and his company can leave to feed their horses.

West Kennet Long Barrow entrance
 (Gazimoff: CC A-S A 3.0 unported license)

West Kennet Long Barrow in Wiltshire is one of the many prehistoric monuments that are part of the Avebury complex of Neolithic sites. It is one of the most impressive and well-preserved burial chambers in Britain, as well as being one of the most visited.
On 21st June, Midsummer’s Day, a spectral black dog is said to appear. Black dogs are a particular feature of English folklore; they were the guardians of graveyards. This claim could be the ghost of such a guardian.

Other sources recount the appearance at sunrise of a priest dressed in white, accompanied by a dog with red ears.


St Mary's Church Beaminster
 (Mike Searle; Geograph Project Collection  CC A-S A 2.0 generic license)

St Mary’s Church, Beaminster, Dorset is the place to be on 27th June to see the ghost of the schoolboy John Daniel, who was murdered there in 1728. He was buried without an inquest as his mother had testified that he suffered from fits.

An account of the Beaminster Ghost Story first appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1774. The apparition appeared in broad daylight and was seen by five children, one of whom never even knew John when he was alive.

The Beaminster School used to be held in a gallery of the church to which there was an entrance from the churchyard. On Saturday 27th June 1728 twelve children had stayed to play ball in the churchyard after school. Four boys returned to the school to search for old pens when they heard a noise in the church – they concluded that someone was hiding in order to frighten them. A search by all the boys found nothing but as they returned to their sport they heard a second noise in the school. Running round the church they heard the sound of preaching and the singing of psalms – these noises only lasted a short time.

Later one of the boys returned to the school for a book where he saw a coffin on one of the benches. He fetched the others and they thronged the school-door. Five of the twelve saw the apparition of John Daniel, who had been dead for more than seven weeks, sitting some distance from the coffin further in the school. John’s half-brother recognised the apparition and threw a stone at it, whereupon the apparition disappeared.

The lads were examined by Colonel Broadrepp, the magistrate, and based on their descriptions of the apparition and the coffin, the body was disinterred. At a coroner’s inquest a verdict was returned that John Daniel had been strangled. No steps appear to have been taken to bring anyone to justice for his murder.


DW96 said...

I Love these ghostly tales, Bob and I keep saying you should bring them together as a complete volume. I'm sure you'd be on a winner.

S.K.Delph said...

Always love a great ghost tale. Love the photos too. Provides atmosphere!

tony said...

Bob. I Find It Strangely Comforting To Think That Events & People Leave These Rumbles & Echos Behind Them.

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

Great stories with beautiful photos. I am now following your blog and hope you will follow me as well.

Regards, Mari

Alfandi said...

I had a personal experience with these ghosts of the past..marching sounds of the army from WWII..don't really know what or why..