Tuesday, 2 April 2013


Ghosts prefer their own company. Apart from battlefield ghosts they raely make a collective apperance. They are also usually seen by individuaks. Rarely do people see ghists at the same time. This is a key argument against there reality. According to folk tradition the inabilty to see ghosts is down to the time that you are born.

As far as the genda of ghosts is concerned. In medievel  times most were male ans were most of the viewers of ghosts. This has changed in more modrn times more women appear as ghosts and women in the 19th century were in the fore front of folklorists and mediums and they formed the back ground of the SPR.

Rarley are the ghosts of children seen in the UK even though the mortality of children in the 19th century in the UK was extremely high yet the experience translate into spiritual manifestation. I was told the story of a child haunting featuring a terraced street in Leek although such stories are rare. This does not seem to be the case in other cultures where Scandanavian and Baltic countries have a tradition of child ghosts.

There are however a number of intriguing references to ghosts of adults appearing in the guise of children. It has been suggested that the 17th century examples reflect the long tradition of souls ascending into heaven in the form of children as a represenation of purity

Haunting times

Hallowtide the brace of days around Halloween is particularly linked with the appearnce of ghosts. Significantlt Hamlet’s fathers ghost appears on the 2nd November. In Catholic tradition  this is the brief period when the barrier between the living and the dead is at its most porous. In medieval England the religious observance around these days usually included the ringing of a bell. This observance seems to have been the most stubborn of Catholic practices with the Elizabethan church authorities pursuing prosecutions up and down the country.

Nowadays Halloween most associated with the imitation of ghosts rathers than concerns with their actuall appearance. As I will show people have been donning white sheets and roaming the streets in an attempt to frighten people for centuries.

Ghosts are noctural creatures although some have been seen in daylight. The night was a popular time in folklore for fairies, devils and evil spirits to be abroad. To early Christain if the God and the angels were cast in radiant light it naturally followed that darkness was the space in which the ungodly and the damned operated. Most ghosts were not considered evil. In the eyes of most people in the 16th century and again there are a number of examples from Shakespeare they returned to help the living, to right wrongs  and reveal injustice. As one 18th century sceptic observed in common reason, have no more to do with the night than day-light, and if the information was really providentially intended by them, day light and public places would be the properest for their appairation

In 16th century England esp aftre the reformation other excuses were required and the appearance of ghsosts was framed in demonic or psychological terms. Ghosts were dellusions which could be demonic in origin and as God allocated the night as the Devil’s kingdom it stood tio reason that the ungodly would be abroad at night

With the development of the enlightenment the considered view that ghosts were the product of an over active imagination started to prevail


A friend of the Cornish historian Joseph Hammond described how the ghost of a miner appeard in front of him as a puff of smole/. Surprise turned to terror as the smoke asumed the shape of the dead miner.

Most accounts of ghosts have little time about the manner in which they appear as most would be a little stunned by the apperance

More detail is forthcoming about how they disappeared. In 1662 a ghost was described as “ gliding away without the motion of steps” An old labouerer in Cumbria recalled how in 1813 he saw  the ghost of a woman move away dressed well in an old fashioned way sudddenly leave the highway and rapidly ascend into the air. Ghsost unlike the theatrical ones do not sink into the ground and rarely walk through wall. Ghosts evidently respect physical entrances such as doors and passageways

Over the centuries ghosts are report to glow. An account form Wales describes a blue light that followed the corpse.

Many accounts that concern the existence of lights have long been acquainted with blue lights  known as will of the wisp. Jack Lanterns emanating from boggy places although there was an awareness the existence of such phenomina had a natural cause.

The poet John Clare had seen so many will of the wisps and considered them no more than bog vapours until one night he and a companion were entranced at seeing lights seemingly playing with each other

It robbed me of a little philosophical reasoning which I Had, he confessed, about them I now believe in spirits


In hios survey of folklore in the 18th century Francis Grose remarked that Ghosts commonly appear in the same dress they usually wore when living, although they are sometimes cloathed in white, but that is churchyard ghosts

White sheeted figures were sometimes seen on the strrets John Clare again recalled an incident in his Northampton shire village of the ghost of a widow recenlty drowned in a well who appeared in large white winding sheet. He and a neighbour investiageted but found nothing. Up to the 19th century it was common  for the poor to bury their dead in such winding sheets or shrouds. Only the wealthy could afford a wooden coffin

The sheet had been traditional been made of linen but a law of 1666 ordered that shrouds be made of wool to give a boost to the wollen trade

Because of the image that ghosts were swathed in white fabric the wearing of white clothes such as smocks could be a risky business on dark nights

It was reported that in 1851 a couple living in Alum St Ancoats Manchester were returning home from the market when the wife saw a figure in white in a alleyway which frightened her. She clung to her husband and exclaimed that there was a ghost. The husband pusued the figure was a young their called John Devine who had swathed himself in white calico cloth that he has stolen from a local mill. He was later prosecuted.

In another less staisfactory intervention a spooky white figure was seen in Hampstead in Nov 1836. Several people had seen a figure that seemed to swoop down . A young woman named Williams was so alarmed by the figure that she ran shrieking to PC Simmons who happened to be patrolling the area. They apprehenxed a pale figure who happened to be a solicitor called Sutton who had a percant for white clothing

There is a distinct tradition of the White lady. The folklore source There is a woman in white who frequents Westwood Hall in Leek. A Shropshire folkloist knew of several white ladies in the county

The sightings of naked ghosts are extremely rare. Therev are a few medieval examples such as the Rochester priest whose shivering naked appearance was symbolic of the way in which his estate had been denuded by executors

A more flesh and bllod example was the relative local experience of George Barlow a flashing Primitive Metodist fom winsford who was sentenced to three months hard labour in 1834. For three years a boggart appeared on roads around the town. The boggart took the form of a of a naked man causing much alarm to the local populace. The Macclesfield Courier reported that woman were frightened to venture out at night for fea of the obscene spirit. The boggart was  eventually laid after it appeared in front of a pub one january night scaring a female cleaner working inside the pub. Her screams alerted the pub landlod who maganed to overpower the naked Barlow.


The headless ghost is one of the classic ghost stereotypes present in folk tradition throughout Europe. It has been suggested that it is a shorthand way of talking about apparitions, like ghosts being dressed in white or rattling chains. It is a curiosity because death by decapitation was a rare form of punishment from the Middle Ages onwards and it was a fate usually reserved for the aristocracy as readers of the “Orrible History” series will no doubt remember. Such stories however do crop up throughout the country and for some authorities it was believed that they were often used to keep people off the streets so that criminals could engage in their nefarious activities. In 1804 a correspondent in the Morning Chronicle noted that a smuggling gang operating along the Pembrokeshire coast travelled in a hearse drawn by the imitation ghosts of six headless white horses in order to frighten off custom officers. 

Others have proposed that the preponderance of “headless” ghost sightings in the west of the country is that it is an echo of pre Christian beliefs. The Celts practised a cult of collecting heads as they believed that the soul was located there and at death the head is separated from the body as the soul departs. The severed head was a powerful symbol from them as indicated in the medieval Welsh tale of Bendigeidfran or Bran the Blessed whose head lies buried in the foundations of the Tower of London as a palladium against foreign invasion or the decapitation of the Green Knight in the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” the climax of which is played out some experts believe at Ludschurch in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

Tales of headless ghosts often crop up all over the country and Staffordshire Moorlands has its own examples of such a phenomena which panicked the people of the area over hundred years ago. One winter’s night in the 1900s an Onecote farmer was returning from Leek market. He had a successful day at market and did not notice the sound of thundering hooves on that lonely moor coming up fast behind him. Suddenly, he was picked up and found himself seated on horse back behind a headless horseman. The horse galloped over hedges and through fields clearing obstacles effortlessly. Eventually the farmer was thrown from the horse dazed and injured near to his home, and shortly afterwards he died. Another local shortly afterwards encountered the dreadful spectre and survived the experience, but his horse and dog both died of fright.

Seven clergyman were got together to exorcize the spectre and managed to compel it to speak. The horseman told them that he was one of four evil spirits that were compelled to wander the earth until the end of time. A writer recording in the 1940s added two other elements to the story. It was suggested that it was the ghost of a peddler murdered by robbers who as a macabre joke cut off his head and set the headless body on a horse; or it was the ghost of a knight killed in the wars with the Scots whose horse was bringing his master home to the Moorlands.

I can well imagine on a dark night people in the remote country areas listening out in a state of fear for the sound of a neighing house and the clatter of galloping hooves on ice hardened ground thinking that the phantom was in the area.

Another headless ghost on a white horse and clad in armour is also alleged to hunt the lanes between Farley and Alton and in the neighbouring county of Derbyshire a lane between Great Longstone and Ashford in the water is said to be haunted by a procession of 12 men carrying an empty coffin thought by a folklorist to be a death omen. Isab

Invisable ghosts

Many repoted ghosts ove the centuries were not visable there existence was evealed by other senses than sight. There are many examples of people sensing something usually followed by a drop in tempreture..

 Such a visitation is reported in the Leek Post and Times in 1979 at the Red Lion. The landlord at the time Patrick Lister called in the Rector of Leek John Crowe after claiming that strange goings on were happening. The experiences included balls of blue light and drops in tempreture in certain rooms in the pub.

The idea that animals have a greater sensitivity is also widespread. Thee are numerous examples in English folklore.

The great gossip and the collector of tales John Aubrey  recorded a appiration near Circenster in 1670  and asked whether it was a good or bad spirit returned no answer but disappeared with a curious perfume and a melidious twang

The rustle of silk was a frequently reported auditoy sign of the existence of a ghost and defines a gender and a social standing as the poor could not afford silk.

An account of a haunting of an inn in Buckinghamshire

After a troubled night he told the landlord that he had bolted the room shut, and satisfied himself there was no entrance. He soon fell asleep, but was woken by a sound like a light footstep, accompanied by the rustle of a silk dress. He sprang out of bed, but there was nothing to be seen as his door was still locked. Returning to bed he fell asleep and again was awoken by the rustling sound of a stiff silken dress. Darting forward he tried to grab the intruder, but his hand closed on empty air. The noise passed through the door and there was silence

In April  the Daily Mail reported on a case of poltergeist activity in the West Midlands. The case followed the classic type 

of poltergeist activity pots and pans thrown around the kitchen, blinds moving up and down, lights going on and off, doors locking themselves, chairs flying across the room, and cupboard doors opening and banging shut before being ripped off their hinges among other phenomena. The strange occurrences started a couple of weeks after Mrs Manning and her children moved into the Coventry council house. The disturbances became more malevolent when the poltergeist pushed the family's two dogs down the stairs resulting in horrific injuries to one of the pets, which resulted in it having to be put down. A chair moving across the floor on its own was also captured on film. The housing association who owns the property sent a priest who blessed the house and the phenomena temporarily abated for a couple of weeks before starting up again. Derek Ancora the medium was then called in who identified the source of the problem as Jim who died in 1900 at the age of 58 of a heart attack. Ancora exorcised the spirit.

The first poltergeist case identified in the UK was the Tedworth Drummer of Wiltshire. A sudden case of drumming began in the home of a local magistrate called Mompesson in the spring of 1662. Activity increased children were lifted into the air, shoes flung at a person’s head, chamber pots emptied on a bed and the leg of a horse forced into its mouth. The events were linked to an itinerant conjuror and drummer William Drury who had been arrested for trying to obtain money with forged documents. He was brought before Mompesson who let him off with a warning and confiscated his drum and told him to leave the district. The drumming started soon afterwards. There were reports that the drum was lifted by unseen hands and gave off booming hands. After several nights the sleepless magistrate had the drum destroyed but the noises continued. At this point the other strange manifestation began to be witnessed. Drury was suspected but this line of enquiry ended when it was found that Drury was in jail in Gloucester many miles away. A committee w set up by King Charles II concluded that no human agency could be deduced.

The Moorlands has its own case of poltergeist activity. In July 1877 the village of Butterton was subject to a bizarre occurrence a humble cottage in Back Lane and dating from 1617 the former home of Hannah Gould was subject to periods of sustained noise and thumping which struck terror into the hearts of the villagers. Hannah had died the previous February at the age of 80 and locals assumed that it was her ghost that was causing the commotion. Anxious villagers consulted with church elders. They contacted the old women’s son who was reluctant to become involved and still the noise was heard constantly and the local vicar Mr Cantrell who lived close by Back Lane. The next Sunday villagers gathered in old Hannah’s house where it is reported that the rapping continued and furniture rocked. Eventually suspicion fell upon a serving girl in the village who is thought to have engineered the event to gain access to the property.

What causes poltergeist activity? Aside from accusations of hoax and exaggeration, which although applicable to a number of cases by no means apply to them all, the most popular theory is that the poltergeist is caused unwittingly by a human agent, usually a teenage girl. Researchers believe that a troubled adolescent unconsciously manipulates objects using psychokinesis (PK), a type of energy generated in the brain. According to researchers at the Rhine Research Center Institute for Parapsychology at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, poltergeist activity is the physical expression of psychological trauma. However, more natural explanations are often the cause of what appears to be a poltergeist disturbance.  

Perhaps this might help to cast light on some poltergeist cases . However, this does not explain how enough power is generated to move objects such as heavy pieces of furniture, or to shower a room with stones, make objects appear from nowhere, or start fires, if accounts of such phenomena can be trusted. 

There are also a number of poltergeist cases where the people involved have no psychological problems at all, and where there are no adolescents in the household.

 How can we explain these?

 A further point is that there are millions of troubled teenagers all over the world, but the vast majority do not cause poltergeist activity to occur. Other researchers have suggested that 'spirit entities' are responsible for the phenomena, perhaps generating the power by attaching themselves to suitably disturbed teenagers. But the very nature of these hypothetical 'spirits' means that scientifically at least, they cannot be properly investigated. . However, if accounts of the more extreme unexplained occurrences alleged to be caused by poltergeist activity are themselves exaggerated, or even completely unreliable, which is entirely possible in older cases, then no further explanation is required.

Nevertheless, the inability to find a convincing explanation for the phenomenon, the significant amount of  cases exhibiting similar characteristics occurring over a long period of time in widely different cultures, and the bizarre but somehow consistent nature of the phenomena, make the poltergeist perhaps the most baffling and enduring of unexplained mysteries. 

Ghosts with no soul

The fact that ghosts appeared in clothing was taken by the rationalists of the proof of their no existence

In 1762 the autho of Anti Canidia an attack on superstitious belief 

How is the spirit , in it self immaterial and invisable, to become the object of human sight. How is to acquire the appearance of dress?


Only a few hauntings reported were of animals. Most reported concerend dogs and cats which is not surprising considering their claose associations with humans.

I understand that the present owners have also discerned the unmistakeable smell of wet dog in certain areas of the pub. My source thinks she knows the source of the smell. Many years ago the family had a gundog, a Springer Spaniel, which was kept because her grandfather enjoyed shooting. Unfortunately, the dog was terrified of guns and proved useless for the purpose for which it was bought. It did enjoy water- a fact that readers who are owners of Springer Spaniels will know. The dog used to enjoy jumping into a stone trough which was placed to slake the thirst of dray horses which at that time delivered the beer. Perhaps in death the dog is still searching for its master?

 In British folklore there are many stories relating to spectral dogs. There is a story of a dog that runs through a Devon village dragging a rattling chain as it heads for his master’s home in the hills