With Halloween looming, this month’s issue has a slightly spooky feel and the Weald has a rich history of creepy goings-on. We’ve all heard the most famous ghost stories, but luckily there are plenty of lesser known tales to set your spine tingling…
From grey ladies on Tunbridge Wells’ Pantiles to the bitter Duchess who stalks the corridors of Knole, there are some beloved ghost stories which are told around roaring fires every Halloween. But if you’re tired of the well-known old tales and fancy doing a little ghosthunting yourself, where are the best places to spook spot?
According to the Paranormal Database, the Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks and Weald area offers a rich vein of potentially haunted locations. The website details ghost sightings and strange occurrences spanning the centuries – from ‘word of mouth’ anecdotes to specific incidents reported as recently as last year. Is there a restless spirit hovering somewhere near your home?
For some reason, lady ghosts seem to be one of our most popular sightings and tragic female spirits have been seen all over the Weald. High profile women include Dame Dorothy Selby, who is rumoured to have been killed on the orders of Guy Fawkes after she warned the authorities about his gunpowder plot, and who still haunts her former home at Ightham Mote, near Sevenoaks.
Believed to have witnessed her son’s execution from an upper window of the Chequers pub in Sevenoaks High Street, a devastated mother can still be heard wailing in despair. While over in Sundridge, the traitorous widow of executed Lord Ferrer still haunts the Combe Bank site of the fire that killed her (supposedly the result of her late husband’s curse). During the last 10 years, motorists have reported seeing a mysterious grey lady standing near a white house on the approach to Sissinghurst from the Wilsley Pound direction. The source of her melancholy is unknown…
Drivers seem unable to traverse the Weald’s highways without being accosted by various spooks and phantoms. The problem of apparitions materialising in front of cars, only to disappear without trace, has been reported at Broomhill Road in TW, Maidstone Road in Sevenoaks and in Cranbrook – this latter incident occurred on September 29 last year, when a driver heading towards Marden claimed a tall cloaked figure jumped into the road and leaped over their car before disappearing. In June 1999, a blonde ghostly figure appeared on the A229 at Hartley, causing a motorist to swerve around it and ten years later, another driver had a similar experience with two fleeting figures on the Maidstone Road at Matfield. Disaster was averted in February 1997 when a woman believed she had hit a semi-transparent man standing on the A28 at Tenterden, near Silver Hill, only to find the figure had vanished. In March 1979, a woman went on record to say that while driving along the Sevenoaks bypass, the road ahead of her faded to reveal a ‘new’ road veering to the right – luckily she kept her head, as following the ghostly diversion would have taken her into the path of oncoming traffic.
Pubs seem to be a particularly ripe environment for haunting across the Weald – in 2001 a late landlady of the Toastmaster Inn in Burham made a big impression by appearing in the background of a photograph taken at the bar, while at the Cardinal’s Error in Lodge Oak Lane, Tonbridge, guests have been awoken by a horrifying presence standing at the end of their beds.
Groombridge Place, Chartwell in Westerham, St Lawrence Churchyard in Bidborough, the Pest House in Cranbrook, Kemsing Church, Furnace Mill Farm in Lamberhurst… The list of places which are reputed to have been visited by ghosts, ghoulies and bumps in the night goes on and on. Poltergeists are in abundance too – the Bottle House Inn in Penshurst is believed to host an unseen but feisty spirit called Elisabeth. And in 1990, staff at the then Barry M Cosmetics shop in Calverley Road, Tunbridge Wells, reported numerous examples of paranormal activity, such as ghostly whispers, disembodied footsteps and finger marks appearing in dust.
So, watch out on October 31, as our part of the world is a truly scary place to be…
Written by Jane Connolly