There are free tickets on offer to Swindon residents who want to attend a week long series of National Lottery supported events exploring the town’s haunted heritage.
There will be daily happenings between 25 and 31 October including:
• Paranormal evenings at Lydiard House, pictured, and the Arts Centre where visitors will be invited to experience the legendary hauntings of these locations;
• Ghost walks in Old Town and Highworth, the borough’s two most haunted areas, including exclusive access to allegedly haunted buildings;
• Swindon GhostFest Conference – including TV personalities, local researchers, an academic sceptic and Britain’s greatest ghost writer. The conference will also include live, interactive experiments.
The GhostFest is organised by the Haunted Swindon Project and local charity Paranormal Site Investigators. Festival chairman Dave Wood said, “there is massive interest in these events nationwide, but as this is all about Swindon we wanted Swindon people to have the chance to snap up free tickets first.”
Tickets can be obtained through www.HauntedSwindon.com or by calling 0845 652 1529.
Nobody Believes in Ghosts. Do They?
Diz White explains her search into her book Haunted Cotswolds
Nobody really believes in ghost do they? Surely, they are just a figment of the imagination – a trick of the light.
I didn’t believe in them and began work a confirmed skeptic after the editor of The History Press commissioned me write two true-life ghost books, Haunted Cotswolds and Haunted Cheltenham. Before long, however, I was quickly reduced to a staring-eyed, gibbering blob of a believer whose sleep was disturbed by terrifying dreams after I visited by far the scariest of ghost locations for my research.
This was the Ram Inn in Wotton-Under-Edge which had, it turned out, had been erected on top of a pagan burial site. As this building had previously featured in an episode of Most Haunted I had already decided that some long-ago spurious ghost sighting must have been dredged up and over-hyped for the cameras. However, when I was shown an open grave in the Ram Inn’s kitchen I was stunned for although I couldn’t actually see anything amiss almost immediately invisible, icy cold, hands grasped my neck and forced me to rush outside, choking, leaving my husband who was taking photographs for my books to brave the upstairs floor alone.
After this I concentrated my research on how to lay a ghost and discovered an amusing but apparently effective recipe for doing so in J.A. Brooks’ tome Ghosts and Witches of the Cotswolds. This technique requires gathering together a dozen clergymen (difficulties may arise in convincing the clergymen to take part), and performing a ceremony that would take the form of an exorcism similar to the medieval bell, book and candle ceremony. This ritual suggests that passages be read from a religious book before it is slammed shut, a bell is rung and a lit candle quashed. Next, a brick layer must be hired to seal off the doors and windows of the room in which the haunting took place. Apparently, a number of these ‘vanished’ rooms have been discovered in old houses.
I sent this information over to the Ram Inn and moved on to Chavenage House near Tetbury. This is one of my favourite ghost stories for Haunted Cotswolds as it gave me the opportunity to describe the great architectural importance of this perfectly preserved Tudor mansion which was rebuilt in 1576.
Once the home of Princess Goda, sister of Edward the Confessor, the current owners, the Lowsley-Williams family, open this mansion to the public and it is well worth a visit. A plethora of ghosts haunt Chavenage but a headless King Charles 1, who spectacularly bursts into flames, gets top billing.
Next I worked on Haunted Cheltenham. The town itself has its fair share of ghouls and poltergeists but also within its borough lies Prestbury, said to be the most haunted village in the entire United Kingdom. Here, there are so many visitors from the other side that anyone who walks down its main street is liable to become pop-eyed with disbelief because the ghosts are so plentiful that they actually scare the wits out of each other.
One poor fellow who braved a stroll through Prestbury’s St Mary’s churchyard at night was even scared out of his kit. After an encounter with the notorious Black Abbot of Prestbury’s specter he was left shaking so badly that his loosely held jogging trousers ended up around his ankles. It takes a really good ghost haunting to do that.
My creepiest story for this same book was about Belas Knap, one of the massive Neolithic long barrows of the region that loom up against the moon on stormy evenings as the wind screams a warning that the undead are about to slip out of their eerie chambers deep inside and haunt those who venture too close.
There surely could be no greater horror than that of the young woman who, as legend has it, entered one of these evil chambers as a young, pretty smooth-faced girl and then, after mere moments having seemingly passed, returned to the sunlight to see in a mirror the face of an ancient, ugly crone with missing, broken teeth, wispy grey hair and a thousand wrinkles.
Another chilling story concerning this same long-barrow tells of a visitor who once climbed it to admire the view. Upon her descent the terrain suddenly looked completely different and after studying ancient engravings she realized that somehow she had been transported back to medieval times and had been viewing a scene that was at least five hundred years old. These ‘tumps’ as the locals call the numerous long barrows that are dotted all over the Cotswolds do often, apparently, go bump in the night.
The quirkiest ghost I discovered and wrote about in Haunted Cotswolds was that of a French rascal who romanced his female victims as he was robbing them. This ‘love ’em, loot ’em and leave ’em’ highwayman, once the valet of the Duke of Richmond, was known as ‘Dashing Du Vall’, after he took to a life of crime.
On one occasion, he was so enamoured of his pretty female victim that he insisted on dancing with her right on the highway before robbing her husband of £100. Claude Du Vall’s stay at the Holt Hotel near Chipping Norton led to his arrest and subsequent execution. Apparently, however, his shade returned later to bludgeon the Holt’sinnkeeper to death.
So ladies beware! If you are staying at the Holt Hotel and a handsome man, wearing old fashioned clothes, and speaking with a smooth-as-silk French accent tries to romance you, pinch him to see if he is real before you fall madly in love and surrender to his suave charms.
If a reader considers giving Haunted Cotswolds or Haunted Cheltenham to a ghost-loving friend as, say, a stocking stuffer at Christmas with the notion that it is all just ‘a bunch of malarky’ this author can attest to the fact that when night falls and the swirling mists roll in; eerie ghosts actually do lurk in every corner of the Cotswolds.
Diz White is the author of Haunted Cotswolds and Haunted Cheltenham, both recently published by The History Press, and divides her time between her career as a writer and actress in Hollywood and her Gloucestershire cottage. Diz is adding the finishing touches to her comedic memoir A Love Note to the Cotswolds before putting it out to publishers,and can be reached at www.dizwhite.com.