Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Many Hauntings of Battle Abbey

In East Sussex, at the site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, lies the ruinous hulk of Battle Abbey, which William the Conqueror commissioned to be built in 1070 to honor the fallen at that famous clash of the Norman Conquest.

Oddly enough, it's not the spectral visage of some Norman invader or woeful Anglo-Saxon soldier that is most often reported. It seems the Benedictine monks who inhabited Battle Abbey are the real stars of the show.

Legend tells that long after the Abbey's prestige had faded, Sir Anthony Browne robbed it of its only extant treasures (William the Conqueror's cloak and the famous Battle Abbey Roll), demolished much of the structure, and used the stones to build a great house of his own.

This infuriated the monks, one of whom cursed him, stating that Sir Anthony's name would erased from the face of the earth by fire and water. With this, the remaining monks packed it in and left Battle Abbey.

Sir Anthony's home, Cowdray Park, burned down only a few short years later in 1793; his only heir, Viscount Montague, drowned in the Rhine, thus ending the lineage.

But some of the monks have never left the carcass of the old Abbey. Visitors over the many years have caught glimpses of them shuffling along the Monks Walk, murmured prayers are heard in the Undercroft, near the ice house, and of course at the Rectory.

The Crypt

A famous sighting made a big splash in the papers of 1932.

Vanessa Vane Pennell, a well-to-do society girl, and her brother John decided to spend the night in the old crypt of the Abbey. The levity of the jaunt was broken quite suddenly around midnight when a light began to emanate from one of the walls. Then they smelled the heady aroma of burning incense. Within moments, the light coalesced into the figure of a lanky, corpse-like monk that moved toward them. When the monk was only a few feet away, it seemed to shush them with its finger and motioned for the siblings to leave. Suddenly a chorus of monks began chanting from behind them. The pair spun on heel to find nothing. When they looked back toward the monk, he was gone. The brother and sister fled from the abbey and spent the remainder of the night in their car.

In the book "Haunted Gardens" you can find a photograph from 2001 taken in the novice's room that appears to show a the spectral image of a man hanging from the doorway.

The Undercroft
In one instance a school group mentioned the historical re-enactor dressed as a monk was particularly memorable. More so now, I'd wager, since the site administrator confessed there were none. This is actually a common theme at the Battle Abbey site. It's said that the staff hardly blinks an eye at the reports these days.

In 2002, a school teacher from Kent, spotted a grey haired monk wearing a red belt in the Undercroft. At the gift shop, she enquired about the re-enactor only to find out it was just one of their many ghosts.

The Chapel
Two girls once spotted, independent of one another, a figure in white in the Abbot's Hall, which crossed the chapel and vanished.

The Monks Walk
The Novice's Room
The Gatehouse

If you visit Battle Abbey, you may also meet a woman in grey/white haunting the elaborate, castle-like gatehouse. She walks with a limp. There's also another in a red dress. Fruit mysteriously shows up, it's said, in the Undercroft. On the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, witnesses have reported over the years the sounds of battle and the apparitions of mounted knights. Anglo-Saxon King Harold, died at the Battle of Hastings and many believe his ghost lingers still, the arrow that struck him dead still deeply embedded in his eye.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Restless Rye: Exploring One of Britain's Most Haunted Towns

The storybook charm of medieval Rye, belies a dark history that has given birth to many restless spirits. In fact, it's meant to be one of the most haunted villages in England. As one of the Cinque Ports—a loose confederation of coastal towns in Kent and Sussex that allied for defense and trade—Rye became an instrumental cog in the economy of its time. This success also meant a greater deal of crime, and the town became a notorious haven for smugglers. These days, its narrow cobbled lanes are filled with coastal daytrippers and the squawk of seagulls. At least, until the sun goes down...

My home base while in Rye was the quite haunted Mermaid Inn, which has even been featured on programs such as Most Haunted. Dating to the 1420s (with cellars going back to the 1100s and with some Tudor upgrades in the 16th century), the Mermaid Inn is not only one of the oldest in England, it's also among the most haunted. A woman clad in grey occasionally sits by the fireplace in Room 1. In Room 19, a man in splendid attire has been known to show himself. The apparition of a man has been seen walking through a bathroom wall into the main chamber of Room 10. 16th century duelers reenact their deadly swordplay in Room 16. Next door, in 17, the wife of a notorious smuggler named George Gray haunts a rocking chair. Guests awaken in an icy room to find it tipping back and forth.

Along Mermaid Street itself, the ghost of a little girl in a blue dress has been reported from time to time; while a small boy clad in—I kid you not—a sheet has been witnessed along Watchbell Street.

The unusually named Turkey Cock Lane is home to a spectral monk. The less than godly fellow was bricked up alive, so legend tells, after he was caught trying to elope with a local girl.

Rye  Castle (aka Ypres Tower) was built around 1250 by Roger of Savoy as a defense against the French. Later it became the property of John d' Ypres in 1430. The castle also served as a jail—one that many of the notorious smugglers of Rye no doubt became acquainted with. The ghosts of former inmates have been seen and investigations by paranormal investigators over the years have produced unusual recordings of disembodied voices.

Lamb House—Author Henry James (credited with the first modern ghost story, Turn of the Screw) stayed here in the late 1890s. He would later go on record that the ghost of an old woman helped him with his writing during his stay.  Novelist E. F. Benson is claimed to have spotted a man dressed in a cloak vanish before his eyes while he sat in the home's garden. One of the spirit's, according to some accounts, is that of Allen Grebell, who had been murdered by a local butcher.

Gibbet's Marsh, where this historic windmill rests, the reoccurring apparition of a man has been seen in the early morning hours as he walks across the fields toward the river before suddenly vanishing.

The sound of footsteps have stalked some as the moved through the empty confines of Needles Passage.

The Union Inn also dates back to the early 1400s and is thought by some to be haunted by a young girl. She's mostly seen in the areas of the kitchen and dining room. The ghost of a young, unwed mother who died falling down the cellar stairs has been spotted as well.

The White Vine House (aka The Vine Hotel) saw some poltergeist activity in the mid 1990s. The kitchen would frequently be found in disarray and food moved or hidden. Reports of similar disturbances had occurred in the guest rooms as well.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Haunted Travels: Bodiam Castle

I've just returned from two weeks touring Ireland and the UK, among the most haunted places in the world. Suffice it to say, I've come bearing gifts. Paranormal postcards in the form of haunted tales from the places I visited. First on my stop is a haunted castle in Sussex, England.

In 1385, Sir Edward Dallingridge, knight and member of the English parliament, built the almost quintessential castle of Bodiam as a defense against French invaders and a lavish home to impress his compatriots. Over the centuries, as it is throughout much of Britain, a supernatural patina has built up on the stones of Bodiam Castle. The ghostly echo of medieval celebrations has been reported on several occasions, including raucous shouts in unfamiliar tongues and ancient music. A woman in red has been spotted now and then gazing distantly from windows in the towers. In 1994, a custodian spotted a child dressed in queerly Dickensian attire running in the direction of the castle but the boy vanished midway across the bridge.
Look for more posts in the coming days as I share more of my paranormal travels.