THREE

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Bilston

Location: Bilston. A701 Edinburgh-Peebles road (Midlothian) 

Date/Time: November 1985. 7-7.30 p.m.   MAP

The following account was submitted to this site by Susan Herries (real name withheld). 

"I had recently moved to live just off the main Edinburgh-Peebles road between Loanhead and Roslin (B7006). It was a dark, wet and blustery November evening, and I drove into Loanhead accompanied by my eight-year-old step-daughter to buy fish and chips for dinner.

"On the way back, we were approaching the Old Pentland Crossroads when a man just appeared in front of my car. I had no time to swerve and I hit him.1 Both my step-daughter and I saw him and were able to give separate descriptions to the police. He was around 5'8"-5'10", middle-aged, greying hair (lank and in need of a cut), and wore a black donkey jacket with a hessian piece bag diagonally across him.2

"He looked straight at us as I hit him.3 I stopped the car, got out and looked but couldn't see anything. Because it was so pitch black I couldn't see into the field where I presumed he had been thrown by the impact (IKEA now have a store in that field!), I drove home and called the police.

"The police took a description and statement, searched the area, and examined my car; then they informed me that I wasn't the first person and wouldn't be the last person to run over a ghost at that spot. My car had no damage, despite the impact.

"Despite everything that my senses told me, and that my step-daughter corroborated it, I was left feeling that I had imagined the whole thing. The police were very helpful and even launched into descriptions of reports from bus drivers from Edinburgh picking up passengers - young girls - on the late night bus who would have disappeared by the time the bus drivers reached Penicuik.

"Since then, I have heard many different versions of essentially the same stories, all situated on the "Lang Whang" - the portion of the Edinburgh to Lanark road between Balerno and Kirknewton. A few of these stories came from the police at Edinburgh airport who had at some time in their careers been called to investigate. I have only ever driven on the Lang Whang in daylight - I wouldn't attempt it in the dark..."

On further inquiry, Susan provided further information about the incident:

1 They were travelling at around 40 mph.

2 "I thought that he was a workman, or a miner. There was nothing frightening or creepy about his appearance, he just looked as if he was on his way home. It happened near to Bilston Glen Colliery. We discovered a couple of years later that there had been a mine close to where it happened, which was closed around 80 years ago."

3 "He just stared straight at us. Something which didn't make sense was that my step-daughter said he was looking straight at her, and I know he was looking directly into my eyes!" The figure's face held no expression.

Whilst the figure seen by Susan Herries and her step-daughter certainly sounds as if it might be an old colliery ghost, we still have to contend with the consistency of pattern displayed in this kind of incident: the sudden appearance, the figure facing the driver without expression, the collision (with no obvious damage to the vehicle), the report to and investigation by police, and the somewhat familiar description of the ghost ("middle-aged, greying hair (lank and in need of a cut)" [see the other examples of the ubiquitous man with straggly grey hair on this site: A38- Willand & Hopton (A12)] - all of which make this category of ghost quite distinct, and which beg for an 'explanation' outside of the traditional ghost-as-spirit-of-the-dead or ghostly re-enactment one.

Does anyone else have any news regarding similar encounters on the A701? Please e-mail any information to this site.

 

Wembdon

Location: B3339 Wembdon Hill, Bridgwater (Somerset) 

Date/Time: Late 19th C. 11.30 a.m.  MAP

The following account departs from the established pattern in more ways than one. Firstly, it does not name the witness, merely giving a foreshortened 'Mrs W-'. Nor is it set in the era of motorised transport, but some time in the 19th Century. Finally - and the chief reason for its inclusion here - is that the familiar scenario of a road-crossing phantom takes place in broad daylight!

It was a very cold October day when Mrs W- had her experience. She was driving in a 'dog cart' with a friend, and had just began to ascend Wembdon Hill ("the only hill in this town"), when their horse, a mare, slowed, coming to a full stop several times. Mrs W flicked the whip, and remarked jovially, "It is a case of Balaam and his ass again." At that moment, with the words hardly said, that "the strangest apparition glided down a steep path, crossed the road and disappeared through a gate on the left." 

The figure wore a high-waisted muslin dress, and a white silk shawl over her head. 

"As she passed through the gate," said Mrs W, "she seemed to stare straight at me with a horrible look on her face."

The horse reared until the figure had crossed over the road, and then galloped up the hill before she allowed herself to be pulled up. Mrs W-'s companion had fainted from the experience, while Mrs W herself was relieved that they hadn't been killed in the horse's bolt.

Later, Mrs W made some inquiries, and discovered that about 80 years previously, when a house was being built, a skeleton of a man had been discovered who had apparently been murdered by his wife. 

Although Mrs W afterward passed the spot many times, she never saw the woman again.

Source(s): Paul White (compiler), Classic West Country Ghost Stories (Tor Mark Press, Redruth, 1996), p.21 ('A Bridgwater ghost').

In September 2003, I received an e-mail from Clive Kett, who lives in Wembdon. Clive mentioned that a friend of his lives around 100 yards from the location of the above sighting and has had the apparition in his house! His father apparently saw it many years ago ago. The lady in question is said to appear in a white crinoline dress. 

The original structure of the house is very old, 15th century or older, and is on the site of a much older Holy Well, after which the house takes its name.

Clive had this to say about the 19th century sighting: "The account of the lady in the dog cart is all the more remarkable because if she was coming up the hill the road from the right is at the top of the hill opposite the well!"

Clive directed me to a website called old-maps.co.uk, which allows viewing of a map of Wembdon Hill in 1890 [this, and an aerial view of the location, is viewable via the links below].

"Holy Well is shown on the right-hand side of the road," said CIive."That is the name of the original house from the 15th century, or earlier. The well is actually on the left-hand side coming up the hill. The house named Holy Well is supposed to have been 'visited' on a number of occasions, though not for many years. According to my friend who lives there, there have been a few odd things over the years. We are trying to date an ancient wooden window, which was found bricked up, strangely at waist height, which bears out some previously unexplained things. An ex-member of BBC's Time Team is helping us. The fact that next door is a very old pub - the deeds going back to 1743 have just come to light this week, tends to also link in with it being a pilgrims' rendezvous. We believe that the pub also dates back beyond this. A hundred yards further on is a 6th century burial ground. A very spooky area indeed."

The connection with the holy well is significant, which makes sense within the context of road ghosts appearing at locations where roads intersect areas of one-time reverence. The very name in this case suggests that this area of Wembdon was a likely place of pilgrimage, as Clive suggests, and quite probably due to belief in earlier times in the healing properties of the waters - the miraculous nature of which were often associated with a saint. But prior to their Christianisation, in Roman and pre-Roman times, wells and springs were often revered as the abode of elemental spirits (commonly 'white lady' apparitions) and deities, or were regarded as a conduit to the underworld, and were thus reputed to be places conducive to prophecy and divination.

The chicken-and-egg question is whether the apparitional sightings associated with these locations come about as a result of some intrinsic property of the site that was there all along, which came to be recognised and interpreted in various ways down the centuries; or whether it is the time-honoured idea of sanctity or otherworldliness that gives rise to phenomena that somehow are capable of enduring independently to impact on unknowing later generations of witnesses, long after the original associations or even knowledge of the sites has faded from living memory.

Map source: www.old-maps.co.uk:

Wembdon Map 1890           Wembdon - Aerial view

 

Lower Stoke

Location: A228, Lower Stoke (Kent) 

Date/Time: c. 4 a.m.   MAP

A228 nr. Lower StokeNot far from London, relatively speaking, and minutes by car from Chatham and the Medway towns, the low-lying marshy expanse of the Hoo Peninsula and Isle of Grain seems lonely and remote - and never more so than in the darkness and stillness of the early hours. 

Lee and Patricia Findley's experience took place "around twenty years ago". It was 4 a.m., and the couple were heading home to the village of Lower Stoke along the A228, here a two-lane road that meanders lazily between open fields.

Lee was driving, while his wife slept in the passenger seat. In the vicinity of Mackay's Farm, Lee suddenly saw a figure ahead in the otherwise deserted road. Braking, but too late to avert a collision, the car passed through the spot where the figure stood with no discernable sense of an impact. Awakened by the manoeuvre, Patricia asked what had happened. Too spooked to get out of the car, the couple checked about as best they could for the figure - which was not to be found - before hurrying on their way.

Source(s): Personal interview with witnesses.

 

Thoulstone 

Location: A36 Thoulstone (Wiltshire) 

Date/Time: March or April 2002. c. 11 p.m.   MAP

Approach to the Dead Maids intersection, A36 Thoulstone (Wiltshire) (June 2003)Lisa Doughty's account - one of the few to reach me for 2002 - took place in March or April, whilst she and a companion were making their way back to Bath from Southampton after visiting Lisa's family. It is a journey she has made 'hundreds of times. This particular Friday night, however, the usually uneventful journey was broken by an unusual experience on the A36 two miles from Warminster, near a place known as...Dead Maid's Farm.

Here, in Lisa's own words, is her story:

"I was late leaving Southampton, and it was about 11 p.m. on a Friday night. I was driving along the A36 with a companion, and it was raining quite heavily. I was going about 40-45 mph. I was aware of my speed because of the bad weather and I was approaching a speed camera. 

"The incident occurred on the A36, westbound, just before the turn-off for Dilton Marsh. I saw a figure in front of the car. I immediately thought it was an old man. He was wearing what seemed to be some kind of old grey robe with a loose hood. I swerved to miss him but I was too close and I saw him in front of the car. But there was no impact, and as I slowed to check there was nothing behind me; and I was really too freaked out to stop. "My passenger also saw this. This all happened in the space of a few seconds, but it is still very clear in my mind."

A36 Dead Maids crossroads intersection (June 2003)Deam Maids Farm © Chris Holder

Further correspondence with the witness confirmed the location to be around '100 yards' before Dead Maid's Farm. Those who visit the site via the MAP link (zoom out) should note the proximity of Black Dog Woods to the Dead Maid's Farm section of the A36 - which suggests an area steeped in ghostly legend and perhaps experiential history.

Dead Maids Farm According to local legend, a farmer's daughter took her own life after a duel between two suitors left them both dead. As a suicide, she was buried in what would have been a customarily unconsecrated grave at the crossroads - hence the name that persists here to this day. Whether any such remains (or for any other burial) have ever been found at the site to support the story I do not know (the most recent opportunity, of course, being the construction of the current A36). However, we might  speculate that the apparitional encounter(s) here could be related to such practices or traditions. Or, for the diehard romantics amongst us, that Lisa Doughty's sighting might have been the maid's father or one of her suitors, crossing the road between the farm and her place of burial.

My visit at Dead Maids on June 22 was too short to establish any context of other possible encounters in the vicinity of the Dead Maids intersection, or to ascertain whether there is any extant memorial to her (as suggested by 'Dead Maid's Cross' - or this a reference simply to the crossroads itself?). Any further information from readers, therefore, will be very welcome. Please to email any information to Roadghosts.com.

Source(s): Personal correspondence with witness. Thanks to Martin Jeffrey, Editor of Mysterymag.com, for the initial contact, and to Chris Holder for providing a correct picture of Dead Maids Farm.

 

Bredhurst

Location: The Street, Bredhurst (Kent) 

Date/Time: June or July 2002. c. 11.45 p.m. - 12.00 a.m.  MAP

I am constantly amazed at the remarkable consistency exhibited by road ghost encounters. Since my first tentative identification of a pattern in relation to what I dubbed the 'knock down scenario' at Blue Bell Hill, Kent (also known variously as the 'Spectral Jaywalker', 'non-existent road accident', ‘phantom road accident’, or 'suicide simulation'), it has been borne out again and again in other cases, to the extent that it might be regarded as a definite, 'watched for' feature of the type. The repetition of behaviour, conditions, timing, even the often uniform descriptions of these night-walking phantoms across so many locations, has led me (as this site demonstrates) to look beyond popular and time-honoured interpretations (which see them rather straightforwardly as the restless,  purposeful spirits of the dead) to other, no less fascinating, areas in search of an 'explanation'. 

Such a pattern may appear to be broken somewhat by the account that follows, but as will be discussed shortly afterward, there remain one or two elements that re-ground it squarely in the 'no-man's land' betwixt 'reality' and 'folklore' that characterizes so many other encounters. 

The Bell pub (l) and school (r) on The Street, Bredhurst, Kent, - scene of Samantha Harrison's startling encounter in 2002.Bredhurst is a small, attractive village  situated atop the North Downs in Kent, just 3 miles (and one junction of the M2 motorway) east of Blue Bell Hill. 

For those intent on the 'scenic route' from Maidstone to the Medway Towns, the twisting climb through woodland at Boxley Hill and the expansive, green vistas of farmland and field toward Bredhurst offer a refreshing alternative to the traffic-laden dual carriageway of the A229 at Blue Bell Hill. 

Late at night such benefits are of course lost, but for 19-year-old Samantha Harrison and friends this was never a consideration. On the other side of Bredhurst, the road hopped conveniently over the M2 to provide a short-cut to their destination of Rainham, avoiding the streets of Chatham and Gillingham. 

Over to Samantha:

"About 2-3 months ago [on a weekday night], I was with three of my friends [one female, and two males], driving home late one night (approximately 11.45 - 12 midnight) - from the Malta Inn at Maidstone.

"I was driving up Boxley Hill and, coming into Bredhurst between the School and The Bell pub, I saw a little boy on the pub side of the road step out in front of my car.  He was about 4 or 5 years old with blonde hair and wearing a black jumper & black tracksuit bottoms.  What stood out the most were his brilliant white trainers.  He was on his own.

"When I saw him on the pavement, I thought he was 'real'. However, as he stepped into the road [he was facing the school, and seemed unaware of the approaching car, showing no reaction], I panicked, thinking I was going to hit him, None of my passengers saw him. [But] there was no collision and when I looked in my rear view mirror, there was nothing or no-one there.

"I carried on and took my various passengers home and was heading to my house in Rainham - on my own. As I drove down ____ Drive, I had the feeling someone was in my car, so I looked in my mirror.  There was no-one there but the boy's brilliant white trainers were on my parcel shelf! [When she arrived  home, Samantha turned around, only to find the shelf empty.]

"The next morning, I was warming my car up; whilst waiting for the engine to get warm, I was sending a text message to my friend, telling her about the trainers on the parcel shelf, when I heard a young voice call my name. I looked around and there was no-one else around!

"Two days later, driving back once again from the Malta Inn - around the same time as the first occasion, I suddenly got an uneasy feeling and I told my friend [the only other occupant of the car on this occasion] to lock the door.  She herself wouldn't look at the road as she was scared.  My heart sank as I saw the same little boy, in the same spot, wearing the same clothes - this time not only did I see him but I heard him scream as well.  As his scream stopped, he vanished and I was left shaken and tears were running down my face although I wasn't crying."

Source(s): Personal correspondence with witness.

The details of this account depart from commonality in three respects: in the judged age of the 'ghost', the elaboration of the training shoes, and in the extended 'next day' sense of presence and voice. 

The young age of the boy is unusual in these cases, but there are precedents. On 14 March 2000 the Western Daily Press published a letter sent in to psychic Craig Hamilton-Parker by a Mrs R K of Weston-super-Mare. It read: 

"I was out walking my dog in the pouring winter rain when a young boy of about eight or nine appeared in front of me.

"It was as if he came out of nowhere. To my surprise he was wearing summer clothes. He looked at me and said: "My dad used to take me across this road before it was a dual carriageway. But that was before I died."

"Then, to my astonishment, he disappeared in front of my eyes. I discovered later that a young boy had been killed at that spot many years ago, before the new road had been built."

And then there is the experience of Mae Doria in Oklahoma, USA,  in the winter of 1965. Ms Doria was driving along Highway 20 east of Claremore when she stopped to pick up a boy of around eleven or twelve years of age. Chatting throughout the journey, the boy asked to get out at Pryor, near a culvert. Since the area was devoid of houses, Ms Doria asked the boy where he lived, to which he replied 'over there'. When she turned her head to look, the boy vanished. In like manner to other witnesses, she stopped the vehicle immediately to check around the vehicle and up and down the highway, without success. Two years later she learned that a phantom boy Hitch-Hiker had been picked up at the same spot as long ago as 1936. (see Janet & Colin Bord, Modern Mysteries of the World: Strange Events of the Twentieth Century (Grafton, 1989), pp.86-87; Charles Berlitz's World of Strange Phenomena, Vol.1: Mysterious and Incredible Facts (Sphere, 1989), p.157).

One can only hope, considering the very modern trappings  - the bright new trainers - of the Bredhurst boy, that any association with a possibly real tragedy is not borne out in this case. The school, I noted from a quick web check, caters for four to eleven-year-olds.

As for the training shoes on the back parcel shelf of Samantha Harrison's car, we can look to Phantom Hitch-Hiker lore to find familiarity. Previously published work of mine ('Hit and Myth' (in 'Road Ghosts'), Fortean Times 73, February/March 1994, pp.27-31) and this site have demonstrated the close sharing of conventions between Phantom Hitch-Hiker cases and these 'Spectral Jaywalker' ones. In the case of the romanticized PHH story, the phantom (after vanishing from the back seat of the vehicle) typically leaves a personal item as proof of the reality of the event and key to their identity (see Proof items). 

Furthermore, the 'presence' and child's voice the next morning (and later, the boy's scream) is reminiscent of the continuing presence and screaming departure of the phantom witnessed by Anton Le Grange in the Uniondale case.

I leave it for the reader to decide: the tragic shade of a young boy trying to impart to a sensitive soul the circumstances of his death? Or a somewhat novel variation on the familiar theme, which plays according to our expectations of a connection with tragedy, but whose true nature and motive (as indicated by certain repetitive features: the fair hair, the typical time-frame and 'set-piece' or scripted character of the encounter) remains unclear?

 

One Tree Hill

Location: One Tree Hill, Langdon Hills, nr. Basildon (Essex) 

Date/Time: 25 January or 1 February 2003. c. 11.45 a.m.  MAP

Langdon Hills Country Park sign, One Tree HillOne Tree Hill - formerly Bennitts Hill - is said to take its name from a single large ash tree which stood at the top until blown down in a gale at around the time of the First World War. Today the hill falls within the boundaries of Langdon Hills Country Park - a welcome 400 acre expanse of hilltop pasture and woodland immediately to the south of Laindon and Basildon. 

Langdon, known from Saxon times simply means 'Long Hill' - a 385 ft high crescent-shaped ridge which extends from Dunton to Vange, from which stunning panoramic views can be had, extending from the seaside town of Southend in the east, across the Thames Estuary toward Kent (south), and on to London (west). 

Meadow vista of Langdon Hills Country Park, One Tree Hill (March 2003)The hill itself, which can be accessed from the A13 via the B1007 and Dry Street, or by following the signpost from the Five Bells A13 roundabout, preserves ancient woodlands which, in spring, are carpetted with bluebells. Rich also with meadows of colourful flowers, the park in spring and summer presents a serene and welcoming face to visitors, who come to walk, ride, or to spot the 50-plus species of breeding birds and 28 species of butterfly to which the park is home.

Woodland facing east toward crest of One Tree Hill (March 2003). Little over a month before, at 6.30pm, Lisa H and family were driving toward the camera position, moments away from their encounter near Dry Street Memorial Church.

After dark, however, the same terrain - broken only by the narrow tarmac road that links Dry Street to the A13 -  can take on a different character: lonely, remote-seeming; uninviting. 

Even so, for Lisa H and her husband, this had never stood in the way of their choosing this route home, which they had travelled "a thousand times before", by day and by night.

Neither had any reason to think that the early evening of one Saturday in late January or early February 2003 would be any different as they crested One Tree Hill, heading northward toward Dry Street.

It was a dry, clear night, around 6.30 p.m. They were travelling with headlights on full beam as they emerged from the strip of woodland toward Dry Street Memorial Church. Their two sons were in the back, and were also to be witnesses to what they would very soon encounter.

The S-bend nr Dry Street Memorial Church, One Tree Hill - scene of Lisa H and family's 2003 encounter. Dry Street Memorial Church is located beyond the hedgerow at right of frame, where the rear of the author's car is just visible in the church carpark.During daylight hours, the land here opens out on both sides to spacious fields on both sides. The road is flanked by hedgerows as it commences a series of sinuous bends before it joins Dry Street. Consequently, they had reduced their speed to around 20 mph. 

As they entered the final bend (pictured right), they all noticed a very unusual 'figure' in the road ahead. "It was about a foot long," said Lisa, "self-illuminated, and of a white-grey in colour. It was not a shape you could describe, not a human or animal shape. It was just 'bobbing' on the spot, as if it was content on being there. When it noticed us, it darted off towards the church, where it vaporised completely."

Lisa's and her family's reaction to the sighting was not so much one of fear as wonderment. "We were all in amazement, as you can can guess, as not everybody is privileged as to have a sighting."

Dry Street Memorial Church, One Tree Hill.'Explanations' are always difficult to arrive at, but traditional ones are never far away. Mr H subsequently spoke to lady who lived in Dry Street in the 1930s and 1940s who said that a woman had been killed by a car along that stretch of road. And a colleague reported that a friend of his girlfriend's had seen a "lady" at the same spot.

 

Like the correspondent and her husband, my Internet searches likewise produced no directly related material that might shed further light on their encounter. Later, it occurred to me that Roadghosts.com itself records a similar account from the same county. In 1969, the landlord of the Five Bells public house, Vange, had seen something very similar travelling down the A13. A quick computer map study revealed that the scene of this incident on One Tree Hill is only 0.85 of a mile (as the crow flies)  from the Five Bells pub (now a Harvester Restaurant, Bells Hill Road) - which is less than, for instance, the spread of sightings of Blue Bell Hill's ghost. A subsequent visit to both areas (2 March) only reinforced the sense of a connection between these ghost sightings. 

The 'ghost' in many cases is often also associated with linear and boundary features in the landscape, whether physical  (e.g. natural ones - hills, rivers/streams; or human-defined - roads, bridges, etc.) or  notional (e.g. county/parish boundaries) in apparent conformity to the concept of liminality. What better than the natural ridge of the Langdon Hills outlier that flattens out in the direction of All Saints Church (London Road), Vange (possibly the oldest church in the Basildon District), from where the 1969 phantom was seen to travel (toward Five Bells, where it turned south toward Fobbing)? In terms of notional boundaries, I noted that the boundary between Thurrock UA (Unitary Authority) and Essex proper touches the road at the scene at One Tree Hill. Remarkably, this same boundary crosses the A13 at Five Bells and the railway level crossing along the southward line of High Street, Fobbing. In other words, the 'ghost' witnessed by John Howard, landlord of the Five Bells pub in 1969, deflected southward at the invisible Thurrock boundary and followed it southward!   

Why 'ghosts' seem often to appear at these sites is a little complex, but basically seems to be because they appear to inhabit the boundaries of both space and perception - seen often at remote lonely spots at extreme times (the hours around midnight (the conceptual boundary separating one day from the next according to the western reckoning) / at dusk or before dawn / winter rather than summer), and often to lone drivers, who often as not are in the 'boundary' mind-state of 'autopilot' - driving habitually along familiar routes, with the unconscious rather than conscious mind in control of the car). And of course, not overlooking the obvious, ghosts are associated with the ultimate boundary or threshold - that separating Life from Death - so often recalled at these sites by memories or legends of tragedies, or by the close proximity of cemeteries/crematoria or other features of a remindful funereal or memorial character. Where a number of these characteristics overlap - and where a road passes through - it seems there is a real possibility of finding ghostly traditions if not reports of road ghosts.

Do you have any news regarding similar encounters in the Langdon Hills area?  Please to email any information to Roadghosts.com.

Source(s): Personal correspondence with witness. 

 

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