Introduction & Overview

1. ‘Coach driver’s ghostly collision’, by Sally Yonish, Kentish Express (a Kent Messenger group newspaper), 13 January 2000, p.3.

2. Both witnesses were/are coach drivers, one year different in age at the time of their encounter (Sharpe, 54; Scales, 53), and each with over thirty years’ driving experience (Sharpe, 33; Scales, 32). Sharpe: "When I walked into the station my face was white and I was shaking like a leaf." (Kent Today, 10 November 1992); Scales: "I was shaking like a leaf." (Sally Yonish, it should be noted was completely unaware of Blue Bell Hill’s repute and its coverage by the Kent Messenger and Kent Today, and was surprised by the close comparison her report bore to Ian Sharpe’s account. Considering the description of the girl (allowing for her estimated age) and the setting itself: Blue Bell Hill, White Hill - both lying on the same chalk ridge (and horizon) of the North Downs of Kent allows for some speculation that we may be dealing with the same figure? (Indeed, the possibility exists that the same archetypal figure is involved wherever and whenever ‘she’ appears).

3. 'Ghost Girl Seen Again', by Emma Cooper, Kent Today (a Kent Messenger group newspaper), 10 November 1992, fp.

4. Emma Cooper subsequently provided a description (very probably taken from the TVS (Television South) broadcast of 11 November) in her article for the Kent Messenger of 13 November 1992 ('Terror as ghost girl reappears', p.3). Included is a detail not produced elsewhere - that the girl had been wearing a white coat.

5. ''Ghost looked me in the face'' says teenage driver', by Helen Sissons, Kent Today, 24 November 1992, p.2. (The follow-up versions appearing in Kent Today (23 Nov.) and Kent Messenger (27 Nov.).

6. Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers (Yorkshire Television - 'Ghosts, Apparitions and Haunted houses').

7. ‘The Scariest Stories on Earth’, Daily Mirror, 4 September 1996.

8. 'Hit and Myth', Fortean Times 73 (February/March 1994), pp.27-31; 'Hell's Belles', Fortean Times 104, November 1997, pp.36-40; ‘Los fantasmas de Blue Bell Hill’, Enigmas 12 (Spain), December 2000, pp.8-13.

9. The Evidence for Phantom Hitch-Hikers (The Aquarian Press, 1984).

10.  Originally published in Zürich in 1569. First English translation 1572, by Henry Benneyman (London) for Richard Watkyns. Source here: Lavater, The First Part (Oxford edition), p.96; extracted here from Goss, extracted from Goss, Michael, The Evidence for Phantom Hitch-Hikers (The Aquarian Press, 1984), p.128. See the full translation of Ludwig (or Lewes or Louis) Lavater’s work in the Oxford University Press edition, 1929 (Ed J Dover Wilson and Mary Yardley). Lavater was the Chief Pastor of the Calvinist Church of Zürich. It was his belief that ghosts were a genuine phenomenon. However, he denied that they were the spirits of the dead; but were, rather, the work of demons.

11. The Secret Commonwealth, by Robert Kirk, is available as a reprint from Element Books (Robert Kirk: Walker Between Worlds, by R.J. Stewart, 1996).

12.  P.C. Jacob, Curiosites Infernales (Garnier, Paris, 1886).

13. A number of supernatural entities of Celtic, European, or world folklore find familiarity with Blue Bell Hill's ghost and the Phantom Hitch-hiker in general. For instance, in classical mythology, we find the nymphs - spirits of nature who were envisaged as young, beautiful women. The nymphs possessed the power of prophecy, and were generally kindly toward humans, though they could also be dangerous. Various classes of nymph have been distinguished: dryads and hamadryads (tree nymphs, who often accompanied Apollo, Hermes, Pan and the Satyrs (see point 31.)); naiads (nymphs of lakes, rivers, and springs); oreads (nymphs of mountains and hills); and the oceanids and nereids (nymphs of the ocean, and the mermaids, respectively). Maria Leach and Jerome Fried (eds.), in their Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend (HarperSanFranciso, 1984, p.806), note that the nymphs probably developed into the fairies of general European folklore (see also point 39, and below). On the darker side, there are variations in the character of the hag in the Cailleach Beará of Irish and Scottish folklore; and in the Cailleach Bheur, in some versions a loathly lady who transforms herself into a beautiful young woman as a reward to kind-hearted young men (a variation reflected in the Irish Feast of Tara, at which the Irish high king would unite with the goddess of sovereignty at a Hallowe'en ritual, tales surrounding which describe the goddess transforming from a hideous hag into a beautiful girl once the union had taken place). The Cailleach as goddess is, of course, in keeping with the idea that Blue Bell Hill, like many other sites distinguished by Neolithic artefacts, was a place held sacred by their builders. We can also note that the same may have been recognized by the Romans, as evidenced by the remains of a temple near its summit. It would be interesting to discover to whom of Rome’s pantheon of gods and goddesses the temple was dedicated. And then we have the bean nighe, also of Ireland and Scotland - the Washer of the Ford, an ugly hag that sometimes appeared in the guise of a beautiful young woman, and who, akin to the banshee (bean sidhe, the 'woman of the fairies' (or ‘woman of the hill’), similarly a hag or a young woman in guise), portended death by her appearance. In some descriptions of the banshee, we find an an old woman with glowing red eyes (from the constant weeping) set in hollow sockets, with long flowing white hair (compare to the blonde hair of Blue Bell Hill’s hag, as described by Diane Rayburn). In European lore, there are the Rusalka, water spirit of Slavic lore said to be the spirit of a dead female (in some parts, a bride who died on her wedding night) who, like the Sirens of Greek mythology, lure men their drowning by sweet song; the Vila, another hostile spirit of Slavic lore, the spirit of an unbaptised child or an earthbound virgin. The vila dances in circles, condemning any who disturb them to join them unto death; the Nocnitsa, a hag of Eastern European lore; the Berchta, an ugly old woman of German folklore, thought to have originally been a goddess (the German equivalent of the Cailleach); the nix, a German equivalent of the Rusalka; the acheri of Native American lore; the anhanga of the Brazilian Amazon, and so on. As a final aside, it is interesting to note that powers of prophecy are most commonly attributed to the darker (and by time-honoured interpretation, evil) characters of this lore, frequently old crones wizened by age, much like the Version B/D Phantom Hitch-Hiker in some examples.

14. A character also reflected in Phantom Hitch-Hiker lore, as a dark and prophesying old woman - the Version B type (of four), where the young woman comprises Versions A and C. See Richard K. Beardsley and Rosalie Hankey: 'The Vanishing Hitchhiker', California Folklore Quarterly, Vol.1 (October 1942), No.4, pp.303-335.

15. ‘Drivers Spooked by By-pass Ghost’, by Tommy Walls, Sunday Life, 29 March 1992.

16. An ‘explanatory’ anecdote, no doubt, of the kind we have come to expect.

17. See Man and his Symbols, edited by Carl Jung and M.L. von Franz (Picador, 1983). Jung recognized that the unconscious of the individual often presents itself symbolically in dreams as a figure. This figure, which Jung stressed was not an invention of the conscious mind, but a spontaneous product of the unconscious (in other words, an archetype) he termed anima or animus. Which is encountered depends on whether the dreamer is a man or a woman. For a man, the personification of his unconscious is in the form of a female figure (‘anima’). For a woman, the converse is true; her unconscious is reflected as a male figure (‘animus’). The anima/animus is seen as the embodiment of all the complementary psychological tendencies of the opposing gender found in a healthy, balanced psyche. It is, Jung observed, a ‘psychopomp’ - a mediator between the conscious and the unconscious.

In view of the above, it is surely significant that in both PHH lore and the encounter record the majority of encounters of any type involve (lone) male drivers and female ‘ghosts’ - the anima manifesting in the context of the conducive hypnotic state that is night-driving?

In its recognized ‘demonic’ form, the anima takes on the form of an ugly and malevolent witch, experienced by some as the night-mare of the ‘Old Hag’ experience.

The Phantom Hitch-Hiker

1. Otherwise known as Urban Myths, Whale Tumour Stories, or Friend-of-a-Friend stories.

2. 1. Michael Goss, The Evidence for Phantom Hitch-Hikers (The Aquarian Press, 1984), p.13.

3. Jan Harold Brunvand, The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and their Meanings (W.W. Norton & Co., 1981); also (Picador (published by Pan Books), 1983).

4. Richard K. Beardsley and Rosalie Hankey: 'The Vanishing Hitchhiker', California Folklore Quarterly, Vol.1 (October 1942), No.4, pp.303-335.

The Ghost of Blue Bell Hill

* Real name withheld

1. 'Ghost Girl Seen Again', by Emma Cooper, Kent Today (a Kent Messenger group newspaper), 10 November 1992, fp.

2. Quoted from Ian Sharpe's testimony on 'Ghost?', a feature on TVS's regional news programme Coast to Coast, broadcast on 11 November 1992.

3. Sources disagree as to whether Maurice Goodenough covered his victim with (or wrapped her in) a tartan car rug (Nigel Nelson's articles for the Evening Post, 19 July 1974; Kent Messenger, 26 July 1974), or a car blanket (all other sources: The News of the World, 14 July 1974; Sunday Mirror, 14 July 1974; Sunday People, 14 July 1974; Evening Post, 15 July 1974; Chatham Standard, 16 July 1974; The Gazette, 16 July 1974; Chatham News, 19 July 1974; Kent Messenger, 19 July 1974; Kent Messenger, 30 August 1974).

* Nelson's articles actually use both terms to describe the coverlet.

4. Sources also disagree as to whether the Goodenough incident took place just before midnight (Chatham Standard, 16 July 1974; Chatham News, 19 July 1974; Evening Post, 19 July 1974; Kent Messenger, 26 July 1974) or soon after midnight (Evening Post, 15 July 1974; The Gazette, 16 July 1974; Kent Messenger, 19 July 1974). For the record, The News of the World, 14 July 1974 states 'at midnight'.

5. Quote from: ''Ghost' mystery of injured girl', Chatham Standard, 16 July 1974, back page; Chatham News ('Riddle of injured girl who 'disappeared'', 19 July 1974, p.20) - apparently sourced from the Chatham Standard - states also that the collision was 'with a hell of a bang'.

6. 'Riddle of the phantom on death hill', The News of the World, Sunday 14 July 1974, p.5.

7. Chatham Standard; Chatham News, Ibid.

8. The search employed a single tracker dog, rather than the reported dogs (a fact established by Michael Goss through correspondence with the Kent County Constabulary (dated 19 February 1980)).

9. As 7.

10. As 6.

11. 'Maidstone Comment', by District Editor Roy Plascott, Kent Messenger, Friday 8 December 1967, p.3; 'Hitch-hiking spirit' (in 'Talk of the Town'), by Roy Plascott, Kent Messenger, Friday 10 May 1968, p.3.

12. The News of the World, 14 July 1974, p.5: 'Riddle of the phantom on death hill'; Sunday Mirror, 14 July 1974, p.13: 'Ghost on the A229..'; Sunday People, 14 July 1974, p.9: ''Ghost Walks' After Crash'.

13. 'Girls die in wedding eve smash', by Peter Rimmer, Maidstone Gazette, 23 November 1965, fp.

14. An inset picture of Judith Lingham appears on the front page of the Maidstone Gazette (23 November 1965), while Patricia Ferguson's picture accompanies front page reports by the Chatham News (26 November 1965) and the Chatham Standard (23 November 1965), the latter of which also features an upper torso shot of Judith.

15. Maurice Goodenough is reputed to have later moved to the West Country (The Sun, 26 November 1992).

16. Ted Wright, One Dog and Her Man: The Life of Police Dog Bess (Meresborough Books, 1992), pp.68-69.

17. This detail obviously differs significantly over the press versions of the incident, although it is perhaps consistent with a collision with a vehicle at a fair speed. Having said that, a person thrown clear over a vehicle in this manner would surely have sustained injuries too severe to allow speedy egress from the scene or to avoid proper medical attention. Unless, of course, she was a ghost! A similar case involving a phantom road accident victim that was thrown over the top of the car is recounted in Chapter 9 (the experience of Peter Leslie).

18. Unless, of course, it had rained and stopped before Ted Wright's arrival.

19. Placing the injured girl on the blanket rather than covering her with it would make more sense if she were being left there while the driver was off seeking help, particularly if the ground was damp.

While on the subject of car blankets, it is interesting to note that one features in Beardsley and Hankey's leading story of a Phantom Hitch-Hiker in their paper 'The Vanishing Hitchhiker' for the California Folklore Quarterly (Volume 1 No.4 (October 1942), pp.303-335). In this, set in San Francisco, a girl picked up by two men on a street corner on a bitingly cold and wet night is wrapped in a car blanket. Giving her mother's address near Twin Peaks, they set out, only to discover that the girl has vanished during the journey. Investigating the possibility that she has slipped down in the back seat, all they find there is the crumpled blanket.

20. ''Ghost looked me in the face'' says teenage driver', by Helen Sissons, Kent Today, 24 November 1992, p.2. (The follow-up versions appearing in Kent Today (23 Nov.) and Kent Messenger (27 Nov.).

21. Out Of This World (1994). Broadcast at 9.30 p.m. on 7 October 1994 (BBC1).

22. In 1965, at least, Chatham had two cinemas: the Ritz, and the ABC. Whether today the Cannon Cinema at 385 High St, Chatham, stands in place of one of these, I do not know. In any case, what value an identification of the location where Mr Skene dropped of his passenger might have is difficult to say.

BBH: Background & Setting

1. Michael Goss, The Evidence for Phantom Hitch-Hikers (The Aquarian Press, 1984).

2. Goss, Ibid., p.102.

3. 'Maidstone Comment', by Roy Plascott, Kent Messenger, 8 December 1967, p.3; 'Hitch-hiking spirit' ('Talk of the Town'), by Roy Plascott, Kent Messenger, 10 May 1968, p.3; 'Riddle of the phantom girl', Evening Post, 9 September 1968, p.3.

4. 'Have you met the ghostly hitch-hiker?', The Gazette (Maidstone), 10 September 1968, p.3.

5. Ibid.

6. A figure that would increase to 14 by 1974 ('Spectre of Bluebell Hill', by Nigel Nelson, Kent Messenger, 26 July 1974, p.8).

7. Goss, Ibid., p.120.

8. Goss, Ibid., p.107.

9. 'Maidstone Comment', by Roy Plascott, Kent Messenger, 8 December 1967, p.3.

10. Goss, Ibid., p.108.

11. Or Gillingham or Rochester.

12. An observation made by author Joan Forman in her The Haunted South ((first published in Great Britain by Robert Hale Ltd, 1978); Jarrold Colour Publications, 1989), p.17, and referred to by Goss (p. 108).

13. There have, to my knowledge, been four Maidstone-based researchers (including myself) who have investigated the Blue Bell Hill case. The others are: Tom Harber, Dennis Chambers, and David Thomas.

14. The car was, in fact, heading south towards Maidstone.

15. The bride-to-be was not from Maidstone, but was staying in Gillingham just prior to the wedding. However, the fact that she was staying in Gillingham and heading towards Maidstone on the night of the accident satisfies this interpretation just as well.

16. The Electoral Register entry for this period suggests a second name preference by the witness as detailed in the article, the other (forename) here withheld.

17. 'Blue Bell Hill - the driver's nightmare!', Evening Post, 27 February 1969, p.5.

 

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