Thursday, 23 March 2017

Another Stocksbridge Bypass Anecdote

There are many videos of people wandering about in the dark around the Stocksbridge bypass taking photographs of "orbs". But I like this one by the SilverStarTrucker. He's chewing a brandysnap (so he tells us) which slightly impedes his rambling delivery. But he's quite right - why are so many empty cars parked in the layby? It's a mystery to me. More interestingly, he says:

"The western entrance to the famous Stocksbridge Bypass. It runs through that land, that used to be farmed by monks. And this layby.... that green cafeteria thing isn't open today because it's August bank holiday. But according to...  I spoke to this bloke [who works there?] and he was there all night. And the lorry driver pulled in down here somewhere, and went in there for a break, cup of tea and a sandwich, and the second lorry pulled in and said "You'd better come out here, mate - your lights are on and your doors are wide open and your radio's playing full blast." And he came out, and there was nobody around because it was very early in the morning. And I think I parked in here one night and slept in the cab. But I didn't notice anything."

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

People love a poltergeist. Hull, 1852.

A Haunted  House.

A marvellous sensation has been created in our town within the last few days by the discovery that a ghost has taken up its quarters, evidently for the winter season, in a secluded dwelling on the Anisby-road, where it is likely to obtain as great a notoriety as the celebrated Cock-Lane Ghost. Some little distance beyond the end of Walker-Street and Great Thornton-street, on the left hand side of the Anisby road, is a quiet lonely lane, known by the name of Wellington-lane, at the bottom of which stands the "haunted house" - a respectable looking tenement, occupied by an elderly bed-ridden dame, her son-in-law, and daughter, and a female domestic.

It seems about a month ago the inmates were startled in the stillness of the night by a sharp sudden knocking on the walls of the room from some invisible hand. At first no notice was taken of this, but to their great dismay, at irregular intervals, the same strange noise was repeated, a distinct knocking upon the wall being heard in the very appartment where they sat, and when no visible hand was raised to strike. For four successive weeks the noise was repeated, until the inmates grew seriously apprehensive that some supernatural agency was at work. Their fears were soon communicated to the neighbours, and speedily reached the public ear.

The love of the marvellous is the most powerful and easily raised passion of the mind, and on Wednesday not fewer than a thousand persons visited the spot, lingering in the neighbourhood and straining their ears to catch the sound of the modest ghost, who now and then indulges them with a colirary muffled rap tap, tap. For our own part we are really apprehensive for his ghostship's knuckles, which must suffer materially from such constant exercise.

Yesterday night, although it was dull, drizzly, and cold, crowd upon crowd beseiged the spot, standing, in spite of cold and wet, 100 yards from the haunted house, anxiously discussing the nature and object of the ghost's visit, and waiting to learn from the police, or those who were fortunate enough to get near the house, "when it had knocked last." One or two policement have been stationed in the house, with the view of detecting the cause; and although it is seriously affirmed that the strange noise is still heard at intervals, it baffles all ingenuity, even on the part of the vigilant detectives, to discover whence it proceeds.

Yesterday, two or three thousand persons visited the spot, many of whom lingered until nearly midnight, a detachment of police being present to preserve order. It is impossible to describe the sensation which has been created by the discovery of the affair, and credulity could hardly be carried further. The police declare that many would actually remain by the door of the house the whole of the  night if they would only permit them.

-- Hull Packet

reprinted in the Weston-super-mare Gazette, 30th October 1852.


A summary of the Wesley's poltergeisty "Epworth Ghost" in Lincolnshire

Mr Herbert Richards writes:--

The recent loud rappings heard in a house at Townshend, near Marazion, and known as the Townshend ghost, prompts me to send to The Cornishman an account of two or three strange events which appeared to be almost supernatural and very difficult to be explained.

[...] The Epworth Ghost.
While John Wesley was at school, disturbances occurred in his father's house at Epworth, so unaccountable, that every person by whom they were witnessed, believed them to be supernatural. At the latter end of the year 1715 a maid-servant was terrified of hearing at the dining-room door several dismal groans as of a person at the point of death. The family gave little heed to her story, and endeavoured to laugh her out of her tears; but shortly afterwards they began to hear strange knockings, usually three or four at a time, in different parts of the house. Every person heard these noises except Mr. Wesley himself, and as such sounds were not audible by the person to whom they foretold evil tidings, they refrained from telling him, lest he should suppose that it betokened his own death. At length the disturbances became so frequent that none of the family durst be alone, and Mrs. Wesley thought it better to tell her husband. Moreover, she was minded he should speak to it.

The noises were now various, loud rumblings above stairs and below; a clatter among a number of bottles, and footsteps as of a man going up and down stairs at all hours of the night; sounds like dancing in an empty room, the door of which was locked, and gobbling like a turkey-cock; a knocking about the beds at night.

Mrs Wesley first thought that the noises were occasioned by rats within doors, and mischievous persons without, or that some of her daughters sat up late and made a noise; and a hint that their lovers might have something to do with the mystery, made the young ladies hope that she might soon be convinced that there was more in the matter than she was disposed to believe. On the next night, therefore, about midnight, there were nine loud knocks, which seemed to be in the next room, with a pause at every third knock. Mr. Wesley rose and went to see if he could find the cause, but could perceive nothing. Still he thought it might be some person out of doors, and relied upon a stout dog to rid them of the nuisance. But the dog, which barked furiously at the first disturbance, was ever afterwards cowed by it, and seemed to be more terrified than any of the children. It came whining to his master, as if to seek protection. The manservant took the dog at night into his room as a companion and guard. As soon as the latch began to jar the dog crept into bed and howled, so much so as to alarm the whole house.

The fears of the family for Mr. Wesley's life were removed as soon as he had heard the noises. They apprehended that one of the sons had met with a violent death. Mr. Wesley, therefore, one night, after several deep groans had been heard, asked "it" to speak and tell him why it troubled the house. Upon this, three loud knockings were made. He then asked "it" if it were Samuel, his son, bidding it, if it were, to knock again, but to their great comfort there was no further knocking that night, and when they heard that Samuel was well, the goblin became more of a matter of amusement than of alarm. Emelia gave it the name of Old Jeffery, said to have been the name of a suicide at Epworth (The knockings at Townshend were said to be made by an old lady who died in the house long ago).


A horn was blown loudly in Mr. Wesley's house for half-a-day in order to drive away the goblin. From that day he came by day as well as night, and was louder than ever, and he never entered Mr Wesley's study till the owner called him a deaf and dumb devil, and bade him come to him in his study and cease to disturb innocent children. If it had anything to say, Jeffery took him at his word, and Mr. Wesley was thrice pushed by it with considerable force. the door was once violently pushed against Emelia when there was no person on the outside. The latches were often lifted, the windows clattered, before Jeffery entered a room, and the iron and brass jarred exceedingly, and it was observed that the wind rose after the noises. Mr. Wesley's trencher danced one day upon the table, and the handle of the hand[-] was one day turned round with great violence. Even the cat was very terrified at these noises, and whenever Mr. Wesley attempted to pray for the King and the Prince of Wales, the family prayers were disturbed by "Jeffery.

An excerpt from The Cornishman, 19th April, 1934.


Monday, 20 March 2017

Westmorland Gazette on a London mermaid

Another Mermaid of better manufacture than the former has just been brought to London, for exhibition. The cockneys swallowed the last tolerably for a while, we wonder how this will go down.  -- The Duke of Glouceseter has been to see it!
A Swiss Giantess, is now exhibiting in London, measuring six feet five inches high, and being proportionally stout.
The cockneys we understand are flocking in crowds to see  the invisible girl at the Lower Room, Spring Gardens.

Westmorland Gazette,  26th June, 1824.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Ghost Hunters: The Haunting of County Wicklow

This is my own transcription, but I've made it as accurate as possible. This episode was first broadcast in March 1997. I love Irish folklore and it's so tempting for me to think the veil's a bit thinner over there and ghosts, fairies and other strangeness seems more possible and plausible.


Michael: I was dozing off and suddenly I heard this sort of noise [bangs and clinks two mugs together] - this sort of stuff going on on the bedside table. A freezing feeling, I could feel the room actually freezing, I could feel a cold chill coming into it, and feel a tingle up my back. So I woke her up and she could hear the same thing going on, this movement. So I started to tell her, it was going for a few minutes, I started to tell her about some of the things that are happening here, you know, and then it stopped. And then you could hear this movement down on the floor of the bedroom. I said “Jees whatever is it playing with [indistinct] alarm clock. You could hear the clock being moved around. So I turned on the bedside light being quick, and there it was, over by the door, at ten to three in the morning, the clock on its side.

Narrator: Michael is a tough hard-working Irish farmer. He and his family have been working the Ballyphillip Farm in County Wicklow in the east of Ireland for over 50 years. The farm itself goes back much longer than that, over 350 years to the beginning of the 17th century. So it’s been through some of Ireland’s most troubled and turbulent times. There were three generations living in the farmhouse: the grandmother, Michael and his sister and a clutch of children. And all of them have been touched by the strange unexplained series of events that have been going on at the farmhouse for as long as anyone can remember. Eileen the sister for example, still has a vivid memory of an event that occurred way back in her childhood.

Eileen: I must have been about 13 at the time. I was going to bed and I hear this noise out here in the garden. And like, we’re a large family, so we’re used to big birthday parties with half the neighbourhood in. And I thought “That is strange, there shouldn’t be anybody here at this hour of the night.” Looking out the window, I was seeing it was like a mass of colours - all kind of swirling around like children at a big party. You could hear the laughter and the shapes, but I couldn’t really identify one particular shape as such. It was a like a big kaleidoscope of colours, you know, and laughter. I thought “That’s odd.” I didn’t think anything more of it, and years later -  I mean I didn’t really speak about it either, because I thought they’d send me to a mad house! - and years later, my other sister said she’s also experienced the same thing.

Narrator: Strangely enough, in more recent times a friend staying at the house claims to have seen a very similar event, as if it were a cluster of child dancing around a maypole.

Simon: Well about possibly 10 years ago I stayed down here regularly, and I got up about 1 o’clock, half one in the morning to go to the toilet, in that bathroom window there [he points], and I could see this silhouette of, it looked like children playing out in the garden and I could hear them. And I looked out the window and thought no more of it, went to bed, got up the next morning. And I said to my friend Connor, “I see Robert’s kids were out last night, playing for the party or whatever,” and he says “Oh no, they didn’t, they weren’t here last night. They weren’t staying in the area, and there’s no neighbours near us here.”

Narrator: More strangely still, during some construction work in the mid ‘80s when an old plum tree had to be dug out, they found tangled in its roots a large block of stone. It had a hole in the centre [something like a millstone is shown] as if it were the base for a pole - could it perhaps have been the site of an old maypole?  Indeed it was during this construction work, particularly the digging out and draining of a stream, that the strange unexplained activity in the house began to increase, to such an extent that nobody could avoid talking about it. A constant succession of small slightly disturbing events that nagged away at the mind. The sort of experience for example, that Michael’s mother had in her kitchen.

Michael: It was about half past nine, she heard these footsteps, running along down the landing and down the stairs, the front door opening, and slamming shut. And she ran into the dining room, so she could see up the avenue, and she didn’t see any of the family running up the road. And she thought, maybe it was one of the kids come back for some schoolbooks or something. So she phoned up the school, and they were all there at 9 o’clock. Later on that morning she was cooking the dinner and she felt something in the scullery. She happened to look around, she saw the lid... the potatoes were boiling and the lid was… maybe a foot above the pot and it just went gently back down again. And she was saying to us at dinnertime, she thought we might have a poltergeist in the house. And certainly my father said “Don’t be silly, things like that don’t happen you know, that’s only in the movies.” So dinner was just about over, I was waiting for the half one news to come on, my father was reading the Independent, I was reading the Irish Times and my mother was getting the coffee ready when suddenly all three of us could hear these footsteps going along the landing right over head. Our mother came charging into the kitchen saying “Now you heard that, it is true, I’m not imagining things.”

Eileen: My sister Christine was home once, and we’d leave the door between the bedrooms open in case something would happen, you know. So the door was left open, anyway, and she comes into me, “There’s a noise on the back stairs” you know. So I grab a stick or something, and the two of us were standing there. I said “Right, let’s get him now!” and at the top of the stairs there’s a doorway down, and we hear the footsteps. They’re like big, heavy, plodding footsteps coming up the stairs. Half way up, we open the door to catch whoever it is. We open the door - and nothing. That was common to hear these footsteps, you know.

Michael: My mother thought she saw a child at the end of her bed, and she sat up in the bed and she saw this child. And the child seemingly had wet curly hair, about 8, 9, 10 years old. It had a long old-fashioned nightgown on it, and my mother assumed it was my brother’s daughter, and said “Go back up to your own house, you shouldn’t be down here - your parents would be fuming if they knew you were out of bed.” And so with that, my mother lay down and was facing the wall. And suddenly the child came round to the side of the bed, and put his nose right down to my mother’s, and then smiled, and with that my mother turned towards my father in the bed… and just - my gosh what’s happening?

Narrator: The story of a boy with wet hair became a recurring theme, and it linked towards one of the strangest sequence of events that involve the children. Barra for example, Michael’s son, talked of playing around the house with a phantom child, a child who came to acquire the name of Thomas.
Sandra, childminder: It was absolutely lashing rain out there, really thundering rain, and Barra said to me (because the window of the curtain was over) and I was in the kitchen making the lunch. And he said to me, “There’s a small child outside and he’s really really wet, will you let him in?” and I said, “God it must be Sean (one of the nephews), I’ll go out and get him - he shouldn’t be out in the rain.” And I went to the window, and there was no one there. And he was really persistent, really getting into a temper about it. And I said “Ok, he’s run down the avenue there, so I’ll go out.” So I got an umbrella and one of Michael’s coats and I said I’ll go out. But there was no child there, but he was really persistent that there was a child there. And then he explained that he was about, he was a little bigger than him, but really really wet. And that’s when things really did start then.

Eileen: Now myself and my son lived in Denmark for several years and didn’t know of all these comings and goings of Thomas and god knows who else, you know. And I was out picking onions and little Sean was only three. He was playing away in the treehouse, and he came up to tell me all about Thomas. I said “Who is Thomas?!” but there was nobody actually in the treehouse, at all, so it was only later I discovered who he was - I didn’t encourage it! The treehouse playmate.

Sandra: We were sitting in the kitchen one day and we were at the table. I was doing drawing with Barra, Barra loves drawing. And I could feel this real cold breeze on my legs. And all the doors were closed, and the heating was on because it was a winter’s day. And it was really getting cold now, and Barra says “My friend’s under the table.” And I said “Oh, is he?” because at this stage I was thinking this could be an imaginary friend because children have this. Next minute the door flung open of the cupboard in the kitchen. And I said to Barra, “Tell your friend to close the door, because I’m not getting up to close it.” And he told him, and he said “Well he won’t.” And then it got real warm again, and then the child had obviously gone. So I said to Barra, “The next time your friend’s here, tell me, and I want to meet him.” So it was after lunch one day, and he came out and he goes, “Oh, my friend’s behind the sofa.” And he was laughing his heart away, like someone was tickling him. And I remember looking in, and I saw Barra (he always sits with his feet crossed) and I remember him sitting here on the carpet, and seeing a shadow of it was like a little boy, well I couldn’t tell it was a boy - it was like a little child.

Narrator: These strange events disturb Michael perhaps more than anyone else. And he began to dig into the history of the farm. He found that in the 1700s, it’d been owned by the Livesey family, and then towards the end of the 1800s it was handed over to a family called Mckee, and they did have a son called Thomas. The story in the village is that in 1902, Thomas, aged 10, was drowned in the river along the banks were Michael was carrying out his landscaping work. And in the churchyard there is a gravestone where the remains of young Thomas lie with those of the rest of the Mckee family.

Part Two:

 Narrator: All through the 80s, in a lonely farmhouse in County Wicklow where strange happenings went on, a whole series of out of the ordinary unexplained events. Not enough to alarm people, but enough to raise the question, “What on earth is going on?” And steadily the events became more obvious and more dramatic. There was the time for example, when after it’d been locked up securely, the whole house was found wide open with the television going full blast.

Michael: So when Sandra came in I told her this: “When I go out to work and you go up to the village with Flora her friend and with the kids, to make sure that she locks all the windows and doors.” So I came in for my 10 o’clock tea break, and every door and window downstairs was wide open. The radio was on and the television was on. I was actually very angry, I was fuming at Sandra for leaving it open like that when I’m telling how concerned I was.

Sandra: There was one time  - Michael was always telling me to lock all the doors when I was going out, and I had locked them all, and he [?] me when I came back, saying I hadn’t, but I’d locked every single one because my friend was with me.

Narrator: Things really came to a head when whatever force it was, that was active in the house, began to interfere with the children.

Michael: My wife had gone to work in Dublin and left in the car, maybe 7 o’clockish. So I was down here around half past seven with the kids getting their breakfast and having my own breakfast. I was waiting for Sandra the childminder to come in, and my youngest boy was playing on that seat over there. And he was trying to scramble up it, and suddenly it seemed that something had just pushed him off, and he landed right here on the floor beside me.

Sandra: I came in and Michael said that [his son] had been flung - at this stage you would really only be getting used to walking. But then my friend was over with her little daughter, and we were having a cup of coffee, and next minute [the son] and this little child just were flung up against the wall and that was the end of it... that wasn’t a child’s spirit, but he was a very evil spirit. Because if anything wants to hurt children it’s obviously evil.  So I got the two children up and we ran out, and I said to Michael, I’m not staying in there any more, because that’s not a joke any more.

Narrator: Michael felt he had to take some action - but what? He happened to know someone that practised as a psychic medium in Dublin, and in some tension he spoke to her on the phone. She was also called Sandra.

Michael: I was on the phone, Sandra the childminder was there with my youngest boy and Fleur our friend was inside with her daughter. And I was chatting away to Sandra, and told her what had happened, and she said “Don’t worry about it! I’ve just been reading about this chap in England, and he’s made friends with his poltergeist. He can make him tea and coffee and get books down from bookshelves, even open at the right pages.” She says “Well, you can even get some money.” I said, “Don’t be stupid. How can they get you money?” and with that, out the corner of my eye, I saw Fleur in that room in there - bolt straight upright. The lining was out of her pocket, and at my foot was a bundle of money. I’m assuming she’d been up to collect her child allowance. And there was ninety pound wrapped up in a rubber band. She didn’t rummage in her pocket, stand up and throw it at my foot, she was - I just saw it as quick as that, she was upright and the money was at my foot, and the lining was out of her pocket.

Narrator: So what was going on at Ballyphillip farm? All those strange, seemingly impossible events. Scientists in the field have two main theories to explain so-called poltergeist activity, and they’re both pretty remarkable. One is that this is essentially internal, the result of deep underlying psychical activity in the people involved. Something they may be completely unaware of. Having an effect on their environment, it’s the mind (if you like) affecting matter - they call it ‘psychokinesis’.

Bernard Carr, Professor of astrophysics: If poltergeist affects are real, if they’re not just due to fraud or due to natural physical phenomena. It’s amazing - even if they are due to psychokinesis. If it really is true that the mind is affecting the room at a physical level, that is amazing anyway. You don’t have to adopt a spiritualistic interpretation of poltergeist effects - to say that is amazing, it really is amazing anyway, and for that reason of course, the majority of physicists and scientists probably would refuse to countenance the reality of these phenomena. But my own view is that one should not be that dogmatic. I think there is at least some evidence that there are, perhaps, unexplained phenomena occurring in poltergeist cases which might be attributable to psychokinetic powers.

Narrator: The second - no less remarkable - is that it’s external. An unexplained, often whimsical focus of energy perhaps linked to a troubled spirit, moving this around, and causing strange events.

Archie Roy, Professor of Astronomy: It’s almost as if it is an external or independent entity which is playing tricks - terrifying the whole family. And the question is why? Is it because it is an earth-bound (if such things exist)? Is it someone who actually, in their confused state is actually saying “What are all these people doing in my house? I shall get rid of them - I will scare them out.” Then you get a sort of interaction, and quite often, you find that you have to take that theory seriously.

But whatever the source of the disturbances, eventually, in 1993, an exorcism was carried out at the farmhouse, and it seemed to have some effect. Things quietened down. But the happenings over the past 10 years have had their effect upon the family. Michael in particular has a sense of an altogether darker, more sinister undercurrent that lingers on. In his mind it’s linked to the history of the area- the record of extraordinary violence and brutality going back to the civil war of 1798.

Michael: If the truth be known, during this part of Irish history, 1798 was just like one horrendous civil war. You can compare to it to [?] and Bosnia in the recent past. It was brother against brother, father against son, neighbour against neighbour, plus Catholics and Protestants and Presbyterians fighting on both sides. What they did to each other doesn’t bear description, it was wanton terror. 

Narrator: He has identified, for example, houses and indeed the burial places of some of the ringleaders of the worst atrocities. One lived on his farm. But it seems that in all cases there has been a long record of unusual activity.

Michael: The most notorious of them were Griffith Jones, Bob Livesey and Moses Fox, and of course the hangman [?]. And the strange thing is that to this day, all these places where these people lived, all their houses, there seems to be a problem of paranormal activities. And we don’t know what it is exactly, but I’m convinced it is because of their wanton cruelty in the past, that’s still trying to say something today…

Sheila St.Clair, paranormal investigator: It’s quite often that farm houses would acquire a kind of sinister atmosphere if there were incidents recorded there during the 98 rebellion. And if they had associated with them personalities from that time, for anyone who knows a little about the 98’s, they were savage, and both sides were savage and cruel. And there was a tremendous amount of ill will, because you had brother against brother, and father against son. And the whole ethos was a kind of bitterness, it would have infected the house.

Narrator: Michael believes this violent and bloodthirsty heritage accounts for some of the psychical events in which people claim to have experienced real fear. Susan, for example, was staying with her son Danny, in a mobile home on the farm.

Susan: This night I woke up and I found Danny in the bed with me, and he was completely rigid. He was in an upright, sitting upright position, and he was completely rigid and ice cold. His eyes were open wide but he wouldn’t respond to me, he was in some kind of a peculiar trance. And there was the usual very cold atmosphere in the mobile. Which you always associate with stories about ghosts and things. And I was filled with a terror - an absolute terror - and a kind of a loathing feeling. And I knew in my heart and soul if I didn’t get Danny out of this situation, that somehow he would be harmed or something would happen - I just knew that. Now, to get him out I had to go down the length of the mobile into the sitting room area, to collect my handbag which had my car keys in it, right. Now the lights were flashing - there was like static electricity all over the caravan. The lights were flashing, the radio was all static. And I swung my legs out of the bed and stood up, and it was like somebody had poured glue over me. I couldn’t get myself moving. And the more frightened I got to get down and get the bag - this was the main objective, get out - the more I thought about that, the heavier this sort of oppression got. And it was like fighting my way through glue. Now I suppose the mobile would have been about 32 feet in length, which would take you a couple of seconds to walk from one end to the other. It took me nearly 20 minutes - because I had a clock on the wall and I could see. I got down eventually and I got the keys and I got back and Danny was still in the same position, completely rigid and ice cold. And really I don’t know how I did it, but I just wrapped a blanket around him and got him out into the car. And I took off like a bat out of hell.

Narrator: The story from County Wicklow is undoubtedly a strange and puzzling one. The psychic activity has gone on for so long. It’s been experienced by 14 or15 different people, of all ages and personalities. And the events continue to this very day. It would seem that this case is destined to join the large number of mysterious cases that science cannot yet explain, but (as several leading scientists have put it), can no longer be brushed aside.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Transcript of the "Legends of the Roman Legionaries" episode of Ghosthunters.

I think this is one of my favourite episodes of Ghost Hunters, because it's basically a series of witnesses describing what they experienced (as opposed to alleged psychics storming in on a troubled family and imposing their own explanation). Across the internet it seems to get called 'Legends of the Roman Legionnaires' but I'm sure that should be 'Legionaries'! even though the script keeps using the former word.



Narrator (William Woollard): This is a series about the unexplained. About things that are seen and yet not seen. About events that our common sense tells us can’t possibly have occurred and yet they have occurred, burned into people’s memories never to be forgotten. Our stories come from all over the country. They involve people who didn’t have the slightest belief in the paranormal until it forced its way into their lives. In this series we tell their stories and we grapple with the uncomfortable questions which arise – what is happening, what do these stories mean for our understanding of the way the world works, and what does science have to say about it all? There are far too many of these happenings for them simply to be brushed aside. They have now to be confronted.
This is one of a maze of tunnels under the old Treasurer’s House in the ancient city of York. It runs down into the cellars. It also happens to lie right in the centre of the old Roman fort which occupied this site 2000 years ago. It was here one chill February morning that Harry Martindale, plumber, was sent to run in a new set of water pipes.

Harry, plumber: My job was to knock a hole where this pipe is here, through the ceiling. I came down and spent a whole day knocking the hole through the ceiling. I had no idea then it was several feet thick, and I came down here the second day and continued to knock the hole through the ceiling. I had a short ladder in the centre of the floor here. And in the centre of the floor was the original Roman road, and it’d been laid out in sections. And I knew whatever it was, was old, but I had no interest in it. In fact I put the base of the ladder on the Roman road. Just before lunchtime, I started to hear the sound of a musical note. There was no tune, just a blaring of a note, and I thought someone had a wireless on in another part of the building. And the sound got louder and louder, and I realised that that the same time that the sound was actually coming from the wall here. And when I realised this I just glanced down (in line with my waist on the right had side here) and I saw that a figure had come out the wall, and what I was looking at was the top of a helmet with the plumes on.
Now I knew whatever it was, shouldn’t have been here in the cellar with me, and through the shock and the terror of seeing this I just stepped back off the ladder, landed on my backside, and then scrambled into the corner of the cellar there. When I looked for the figure it was almost the complete figure of a Roman solder. It came out the wall, walked at a slight angle to the wall opposite, and as soon as he cleared the wall, then a horse came out of the wall behind him with a Roman soldier sat astride. Now once the horse had cleared the wall and was going through the wall opposite, then Roman soldiers came out in twos  - now I was in no fit state to count them as if they were going into the ark, but there were at least 20 of these Roman soldiers appeared here.

Narrator:  This extraordinary apparition took place in what must have been one of the busiest parts of the Roman fort, on their north east gate running towards the main barracks. The treasurer’s house, where Harry was in the cellar, lies on the edge of that road.

Dr Patrick Ottaway, archaeologist:  We’re standing now on Chapterhouse Street, which is close to the line of the Roman ‘Via Decumana’ - that is, the main Roman road which led from the north-east gate of the fortress (away in that direction), to the headquarters building of the fortress (which is away to my left). And York minster now stands on the site of the Roman building, and some twelve feet below the great medieval cathedral, you can still see remains of the Roman walls, as they were excavated in the late 60s. Immediately to my left here is the cellar, and this is where the surface of the Roman road was found when the cellar for was taken up, and this is where Harry Martindale saw the solders.

Harry: Now ‘terror’ is a difficult word - I think what I felt in here was worse than terror. And I can assure you your hair does stand on end, you can actually feel it! Because what I was looking at, although I only had the one single light in here, what I were looking at were the same as you and  I, but the difference between them and me, was … they were coming out of the wall, the wall didn’t exist as far as they were concerned. The only other Roman soldier I’d seen prior to this, is what we call, or I call, the Charlton Heston type - riding a beautiful horse, very smart. These were the complete opposite. The first thing that struck me was how small they were, they were very small indeed. Another remarkable thing when they first came out of the wall - I couldn’t see them from the knees down, until they came to where the Roman road had been excavated - then I could see them from their sandals up. So much so, that when the horse came through the wall, and when it was going across where the Roman road had been excavated, I could see that the fetlocks of the horse were real bushy.

Narrator: It’s this kind of strange detail that lends credence to Harry’s story. These ghostly soldiers ..walking on the old Roman road surface, so only where the cellar had been excavated back to that level, could he see them at full length.

PO: Over the Roman period the road has been remade and resurfaced, and the ground level has risen. So I presume Harry has seen soldiers of the late first century, that is, soldiers of the Ninth Legion, that were here in York at that time.

Narrator: This man who knew nothing about Roman history or Roman military equipment was able to give a detailed description of the soldiers’ appearance, right down to their weariness and the stubble on their chins.

HM: I wouldn’t say they were all that smart, although they did all had the same uniform on. The metal helmet came right under the chin here, and from where I was sat with the single light on, I could see there was growth of hair here on the face. They had the coloured plumes coming out the top of the helmet, and as they were going past I could see they were going down the side of the back of the head here. They all wore the same thing. On the top on the material were strands of leather all the way round, and the only thing I can say they had on .. was a green coloured skirt. All of them carried a short sword on the right had side, the side nearest to me, and it was a short sword like an oversized dagger.

Narrator: Harry’s description, given very shortly after his experience, was examined in great detail by historians. It proved to be accurate in just about every detail.

PO: The armour that the legionaries wore was called “lorica segmentata,” which is thin strips of steel which were attached to a leather base, and they are a very distinctive feature of the legionary armour. And would have provided on one hand very good protection for the upper body, but at the same time flexibility. The Roman soldiers’ protection below the waist -  for mobility, all they had below the waist was a sporran-like affair, which was thick strips of leather with metal plates on it. Then they had the tunic underneath their armour.

Narrator: But in one crucial detail Harry’s description seemed to be totally wrong. His written testimony described the soldiers as carrying rounded boss shields. Quite unlike the traditional Roman rectangular shields. But in fact this single detail only served to underline the veracity of Harry’s experience.

HM: One was carrying a long, like a lance affair, and one of the soliders I saw walking out the wall carried a shield. Now in the centre of the shield it was like a raised bulb.

PO: Now Harry refers to round shields, and we don’t normally associate these with legionnaires. But the Roman army also included auxiliary troops, and these included soldiers who were recruited in frontier areas, and from subject peoples and so forth - and their eqpt was really rather different. And we know, for example, that they did have round or oval shields. So it may well be, that what Harry has seen was a detachment of auxiliary troops, who were attached to the fortress in York for some particular function. We know that at Cawthorn, to the north-east of York, there are a number of fortifications there, which include a couple of what we think are practice camps. So in order to keep their hand in (so to speak), the soldiers were sent out to where to train by building practice fortifications, rather in the way soldiers are kept busy today. The last thing the roman authorities wanted, was soldiers sitting around with time on their hands.

HM: The terror I felt was because I could see them exactly as I can see anyone else now, so I thought naturally all they had to do was glance to their right to see me in the corner - and obviously the terror was in cast they’d do me any harm. But they didn’t, they just looked ahead of them and went into the wall opposite. When the last one had cleared the cellar and gone through the wall, and I couldn’t hear or see anything else, then I made my escape out of here.

Narrator: When Harry described his remarkable experience to the curator of the Museum at York, it turns out he was by no means alone in having seen the legionnaires: mud bespattered, weary, returning perhaps from a training exercise or a cross-country forced march. In a sense, it could be said that the Roman camp in York is still active,  and that seems to be true of many other Roman sites around the country. The Roman legionnaires are still with us.

Part two

Narrator: The Romans occupied this country for over 400 years, but they had over 25,000 men stationed here, and they imprinted themselves very firmly on the British landscape. They brought with them their architecture and technology; they built cities and forts, and farms and villas, linked by a network of arrow-straight military roads to move their legions quickly to any trouble spot. They made wine here, raised families, grew up and died here: thousands of Romans lie buried on British soil. For a long time, Colchester, out on the East Anglian marshes, was the Roman capital of the country. One of the roads leading out of the city ran east to West Mersea Island, and a modern road follows the old Roman causeway. West Mersea Island was well developed:  it had farms and villas and a Roman princess. Legend has it she was married to a centurion from Colchester, and she is buried in a large burial mound quite close to the road. Some local people would claim that the romans are still active on West Mersea Island. Jill Smeaton, for example, who lives very close to the burial mound, has heard them.

Jill Smeaton: Well, in 1987 I’d been living here about 10 years, and I’d always been a little bit frightened perhaps, when I’d been out to do the late night feeds, because we keep horses here. But after 9 or 10 years of seeing and hearing absolutely nothing I’d forgotten all about it, to be honest with you. Then it was the night of the autumn equinox, 1987 (September the 23rd) – very, very black night, there was no moon whatsoever. The tide was over the strood, so we were actually cut off at that time, and it was around 3 or 4 in the morning. I’m a very heavy sleeper and I don’t wake up for anything, normally. Suddenly I just sat bolt upright in bed, because going past my bedroom window (we live in a bungalow) was the sound - the very clear, definite sound - of two horses, unshod, walking along as they were going through reeds or long grass. Which was extraordinary, as I’d cut the grass that very day -  it had been long but it was completely short. But it was a swishing, wooshing noise. And coming behind these two horses was the sound of a very very heavy wooden cart, the wheels just rumbling along. Not going very fast, as you might imagine a chariot - just rumbling along. Whether it was a funeral procession..? Perhaps it could even have been that. But it was such a heavy wagon or whatever tey would or cart they were dragging that the walls of the bungalow were actually reverberating, it was like being in the middle of a w movie, just the noise of the horses and cart going past. And my friend in the room next door heard exactly the same thing. And although she’s a much lighter sleeper than I am (I normally sleep through anything), we both rushed out into the hallway. And funnily enough, her husband didn’t hear anything - nothing at all - and yet the two of us heard the most tremendous rumbling going past. We thought our horses were out, looked out the window in a panic, and we were going to have to rush out and herd them up. But they were just going past too slowly for that. You couldn’t see anything, and our own horses a few hundred yards away were completely silent.
So we then heard it move away. We looked through the windows and couldn’t see a thing. Again it was completely black, and it seemed to move across the road, away from the strood, and go up in the region of Dawes Lane.

Narrator: Many other people have heard similar sounds of carts and chariots moving across the island. Others claim to have seen the centurion husband, perhaps on his way to visit his wife’s tomb.

Alfred, local resident:  One .. night my friend and I came back from Colchester. We’d been to one of the pubs there, and had a few drinks and saw some of our girlfriends and that. We came back onto Mersea Island over the strood, on the East Mersea road. And we turned into Dawes Lane about 400 yards up the road, where there was a pond and haystacks. Misty night…  in the headlights this figure came out between the pond and the haystacks. Walking towards the mound. And he looked like a Roman centurion. He had a helmet on with an eagle on the front, he had a shield, a sword… umm, he had a uniform on, and he sort of had a red skirt, but you couldn’t see his legs. And we stopped the car and my friend said “We’ll have him tonight!” and he jumped out of the car and I followed. We got about 400 yards in the road where theres a mound - roman mound with an opening in it. And, um, he sort of looked at us and then he disappeared.

Valerie, local resident: We were coming, coming along Mersea strood one evening, about 12 o’clock. It was high tide and the full moon. And as we were going along the strood, I was happened to look across the opposite side of the road. And there was somebody walking along, and I looked, and it was the Roman ghost. And I said to my husband, “oh look - there’s the Roman ghost!” and my husband said “Don’t be so silly, what on earth are you on about?” W turned around and came back, and we came along slowly, and I wound my window down on my side (because I was on the near side), and had a look. And there was this Roman - and my husband saw him as well. He was all dressed up, and holding his two spears. And he was had all the leather sort of skirt on, and he was sort of very upright and straight. And he was quite a large man. And he was just looking straight ahead. He was looking - all his face was all, a rounded face, and his eyes was just looking straight ahead. And we were further up, and turned round, then when we turned round and came back, he’d just completely disappeared. And the water was at high tide - it was level with the pavement. And there was no boats, no cars, not a bicycle, nothing, and he just completely gone.

Narrator: Sounds of course terribly inexplicable, but what can possibly be happening in these kinds of experience? How can Roman soldiers still be marching across the country nearly 2000 years after they left these shores? What do the scientists have to say about it all?

David Fontana, Professor of psychology: Well that’s a major question. When the Society for Psychical Research was set up a century ago, by a group of very distinguished academics from Cambridge University, they thought that they would very quickly, by scientific methods, they would find out the reality or otherwise of phenomena of this kind. Well, a hundred years later we’re still searching, we’re still looking. And the society, over that century, has had many of the most brilliant scientists in the country as members. All they been able to do is be relatively convinced that these phenomena have happened. Far from an explanation, it ends up in the end as a matter of belief

Narrator: One explanatory theory that has some currency, is that in some way building and rocks and the earth itself absorbs energy from the living beings who inhabit them. And that later on, under certain conditions, that energy - that signal - can be replayed rather like a cd or a tape. Indeed, it’s called the stone tape theory.

Archie Roy, Professor of astronomy: You have to postulate that in the case of a typical haunt some very emotion-laden scene or some very important scene from the point of view of the humans that took part in it, has in some way become registered on the environment. Not necessarily in a house, maybe even outside. And that it looks like, it’s almost like, a sort of psychic video that has been created. And someone who comes along who’s sensitive enough to act as a “psychic video player” will actually play that tape and see the figures, or perhaps even hear voices or hear sounds. And it is nothing - it is nothing to do with the people who were originally there, who are no longer there. It is simply a record.

Jim Lyons, Research physicist: If you imagine some sort of environment, say some individual undergoes some drastic experience like decapitation or something like that, then the energy liberated at that point in time is in fact transmitted - expelled - into the surrounding material and stored in that material. The subtle energies, a series of vibrational frequencies, can in fact then be read out at some later time - very much like a video recording. So a sequence of rather drastic events can in fact be recorded in living matter.

Narrator: At the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge, one eminent physicist, Brian Josephson explains an even more outlandish possibility. That inanimate matter could actually have consciousness. In its present state of knowledge science couldn’t deny such a proposition.

Professor Brian Josephson, Nobel Laureate in Physics: the idea that a piece of matter could hold impressions of the past is a surprising observation that would be very hard to explain. And the only way I could understand it, would be if the stone or whatever it was had some kind of consciousness, and could remember on that account. Um. Now whether it could have consciousness or not, we don’t know. Consciousness is assumed to be always connected with brains, but we don’t really have any kind of theory of consciousness in science which would tell us that is should be associated entirely with brains. So if science were ever to have a proper explanation of consciousness, or proper theory of it, it’s always possible it might allow a wider collection of objects than just brains to express it.

DF: My hope is that science will be able to demonstrate these things in a reliable way in the future, and be able to provide a scientific explanation in the future. Which is in no sense saying that they would not be spiritual or religious or   in orientation, because the two things need not be separate in that sense.

Narrator: But clearly science is still struggling for an explanation for things and events that it’s not really equipped to explore. Meanwhile, there is no doubting the validity of Harry Martindale’s extreme experience, and it is burned into his memory as vividly now, as on the day he experienced it.

HM: One of the churches here in York, they, er… put pressure… pressure on me as a Christian. They didn’t think it was right that I should mention my ghost story. And I went along with this for a while, but then I think – “No! Why? Why shouldn’t I mention it?” I‘m not trying to convince you that what I saw in here happened. I know it happened to me. Whether you believe this or not, it doesn’t bother me whatsoever. No one has ever turned round to me and says “You’re a liar.”
 

Transcript of the Stocksbridge Bypass episode of "Strange But True."


This is my own transcription - I've tried to make it as accurate as possible with the witnesses' words, but have left out a few of the "aarghs" and "what is it?!"s of the reconstructions.

This one was first aired a few years before the 'Ghosthunters' episode, on the 2nd December, 1994 (so says Wikipedia).
 

Michael Aspel: Of all the people who claim to have witness unexplained phenomena, very few can offer what can be regarded as proof. Their stories can be easily dismissed - and often are - but do they deserve more? All we can do is look them in the eye, and decide for ourselves whether they’re genuine, and ask ourselves why anyone would make up such a story especially when they risk ridicule. The key witnesses in our first story tonight are people you’d normally trust. Some indeed have frequently given evidence in courts of law. Here’s the story, believe what you will.
Ever since building work began, a new section of road across the top of the Peak District has attracted reports of strange happenings. The first was from two security guards, and this is what they saw one night.

Voice of Peter Owens, security company manager:  A group of children running in a circle, in a field, at the side of a construction site. The time was round about midnight and you just wouldn’t see the children playing there at that time of night when it was so far away from any houses. And the children disappeared. They were security men who’d been in the industry a long time, they knew the job, they’d worked nights for a number of years, and not the type of people that you’d expect to be scared.

Michael Aspel:  The A616 used to pass straight through this old steel town, but then the road planners got to work on Stocksbridge - they built a sweeping new bypass. While it may have made the town quieter, some believe the bypass disturbed something that would have been best left alone. Certainly the two security guards who were watching over the equipment being used to build it would agree. But they were still puzzling over the sight of the children. But that was just the beginning.

Peter Owens: The next incident was later on that night.

(reconstruction): Here, stop the car, look there’s someone up there.
Don’t be daft. There can’t be.
Yes there is, look! You drive around, shine your lights on’t bridge, I’ll wait down here.

Peter Owens: They immediately started the vehicle up, shone the headlights towards the hooded figure and the headlights actually shone through the figure.

(reconstruction): Oh god! It’s disappeared into thin air!
Let’s get out of here!

MA: The men in a state of shock called their boss out. He was alarmed at the state they were in.

PO: They were physically shaking, the complexion was very white and pallid. One of the guards was actually crying.

(reconstruction): It were difficult to describe, it looked like a monk.
I mean what were it doing there? It were evil.
How can it just disappear??

M.A.:  First thing the next morning the men went to the police. The officer on duty knew them.

PC Dick Ellis: It were obvious they’d seen or heard something. They were both spooked, and basically I said to them - it’s not really a police matter, and there was nothing I could do about it, and perhaps jokingly I told them that really they needed the church more than they needed the police.

MA: But they took him seriously - they went to Stocksbridge church and refused to leave.

DE:  About an hour or so later I received a phone call from my boss, and I was told to go up to the church and sort this matter out. Firstly to get them out of the church, and then to see if I could find out anything that they’d actually seen, heard, or whatever.

MA:   The security guards never, it seems, got over what happened to them.

PO:  One of them left after 3 days, and the other one stayed with us roughly 2 to 3 months. And neither of the two guards would set foot on that site again, even in the daylight.

MA: While the bypass was being built, runner Graham Brooke was training for a marathon. One day he was out jogging with his son, Nigel.

GB: I saw a chap walking with his back to the traffic, he was walking in the middle of the road.

Nigel:  I looked at him and you could see he had no features to it except for a nose and eye sockets.

GB: I could smell like this fusty rotteny smell.

Nigel: Not a human type smell.

GB:  And then I could see that he wasn’t walking on the road, he was like walking in the road, and from below the knee down, you know, you couldn’t see anything.

MA: Each time things are apparently seen, the descriptions vary, but the reputation of the bypass deepens.

David Simpson:  We were coming home from Judi’s parents over the bridge that goes over the bypass.

Judi Simpson:  I could see out of the corner of my eyes like a grey apparition - there was actually no facial expressions.

DS: It was hovering, arms and legs were flailing all over the place.

[reconstruction]: That’s strange it looks like a man running – but he’s not running on the ground.

DS: It ran up the embankment.

JS:  It actually rose from the side into the road, and disappeared into the car.

DS:  I can think of no other explanation for what we saw - in my mind (I think in both of our minds), what we saw has to, had to have been a ghost.

MA:  So if something does keep appearing on the bypass, what is it? Lucinda June is a psychic. She says she knows.

Lucinda June: I was driving along the Stocksbridge bypass, and the car started to become very very cold. With this came a smell of musty books. Then all of a sudden, a darkness appeared to the left hand side of me, and I felt very very frightened. And I did pick up the spirit of a monk that had been there 500 years previous.

MA:  But why should a long dead monk be on what is now the Stocksbridge Bypass?  It has been discovered that there were once monastery farms in the area.

Trevor Lodge, local historian: The rumour, or the story, is that one of these monks became disillusioned with the rather harsh autocratic way of life. He came here to Underbank Hall, and worked the rest of his natural life here as groundsman, or whatever, and subsequently when he died he was buried in unhallowed ground.

MA: Some believe the bypass may have been built over the supposed monk’s grave. And they also have theories to explain the children seen by the security guards.

TL:  Children were used in the valley’s coalmines in the late-18th and mid-19th century, and the rumour suggests that there’s been some sort of mining catastrophe.

MA: So, a phantom monk, ghostly children... After dealing with the security men in the church, PC Ellis and his colleague John Beet were sent to investigate.

[reconstruction]: Let’s switch the radios off.

Dick Ellis: We sat in the panda car with the lights off and the engine off. We sat looking at the bridge and after a while I was convinced I could see something moving about on the bridge. Not wanting to spook meself or John I kind of looked at John.

[reconstruction]: Hang on, what’s that up there?
Go and see what it is, Dick.

DE: I actually climbed up the ladder onto the bridge, and there was a lot of things scattered about on the top of the bridge.

[reconstruction]: It’s only a sheet of polythene.

John Beet: Although once we thought we’d found out what it was, and what was actually on the bridge, we decided to give it another 10, 15 minutes and say we’ll forget it and go back on our normal patrol.

DE:  I suddenly got this feeling - you can’t explain it, there’s the saying ‘someone’s walked over your grave’ which turns you cold. And I then became aware that somebody now had appeared directly on my right hand side, and was virtually leaning and pressing themselves against the car. I managed to cast my head quickly to the right and remember seeing the upper section of somebody’s chest, torso, and a clear v-sign [he indicates as if a V-neck jumper neckline]. When I got out on my side, not a person, nothing about at all. I even hit the deck and looked under the vehicle because nobody could have run away from us, there were bankings on both sides, nobody ran forwards or backwards.

JB:  We went to start the car and at first the car wouldn’t start, and we stated to panic a little bit.  We drove off and radioed our colleagues.

DE: There was a bang behind the car which I can only really put down to sounding like somebody was hitting the back of the car with something like a baseball bat or a pickaxe handle. Things on my job have frightened me, and it wasn’t the sort of fear you get from violence offered towards you or anything like that. It was more the kind of dread feeling, or knowing that something’s happening that you have no control over. [Beet agrees].

MA: Just for the record, the Stocksbridge Bypass was opened on Friday 13th.