Halloween is the time of year when the supernatural are at their most hair-raising and spine-chilling. Feel your skin crawl as you stand amidst ghostly occupants of Dorset’s spooky pubs, stately homes and historic buildings where paranormal activity haunts the grounds and current residents.
A Ghostly Manor House
Athelhampton House is regarded as one of the ten most haunted houses in England. There have been eleven different ghostly presences recorded in this 15th Century Manor, including Nicholas Martyn’s trapped ape in a secret staircase. The ape is heard by both the current residents of the house and visitors, scratching on the wooden panels that line the library walls, desperate to be released from its eternal prison. A ghost named ‘Cooper’ occupies the wine cellar, whilst a pair of dualists have been known to put on a show for visitors in the past.
Lawrence of Arabia's Ghost
Probably the most famous of all Dorset's ghosts is that of Lawrence of Arabia, who was involved in fatal motorcycle accident on 13 May 1935. Locals have reported hearing the distinctive and haunting roar of his Brough Superior, racing along the local roads just before sunrise, only to abruptly stop before anything is seen.
Tragically, just five days before his death, Lawrence wrote to Nancy Astor expressing his love for Cloud's Hill. He wrote, "Nothing would take me away. It is an earthly paradise and I am staying here." It appears that Lawrence stayed true to his promise as his ghost has been seen many times by visitors to Cloud's Hill, entering the cottage in swirling Arab robes, only to disappear again...
The Screaming Skull
Bettiscombe Manor in West Dorset is home to a screaming servant’s skull. The servant’s dying wish was to be returned home but against his wishes was buried in the nearby village cemetery. Ill fortune plagued the village and manor until the villagers could not take much more and the body moved back to the manor house. It is still the belief today that if the skull is removed from the house, screams torment the grounds and whomever commit this discretion will die within the year.
Phantom Coach and Horses
On the night of a full moon, a ghostly coach and horses appears on the medieval bridge over the River Frome at Wool, travelling to the now vanished Turberville Mansion at Bere Regis. This phantom coach is the inspiration for the best known of Thomas Hardy's literary ghosts, which appears in 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles'. Thankfully, only people with the Turberville blood in their veins can see the apparition, but are you brave enough to discover your family history this Halloween?
Spirits are said to linger at the atmospheric ruins of Knowlton Church. The 12th century ruins are at the centre of a Neolithic ritual henge earthwork (earth and stone circles, just like Stonehenge). Sightings of a phantom horse and rider, a weeping nun kneeling outside, a ghostly face peering through the window in the tower and a tall cloaked figure dressed in black have appeared to visitors and then vanished into thin air..
Grey Lady of Lulworth
During the futile attempts to put out the fire that gutted Lulworth Castle in 1929, one of the firefighters heard cries from the top of the castle and saw a lady in distress in one of the tower windows. When trying to rescue her, he discovered that the floor of the room in which she was standing in had collapsed hours before. He soon realised that he had seen the ghost of the Grey Lady, a phantom who has been haunting the castle for centuries.
Many a sighting has been reported of the ghost of a Roman soldier in Thorncombe Woods near Dorchester. One such eerie encounter was in October 1969 when a young member of a camping trip rushed back to tell the party he had just seen a ghost in the trees. The sceptical group returned to the spot to find the figure of a Roman soldier hovering 2ft off the ground with a shield, sword and helmet. When one member approached the ghost with a torch, it melted away and vanished. They realised later that the ghost was standing on the site of the old Roman road to Dorchester from Badbury Rings, but on the level that it was first built by the Romans in the first century!
The Ill-fated Bride
The Royal Signals Museum is believed to have a supernatural presence called Mary. Small objects have been mysteriously moved, phantom footsteps can be heard and sudden cold spots appear and then vanish. It is thought she was a young, local woman who was due to marry a US serviceman during WW2, but was murdered before she could ever say “I do”.
It is said that Bovington Tank Museum‘s Tiger Tank on display is haunted by a former German Commander nicknamed “Herman the German”. Several sightings have seen the shadow of the German commander peering into the tank, as well as moving objects and museum staff have experienced a strange feeling of being watched.
The Bull Hotel at Bridport (which used to be a 16th century coaching Inn) has been the site of some mysterious and unnerving paranormal activity. Members of the public and staff have repeatedly investigated sounds of a child in the ladies toilet, but no child has ever been found. A lady dressed in tweed is also believed to sit in the reception area.
A Haunted Old Fortress
Nothe Fort’s extensive underground passage ways are said to be home to a “Whistling Gunner” amongst other presences many who died during the Second World War. It is voted as one of the spookiest places in Britain and even employees refuse to wonder around the grounds alone. Eerie whistling, steam train horns and air raid sirens have been heard as well as many sighting such as spirits walking up and down the terraces.