Kent has long been known as the "Garden of England;" however, this idyllic corner of Britain also has its darker side and has a long history of paranormal occurrences. This richly illustrated book covers a fascinating range of strange events. From sightings of big cats, UFOs, monsters, and fairies to terrifying tales of dragon encounters and phantom hitchhikers, this incredible volume will invite the reader to view the area in a whole new light. Paranormal Kent will delight all those interested in the mysteries of the paranormal.
|Publisher:||The History Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.30(d)|
About the Author
Neil Arnold is a full-time researcher into big cat sightings and other paranormal phenomena across the UK. He regularly contributes to Fate and Paranormal Magazine and gives lectures on the subject. His previously published works include Paranormal London and Monster! An AZ of Zooform Phenomena.
Read an Excerpt
By Neil Arnold
The History PressCopyright © 2014 Neil Arnold
All rights reserved.
NEW LIGHT ON OLD GHOSTS
Both the Romans and the Greeks give mention to Kention, making the county name of Kent the oldest recorded in Britain. The name derives from the Brythonic word Cantus, meaning 'rim' or 'border'. The county borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London. It's no surprise that this rural habitat is infested with ghosts – the area has been occupied since the Palaeolithic era. There are thousands of spectres, mentioned time and time again in various books. Ghosts of Kent by Peter Underwood, and Janet Cameron's Haunted Kent, being among the better guidebooks. There are also thousands of tales rarely recorded, whilst the more 'classic' stories, passed down through generations have become almost stale and dormant in their regurgitation. This chapter simply aims to shed some new light on a handful of Kent's most classic, haunted places, which over the years have emerged as personal favourites.
Queen of the road ghosts
Blue Bell Hill, a small village near Maidstone, is home to one of the greatest of British ghost stories. The setting is perfect for any eerie tale, for its Romanic roots, ancient structures – the village harbours Kit's Coty House (a Neolithic chambered tomb) and Little Kit's Coty (also known as the Countless Stones) – and foggy lanes exude a late-night menace. This is not merely a façade, reliant on atmosphere alone. In contemporary folklore, the urban legend known as the 'phantom hitchhiker' is popular worldwide. It is a campfire tale which sends a shiver down the spine – although in most cases it lacks depth. Similar cases across the world exist only as 'friend of a friend' tales, or what have become known as 'FOAF tales'. The 'phantom hitchhiker' tale is known in the majority of households and communities; a legend is all that it has become. However, the Blue Bell Hill phantom hitchhiker is a very different story. The stories reported are not mere exaggeration passed down through generations, and gradually altered to fit a specific stormy night. The Blue Bell Hill ghost story actually happened, but not as you've heard.
The classic hitchhiker legend is often told as follows: it's a dark night – sometimes it is raining – usually in the colder months. Someone, usually a male, is driving on a lonely stretch of road. Up ahead there appears to be someone standing by the side of the road, and as the motorist approaches he realises it's a woman. She is hoping to hitch a lift, but the driver can't help but consider it strange that an attractive young woman is on such a road at such a late hour. He pulls over. She looks pale and cold. She's only wearing a flimsy dress, or sometimes is clutching a small coat.
'Do you want a lift?' he asks through the partly wound-down window.
The woman doesn't answer but simply opens the rear door of the vehicle and glides into the backseat – or, less frequently, the passenger seat.
'Where do you want to be dropped off?' the driver asks.
In most versions, the woman gives an address. This address is not usually that far away, only within a few miles of the driver's own destination. The legend often mentions how the driver introduces himself, and to be polite strikes up a conversation. The passenger either a) remains silent, or b) says very little.
Not far from the destination of the passenger, the driver looks into his rear-view mirror, or casts a glance over his shoulder, and to his horror notices that the passenger is nowhere to be seen. However, on the seat there lies the coat, or in some versions of the story, just a wet patch where the rain-soaked woman had been sitting.
The driver still heads for the address the woman gave, but remains confused as to where the woman has gone. It's very late at night, but he parks up outside the house and knocks on the door. The door is usually answered by an old woman or man.
'Can I help you?' says the owner of the house.
'I picked a girl up not far from here who gave me this address, but she seems to have vanished into thin air,' replies the motorist. 'She left this coat.' (Or, if an item of clothing wasn't left, the driver simply knocks to enquire about the girl.)
'You're not the first ...' says the old man/woman.
And so begins the story of how the girl – invariably the daughter of the house owners – was killed many years ago in an accident, or murdered by a motorist, and now travels the highways and byways in search of her killer.
The phantom hitchhiker tale is a fascinating one. However, Blue Bell Hill's own road spirit is far stranger, to the extent that her presence on the hill has gained her the reputation, and honour, of being named the queen of the British road ghosts.
Just before midnight, on 8 November 1992, fifty-four-year-old motorist Ian Sharpe claimed he'd run over a woman near the Aylesford turn-off of the A229 at Blue Bell Hill. The Maidstone man first observed the woman on the outer lane of the dual carriageway, before she darted in front of his vehicle. As he hit her, her big round eyes bore into his. Mr Sharpe stopped his car but, upon looking underneath the vehicle and about the place, there was no sign of the woman. The witness told the police of the matter, who took his shaken disposition seriously despite the fact there was no body and no damage to the vehicle. The witness claimed that the woman appeared normal, with a roundish face, had fair, shoulder-length hair and was wearing a light-coloured coat with a blouse or roll-neck underneath.
Two weeks later, on 22 November, a Chris Dawkins had a similarly terrifying encounter. Dawkins was travelling through Blue Bell Hill village, and just passing the Robin Hood Lane junction, when a woman wearing a red scarf ran out into the road. She quickly threw a glance at Dawkins before disappearing under the car. Fearing that the woman was trapped beneath his vehicle, the witness phoned his father from a nearby telephone box, who in turn phoned the police. When Dawkins' father turned up at the spot, his search for a body proved fruitless. So, just what was going on around Blue Bell Hill?
Researcher Sean Tudor – first introduced to the legend back in 1981 – got into the thick of the mystery, eventually uncovering a selection of similar incidents from the hill dating back a few decades. Several of these stories had been covered by the local press. Meanwhile, due to Sean's investigations, more witnesses were willing to come forward to speak of previously unreported encounters. For the press, a connection was brewing. In 1965, a fatal car accident had taken place on the hill. On 19 November, four young women, including a lady who was to be married the next day, were travelling up Blue Bell Hill when the car they were in, a Mark I Ford Cortina, collided with a Jaguar. Three of the women in the car, including the bride-to-be, died. The fourth was seriously injured, as was the Jaguar driver's passenger, who was discharged from hospital a few days after. Only the driver of the Jaguar emerged unscathed. Such was the horror of the crash that it made newspapers across the world.
The press, and the rumours, have always stated that the ghost girl on Blue Bell Hill is that of the bride-to-be, eager to get home. However, judging by the two reports involving Mr Sharpe and Mr Dawkins, there is no suggestion of a connection to the '65 crash. In fact, many accidents have occurred on Blue Bell Hill. This rural setting was sliced in 1972 by a dual carriageway, but the older routes, namely Lower Blue Bell Hill and Upper Blue Bell Hill, seem a world away from the roaring traffic.
It is no surprise that connections have been made between the accident and the haunting; they are the perfect ingredients for a local urban legend. However, the hill is a cauldron of mysteries, and does not just have one resident ghost.
Take, for instance, the case of Maurice Goodenough, who had a peculiar encounter in 1974 – nine years after the '65 accident. This was to be the first time that associations were drawn between the crash and the spirit. The Evening Post and Kent Messenger newspapers made the connection, which then seemed to embed itself in the minds of the general public, who would forever base what they knew of the legend on that fatal accident. Maurice Goodenough, a thirty-five-year-old bricklayer from Rochester, was driving on the A229 at around midnight on 13 July 1974, when he knocked a girl down with a terrible thud on the bonnet. On this occasion, the driver tended to the victim. She looked around ten years old and had brown, shoulder-length hair; she was wearing a white blouse, skirt and ankle socks. The girl had a cut on her forehead and grazed knees, and Mr Goodenough carried her to the roadside in his car blanket. The shocked witness could not flag down any passing vehicles, and so decided to leave the girl by the roadside and drive to Rochester police station to report the accident. Goodenough told police that the girl had mumbled the word 'Mummy' several times as she lay in his arms, but when he returned with the police they could find no trace of her. Despite a thorough combing of the nearby woods, it was as if the girl had vanished. The following morning, the police returned to the area with a tracker dog, but the animal picked up no scent and no other signs were found as the rain came down.
The incident was reported by the News of the World, and in the report the witness expressed his horror and confusion, but the press were quick to bring up the accident of 1965. The cases involving Goodenough, Dawkins and Sharpe bear similarity in that all three motorists knocked down a female late at night around Blue Bell Hill. All three witnesses searched for a body (Goodenough's case varying, as he went back to search with the police), but whilst the press were quick to tie the Dawkins and Sharpe incidents in with the anniversary of the '65 crash, Goodenough's encounter took place during the summer and did not involve an adult.
On possibly the same night, a couple had a similar encounter driving near to where Goodenough had hit the girl. It was around 12.30–1 a.m. and they were travelling up the northbound carriageway of the A229 to visit their daughter. Suddenly the passenger noticed a figure up ahead run from the left-hand side into the road, where she turned to face the oncoming vehicle. Alerting her husband to the figure, the passenger saw that impact was imminent and yet her husband could see nobody there. Convinced that the car was going to strike somebody, the passenger grabbed the steering wheel; but no impact came. The terrified passenger told her daughter that the girl in the road was 'youngish' and had 'big eyes'.
A couple driving by the foot of the hill in 1984 or '85, at around 10.30 p.m., saw a girl step in front of the car. Braking hard to avoid her, the couple could not stop in time and they hit the figure. Instead of getting out of the car, the driver reversed, but there was no sign of the victim. Similarly to Goodenough's sighting, when describing the figure, the couple mentioned that she was around thirteen years old, wearing a light-coloured top, and had bare legs and white ankle socks.
Since the 1965 crash, Sean Tudor has recorded around twenty more strong cases pertaining to a spectre on Blue Bell Hill. The majority of these have taken place at night, during late autumn or winter. However, a pattern fails to emerge as there appear to be significant variations in the reports. A handful involve motorists hitting a woman; a couple involve a child. Then there are those which concern a hitchhiker – which brings us back to the classic urban legend observed all around the world – and then there are a few very unusual cases which involve an old crone on the hill (which will be touched upon shortly).
The ghostly legend of Blue Bell Hill has become such a traditional local tale that, quite often, upon bringing the story up, you'll find someone who knows someone who has a friend who hit, or picked up, that girl or woman. Perhaps someone will also comment, 'Oh yes, I know that story, my friend has a friend who saw a girl in a bridesmaid dress on the hill.' The bridesmaid dress, much like the hitchhiker itself, is simply one of those added details passed down through generations who, in turn, have passed on their frightful, slightly distorted version. Sean recorded that, 'Only one – the case of Mr Grant and companion (1967/8) – had the girl vanishing from the back seat.'
There are also two unrecorded tales from the hill. In the autumn of 1968, a Medway man who'd dismounted his bicycle was walking up the now disused slip-road from Blue Bell Hill, which runs alongside the derelict Upper Bell pub, onto Common Road, when from his left-hand side a woman emerged. Considering it was a cold, wet and blustery day, the witness was shocked that the woman only wore a flimsy dress. Her hair seemed matted across her face and she gazed intently at the man. She then passed him, and glided back into the undergrowth and vanished. The witness mounted his cycle and rode home like the wind. In his report, he stated that maybe the spectre had expected a car to approach, like in so many other incidents. Somehow, the image of a ghost girl going under the wheels of a bike being pushed up the hill seems awfully absurd. During the mid-1970s, a Maidstone woman travelling down Blue Bell Hill during autumn, at around midnight, observed in the headlights, up ahead on the left-hand side, a female figure wearing a white gown. As the headlights picked the figure up, it vanished just 10ft away from the vehicle.
And what of sightings pre-1965? During the colder months of 1934, a male witness was confronted by a female form at around 11 p.m. in the area of the Lower Bell crossroads. On this occasion, however, the witness – who was driving a motorcycle – stopped his vehicle and the girl asked to be taken to Burham, which is just a few miles west of Blue Bell Hill. The man, who had just come from that direction, obliged and the girl hopped onto the pillion seat. He dropped the girl off at Church Street, but as he turned his motorcycle around to return home, he could see no trace of the girl.
It's clear that this weird incident has no ties to the 1965 crash which occurred thirty-one years later. However, the murder of one Emily Trigg could provide a hazy clue as to the identity of this particular girl.
Miss Trigg was a twenty-year-old resident of Blue Bell Hill who was murdered in 1916. Her body was found at Bridge Wood and she was laid to rest in Burham churchyard. Could it have been Miss Trigg who wished to be taken to Burham on that night in 1934?
As you can see, the Blue Bell Hill 'ghost' could well be several spirits, or local confusion combined with urban legend and press influence. There is no doubt that seemingly real encounters have taken place on stretches of the hill, making this one of the most compelling of unexplained mysteries. And the next case will send an even bigger shiver down your spine.
During the early hours of 6 January 1993, at 12.45 a.m., months after Sharpe and Dawkins' encounters, the Maiden family were confronted by a very sinister wraith. Malcolm Maiden was driving the vehicle and his wife Angela was in the passenger seat. In the back were the couple's daughter (who was fast asleep), Mrs Maiden's mother, and a friend of the family.
Travelling from Aylesford, Malcolm turned onto the Old Chatham Road, at the Lower Bell crossroads. Around 300 yards up the hill, Mrs Maiden spotted a figure which at first she took to be someone in fancy-dress. The figure was in an old-fashioned dress and bonnet, and started to walk across the road from right to left. Malcolm Maiden spotted the figure in the headlights and slowed the car, and it was then that the horror was realised.
Standing alongside the vehicle was a hag-like apparition with mouth agape. A hissing sound suddenly filled the car, as the hunched wraith glared at the carload. It had a yawning chasm of a mouth, beady black eyes, and clutched in its hand a spray of twigs which the figure shook threateningly at the car.
Malcolm pulled away from the figure in total panic; the apparition moved towards the kerb and seemed to vanish. The Maidens' daughter suddenly awoke, sensing a heavy, nasty atmosphere in the vehicle.
Angela Maiden told the press that she couldn't sleep for many nights after the incident. The family as a whole believed that this was no hoax, but something ghastly and malevolent. In fact, their story gained strength when an appeal from the local Kent Today newspaper provoked a response from another family, who claimed they'd seen possibly the same hag the night before in exactly the same spot.
Sean Tudor believes that Blue Bell Hill is a very special place. This kind of location is often called a 'window area' in the paranormal world. These are places – often rich in history – which emanate high levels of strangeness. Why? No one seems to know, but Sean's research goes a long way in investigating the various phenomena which seem to plague this location. Blue Bell Hill is a truly bizarre place.
The lesser-known ghosts of Pluckley
If you acquired a pound coin for every legendary apparition sighted in the old Kentish village of Pluckley, which lies north-west of Ashford, then you'd be a poor person indeed. And yet, pick up the majority of books pertaining to British ghost lore and this place will be mentioned time and time again, and is in many cases described as one of the most haunted villages in the UK.
Excerpted from Paranormal Kent by Neil Arnold. Copyright © 2014 Neil Arnold. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
one New Light on Old Ghosts,
two Kentish Crop Circles,
three Mysterious Beasts,
four Alien Abduction,
six Witches in the Weald,
seven A Multitude of Mysteries,