As it’s right around Halloween, I thought I would share with you one of my favorite, spooky stories of all time, one which tells of a strange and creepy incident that occurred in southern England on a cold winter’s night back in 1924. But, first, and before we get to the heart of the matter, a somewhat related case to get you in the mood for what is soon to follow…
In October 1995, Staffordshire, England’s Cannock Mercury newspaper reported on a series of very weird events that were then occurring in the midst of Beaudesert Old Park, which is situated very near to an Iron Age hill-fort called Castle Ring, a place noted for its high-strangeness.
Home to a camp for both scouts and guides, Beaudesert was the site of repeated, strange activity in the late summer and early autumn of 1995. Not only that: A group of scouts was going to stake-out the area in a careful and dedicated bid to hopefully try and get to the bottom of the mystery, once and for all.
The Mercury noted to its readers: “Wardens and assistants have reported strange noises, screams and eerie goings-on around the camp.” Indeed, they had, including encounters with a dark-cloaked figure and a ghostly child roaming the woods and haunting the surrounding roads.
Steve Fricker, the assistant-leader of the 2nd Rugeley Hillsprings Scouts stated at the time: “It is said that the ancient horsemen of old are now seeking revenge for the disturbances they have had to face for several years from these excitable youths.”
The newspaper added: “Scouts will be camping out to ‘confront’ the spirits and attempt to restore peace. They will be staying awake from Saturday evening (October 28) until dawn on Sunday, entertained by wardens’ tales of the hauntings.”
Ultimately, however, the “horsemen of old” did not make a showing. But, just maybe, we have a precedent for such a prehistoric horse-rider…
The respected authority on prehistory, R.C.C. Clay, had just such an encounter at Bottlebush Down, Dorset, England – an area strewn with old earthworks – during the winter of 1924. The story, however, did not surface until 1956, when Clay shared the details with an authority on all things ghostly and spectral, James Wentworth Day, who penned such titles as Here are Ghosts and Witches, A Ghost Hunter’s Game Book, In Search of Ghosts and They Walk the Wild Places.
The location of the extraordinary event that Clay related to Day was the A3081 road, located between the Dorset villages of Cranborne and Sixpenny Handley, on farmland known locally as Bottlebush Down. It was while Clay was driving home, after spending a busy day excavating in the area, and as the daylight was giving way to the night, that he encountered something extraordinary. Maybe something even beyond extraordinary.
It was nothing less than a horseman, riding wildly and at high speed on the back of a huge and muscular stallion, who seemingly appeared out of nowhere. But there was something wrong about this man and his horse, something terribly wrong.
In Clay’s very own words to a captivated Wentworth Day: “I could see that he was no ordinary horseman, for he had bare legs, and wore a long loose cloak. His horse had a long mane and tail, but I could see neither bridle nor stirrup. His face was turned towards me, but I could not see his features. He seemed to be threatening me with some implement, which he waved in his right hand above his head.”
It is deeply fortunate that the witness in this case was Clay – a man with an expert and profound knowledge of English history, folklore, and times and people long gone. There was no doubt in Clay’s mind that, having kept the rider in careful sight for a distance of around three hundred feet, his clothing and weapon firmly identified him as nothing less than a denizen of the Bronze Age.
Not surprisingly, and with darkness by now falling fast, Clay floored the accelerator and headed for home, somewhat shakily but decidedly excited, too.
His interest by now most certainly piqued, Clay began to make careful – and somewhat tentative – inquiries in the area to determine if anyone else had ever seen the ancient hunter of the downs. As it so transpired, they actually had. In fact, more than several people had seen the nightmarish rider racing along the old landscape.
As for the cause of his strange encounter, Clay mused deeply on the possibility that what he had been fortunate enough to see was nothing less than the spirit form of a Bronze Age hunter and his horse, both of who had probably died under violent circumstances on Bottlebush Down, and who – for a while, at least – roamed the very same old hunting grounds that they had called home during their clearly turbulent, physical lives…