In October 1995, the U.K. 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 Castle Ring, a place saturated with paranormal activity. 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, but 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: "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 roads. Steve Fricker, the assistant-leader of the 2nd Rugeley Hillsprings Scouts related 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."
Now, let's take a look at Loch Ness and the saga of St. Columba: he was one of the first people to see a Nessie (or, at least, so far as we know). I'm not talking about the monster, though. Rather, to something very different: a very strange haunting, no less. It’s worth noting the paranormal issues surrounding the Loch Ness monsters, St. Columba, and his spectral boat, that is seemingly still with us. None other than the ghostly form of St. Columba’s ancient currach [boat] has been seen traveling on the expansive waters, and on more than a few occasions, too. Just two years into the 20th Century the supernatural currach was seen by one Finlay Frazer, a resident of Strathenick. Colin Campbell, the brother of Alex Campbell – a man who played a major role in the development of the Loch Ness Monster controversy, as we shall later see - had a close encounter with the spectral craft during the Second World War. And a man named Thomas O’Connell saw its spectral shape in 1962, near Invermoriston. A man named Colin Campbell said of his extraordinary and eerie sighting that it was a dark night when, quite out of the blue, he saw at a distance of around ninety feet a stationary boat on Loch Ness. It was, however, no ordinary boat. It lacked any illumination itself, but was bathed in an eerie, mysterious, white-blue glow. Campbell was sure that what he saw was the spectral form of ancient, primitive craft constructed millennia earlier. From the very outset, then, the saga of Nessie – and those that were exposed to it almost one and a half thousand years ago – was absolutely steeped in matters of a paranormal nature. And it still is. Now, to the ghostly form of an ancient warrior in the U.K.
The respected authority on prehistory, R.C.C. Clay, had just such an encounter while driving at Bottlebrush Down, Dorset - 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, an unlikeable, racist, homophobe with fascist leanings, 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 a captivated and enthralled Day was the A3081 road, between the Dorset villages of Cranborne and Sixpenny Handley, on farmland known locally as Bottlebrush Down. It was while Clay was driving home, after spending a day excavating in the area, and as the daylight was giving way to the magical, twilight hours, that he encountered something extraordinary. Maybe even beyond extraordinary. At a point where the new road crossed with an old Roman road - perhaps one of Merrily Harpur’s liminal zones, it might very well be reasoned - that a horseman, riding wildly and at high speed on the back of a huge and muscular stallion, seemingly appeared out of nowhere. But there was something wrong about this man, 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 around three hundred feet, his clothing and weapon firmly identified him as nothing less than a denizen of the Bronze Age - which, incredibly, would have placed his origins at some point between 2100 and 750 B.C. Not surprisingly, with darkness falling fast, Clay floored the accelerator and headed for home, somewhat shakily but decidedly excited, too.
His interest most certainly piqued, Clay began to make careful and somewhat wary inquiries - of a somewhat understandably tentative and tactful nature - in the area, to determine if anyone else had ever seen the ancient hunter of the Downs. As it so transpired, they actually had. An old shepherd, who had worked in the fields his whole life, and answering Clay’s questions, said: ‘Do you mean the man on the horse who comes out of the opening in the pinewood?’ When an amazed and excited Clay replied ‘Yes!’ and asked further questions, it became clear to him that he was not the only person to have seen the enigmatic old rider of the land. And, a couple of years later, while still investigating the strange affair, he learned of yet another encounter with the ghostly man and horse. In this case, the witnesses were two girls, cycling from Sixpenny Handley to a Friday night dance at Cranborne, who were plunged into a state of fear by the presence of what sounded like the very same character encountered by Clay back in 1924.
As Clay told Wentworth Day in 1956, he knew of no more recent encounters with the horseman, but theorized that what he had been fortunate enough to see was undoubtedly the spirit form of a Bronze Age hunter and his horse, both of who had probably died under violent circumstances on the Downs, 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. Now, let's go back to Loch Ness. But, for a very different reason, as you'll see.
As one example of more than a few, there is the story of a man named Peter Smithson, who told ghost-investigator, Bruce Barrymore Halpenny, of his encounter with a ghostly airman in 1978 at Loch Ness. Smithson said it was early one morning, just as dawn was breaking, when he saw someone coming towards him – from the depths of Loch Ness. Smithson’s first reaction – and a quite natural reaction – was to assume there had been some kind of accident. It was easy to understand why Smithson assumed that, as the man before him was dressed in military clothing, and was dragging behind him a parachute. But, what baffled Smithson was the fact that the uniform the man was wearing was clearly out of date. It was far from modern-looking and far more befitted the era of the 1940s, when the world was engaged in trying to defeat the hordes of Adolf Hitler. Smithson shouted to the man, to see if he was okay. The response Smithson got was an eerie one: the man slightly turned and pointed towards the waters of Loch Ness. Smithson said that the man suddenly dematerialized, leaving him with a “funny feeling,” and a suspicion that what he had seen was “a ghost airman.” He commented: “What a damn fool I felt, confronted by a ghost, my camera around my neck, yet I never had an inkling to take a photo.”
Interestingly, in 1976, the body of a Second World War Wellington plane was found in Loch Ness. For years afterwards, however, the aircraft remained where it had already sat for more than thirty years – that’s to say, approximately 230 feet down. Military records showed that the aircraft ditched into Loch Ness on December 31, 1940 – New Year’s Eve – after experiencing problems with one of the engines during a turbulent snow storm, high above the domain of monsters. It was when the crew was over the Monadhliath Mountains - which are to the southeast of Loch Ness - that problems began. They were problems which led Squadron-Leader Nigel Marwood-Elton to give a hasty order to jump ship, so to speak: four crew-members quickly parachuted out of the plane. Tragically, one of them, the rear-gunner, a 20-year-old, Sergeant John Stanley Fensome, was killed when his parachute catastrophically wrapped itself around one of the wings of the doomed plane.
While the crew was racing to exit the aircraft, Marwood-Elton and the co-pilot, named Slater, stayed on-board, struggling to control the aircraft as the dusk skies threatened to give way to darkness. With the snow hammering down and a powerful wind blowing, they maneuvered the plane closer and closer to the loch and, incredibly, actually managed to land it on the surface of the water, ditching near Urquhart Castle. With water already flooding into the aircraft from all corners, they scrambled for an on-board dinghy. The two then clambered out of the plane and onto the starboard wing, where they blew up the dinghy and used it to row to shore, as the aircraft was swallowed up by the waves, practically intact. As they reached land, the two men managed to flag down an astonished truck driver, who quickly drove them to Inverness – no doubt for a couple of wee and hearty drams to help steady their nerves. It wasn’t until September 1985, and amid more than a few hazards and hiccups, that the bulk of the aircraft was finally raised from the water, with the recovery of numerous, scattered fragments continuing into 1986. Incredibly, and almost unbelievably, the taillights of the plane were still in good, working order. Did Peter Smithson see the ghost of John Stanley Fensome? Maybe.
Now, finally, to yet another another strange, ghostly affair that occurred at Loch Ness. Actually, it's difficult to determine if the story is one of ghosts or of time-travel. Yes, really! One of the strangest stories of paranormal weirdness at Loch Ness comes from an acclaimed author on all manner of mysteries, Andrew Collins. As Christmas 1979 loomed, Collins – with colleagues Graham Phillips (a parapsychologist) and Martin Keatman (a UFO investigator) – spent a week in Scotland, investigating the Nessie enigma. It involved interviewing witnesses, spending time poring over old archives in Inverness’ library, and checking out the loch itself. It was while they were deep in the heart of their investigation that the trio uncovered a very weird story. Back in the early 18th century a young couple inexplicably vanished while riding a horse and trap near Loch End, on the south shores of Loch Ness. Rumors circulated that the pair was either murdered or abducted. And neither the horse nor the trap were ever seen again. It would have remained a complete mystery, were it not for one thing; a very uncanny thing.
More than one hundred years later, and at the height of tumultuous thunderstorm, a young man and woman walked into a local almshouse, inquiring if the priest that oversaw it would give them shelter for the night, which he did. The priest couldn’t fail to see that the pair was dressed in the kind of clothing that was popular around a century or so earlier. Plus, they seemed very confused, dazed and bewildered, and completely unable to explain where they were from. They remained in that odd, altered state for a couple of days, after which they simply walked out of the almshouse and were never seen again. When the story got out, however, several of the locals recalled old tales of the events of a century earlier, and the missing pair of young lovers. Was this, perhaps, a case of a slip in time having occurred? Did the couple vanish from the 18th century, only to briefly and incredibly manifest in the 19th? Possibly, yes. Or, were they ghosts? That the fantastic event should have occurred at Loch Ness is yet another example of how infinitely peculiar the entire area is.