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Phantom of the Parishes

Phantom of the Parishes

Dartmoor has many short tales of hauntings that would not be enough to warrant their own pages, so the tales are told here on one gazetteer.

Ashburton.

The Story of Cutty Dyer.

Belstone.

One evening an elderly resident of Belstone was strolling along the West Cleave when below him he saw a local farmer stood at the bank edge of the East Okement river. Believing that the farmer was going to do something which would be regrettable he hurried down to the riverside. As he neared the water he hear a voice which seemed to come from the swirling current, it said, “The hour has come but not the man.”

Bovey Tracey.

1) The owners of a house near to Bovey Tracey somehow purchased and installed an old staircase from nearby Buckfast Abbey. Not long afterwards, at the same time every evening a ghostly procession of monks could be seen slowly walking up and down the old staircase. The family of the house accepted the spectral visitors down to the point that the children used to wait for their monks to came and stand by their bedsides. In the end the media got hold of the story which ended in a priest being called to exorcise the monks.

2) At the time of the Crusades a local noble woman called Miss de Tracey committed suicide in an arbour of her house. On returning safely from the holy land, her lover visited the garden and saw a white rabbit dart out of the shrubbery. Ever since then the white rabbit, believed to be the spirit of Miss de Tracey, haunts the grounds of the old house.

3) There have been ghostly sightings of a headless lady wearing a blue silk frock in the grounds of Bovey House.

Brent Moor House.

The one-time house of Brent Moor was said to harbour a ghost. One morning a relative who was staying at the house complained that the previous night he awoke and felt as if he was being suffocated. The owner then explained that the room he had slept in was haunted by the ghost of a nanny who many years previous had smothered a baby. She was that remorseful that she went down to the river Avon and drowned herself in its waters. Sine that day the ghost of the nanny occasionally manifested itself and re-enacted her heinous crime.

Buckfastleigh.

1) The story of Squire Cabel.

2) In 1872/3 a procession of ghostly monks was seen, there were all dressed in either grey or white which suggests that they were  respectively, Savingy Monks or Cistertians.

Chagford.

1) The tale of Mary Whiddon.

2) The story of the Chagford Cavalier.

Dean Prior

The story of the old weaver of Deancombe

Drewsteignton.

1) In the neighbourhood of Drewsteignton is a cottage which stands at a place known locally as ‘Bloody Corner’. An horrific murder was committed at the cottage and ever since the crime a thin trickle of blood flows from beneath the door every night at the stroke of midnight.

Dunsford.

1) Many years ago two sweethearts were sat in a lane and for some reason an argument broke out, the outcome of which was that the lad strangled his girlfriend with a stocking that she was knitting. He was convicted, sentenced and hung for the murder. Ever since between midnight and 1.00am the grisly couple can be seen silently sitting on a rock where the girlfriend continues to knit her unfinished stockings.

2) At midnight, the spectre of old Squire Fulford is seen just outside Dunsford on a stretch of road called ‘Coach Drive’. His headless body sits on a coach which travels backwards up the lane, the horses are harnessed back to front, eventually the coach just simply fades away.

3) Squire Fulford used to haunt his onetime earthly home because for some reason he had not been buried where he wanted. The parson of the church had his remains dug up and reburied in the sand beside the river Teign where he was tied down with straw. But every night he takes a ‘cockstride’ nearer to Fulford house and legend dictates that one day he will return.

Gidleigh.

1) The Blackaton Bridge spans the Blackaton Brook and it is here that the ghost of a woman who once drowned herself in its waters haunts on dark nights, It is also said that some nights the sounds of a bloody battle can be heard wafting up from the brook.

Hangingstone Hill.

An accomplished Dartmoor walker was on Hangingstone Hill trying to find the Phillpotts peat pass but no matter how hard he searched it for some strange reason eluded him. He had tried on many occasions to locate the cut but just couldn’t until this day in 1964. Once again he searched amongst the peat hags but had no luck and in frustration he threw his walking stick to the ground and sat down for a rest. Suddenly the stick started to turn round on the ground until its handle pointed towards him. As he leant over to pick up the stick he felt an unseen hand firmly but gently take his wrist and lead him forward. The walker allowed the ghostly hand to guide him and to his delight it took him to the marker cairn of the elusive peat cut.

Hennock.

1) Just outside the village is Jew’s Bridge and this was where many years ago a Jewish pedlar was murdered. It is said that to this day his ghost still haunts the bridge.

2) There were a spate of motor cycle accidents on a stretch of road which runs from Hennock village to Pitt Hill. In every case the riders reported seeing a figure running alongside them and waving its arms in the air thus causing the accident.

Hound tor.

There are several haunting in the area of Hound tor.

Islington.

1) The story of the Phantom Cottage.

2) In the early 1900’s a lady tragically died at her house in the parish. At her funeral the horses that were drawing the hearse for some unknown reason stubbornly refused to go up the hill that leads to the churchyard. The animals were plainly agitated as they were foaming at the mouth and sweating profusely. The vicar was summoned and he said some prayers over the coffin after which the horses carried on with their journey. After the funeral the old woman’s house began to get ghostly visits when rattling chains and other unearthly noises could be heard.

Lustleigh.

1) Near a place called ‘Peck Pitt’ is what is supposedly a bottomless pool which was part of some old mine workings. This pool is haunted by an old ploughman who appears once a year on the evening of Good Friday. It seems that against all tradition he insisted on ploughing on a Good Friday for which divine retribution was swift and he, his plough, and his horses disappeared into the bottomless pool.

2) One day two horse riders were going towards Hunter’s tor at the entrance to Lustleigh Cleave when they saw ahead of them a hunting party with dogs. The people were finely dressed and the horses richly saddled. The dogs were being led by some footmen and the whole party rode off into some trees. This haunting not only included the hunters, horses and dogs but also the trees as where the riders saw the apparition there were no trees. Some people think the ghosts are that of a royal hunting party and others say it is the knights who took part in the 1240 perambulation which sadly went no where near Lustleigh.

Longaford Tor.

Many years ago an old shepherd from Powder Mills went on the moors one dark snowy night and never returned home. Despite the usual search nothing more was seen of him until a few months later some human bones were found beside a foxes earth on the side of Longaford tor. It was supposed that the poor shepherd had died on the moor, either by the earth or the foxes had taken his bones back to their den. But ever since that grisly discovery it is said that during the week before Christmas the ghosts of foxes appear near the old earth

Lydford

1) The ghost of Judge Jefferies.

Moretonhampstead.

In the early hours of the morning of April 14th 1969, a family were driving in there car when they came to a sharp corner about half a mile outside of Moretonhampstead on the Postbridge road, by all accounts there was a thick mist on the moor. Suddenly another car shot road the bend on the wrong side of then road. The driver frantically swerved to miss the car and ended up in the ditch, but much to his amazement the other car never passed. On trying to restart the car the battery was found to be flat despite having driven 50 miles. Eventually the car was towed to the garage where the mechanics found the motor to be completely drained of power. Having heard the motorists tale the garage owner was able to confirm that no such a car had passed that way for hours. A local AA man related how there had been a fatal accident at the spot where the phantom car appeared and that ever since similar apparitions have occurred.

Okehampton.

1) The legendary story of Benjamin Gayer and Cranmere Pool.

2) In 1895, a groom named Mr Hill was working late grooming the horses at Oaklands Stable when he heard a pack of hound in full cry coming over the moor from the direction of Yes tor. He went outside to see what was going on and distinctly heard the cry of the dogs and the blast of a hunting horn. When he went back inside the stables he found the horses sweating profusely, snorting and eyes bulging, so much so that he had to re-groom them all. Despite exhaustive enquiries the groom could find no reports of any of the local fox hound being out that late the previous evening. It was thought that they must have been the Wisht Hounds of Crockern tor lead by the Dark Huntsman.

Peter Tavy.

The tragic story of Stephen’s Grave.

Postbridge.

1) The ghostly apparition of the Merripit Pigs.

2) What is now the East Dart Hotel was once called Webb’s Hotel which was after it onetime owner – ‘Captain’ Webb. When he died he left the hotel to his son John, who married a woman who was a strict teetotaller. The woman despised the hotel in light of the ‘Demon Drink’ it sold to the poor topers of the moor. One fateful Sunday the couple attended chapel and sat through a sermon that was about the evils of drink. The preacher must have done a good job because when the couple got back to the hotel, John took all the alcohol, and with some encouragement from his wife, tipped it all in the ditch which was opposite the hotel. Since that day, at 3 o’clock in the morning a huge ghostly bloodhound runs out from Moretonhampstead and slobbers in the ditch as it searches for the dregs of the alcohol once poured into it.

3) Just outside Postbridge is the Widecombe church path which winds its way across Grey Hound Marsh. The was the track that the moor dwellers had to use in order to get to church for services and funerals. It also meant that any coffin had to be carried along this track and often ghostly apparitions of old funeral processions can be seen.

4) The other church path near Postbridge is the Lych Way which leads to Lydford, again funeral processions had to use this track in order to get the coffin to the church. It is often said that ghostly processions and spectral monks dressed in white habits haunt the track.

Princetown.

In 1963, a woman was staying at what was then the Prince of Wales hotel in Princetown. On three occasions during her stay she was awoken at 3.30am by the sound of an alarm clock going off but despite a thorough search of her room she could find no clock. On the second occasion the ringing of the alarm was accompanied by the sight of a small white triangle floating down the stairs. On the third occasion she heard some music softly playing.

Spitchwick.

On the chiming of midnight the ghostly procession of the old squire’s funeral party can be seen solemnly walking from the park towards Widecombe-in-the Moor.

Stowford Cleave.

The river Erme in its lower moorland course runs through Stowford Cleave and it is here that a hideous ghost was exiled after haunting Stowford House. The spirit is condemned to make ropes from the sand in the river for eternity. It is said that on nights when the river is in spate his ghostly, desperate cries can be herd screaming – “more rope, more rope…”

Tavistock.

1) The story of the ghost and the buried treasure.

2) A long time ago, a stage coach was travelling the road which goes across the moor between Tavistock and Okehampton, it was carrying two lady travellers. All of a sudden the coachman became agitated and whipped his team of horses into a gallop. One of the ladies asked him what was the matter when he nervously pointed to a weird black dog that was lolloping alongside the coach. It was, according to the coachman, the ghostly black dog of the moors.

3) Just outside Tavistock is Grammar Boys Woods and these are said to be haunted by the ghost of a Georgian gamekeeper. It seems that the old keeper stalks the woods shooting at anybody he sees and then vanishes from site.

4) In the centre of town is a tower called Betsy Grimble’s Tower and her ghost is said to appear just before the onset of any national disaster. A policeman saw her ghost just before the Aberfan disaster of 1966.

5) Supposedly beneath the town square is a network of tunnels thought to be associated with the old abbey. Many years ago two clergymen were exploring these tunnels when the ghosts of two monks came walking towards them. It is said that the monks bowed reverently and walked on down the tunnel.

6) In the 1500’s a judge lived at Tavistock called Glanville, he had a daughter who had fallen deeply in love with a sailor. However, the judge was having none of this because he had arranged for his daughter to marry a local goldsmith. So to avoid this arranged marriage the daughter, a servant, and the sailor plotted to murder the goldsmith which having done so would mean the daughter would be free of her commitment. The dastardly deed was carried out but somehow went wrong because the trio were caught and arrested. At the trial Glanville sat in judgement and found all three guilty of murder, sentencing them all, including his daughter to death. The ghost of the daughter is said to haunt the house where she appears in a bedroom dressed in a cloak and hood. On one occasion she was seen simultaneously by three horrified witnesses.

Throwleigh.

1) In Throwleigh there is a small lane known as Petticoat Lane which leads down from the open moor. One dark evening a woman and her parents were walking down this lane when behind them they heard the sound of a herd of pony hooves clattering along the road. The group stood in an nearby doorway to let the ponies pass when to their amazement the hoof clatter and a gust of wind sped past but no visible ponies, the clattering then faded off into the distance.

2) One the panelling of a downstairs room at Wonson Manor is said to be a large painted ace of diamonds. Tradition says that the one-time owner of the manor bet all his lands on a card game which he duly lost. As a reminder of the folly of gambling the man had the ace of diamonds painted in order to remind him of the consequences. It is rumoured that if the door of this room is quietly opened of an evening the ghostly figures of four men in Cavalier costume can be seen sitting around a table playing cards. In addition to these spectres there is meant to be another one in the form of an unseen woman who will smooth the bed and tuck in any occupant

3) The ghost battle of Bloody Meadow.

Two Bridges.

Sometime in the 1920’s at about 11.00pm two men were riding on a motorcycle past the moor lodge at Two Bridges. Suddenly a white horse appeared infront of them and despite braking hard the motorcycle carried on a collision course for the animal. The men braced themselves for the imminent impact but much to their amazement the motorcycle went through the spectral horse. It was suggested afterwards that the men had seen a mist cloud but they were adamant it was a white horse.

Widecombe-in-the-Moor.

Just outside Widecombe is a wood which is a favourite place for the locals to walk their dogs. On day a woman was doing just that when she saw coming towards her a large. slender white dog which looked similar to an Afghan or Saluki. The woman’s dog, upon spotting the hound turned tail and ran off at great speed. The white dog continued gracefully to come towards the woman and then it simply vanished. There have been many similar reports from other walkers and local farmers regarding the white dog.

Yelverton.

1) Just outside Yelverton is Roborough Common where a couple of centuries ago a local farmer and his wife were riding along the road in their trap. Suddenly a solemn funeral procession appeared and so respectfully the farmer pulled the trap into the side of the road to let them pass. Eventually the last mourner trudged slowly by and the farmer looked over his shoulder to see if it was safe to pull out when to his horror he saw that the cortege had vanished into thin air.

2) One December afternoon in the 19th century a man was walking from Princetown to Plymouth and on approaching Roborough he noticed a black dog trotting alongside him. Much to his horror, when he bent down to stroke the animal his hand passed clean through its body. By the time he reached the edge of the common the dogs was still by his side and then all of a sudden there was a flash of lightening and a loud explosion. The force of which threw him into a nearby ditch where he lay unconscious until the following day. Local tradition has it that at the very spot where he got thrown into the ditch a man was murdered and his dog still haunts the road in search of his killer in order to exact vengeance. It is also tradition that occasionally he mistakenly identifies his master killer.

 

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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