Hello everyone, and welcome to LukeLore. A quick deep dive into a folklore topic, where I share some of the stories from around the world that have piqued my interest. We have something of another self indulgent topic this episode, as a project I am working on has me looking at more traditional haunting tropes. A lot of the research is cinematic, but there’s always room to enjoy good old spooks in their natural habitat as a part of research for something like this, so I’m bringing everyone along on a tour of some of the most haunted places I haven’t yet folded into a LukeLore location episode. Emphasis on the “most haunted” here, as I found some great locations I had yet to take on. There’s always more folklore out there to surprise and delight me, and I’m nowhere near close to running out of haunted locations in Britain to explore. SECTION BREAK – A Darling Little Village Now, some people may have heard of the charming little village of Pluckley in Kent, England. Some listeners may well already be laughing. But let’s take everyone else on a bit of a journey here. It’s a picturesque little civil parish that may well define the idea of “picturesque”. Pluckley is noteworthy for being where a little show called The Darling Buds of May was filmed, something exactly as quaint as it sounds. Catherine Zeta-Jones got her early breakout role here, which is what the show may be best known for. At the very least, what it comes up about in trivia quizzes. The whole thing is very rural, dare I even say idyllic? Just like the lovely setting it was filmed at. The tiny village used to be much bigger and more nationally significant a thousand years ago, because this is Britain and there is an overwhelming weight of history to a lot of the place, but it’s pretty stable as somewhere small and beautiful to enjoy now. So beautiful, that people across the centuries may never have wanted to move on from it. Which is where people in the know may have gotten a good giggle. Pluckley made it into the 1989 Guinness Book of World Records as the most haunted village in Britain. Now, the Guinness Book of World Records isn’t always a great barometer, as people and organisations pay to be in it, but there’s an undeniably impressive amount of reported stories for a village small enough to accidentally leave if you went for a quick walk. Twelve different entities are claimed to be active across the village, its surrounds, and nearby Hamlet Pluckley Thorne that is so small even next to Pluckley it’s rolled into the same place for governing. Oh, and also included in this region is a place called The Screaming Woods, but that’s probably nothing to worry about. As well as the Guinness Record claim to fame, casual enjoyers of the paranormal may have seen the village pop up on assorted ghost hunting programs like Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters International. You’ve got pretty good odds of bumping into something there, with as many revenant residents as living ones. You’ve got a few hanging bodies still hanging around the place, a White Lady, a Red Lady to complete the set, as well as both a phantom highwayman AND a phantom coach to go with them. None individually are that strange to hear about in Britain, given how strange Britain is. It’s the sheer concentration that’s impressive in Pluckley, not to mention the outstanding specificity. This is no mysterious bump in the night, this is named and known quantities making their presences felt. Oh, that strange figure on Mill Hill at night, yep, that’s the ghost of The Miller. (Note, that was an actual example of yet another of Pluckley’s myriad hauntings). Let me give you one good example of one of these village ghosts before we move on to another location, ahead of what may one day have to be an entire episode focusing on Pluckley alone. Many witnesses have reported that there’s a spectre who can be seen enjoying their favourite place in life, Pinnock Bridge. This is where someone known as The Watercress Lady could be found napping on a chair in life, looking out over the river Pinnock where she made her living. The old woman would wade the river gathering watercress to sell on to villagers, not the most extravagant of livings but clearly more than enough to keep her in pipe tobacco and drinks as she was well known to enjoy relaxing on the bridge in the evenings. You can not only see her there still on some nights, but there can be a rosy glow about the bridge to let people know she’s still there, watching over her river from her favourite vantage point. So, for all that, I can’t help feel the irony of her death is part of why her shade lingers on. Anyone want to guess how The Watercress Lady died? An old lady who worked her whole life in the water, who liked a drink or two with her daily earnings, taken from this world when she took a nap? Can you guess how she tragically drew her last breath? Think maybe she drowned? Nope! Her pipe dropped from her lips while she was napping, dropping onto her clothes while she was asleep after a few drinks – and she promptly caught fire. Assorted woollen layers combusting so fast she didn’t have time to realise what was happening to save herself in the water right below her, ending the life of The Watercress Lady in a terrifying conflagration that interrupted her final nap on her favourite bridge. Gives a worrying context to the lovely rose glow that can manifest… One theory of hauntings, whether visiting spirits or perhaps a psychic impression left upon the world, is that of strong emotions. Often unfinished business. I get the impression here The Watercress Lady is just a bit miffed how she went out in a fiery blaze after a life in water! I’ve definitely got to return to Pluckley. There are far too many outstanding characters to leave the topic at just The Watercress Lady. SECTION BREAK – A Nip Down The Pub Whenever I do a specific location for a haunted Britain episode, I always try to include a haunted pub. It’s an incredibly British thing to have a nexus of terror that people just continue using as their local social. Sure, the Unnameable Thing In The Beer Cellar may scare the part time staff, and you may want to avoid the toilet last thing at night because you-know-what-they-say, but the game will be on at the weekend and everyone has always gone there to drink. It’s the local! This one is notorious enough it’s now a former pub that is mostly used for haunted tours, locals now likely going to Wetherspoons instead for a night out. This is The Ancient Ram Inn that can be found in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire. A market town, something I have a soft spot for coming from an English market town myself. The Ancient Ram Inn is now a guest house, so sort of a mini hotel, that claims to be the most haunted building in England with a reported 20 different ghosts. Here I was thinking Cluckley was impressive for a dozen across a small area, this is one packed out building complex. The Ancient Ram Inn certainly looks the part. There are some simply sublime pictures of it online! Caught in the moonlight, looking slightly off in angle between the old buildings being at odds to the modern road with some rickety fencing further throwing the eye off, a warm glow from the windows looking a lot closer to a stereotypical lit-for-the-demonic Hollywood haunt rather than the sterile glow of energy saving bulbs, framed by its Tudor styled exterior. It’s quite frankly beautiful. It’s a Grade II listed building that has stood for at least 800 years. Those eight centuries extend only to an existing record of this particular version of the Inn, that then also has references to a previous version of the building reaching back even further in time. Plenty of time to accumulate its collection of guests who never truly left. Some of these spooks are a combo package, an old Inn keeper is kept company by his daughters, so I’m not sure if that counts as one apparition or not. One ghost may be found hiding in a guest room, as a witch tried to hide from the infamous Witch Hunts in the Inn, sadly without success as she was eventually dragged out of there to trial. The old bar area, which is no longer a public drinking house, has a well known phantom who is known by name as Elizabeth. She’s supposed to be buried some point deep below the bar, after her murder then interment. Kind of explains why she’s stuck around there, and makes the mind boggle for how that murder investigation went given she may still be under the bar. Given the vague extended history of the venue there’s talk of how the Inn was built on a pagan site that had been an ancient place of worship that includes sacrifices. If you give much credence to the idea of leylines, the location is an intersection of two in which one leads directly from Stonehenge. So, all in all it’s the local British version of the Ancient Indian Burial Ground trope you see the unwary fall afoul of in fiction. Otherwise just known as Britain, really. We’re a fair few layers deep in history on any particular settlement you care to visit. The two most fearsome parts of the location are the barn, and the Bishops room. The barn is said to be stalked by multiple shadows, living shadows themselves – with nothing casting them – which creep around the walls inside the barn and can freeze people in place: messing with them while they are paralyzed with an unearthly fear. You know what that means? Bloody Shadow People at it again, this time with a permanent barn residence for anyone brave enough, or foolish enough, to go visit them. Gits. Then we have the Bishops Room. The Bishops Room is absolutely spook central, it has to account for half of the twenty recorded entities! Multiple monks are supposed to tromp through the place at times. A poor young woman can sometimes be seen hanging from the rafters, and a fully kitted out cavalier can be occupying the room some nights. Then, there’s the pièce de résistance: The room is allegedly haunted by both a Succubus AND an Incubus. It’s definitely the paranormal party room. Okay, great time to drop a fun fact here. Succubi and Incubi have become associated with the feminine and the masculine in recent times, but that’s not how the root language referring to them quite works. Succubus being the type of tempter to receive attention, an Incubus being their opposite that gives the attention. It isn’t actual gendered, just interpreted as gendered in let us say modern roles. You know what? Fun fact or no, I’m dropping this one. Not the right podcast to go into detail about the fine distinctions between a bottom Lust demon and a top Lust demon. Google will have you covered there, should you dare. You know what all this means, right? I want to go stay the night at The Ancient Ram Inn some point soon! Specifically the Bishops Room if I can. For science or research or whatever, not for the multiple sex demons, I swear! SECTION BREAK – The Name Gives It Away Okay, look. I’m not sure if this is just a coincidence or not, but sometimes a name says it all. Let’s say you wanted to invent a name for a haunted castle. No fiction writer would get away with something as on the nose as a Chillingham Castle, in the village of Chillingham. And yet a real Chillingham village there is, with the aptly named Chillingham Castle. We’re somehow on to our third “Most Haunted” claim here, with Chillingham Castle laying claim to the most haunted Castle in England. We’re up to a Grade 1 listed building with this one. Extensive gardens, fine rooms that include delightful places to take afternoon tea, and an infamous history of bloody battles going back to at least the 1200s. Anyone else find the 13th Century being the origin ominous? Basically every part of Chillingham Castle is haunted in some fashion, and with an impressive variety. The courtyard is known to be a strange place under moonlight, with the shadows of the battlement playing strange tricks on the eye which may not be a natural quirk of the light. The Chapel is pretty interesting, as it appears to have two people continuing a conversation at night long beyond death. It doesn’t appear possible to work out what they are saying, beyond the tone being clear enough it gets reported as two distinct men talking to each other. The words themselves are never clear, and if you try to find the source of one they will both fall silent. Take heed of “fall silent” here, they don’t appear to vanish. They appear to wait. Two unknown entities lurking in silence, observing the would be observer until the intruder leaves so they can continue their conversation in peace. The duo in dialogue aren’t the only hard to quantify unseeable entity lurking on the grounds, at least one chamber has something that can only be felt and not conventionally observed. Witnesses agree it cannot be seen, or even heard, but it is distinctly felt. Wrapping about the room in an oppressive atmosphere that gives the impression of something creeping about the place even without sight or sound of this happening. Something that freaks me out a little, almost like it exists “deeper” than the surface senses. Of course, on top of the stranger stuff, there is still some nice traditional apparitions to enjoy. One such is Chillingham Castle’s very own White Lady who can appear in the pantry. Any given guest or staff member blundering through her territory at the wrong time of night can bump into her, but there’s a historic account from a footman who was hired to sleep in the pantry to guard the silverware that gives a pretty solid account of this White Lady. She appears in a frantic search, a very clear manifestation dressed in white with skin as deathly pale as her clothes, which is the sight that disturbed the member of staff. Seeing the footman wake up, she rushes over and begs him for water. Only just roused from his sleep by the noise of the White Lady bustling about the pantry, he at first mistakes her for someone staying overnight at the castle. So still half asleep, he turns and gets some water for her. He then wakes all the way up with a jolt of adrenaline, and the realisation there cannot be a guest in there with him. He’s locked in for the night as a part of his guardian vigil, and only staff have keys. When he turns back around, she has vanished. This commonly sighted White Lady is speculated to have been a past guest who was murdered with a slow acting poison, which explains why the spectre’s skin is as pale as her dress and she is playing out a final panicked search for water to slake a growing deadly pain from within, as the poison that took her life takes effect. I’ll leave you with the strangely comforting words of US American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from after he visited Chillingham Castle: “All houses in which men have lived and died are haunted houses: Through the open doors the harmless phantoms on their errands glide, with feet that make no sounds upon the floors.” Take note of the “harmless” part, and feel free to book a stay in Chillingham Castle for yourself. Urgh… My future holiday schedule is filling up fast this episode. SECTION BREAK – Back The Pub After accidentally blundering into three claims of being the most haunted something somewhere, let’s make for a full set and do a deliberate dip. This time for what is claimed to be the most haunted pub in Wales. The Black Boy Inn, in Caernarfon. Out of respect for Wales, that will be the last time I attempt to pronounce that name. You can find it transcribed on LukeLore.com if you want to follow up on it. We’re back to another market town, and a busy port, combining my past with my present going from an upbringing in Ormskirk to a life in Liverpool! The spookiness is making a strange circle this episode. There’s quite a lot going on here, including another “most” claim with a claim for Wales’s most famous castle. (I like Pembroke myself, but let’s not pick favourites there. Although there’s a Pembrokeshire episode of LukeLore if you want more from there). Onwards to the pub! There are a few common hauntings here I’ve seen in previous breakdowns of haunted pubs across the British Isles. We have a ghostly patron who sits on their regular seat watching comings and goings about them, that other guests or staff may not realise is not one of the living patrons at first. There’s also another entity who gets mistaken for being alive, this one on the other side of the bar. Visitors can be chatting with a friendly barmaid they think is taking their order, only to find out no one working there matches her description. Well, no one currently working there. These two are pretty interesting in that they seem to be echoes of people who love the place hanging around beyond their time, there is however something of a sadder regular at this bar. Sometimes a child can be heard crying, with no obvious source. If anyone gives some words of comfort, the spirit settles back down and the crying stops. Not the first ghost child running about a bar on LukeLore, and I suspect it won’t be the last if I keep coming back to haunted pubs. Whether happy or sad, these places were central community hubs for centuries – something that seems to lead into them being paranormal hotspots now. There are also a few somewhat unique spectral residents. As an unexpected movie tie in, The Black Boy Inn has its own phantom Nun. This one thankfully doesn’t seem to be a demon playing dress up like the titular Nun of the movies, this particular penguin-alike is supposed to be a visiting would be bride of Christ from the convent that used to be behind the pub. Although don’t rule the demonic out I guess, you should probably worry a little about any apparently religious entity who never found peace in the afterlife. The Nun is not the one to watch out for though. The overtly threatening presence in The Black Boy Inn is called The Strangler. Want to guess what they do? They’re an invisible presence that will suddenly start strangling an apparently random victim. Anyone going ghost hunting here may suddenly get a worrying close encounter with the paranormal as their breath gets squeezed out of them. There doesn’t appear to be anyone who suffered permanent harm here, but something cantankerous is lashing out in there. Casual tourist ghost hunter be well warned in advance! The Black Boy Inn is proud of their collection of ghosts, ghouls, and even their invisible throttler. A student painted the pub with its ghosts present in 2017, and this painting hangs there still. Consider yourselves challenged to get a selfie with the ghost painting and share it with everyone else online! SECTION BREAK We’re honestly getting to the point where a few years down the line I could whip up a LukeLore quiz about matching media projects to episodes… Put a pin in that one for later. But people intending to win that future quiz, start making mental notes. There’s a weird amount that could be matched up, depending on what comes to fruition. I aim to end up visiting all four of these places at some point, this episode turning into a haunted holiday destination list. Pictures and videos will inevitably pop up at some point for The Ancient Ram Inn, because I definitely aim to stay there in the near future. Also, I may need to go visit Pluckley directly as a bit of research for an all Pluckley episode. There’s definitely enough material to carry Pluckley for potentially even a two parter once I have the chance to give it a proper explore. Research trip spooky holidays all round! Probably next year now, I’m a bit busy for the rest of 2023 on the projects I only vaguely allude to since they’re still up in the air and confidential right now. I swear I will share news as soon as I can, there’s loads of awesome stuff coming down the pipeline in a few different mediums. When there is news? 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