Britain's Haunted Churches
Haunted holy places
'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.
Is there anything quite so creepy as a church that's haunted? Places of worship they might be, but Britain's churches are often more haunted than castles and mansions. Neither do the ghosts seem to mind that some of the edifices to devotion are now, nothing more than ruins.
Although many of the hauntings might be residual energy - a simple recording of past events - are spirits perhaps visiting the places that brought them comfort in life? If any place can bring comfort then a place of worship that gave them solace in physical life could be the reason for some of the hauntings at least.
However, whatever causes paranormal activity in these churches, they produce some of the best paranormal activity to be found anywhere.
St. Magnus The Martyr Church - London
England's capital has no shortage of haunted hot spots, including the churches. One of the most interesting is St. Magnus's in Lower Thames Street.
Built by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666, the church stands over the foundations of an earlier building on or near the site dating back to 1234.
There are reports of various paranormal events here. One of the most frequent is an overwhelming feeling of sadness when near the tomb of Miles Coverdale. He was responsible for producing the first Bible in English. Coverdale was also Rector of St. Magnus, later becoming Bishop of Exeter. Michael Coverdale died in 1535 and is buried in the southeast corner of the church. When approaching his tomb many visitors have reported an unexplicable and sudden change in their emotions - usually described as an overwhelming sense of depression. This peculiar effect usually wears off after a few minutes of leaving the area.
This could of course be due to high EMF(electro magnetic frequeny) emissions, but there is other phenomena present in the church. It's also curious that visitors feel exactly the same emotion on different days and at different times.
Another frequent encounter at the church is a startling ghost who appears suddenly. The descriptions of this man are always the same - he wears a cowl on top of a serge cassock and has very black hair. This spirit has been seen not only by church workers, but also rectors and their wives. One of the creepiest encounters happened to a church worker - Miss Frew. She had been sitting in the church working on some embroidery. On looking up she saw the cowled figure standing facing her. However on looking into the cowl for a face she was horrified that only a black void was present. She ran from the church terrified and reported what she had seen to the rector.
Death mask of Oliver Cromwell
St. Nicholas's Church, Chiswick, London
St. Nicholas's Church, Chiswick, London
St. Nicholas's Church is said to be haunted by the daughters of Oliver Cromwell. He was Lord Protector of England from 1653 to 1658. After he died - from septicaemia - in September 1658, he was buried within Westiminster Abbey. However his final resting place is believed to be St Nicholas's Church.
His remains were exhumed from Westminster Abbey on the orders of King Charles II when the monarchy was restored. The body was then beheaded and hung in chains.
Afterwards it is said that the body was thrown into a pit and his head displayed on a pole outside Westminster Hall. His head was not removed until 1684 where it was buried at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge - the same college that Cromwell had attended as a young man.
There is a story that Cromwell's daughters - Mary and Frances - did a deal with one of the guards who was on duty where their father's body was hung. They were able to sneak the body away under cover of night where it was hidden in the family crypt at St. Nicholas's Church.
During reconstruction of the church in 1882 the Vicar is alleged to have found the body of Cromwell. However, fearing that his church would be a beacon for the curious he sealed the coffin up behind a wall and it has never been seen again.
Cromwell's daughters Mary and Frances have been seen around the church and the graveyard. The figures when seen, are white in colour, moving silently from the graveyard and entering the church through the stone walls. There has been speculation why, if the ghosts are indeed Cromwell's daughters, they should be haunting. Do they continue to protect their father's remains?
St. Rules Tower
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St. Andrews Cathedral
The history, intrigue and drama that has happened over the centuries ensures that St. Andrews is not just famous for golf.
One of its most famous locations is the now ruinous Cathedral that has had a long and bloody history. Hardly surprising then that many local people and visitors claim the area is haunted.
One of the most famous ghosts is the white lady. This apparition has been seen regularly over the last few hundred years. Some theories suggest that this was a young woman who was executed during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century. It is believed that she was only 21 years of age and was burned to death at the stake. Witnesses also report the smell of burning embers and hear the crackling of flames near the site where her execution took place.
It is also alleged that this same apparition may also haunt one of the towers of the cathedral. A couple reported seeing a female apparition near the tower of the Abbey Wall. The figure came towards them and seemed to be carrying a prayer book and wore a light coloured veil. The couple were astonished when the young woman vanished in front of them.
There is another story relating to a white lady. Whether they are two different spirits or only one manifesting in different ways is unclear. The story of this white lady - reported as being extremely beautiful - says that she haunts the grounds because her coffin was disturbed.
Witnesses describe her as dressed in a long white dress, carrying a rosary in her hand. In addition many witnesses report that she wore white leather gloves. A story is told that in 1868 two stonemasons carrying out restoration at the cathedral broke through a sealed room and found a number of coffins. In one lay the body of a well preserved and beautiful young woman in white, wearing white leather gloves.
Other researchers have speculated that the white lady might be one of a few apparitions that are seen near to the Abbey Wall that runs parallel to the footpath outside the cathedral. This is the site where plague victims were buried. The areas where plague buriels have taken place are well known for their strange lights and other manifestations. So whether the white lady is a victim of her religious beliefs, a plague victim or annoyed about her disturbed coffin, we might never know.
A monk haunts a different area of the Cathedral, in St. Rule's Tower. The most startling incident occurred in the 1950s. A visitor was making his way up the stone spiral staircase and had reached about halfway. Suddenly he thought he was losing his balance and gripped the handrail to steady himself. He then looked up and was shocked to see a figure standing a few stairs further up. It was a man dressed in a cassock or robe.
The visitor was even more unnerved when the figure spoke to him and asked:
"Are you all right? May I offer you an arm?"
The visitor found his voice and politely declined the offer, but thanked the robed figure before continuing on his way, nervously squeezing past the man on the narrow stairs.
Interestingly it wasn't until later that he realised with shock, that he had felt no resistance or pressure at all when he passed the figure in the tiny area on the stairs. He made full enquires as to who had been in the tower with him but was assured that he was the only person present.
It seems the visitor had encountered the pleasant and helpful ghostly monk of St. Rule's Tower. Research carried out by William T Linskill, former Dean of Guild of St. Andrews, believed that the kindly spirit was that of Robert de Montrose a previous Prior of St. Andrews hundreds of years ago. While alive the Prior would frequently climb up the tower on moonlight nights to enjoy the view.
Minsden Chapel, Hertfordshire.
Minsden Chapel, Preston, Hertfordshire
This ancient ruin has been dated to the 14th century and went out of use as a place of worship in the 1700's. It is alleged that the chapel sits on top of what was once a hermit's cell. There are also alleged connections with this old chapel and the Knights Templar, whose headquarters at Temple Dinsley are nearby.
One ghost is said to haunt the ruined staircase on Halloween night. The figure is described as looking like a monk. There is also an alleged photograph taken by local historian Reginal Hind in the 1930s. The historian was so intrigued by the ruins that he rented them from the owner for the remainder of his life. He even put a warning notice up to anyone approaching his beloved ruins:
"Trespassers and sacrilegious persons take warning, for I will proceed
against them with the utmost rigour of the law, and, after my death and
burial, I will endeavour, in all ghostly ways, to protect and haunt its
His death in 1949 was weird. As he was talking to a close friend at the nearby Hitchin Railway Station, he placidly stepped out in front of the train drawing into the station - naturally he was killed instantly. However, he gave no indication of his intent to commit suicide or even that he was depressed. His grave is located below the undergrowth of his beloved ruins.
Perhaps Reginald is now one of the spirits responsible for the supernatural events said to take place within the ruins. These events include the mysterious sound of bells and what has been described as clanking chains. Other witnesses have claimed to hear music around the ruins when there was no physical source for it. There is also the apparition of a woman - some sources say she was a nun - who was murdered near to the chapel. A glowing cross has also been reported as well as strange lights. Other apparitions witnessed at the ruins include a small spirit child as well as a ghostly Satanic coven.
Animals also react very strangely at times when in the vicinity of the ruins. Observors have reported animals reacting nervously and aggressively towards areas of the ruins but nothing can be seen to cause this reaction. Dogs, cats and horses in particular are very sensitive to paranormal activity and may be picking up energies that humans can't sense.
I hope you've enjoyed this tour of these haunted holy places and if you have any of your own stories to share then let me know in the comments section.
© Seeker7(Helen M Howell) July 30th, 2013
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