Post by Graveyardbride on Dec 22, 2014 3:53:09 GMT -5
Christmas Ghosts: Spectral Coaches & Royal Spirits
A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens story of ghostly visitors, had a profound effect on the English-speaking world. To many, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of past, present and future. Perhaps the keen concentration on the supernatural is the reason so many British ghosts have chosen to appear at Christmastime. Although scary stories had long been a staple of the seasonal festivities, after Dickens wrote his memorable tale, they became as much a part of Christmas as holly, roast goose and plum pudding.
Twenty-first century England has changed to the point that specters of the distant past wouldn’t recognize it, but to this day, phantom coaches rumble along some of the country’s lonelier roads, sunken bells peal from the depths, and a number of churches, inns and pubs play host to Christmas spirits.
Spectral Coaches. In Nomansland near Dodington, Somerset, a black coach drawn by four jet black steeds lumbers through the village at midnight; and a similar coach, this one pulled by headless horses, makes its way up the driveway at Roos Hall in Beccles, Suffolk. A third coach, also drawn by a team without heads, appears the last few nights before Christmas, slowly moving along the deserted roads of Penryn, Cornwall. A fourth horse-drawn transport – which some say is visible only to members of the Tuberville family – materializes at Woolbridge Manor, Wareham, Dorset, then vanishes in the mist as it crosses the heath.
On the roads in and around the village of Ilmington,Warwickshire, an otherworldly coach has been observed by startled drivers who claim it suddenly veers off the road and disappears. In addition to its ghostly coach and four, Ilmington also is haunted each Christmas Eve by a phantom hunter and his pack of spectral hounds, a carryover from pagan times.
For as long as anyone can remember, the apparition of a coach has crossed the Vorty Green Bridge in Calcutt near Cricklade, Wiltshire, on Christmas Eve night. A short distance from the bridge, a litter of plump, white supernatural pigs with bright red ears scurry across the road. Although these phenomena both occur on the night of December 24 at approximately the same time, there is apparently no connection between the two. Red-eared animals are of the fairy realm and according to some folklorists and historians, the red-eared pigs are Celtic in origin, while the coach and four are from the Medieval period.
Also on the night of December 24, a phantom coach carrying Abigail Masham – a lady who spent her final years in the village of High Laver, Essex, – glides along the village’s main thoroughfare. The dwelling in which Mrs. Masham lived is long gone, but the coach slows at the location where the structure once stood and those who get close enough, see a sad-eyed lady staring from the dark confines of the carriage at the place she once called home.
At least one of England’s paranormal Christmas coaches transports royalty. Lady Jane Grey reigned as Queen only 10 days (not nine as is generally reported) following the death of Edward VI, the only male heir of Henry VIII. Edward, a sickly boy, realized his time on the throne would be short-lived and in his Device for the Succession, disinherited his two half sisters, Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aargon, a staunch Catholic; and Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn. He named instead his cousin Jane Grey and her male heirs.
Edward’s health deteriorated and by July 1553, he had been unable to take solid food for almost three weeks. Fetid, black sputum drooled from his mouth and his fingers and toes turned gangrenous. Mercifully, the boy king died July 6 at the age of 15. Lady Jane was informed she was to ascend the throne Sunday, July 9. Just six weeks prior, she had been married – against her wishes – to Guilford Dudley, a man she loathed. Lady Jane wasn’t alone in her dislike for her husband and his family: the populace shared her feelings. In fact, the people despised the entire Dudley family. To make a long story short, Mary Tudor was declared the rightful heir to the throne and one of her first orders of business was to sign Lady Jane Grey’s arrest warrant.
For six months, Lady Jane lived in relative comfort in the Tower of London, attended by three maids and a page. She spent most of her days reading and appeared to be happier in confinement than she had been with her revolting husband and his disgusting relatives. It was hinted that she might save herself by embracing Catholicism, but this was only a rumor which was dispelled by the prisoner herself, who made it clear she would never forsake her faith for love of life.
The executions of Lady Jane and Dudley were set for February 12, 1554. Her husband’s beheading would take place in public on Tower Hill, but in deference to her royal blood, Lady Jane would be beheaded in private on the green. Dudley was taken from the Tower around 10 a.m. and following his execution, his widow watched from her window as the cart carrying his decapitated body, beside which lay his head wrapped in rough cloth, rattled past.
It was now her turn. Lady Jane, who was described as below average height and of small stature, left her quarters in the company of two attendants. She climbed the steps to the scaffold carrying an open prayer book. Witnesses say the dignified young woman remained dry-eyed as she turned to address those in attendance and recited the 51st Psalm. She then handed her gloves and handkerchief to her lady-in-waiting and her prayer book to Sir John Brydges. After asking her forgiveness, which Lady Jane willingly gave, the executioner told her where to stand. A handkerchief was tied over her eyes and the lady became anxious, asking “Where is it? What shall I do? Where is it?” Noting the former Queen’s confusion, a bystander climbed onto the scaffold and helped her to the block. “Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” Lady Jane cried as the executioner’s axe fell. As was customary, an official grasped the severed head and held it high, declaring, “So perish all the Queen’s enemies! Behold the head of a traitor!”
What is left of Bradgate Park, Lady Jane’s former home, lies at the heart of beautiful Charnwood Forest near Leicester. At midnight on Christmas Eve, a black coach drawn by four headless horses silently makes its way along the forest path. Upon reaching the ruins of the once great house, the coach stops, the door opens and out steps Lady Jane Grey, her head tucked neatly beneath her right arm.
Other Royal Christmas Spirits. Another Royal Christmas spirit is that of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s unfortunate second wife who was beheaded at the Tower of London, May 19, 1536. Although she often appears headless, on Christmas Day, the tragic queen – head intact – returns to Hever Castle in Kent, the place where she lived, was courted by Henry and later imprisoned. She fleetingly materializes on the castle grounds, first on the bridge and then beneath the ancient oak where she accepted King Henry’s proposal of marriage.
Sandringham (above), the Norfolk estate purchased in 1862 by Edward VII while he was Prince of Wales, is visited each Christmas Eve night by a poltergeist, an annoying specter, who scatters Christmas cards over the floor in the servant’s quarters, pulls blankets from beds, opens and shuts doors and stomps about in corridors and empty rooms. Additionally, female servants working in the great house on the night of December 24, have turned around to “tell off” some cad after feeling a man’s breath on the back of her neck. Many maids have rushed from their quarters screaming after encountering the phantom “breather.” One popular explanation for the supernatural activity at Sandringham is that a monk seduced a nun at the monastery that once stood on the site and her unhappy wraith is responsible for some of the disturbances. Others claim the paranormal incidents are the antics of a young Victorian lamplighter who mysteriously disappeared while making his rounds.
Prince Philip’s nephew, Prince Christopher of Greece, once saw the head and shoulders of a lady materialize in a mirror at Sandringham. The following day, he walked the halls hoping to locate a portrait of the incorporeal intruder. Suddenly, he stopped before the likeness of Dorothy Walpole who died in 1726. “That’s her!” he exclaimed. “That’s the woman I saw in the mirror!” King George IV had an encounter with the frightening apparition of Dorothy Walpole at nearby Raynham Hall.
Lillie Langry, the mistress of the Prince of Wales who later became Edward VII, had rooms in what is now the Cadogan Hotel on Sloane Street, London, and when there aren’t a lot of guests on Christmas Day, people have occasionally caught a glimpse of the glamorous Lillie in a flowing white gown.
Sources: The Complete Works of Elliott O'Donnell; The Good Ghost Guide by John Attwood Brooks and Mari Roberts; Supernatural England by Eric Maple; Haunted Heritage by John Mason; Britain's Haunted Heritage by J. A. Brooks; Coronation of Glory: The Story of Lady Jane Grey by Deborah Meroff; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives; Ghosts of Cornwall by Peter Underwood; and Haunted Britain: A Guide to Supernatural Sites Frequented by Ghosts, Witches, Poltergeists, and Other Mysterious Beings by Antony Hippisley Coxe.
See also “A Christmas Carol: Ghost of Charles Dickens”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/838/christmas-carol-ghost-charles-dickens
“Christmas Ghosts: Christmas Ghosts of Pubs, Inns & Theaters”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/3041/christmas-ghosts-pubs-inns-theaters
“Christmas Ghosts: Haunted Churches & Sunken Bells”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/3037/christmas-ghosts-haunted-churches-sunken