Jersey Ghosts

21 Jan

Eerie goings on abound on the island of Jersey. Despite being the largest of the Channel Island archipelago and having a slew of interesting and creepy tales its legends don’t seem to be written about as much as other places in the British Isles, which is a shame given that it is just as rich in myth and superstition as anywhere on mainland Britain. Aside from the more well-known stories that follow, a great deal of personal experiences are also reported by ordinary island folk: from strange lights to full-blown apparitions. Certainly, folklore and tales of the supernatural have always been integral to this island and the yarns that emanate from here range widely, featuring everything from fairies and witches to ghosts and giants. Most famously, on the north coast of Jersey tales used to spread of the Black Dog of Bouley Bay, a terrifying beast with huge teeth and eyes the size of saucers that roamed the coastline. The tales were probably invented by smugglers hoping to scare away parishioners from the coast while they landed their cargoes of brandy and tobacco but there are plenty of other tall tales told throughout the Channel Islands – of cursed wreckers, devil’s footprints, ghostly children and wailing grey ladies.

When the novelist Victor Hugo was exiled from France he chose to live on the island closest to home – Jersey, just 14 miles across the Channel, where his native language was spoken. As self-governing islands and strongholds of ancient, semi-feudal laws, the Channel Islands are neither truly British, nor are they French. English is the official language, the currency is pound sterling, yet many street names are still in French, the food has a Gallic slant and the islands have a distinctly continental flavour. For a tiny island, however, Jersey is packed with ghost stories, tall tales and urban legends. The coastline at St Brelade was once highly fertile until a group of wreckers lured several Spanish ships close to the shore. All the ships hit the rocks and sank, but not before a Spanish captain shouted out a curse that condemning the wreckers and the future of the land. A year to the day later, a massive wave hit the area, drowning all the wreckers and washing the topsoil away and replacing it with sand. The area around St Clement was reputedly the meeting place for witches and for summoning the devil. A footprint left by the devil is said to be still visible on a rocky outcrop – the Rocqueberg. A ship en route to neighbouring Sark collided with another boat and sank with all on board drowning. Several of the dead were children, and it is said that these youngsters can now be heard moaning when a storm front is moving in. This is far from the only naval tragedy of the Channel Islands. It is said that in 1551 all the church bells in Jersey were removed and shipped to France. Unfortunately they did not make it – the vessel carrying the bells sank shortly after departing off the coast of St Helier, heading towards Minquiers. It is now said that anyone who hears the bells while out at sea will not make it back to land.

The British Isles has a plethora of black dog legends and the Channel Islands aren’t to be left out, for Jersey and its neighbour Guernsey are supposedly both cursed with two each. Much about the legends overlap. On Jersey, a dog called Le Tchan de Bouole is said to appear around Bouley Bay, wandering the cliffs and locale – usually before a storm hits the island. Some say it has very large eyes and drags chains about – it is even thought to have chased a car full of people in 2008 as a black shadow. The second hound to stalk these shores is called Tchico or the Black Dog of Death. This one is said to accompany the souls of the recently departed. This Tchico seems to be also found on Guernsey and Sark with minor variations. The Guernsey Tchico might be some weird incarnation of a former bailiff named Gaultier de la Salle who, in the 1300s, was hanged for trying to get his neighbour, a man called Massy, executed for a theft he didn’t commit. This was over a property dispute with Massy refusing to sell a portion of his land to de la Salle, thereby incurring his murderous wrath. The deceit was found out at the last minute and it was de la Salle who was sent to the gallows. Sometimes the hound appears without a head and objects are said to pass right through it. Guernsey also has Tchen Bodu, whose sight, like many demon hounds, brings death upon the viewer. Finally, travel the Channel Islands and it’s not just scary phantom dogs you might see for other reports tell of further ghostly animals including pigs, a white horse, a young deer, a cat and even a “giant nanny goat”!

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