Ghosts of Kernow

23 Sep

Kernow is an ancient name for an ancient place: the English county of Cornwall. When D H Lawrence wrote that being in Cornwall was “like being at a window and looking out of England,” he wasn’t just thinking of its geographical extremity. Virtually unaffected by the Roman conquest, Cornwall was for centuries the last English haven for a Celtic culture elsewhere eradicated by the Saxons – a land where princes communed with Breton troubadours, where chroniclers and scribes composed the epic tales of Arthurian heroism, and where itinerant men from Welsh and Irish monasteries disseminated an elemental and visionary version of Christianity. Primitive granite crosses and a crop of Celtic saints remain as traces of this formative period, and though the Cornish language had ebbed away by the 18th century, it is recalled in Celtic place names that have grown more exotic as they have become corrupted over time. Another strand of Cornwall’s folkloric character comes from the smugglers who thrived here right up until the 19th century, exploiting the sheltered creeks and hidden anchorages of the southern coasts. Cornwall has long been branded the most haunted place in the UK and there are quite a few spooky places you can drop in to see why – if you dare…

Pengersick Castle at Praa Sands is another of Cornwall’s most haunted places. The Pengersick family that once owned the castle had a murderous reputation, in particular, Henry Pengersick who was also believed to practice necromancy. According to local folklore, his wife, Engrina wanders the master bedroom and stares at guests through the window at midnight. Engrina has also been spotted crawling onto the four-poster bed while holding her stomach in pain before vanishing into the darkness. The ghost of a maid, believed to be the one who looked after Engrina in her final days has been spotted walking through walls and standing at the end of the guests’ beds. Pengersick Castle is also home to a black-robed monk that stalks the corridors of the castle during the night. One of the less widely known haunted places in Cornwall is Kennal Vale. It is a hidden valley that lies in the countryside close to Falmouth. It was once the home of one of Britain’s largest gunpowder works which produced explosives for the mines in the area. Kennal Vale is now a nature reserve, but you can still see the rusty, moss covered water wheels and the ruins of the abandoned mill buildings. In 1838 a terrible tragedy occurred where five of the mill buildings blew up in quick succession. One man, William Dunstan, died leaving behind a widow and ten children. His spirit is said to wander the ruins.

Arguably the most infamous and haunted place in Cornwall is The Jamaica Inn. This inn, which was written about by Daphne du Maurier, stands high on Bodmin Moor. It has the reputation of being one of the most haunted properties in the UK. One of its creepiest spirits, the mirror ghost, is said to be the ghost of a small child trapped behind the glass in one of the bedrooms. There are few English landscapes more haunted than Bodmin Moor under mist. It has some beautiful tors, torrents, and rock formations, but much of its fascination lies in the strong human imprint, particularly the wealth of relics left behind by its Bronze Age population, including such important sites as the stone circles of The Hurlers. The vast open space is also famous for its Arthurian legend of Dozmary Pool. Bodmin Jail is one of the most haunted places in the UK and hosts one ghost in particular – that of Selina Wadge, who was found guilty of killing her two-year old disabled son Henry. She is said to roam the prison in haunting remorse for her terrible crime. The jail was known for being a hotspot of public hangings in the 18th century and lovers of the supernatural should visit Bodmin Jail at night for a truly spooktacular evening.

Of all of the Cornwall ghosts, those that are among the most famous are the ghosts of Tintagel, because of the area’s connection to King Arthur. Tintagel is a place that is steeped in myths and legends. It is home to the ruins of a twelfth century castle said to be the home of King Arthur. The coast here is wild and unspoiled, making for some steep and strenuous walking and providing an appropriate backdrop for the black, forsaken ruins of Tintagel Castle. There are said to be five resident ghosts tied to Tintagel. Three of these ghosts are said to haunt the nearby Camelot House Hotel, often getting up to mischief such as knocking paintings off the walls, upturning the hotel bins and even waking guests in the night to give them bed baths! Another of the ghosts is said to be that of a former hotel employee who died in the forties and is seen walking the path from the hotel to his cottage (which was, bizarrely, once owned by Kate Winslet). Finally, the most famous of the Tintagel ghosts is none other than King Arthur’s friend and mentor Merlin. The wizard is said to reside in a cave underneath the castle and is often spotted emerging from the cave speaking in unknown languages – perhaps casting spells on this magical area?

More recent hauntings in Cornwall have often happened in more mundane surroundings – the Co-op store in Queen’s Square, Penzance, and several pubs across the county have experienced ghosts and poltergeists as recently as the 2000s. Between 2013 and 2017 a a total of 38 ‘paranormal’ incidents were received by Devon and Cornwall Police. Police officers were called out for reports of ghosts, zombies, vampires, UFOs and ghouls a dozen times in Cornwall over the past four years – including ghosts trying to steal a man’s fish and chip dinner! Among the reports were calls about vampires drinking their own blood, ghouls trying to break into a house and zombies in the street, as well as an ambulance reportedly driven by a phantom. Police are unwilling to comment on the most recent spate of supernatural phenomena in Cornwall – apparently inquiries are ongoing!

One Response to “Ghosts of Kernow”

  1. alittlebutnotalot September 23, 2018 at 9:28 am #

    I love supernatural stories. So intriguing… Can’t wait to read more

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