The Most Haunted Places in Dorset

19 Sep

The distant past is perhaps more tangible in Dorset than in any other part of England. Predominantly rural, this county overlaps substantially with the ancient kingdom of Wessex, whose most famous ruler, Alfred the Great, repulsed the Danes in the ninth century and came close to establishing the first unified state in England. Before Wessex came into being, however, many earlier civilizations had left their stamp on the region. The chalky uplands of nearby Wiltshire boast several of Europe’s greatest Neolithic sites, including Stonehenge and Avebury, while in Dorset you’ll find Maiden Castle, the most striking Iron Age hill fort in the country, and the Cerne Abbas Giant, source of many a legend. The Romans tramped all over this southern county, leaving the most conspicuous signs of their occupation at the amphitheatre of Dorchester – though that town is more closely associated with the novels of Thomas Hardy and his distinctively gloomy vision of Wessex. None of the landscapes of this region could be described as grand or wild, but the countryside is consistently seductive, its appeal exemplified by the crumbling fossil-bearing cliffs around Lyme Regis, the managed woodlands of the New Forest, or the gentle, open curves of Salisbury Plain. With this weight of history it is hardly surprising to hear that Dorset has often been called one of the most haunted parts of the British Isles. You can feel your skin crawl as you stand amidst the ghostly occupants of Dorset’s spooky pubs, stately homes and historic buildings, where paranormal activity haunts the grounds and current residents. From whispering voices and swirling white mists to eerie spirits and ghastly ghouls, Dorset is full of haunted locations and ghost stories, guaranteed to leave you with a chill.

Knowlton Church, located on the outskirts of Wimborne, is said to be one of the most haunted locations in Dorset. Built in the 12th century, Knowlton Church is surrounded by Neolithic earthworks, associated with prehistoric rituals. A visit to the church ruins will find you in one of the most atmospheric places in Dorset, surrounded by an enchanting aura. Paranormal investigators have recorded multiple unexplained phenomena at Knowlton Church, including the sense being engulfed in swirling white mists and the haunting sound of ethereal voices surrounding them. There have also been sightings of a phantom horse and rider, a weeping nun and a ghostly face appearing through the window of the tower. Then there is Athelhampton House, regarded as one of the ten most haunted houses in England. There have been eleven different ghostly presences recorded in this 15th Century Manor, including Nicholas Martyn’s trapped ape in a secret staircase. The ape is heard by both the current residents of the house and visitors, scratching on the wooden panels that line the library walls, desperate to be released from its eternal prison. A ghost named ‘Cooper’ occupies the wine cellar, whilst a pair of dualists have been known to put on a show for visitors in the past.

Dorset’s ‘Ghost’ Village of Tyneham was abandoned suddenly in 1943, during World War II, as the village was needed for armed forces training. A letter was issued, giving residents just 28 days to leave, before Tyneham became a deserted ghost village. Paranormal investigators have recorded whispering voices, unexplained screeching and even stones being thrown at them. Time really has stood still at the Tyneham ‘ghost village’, with school books left open on desks and an old phone box still standing. The old phone box fuels rumours of the village being haunted, as several people have reported hearing it ring on occasion. But probably the most famous of all Dorset’s ghosts is that of T E Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia himself, who was involved in fatal motorcycle accident on 13 May 1935. Locals have reported hearing the distinctive and haunting roar of his Brough Superior, racing along the local roads just before sunrise, only to abruptly stop before anything is seen. Tragically, just five days before his death, Lawrence wrote to Nancy Astor expressing his love for Cloud’s Hill. He wrote, “Nothing would take me away. It is an earthly paradise and I am staying here.” It appears that Lawrence stayed true to his promise as his ghost has been seen many times by visitors to Cloud’s Hill, entering the cottage in swirling Arab robes, only to disappear again…

Thought to be one of the most haunted locations along the South Coast is Nothe Fort, Weymouth. The impressive fort, located at the entrance of Weymouth Harbour, was built between 1860 and 1872 in order to protect the Naval Harbour at Portland.With reports of eerie whistling, air raid sirens and even ghostly spirits walking up and down the terraces, it’s no wonder Nothe Fort has been voted as one of the spookiest locations in Britain. The site is also home to the legendary ‘Ghostly Whistling Gunner’, with staff members reportedly refusing to visit the passageway he haunts alone. The ruined fortress of Corfe Castle, Corfe is a much loved National Trust property in Dorset and is home to many ghost stories and reports of unnatural phenomena. During the English Civil War, Lady Bankes defended Corfe Castle but was betrayed by one of her own. The Parliamentary soldiers destroyed the magnificent castle and left it in a hollow shell of ruins, which remain today. Ever since the destruction, a headless woman in white is said to haunt the castle remains. The headless woman, thought to be the one who betrayed the Bankes, has been known to set a shivering shade upon those who encounter her.

During a devastating fire that gutted Lulworth Castle in 1929, one of the firefighters heard a fearful cry from the top of the castle and saw a woman in one of the tower windows. The firefighter bravely tried to rescue the lady but discovered that the floor of the room that she was standing on had collapsed hours earlier. It was then that the firefighter realised he has seen the ghost of the Grey Lady, a phantom who has been thought to haunt Lulworth Castle for many centuries. Bettiscombe Manor in West Dorset is home to a screaming servant’s skull. The servant’s dying wish was to be returned home but against his wishes was buried in the nearby village cemetery. Ill fortune plagued the village and manor until the villagers could not take much more and the body moved back to the manor house. It is still the belief today that if the skull is removed from the house, screams torment the grounds and whomever commit this discretion will die within the year. Finallt, on the night of a full moon, a ghostly coach and horses appears on the medieval bridge over the River Frome at Wool, travelling to the now vanished Turberville Mansion at Bere Regis. This phantom coach is the inspiration for the best known of Thomas Hardy’s literary ghosts, which appears in ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’. Thankfully, only people with the Turberville blood in their veins can see the apparition, but are you brave enough to discover your family history when you visit?

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