Have a happy Halloween with these harrowing tales of haunted Hertfordshire
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It is said the veils between worlds grow particularly thin at this time of year, with Halloween festivities providing a conduit for spirits to visit from the realms beyond... With that in mind, we asked Herts Ad ghosthunters William Bentley, Caroline Thain and Andrew Bullock to compile a selection of spooky stories sure to set your nerves tingling...
It’s well documented that ghostly carriages clatter their way up Holywell Hill, Roman soldiers march through Verulamium Park and deceased highwaymen gallop along the road into Harpenden. But there are other, perhaps less well-known, appararitions said to have materialised at locations across the county...
A motorist claimed to see a spectral carriage pulling up outside the Wagon and Horses pub in May 1984. Out came a lady dressed in grey, aided by a man who was probably her servant judging from his clothes, which included knee breaches, a jacket and a tricorn hat – and they both disappeared into the inn.
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In the mid 1970s, Mr Upton, the landlord for the 400-year-old Bull pub, reported that one of the rooms, the Blue Room, was too cold to sleep in. Apparently a woman died of pneumonia after having the sheets pulled off the bed, and the same thing happened to anyone who slept there. A baby monitor kept receiving ghostly sounds, builders were subjected to supernatural activities, and a little girl said she saw a phantom in her room.
Upton died in a car crash on the road between Redbourn and St Albans on April 20 1978, but it is said he refused to leave the pub even after his death.
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On one occasion new landlord Barry left the bar to go down to the cellar, he changed the kegs and the cleaning rig, and then he went back up. But when he tried one of the taps it didn’t work. He went back down and found that the gas meter was on zero even though he remembered turning it on. There was a suggestion that Upton was haunting the pub - his ornamental shield was known to move around the bar and on one occasion it flew off and hit Barry in the back. Barry’s dogs also refused to go down to the cellar, and one of them bit him it was so terrified.
Barry would invite his friends for a drink around the bar after closing, and after one of them claimed to see a figure nearby they searched the pub but found nothing. There were occasions where loud noises could be heard coming from upstairs, even though no one was there. On one occasion Barry came downstairs and found all the chairs and the tables neatly stacked in the middle of the bar, even though he was the last person to leave the night before.
It is said that Henry VIII visited The Olde Kings Arms in Hemel High Street during their courtship, and in years since there have been reports of a white lady wandering through the courtyard and a fat man sitting beside a bed and laughing. Fascinated, a team of paranormal experts visited in 2000. The team leader said she felt ‘suddenly chilled’ and the director photographed orbs of light in one of the rooms - balls of energy which are said to represent the soul after death. Elsewhere, visitors to The White Hart Inn in Hemel Old Town have reported seeing a man appearing on the stairs, dressed in black and white with a look of terror on his face. One theory says he was a young man who resisted sailors trying to enlist him into the Royal Navy, and although he fought them off he died at the foot of the stairs.
Welwyn Garden City
Long before the Garden City was built a medieval knight, Richard Whyte, moved his mistress to a farmhouse in Guessens Court. When his wife found out she went to the farmhouse and burned it to the ground with the woman inside. Enraged, Whyte decapitated his wife - he was subsequently granted a royal pardon for his gallantry and loyal service to the king , and even given a senior governmental appointment. Today there is a hotel on the site, but apparently a woman haunts still haunts the place, although it is unclear whether it is Whyte’s wife or mistress.
In 1960 the relief manager of the Cross Keys woke up at the sound of voices on the staircase. He got out of bed and then went down to the bar. When he opened the door, the glow of the streetlamp outside penetrated the darkness and highlighted three figures crouched over one of the tables. They looked up and he saw three ghostly faces with shaven heads cloaked in dark robes. Absolutely petrified he ran back to his room and locked the door. Banging, objects moving and temperature changes in the cellar have also been reported, along with an eerie voice pleading: “Help me”.
In 1985 the landlord of The Silver Cup encountered a lady in grey, smiling at him in the corridor before walking right through the door. He found out the women was a member of the Archer family who had previously owned the pub for many years. Years before 1985, a boy, living in the house behind the Silver Cup, told his mother he kept seeing a man in his bedroom. She dismissed it as a childhood fantasy but became worried every time her son told her, as each time his description became more detailed. She found out the spectre was said apparently a teenage boy who had joined the Army in the First World War and had the same bedroom her son now slept in.
Rose Cottage in the town is said to be the home of the ghost of a young woman who went to London to make her fortune in the 17th century but fell pregnant. On returning, she killed her baby and then herself. Residents of the building reckon there’s moving furniture and mysterious sounds. 1980s tenants who rented it moved out within days to escape the terrible ghouls.
Queen Elizabeth I apparently haunts Hatfield House, and the apparition of a lady has been witnessed leaving the Old Palace gateway, crossing the street and vanishing into thin air in the churchyard. Doors creaking open and phantom footsteps have been heard in the passageway and creepily descending stairs in the Old Palace part of the ancient building. They are said to belong to the first Marchioness, who knocked over a candle and burnt to death in 1835. She reportedly glides along the long gallery scaring witnesses. And a ghostly coach and horses are sometimes seen outside, hauntingly harking back to when the Marchioness would travel to and from London.
In the 18th century, a man named Jockey Fenson committed suicide on Featherbed Lane, now a bridle path beginning at Station Road and ending at a bridge for an old railway. Fenson was buried in a small valley, today’s Hagden Lane, but apparently his spirit was restless. Children and adults claimed to have seen a white figure walking through the woods and hovering over the neighbouring field. Eventually the authorities moved the body to the old churchyard, tucked into a corner. Ever since then Featherbed Lane is believed to be a place where tormented shades congregate. The Watford Palace of Varieties, built in 1908, is now a meeting place for ghosts. You can apparently hear the footsteps of dead performers on the stage, and workers once reported seeing the curtains part as if a person had drawn them back to walk past.
Lord Haversham is said to haunt The Sun Hotel, waking guests in the night who experience a creepy uncomfortable feeling. It is suggested his gambling habit, for which he was known, could have led to the unsettling of his spirit. In Hitchin Priory, dating back to the 14th century, there are further paranormal goings on. According to legend, one ghoul from the 19th century and two others from a couple of hundred years earlier, frequent the grounds and rooms. It is rumoured to be the spooky spirits of women committed in the afterlife to keeping an eye on the priory.
Henry Trigg was a respectable 18th century grocer and a churchwarden who lived in a house on the High Street. Behind the house was a small barn which has become the centre of folklore in Stevenage. Trigg wrote in his will that his coffin would be placed at the west end of the barn, “decently laid there upon a floor erected by my executor upon the purloyne [purlin]”. His request was respected and he was later buried in a lead-lined coffin made of oak and pine – which was placed into the rafts of the barn, 10 feet above the ground, to prevent grave robbers.
When fires ravaged most of Stevenage in 1807, the house and barn were the only survivors. In 1964, The Castle Inn, once Trigg’s home, was undergoing alterations and workers reported seeing a spectral figure, wearing shabby overcoats and gaiters, which then walked through the brick wall of the barn…
It is fair to say that St Albans’ history is shaped by the Roman occupation and by the Wars of the Roses. There were battles between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists on May 22 1455 and February 17 1461. Shakespeare wrote a scene in his Henry VI trilogy which saw a spirit conjured up by Roger Bolingbroke that warned the Duke of Somerset of his death: “Let him shun castles”. Somerset’s body was subsequently found by the Castle Inn (originally on the corner of Victoria Street). People have claimed that you can still hear the battle of 1461 on Holywell Hill, where the Yorkists stormed into St Albans, sounding the war-trumpets and crying ‘A-Warwick! A-Warwick!’
Witnesses have claimed to have heard heavenly choir music playing inside the Abbey without a source. On Christmas Eve 1944 a firewatcher witnessed bells ringing and a candle lit, both without help, and an incorporeal hooded monk.