Dartmoor Ghosts: Tales From the Crypt
Dartmoor Ghosts: Tales from the crypt
The Dartmoor Landscape was spewed from volcanoes and hewn by glaciers. It is bleak, stark, rich in mystery. Bright sunlight swiftly turns into thick, white fog and catches a man unawares. Unable to see anything beyond the whiteness does one go on risking slipping into a sucking peat bog, dragged down inch by inch , struggling for air and suffocating in brown gritty ooze, or does one retrace ones steps, and if so, which way is back? One quickly becomes disorientated, cold and fearful. The bracken shifts and rustles, a pony? A beast? Eyes strain against the fog, but see nothing. Big cats prowl the Moors amongst other things.
I have experienced the terrors within this landscape and lived to tell the tale, but spare a thought for those less lucky……..
Margery looked out of her cottage window. It was a moonlit summer’s night and she knew at some point there would be a knocking at her door. She had the kettle on the hob all ready then settled by the fire’s glow to doze. There was little point going to bed yet, for she would soon be awakened. A tawny owl screeched in the oak tree and in the distance a fox barked. The breeze stirred the curtains and Margery rose to close the window. The mist was coming down; they’d soon be here. Just after midnight a frantic knocking sounded. Here we go, Margery thought as she let the couple in.
She made the tea, and then settled down to listen to their little tale, though she knew it off by heart. They’d wanted to have a romantic walk, as it was such a lovely moonlit night, wanted a bit of privacy, ‘You know how it is’. They’d heard about Jay’s Grave and thought they’d give themselves a bit of a thrill; the mist was patchy along the lane, but they could see the grave as they walked along, holding hands. When they neared, they noticed a figure swathed in a black cloak kneeling over the grave, making an awful keening noise. The figure had come from no where, it was shadowy and shifting, but the awful noise… They’d run to the car, but the battery was dead, and then saw the light on in Margery’s cottage.
As they drank their tea Margery told them how way back in the 1700’s Kitty Jay began work at a farmhouse in Manaton, where she was seduced and became pregnant. Her lover abandoned her, and the village ostracised he,r for to be pregnant out of wedlock was shameful. Poor Kitty returned to the farm and hanged herself in the barn. The Church decreed that no suicide could be buried in consecrated ground and she must lie in a lonely spot where a footpath crosses the road. ‘So there she is, the poor maid, dead at the side of the lane, by your little romantic path.’ ‘On moonlit nights her lover still mourns Kitty and their baby, keening by the graveside, and so he should, for all the heartache he caused. By day, the grave is strewn with fresh flowers, although no one knows where they come from.’
Margery could see the amazement in their eyes as she told her tale. ‘We should introduce ourselves, we’ve been very rude, I’m Alex, and this is Sarah’…. He said.
‘Well, I’m Margery, said their host, Margery Jay…….
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The Hairy Hand
My name’s Jo and I thought I’d tell you my tale. It was Christmas week and I was frantically wrapping gifts, as usual there was someone I’d missed, so thought I’d nip to Tavistock in the hope of finding something suitable. I put Jem the collie in the car, intending to give him a walk on the way home. The drive across the moor would be lovely this afternoon; the B3212 is a good straight road through spectacular moor and tors and the frost would still be lingering up there, painting everything silver. As long as you watched out for sheep and ponies on the loose it was a very pretty drive. I found just the right Christmas gift and left Tavistock feeling very pleased with myself. The light was fading fast, but Jem should still get a little walk. I’d stop nearer home.
Driving towards Postbridge, I had the most awful sense of dread. I felt terrible, but tried to shake it off. As we neared Chillacombe Cross I was shivering and icy cold. Thinking I must have a bug I pulled into the lay-by and reached into the back seat to get my coat. Poor Jem was cowering, terrified, hackles up, teeth bared and trying to scrabble under the seat. I threw my coat on and pulled away. From the corner of my eye I saw a child tattered rags flapping, running by the side of my car, he was waving frantically for me to stop. I turned and looked. Just then, the wheel was wrenched from my hands and the car lurched towards the trees. I pulled the wheel back with all my strength, it resisted then gave and I screeched over the other carriageway before straightening up. Sweating, I looked for the child in the mirror, but saw only the road and the animals, all was quiet. Needless to say Jem didn’t get his walk. I don’t think I’d have managed to get him out on to the moor if I’d tried
When I told Gary about what had happened, he looked at me strangely. ‘I won’t find anything wrong with the car, maid.’ ‘Tis the Chillacombe Cross that’s haunted.’ ‘Many folk have seen the ghost, and many folk’s lost their life at that spot. It’s always frantically trying to flag the vehicle down, and always matches your speed, however, fast or slow you’m goin. Many folks have had great, hairy hands grab the wheel, or handlebars of their motorbike. I’ve been out to too many accidents there. One maid, a sleepin in her car was woke by a great ape’s hand clawin at the window. She made the sign of the cross and it vanished. She soon scooted off a the moor that day. No missus, nothin’s wrong with yer car.’
Watching Place Cross
Davey’s the name, and I thought I’d tell you my tale. I’m a bit of an amateur photographer you see, and while I’m on holiday down here I thought I’d take some snaps and flog em to a photo library when I get home. I’d heard the view from Hound Tor is good. Conan Doyle set Hound of the Baskervilles around there so it must be a bit picturesque, so off I went. To get there, you leave Moretonhampstead and take a left at a place called watching Place Cross. Strange people these Devon folk, they name all their crossroads. Anyhow, I spent the afternoon up Hound Tor, did a bit of walkin’ and had a burger from the van; took some good piccies too. There was a storm comin in, and I got some good shots of it rollin’ across the Moor, shafts of sunlight comin through purple clouds – that sort of thing. They’d earn me a bob or two.
By the time I got back to me car, rain was hammerin down, so bad I could hardly see through the windscreen. I gets to Watching Place Cross again and there’s some poor bugger waitin by the signpost, muffled up in a big overcoat, hood up, looking wet and miserable. I thought he was hitchin back to Moreton, so I pulls over and winds the window down. The bloke lifts his head… inside the hood, there’s nothing… black, but… just red glowin eyes I’m not sure what I saw really. I tell yer, I must’ve left some rubber on the road when I screeched away. I was terrified, and I’m not easily scared, bein a blokey sort of bloke.
Later that night, in the bar of the Hart I was feelin a bit braver, havin had a few pints of liquid courage, so I was telling them as was in the bar all about it, makin a joke of it like. I thought they’d find it funny too, but there was just a silence, then someone called Robin, bit of a sage he was, told me the place was haunted. Watching Place Cross has had a lot of bad things happen over the centuries. It was the site of the old gibbet, where someone had to watch the hanged body to make sure it wasn’t took by witches for black magic, then there was a cottage close by where all the folks caught the plague. Villagers put food out for them every day, then watched to see if it was took. When it was left they knew the folk had died, so they burnt the place to the ground. Apparently the thing I saw hangs around mournin for people. Funny buggers these Devon folk, takin stuff like this seriously. Can’t wait to get back to the smoke, this place gives me the shivers.
So you see readers, if you’re thinking of travelling about these parts, it’s best to do it in good weather and with friends. There’s safety in numbers. Oh and I wouldn’t go looking for ghosts, some things are better left alone……
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