"If You Go Down To The Woods Today..." Britain's Haunted Forests
Haunted woods in Britain
"If you go down to the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise..."
(from the song 'The Teddy Bear's Picnic')
If witness accounts are to be believed it's not teddy bear's having a picnic in the woods that we have to worry about, but something far more unearthly.
From a very young age most of us, in some form, have been exposed to dark, mysterious woodlands that hold all manner of weird and wonderful creatures. From fairy tales, nursery rhymes and childhood songs we are primed to expect the unexpected from the depths of the forests. However, rather than story book characters there would seem to be real and much more sinister entities stalking the forests of the UK.
The Nature of the Hauntings
A variety of entities haunt forests not only in the UK but world wide. In addition to ghosts, there are other strange forms encountered. Some, but not all, may be malevolent. Here is a summary of the most commonly observed phenomena:
- Ghosts and spirits
- Strange Lights
- Supernatural Creatures
- Sounds with no obvious source - laughter, screaming, banging, talking
- Shadow entities
- High Strangeness Events - werewolves, demon dogs etc.
- UFO's - many haunted woodlands can also be UFO 'hotspots
Below are two of the most interesting encounters in haunted woods:
Hermit's Wood - Derbyshire, England
Located near Ikleston in Derbyshire is an ancient area of woodland. One of the most common phenomena said to occur is strange banging noises, often accompanied by a change of normal to a very oppressive atmosphere. Witnesses claim they begin to get the overwhelming sensation of not only being watched but also followed. In addition, people have reported the apparition of a monk or some other hooded form. For the most part the ghost is generally seen at nighttime rather than during the day. Whether or not this spirit is also responsible for the change in atmosphere is unclear.
Tradition tends to blame the paranormal phenomena on a location within the forest that was once a hermit's cave. Legend states that a monk, probably from the nearby Abbey of Dale, hung himself at this location and continues to haunt the area.
Wychwood Forest - Oxfordshire, England
Like many of the UK's ancient forests, this beautiful location is not only mysterious but has had many incidents of a supernatural kind.
Paranormal phenomena is varied. Witnesses have claimed not only the sensation of being watched and followed, but have the horrible sensation of being touched when no one was there. Many observers have also had the unpleasant feeling of nausea - a frequent manifestation of haunted locations. Sounds heard are numerous ranging from unseen horses walking to whispers and shouts. Other witnesses report the presence of invisible riders around the forest at night - only hearing the sounds of the horses hooves. More disturbingly, the spectre of a horse drawn cart driven by a man and containing two weeping children has also been witnessed on a number of occasions.
One particular tree in the area is a hotspot of activity. It is thought to have been used as a 'hanging tree'. In other words it was used to hang criminals sentenced to death by the local courts. People have reported the sensation of a male presence around the tree and feelings of oppression and dread. The latter is hardly surprising given it's history.
High Strangeness in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire
There are some haunted woodlands that are paranormal hotspots! In addition to numerous manifestations, they are also noted for cases described as 'high strangeness'. This definition basically describes incidents or entities that are bizarre in comparison to the more usual form of ghostly encounter.
The location below is a good representation of a high strangeness site:
Cannock Chase Woods - Staffordshire, England
Cannock Chase woods and the surrounding area is a location noted for outstanding beauty and ancient history. It is also one of the most paranormally active areas in the UK. Not just ghosts have been witnessed here, but other strange beings that have terrified witnesses.
The area also has a high level of UFO sightings that have been reported for decades. Both strange lights and craft have been witnessed in this location.
In addition, there have literally been thousands of observations over the years of a large black cat - frequently described as panther like - that stalks the Cannock Chase Woods and the surrounding country side.
One of the weirdest entities is a demonic dog that is believed to haunt the area. Witnessed by numerous people, the description seems to be the same - huge and muscular, with abnormally pointed ears and glowing eyes. This terrifying spectacle is often seen at night.
Another strange creature has been observed at night but unusually also during the day. This particular entity has been described as being like a werewolf. When witnesses first come across this creature they think it is an unusually large dog. On closer inspection, and for some reason unknown to the witnesses, they start to become very uneasy. When the creature becomes aware of them, it rears onto its hind legs and moves like lightening into the woods, running not on all fours, but only on its hind legs. This creature has been witnessed by many credible people - many who will not give their name publicly for fear of ridicule - but are adamant about what they have seen.
Another strange occurrence is a ghost like figure known as 'The Lady of the Chase'. This female apparition has been seen on numerous occasions around Cannock Chase Woods and the surrounding area. However, this spectre does not seem to be an ordinary woman. Witnesses describe her as being tall and slender and having a female shape. However, she has no breasts nor any sign of genitalia. But the eyes are described as being extremely large, dark and very hypnotic.
What's The Most Frightening?
If you were on your own, what do you think would frighten you the most?
Woodlands and forests all over the world will, I have no doubt, continue to be a focus for the supernatural.Whether most of the strangeness witnessed is paranormal or natural phenomena will continue to be debated and researched.
However, even if many are found to be natural phenomena, this would still leave many accounts that are unexplained. Whether it's ancient earth spirits protecting themselves, supernatural creatures, other dimensions or visitors from elsewhere in the cosmos, our woodlands are destined to remain a mystifying abode for the strange and frightening.
© 2011 Helen Murphy Howell