The Legends of the Screaming Skulls
by Christine B.
In England there have been several tales of folklore which include stories regarding mysterious skulls that appear in ancient homes and cause havoc when the owners attempt to remove them. The following are a few of the more famous stories . . .
The Screaming Skull of Betticombe Manor in Dorset
This is one of the most infamous accounts of a screaming skull episode. The skull that tormented the owners of his home was thought to be that of a former servant who worked there. The black man’s final wish had been that his body be returned to the West Indies for burial. After his death, however the master of the house, Azariah Pinney, buried the man’s body in the local Betticombe Churchyard. Not long after his burial bloodcurdling screams and other horrible noises were heard coming from the dead man’s grave site and Betticombe manner experienced unexplained paranormal activity.
The Pinney family finally dug up the remains and brought them back to the house in hopes that it would bring them some relief. Over the years only the man’s skull could be found. Anyone who attempted to remove it from the house began experiencing the horrendous screams and poltergeist activity all over again. One owner threw the skull into a nearby lake, only to have to retrieve it the next day. Another owner, who could no longer stand the sight of the morbid cranium, dug a deep hole and threw the skull into it. The next morning the skull was found on top of the dirt. It was returned to the house and has been there ever since.
A phantom coach has also been seen coming from the manor house and riding full tilt down the road to the Churchyard, but no one is sure if this ghostly appearance has anything to do with the skull legend.
In 1963 the owner of the house, Michael Pinney, had the skull examined. It was dated to be from the Iron Age and thought to be the skull of a woman. If it is a woman’s skull she likes where she is and refuses to be removed from the house!
The Screaming Skull of Tunstead Farm, Tunstead Milton, Derbyshire
In the 19th century Tunstead Farm had its own skull phantom, named it Dickie. The skull was thought to be that of a woman who had been murdered at the farm. Before she died she expressed that her remains be kept in the farm house forever. Her final wishes were obeyed and over the years only her skull could be found. There were many reports that the house was haunted by a woman who was considered to be a guardian spirit.
Another legend states that the skull belonged to a man who was reportedly also murdered at the farm by his cousin after he returned from war. The unfortunate solider was Ned Dixon, which is where the name “Dickie” originated.
At one point the skull was stolen from the farm, but was brought back a short time later due to the thieves being beset by several unnatural and frightful events. One owner attempted to bury the skull, but eventually returned it to the farm after being plagued by screaming and other unexplained activity.
The Screaming Skull of Wardley Hall
This infamous skull was kept behind a wall panel at Wardly Hall. It illegibly belonged to ill-tempered, Roger Downs. Downs lived at the Hall during the 17th. His high rank in society permitted him to get away with cold-blooded murder when he killed a man just for the fun of it. His luck ran out, however when he was beheaded during a fight with another man on the Tower Bridge in London.
The true identity of the skull, however, is that of Father Ambrose Barlow, who was hung as a martyr to his faith in 1641. His head was removed from its body and displayed as a threat for others of the Catholic faith. The skull was thought to have been brought to Wardley Hall and hidden there by a Catholic owner who hid it behind the wall panel so his Catholic faith would not be discovered.
The skull was discovered by a servant of the house in the 18th century. The servant then threw the skull into the moat, much to his regret. A horrible storm surrounded the house and the owner was so frightened by it that he ordered the moat drained so he could recover the skull and restore it to its rightful place.
Other tales about this skull report that it is indestructible. Many other owners have tried burying it, smashing it, and burning it, but it was always found the next day outside the Great Hall waiting to be brought back in.
The Bishop of Salford seems to be the only person permitted to remove the skull from the house. He attempted it several times and there was never any sign of any retributive paranormal activity. Perhaps the skull instinctively knew the Bishop would always bring it back, which he always did.