Did a ghost crash his car on the A3 in Guildford?

Car accidents are, sadly, a normal occurrence on Britain’s A3 highway. But there was nothing normal about a crash that took place on it in 2002…

On the evening of 11th December, Surrey Police’s annual Christmas party was interrupted by calls from multiple witnesses reporting a probable car crash on the A3. They said they saw a car lose control and career off the dual carriageway—headlights blazing—about 100 metres before the slip road at Burpham in Guildford, Surrey.

All seemed fairly routine. Police attended the scene, initially finding no evidence of a crash. Continuing to search the area, they came upon a wrecked Vauxhall Astra, nose-down in a ditch just 20 yards from where witnesses had seen it veer off the road. It was obscured by trees and undergrowth that made it impossible to spot from the road.

The driver was found near the car, dead. It appeared that he’d crawled from the car and tried to climb the bank to seek help, but didn’t make it. The driver’s door was badly damaged, so he’d probably crawled out of the passenger side.

And his body was a skeleton.

I know, right. Classic “wait—what?” moment.

Turned out that the man, identified by dental records as 21-year-old Christopher Brian Chandler, was wanted by the police for robbery and went missing in July of that year.

So—unless skeletons are capable of driving—Mr Chandler’s accident actually occurred five months before the police found the car.

Question is, what on earth did all those witnesses see?

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Witches, phantom dogs and pitchfork killers… Welcome to Meon Hill

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This week I’m getting in the spirit of Halloween by investigating the mysterious Meon Hill, on the edge of the Cotswolds in Warwickshire. It’s a place of Satanic legends, phantom black dog sightings, alleged witches and shadowy pitchfork-wielding killers. Anyone fancy pitching a tent there on October 31st?

Meon Hill is nestled between the sleepy Cotswold villages of Mickleton, Upper Quinton and Lower Quinton. An 8th century legend says that it was actually formed by the Devil. Frustrated by the growth of Christianity, the Devil chucked a large clod of earth at the recently built Evesham Abbey, intending to destroy it. However, the bishop spotted him and prayed for the clod of earth to miss its target. It did, landing and forming Meon Hill.

Another legend from Celtic Welsh folklore says that Meon Hill is haunted by the phantom dogs of Arawn, king of the ‘otherworld’. For centuries, numerous sightings of stray black dogs have been reported in the area. Black dogs are said to be nocturnal apparitions, bringers of death and agents of the Devil (think the Rottweilers guarding Antichrist Damien Thorn in The Omen).

But it’s what happened on 14th February 1945 — Valentine’s Day of all days—that really put Meon Hill on the map. This is when 74-year-old Lower Quinton farm labourer Charles Walton was murdered on its slopes.

Walton’s murder was brutal, gruesome and unusual. He was killed with his own instruments. His head was smashed in with his walking stick. His throat was cut with the trouncing hook he’d been using to trim hedges, which was found buried in his neck. And he was impaled and pinned to the ground with his own pitchfork.

There was a conspicuous further detail: a cross-shaped symbol was carved into his chest.

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I’m going to be on Spaced Out Radio! October 25th Pacific Time, October 26th London Time

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Howdy!

Next week I’ll be on Canadian online radio station, Spaced Out Radio, talking to host Dave Scott about UFOs, conspiracies, time travel and general weirdness. Eeeek! I’m nervous and excited but I’m sure it’ll be great fun — for me and for listeners!

The interview, I’m told, will last two hours and Dave wants my take on some of the stranger conspiracies, mysteries and monsters  out there. I’ve certainly covered some utterly crackers theories of late! Expect talk about royal lizards and Flat Earth. Hopefully we’ll get into some time travel urban legends (my favourites) and things like the Loch Ness Monster and the suicidal munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. I’ll also make sure to talk a little bit about my conspiracy fiction writing, namely Million Eyes and the Million Eyes Short Stories, which are ultimately the reason why this blog exists.

I understand I’ll also be answering questions from the audience in Spaced Out Radio’s chat rooms.

The show broadcasts from British Columbia and will start at 9pm Pacific Time, midnight Eastern Time, and 5am London Time.

And yes, as I’m a Brit on London Time, it’s going to be an early start for me! Hopefully I’ll be coherent. Thank you Flying Spaghetti Monster for inventing coffee.

The show will broadcast live on Spaced Out Radio’s website at all the times I’ve just mentioned, and you can also listen to it on Tune In. If you’re in the UK and, like most people, your bed is more important at that time in the morning, you’ll be able to listen to the show on the station’s YouTube page afterwards. I’ll post a link on the blog when I have it. I’m also told you’ll be able to download the show from iTunes.

 

Ghost caught on CCTV at Hampton Court Palace

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Hampton Court Palace in Greater London is famous for its ghosts, but there’s never been any hard evidence—only eyewitness sightings. That is, until 2003, when a ghost dubbed ‘Skeletor’ popped up on the palace’s CCTV…

In the early 1500s, Hampton Court was built by Cardinal Wolsey for King Henry VIII and became the king’s favourite residence. Probably its most famous ghost is Katherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, and it was at Hampton Court that he was told about Katherine’s infidelity. Unlike Anne Boleyn, the first of Henry’s wives to lose her head, Katherine is generally considered guilty of doing the dirty deed behind the king’s back.

Katherine was put under house arrest at Hampton Court but escaped her guards and ran down what’s known today as the Haunted Gallery, looking for the king so she could plead for her life. She was dragged screaming back to her room and not long after became the second of his wives to become a head shorter.

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Britain’s most famous ghost – the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

The infamous Brown Lady photo

The infamous Brown Lady photo

The most famous ghost in the UK is that of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, whose image was allegedly captured by photographers from Country Life magazine. Who is she? Is Raynham Hall really haunted by her ghost? Or is the photo a fake?

The first recorded sighting of the Brown Lady was in 1835, when two guests at the Townshend Christmas festivities saw her as they approached their bedrooms. They noted her brown dress, from which she gets her name. They also described her glowing face and – most disconcertingly – her empty eye-sockets.

Further sightings occurred, including one by King George IV, who apparently saw her standing by his bed. But the most famous sighting happened in 1936, when photographers Hubert Provand and Indre Shira were taking photographs of Raynham Hall for an article for Country Life magazine.

While Provand was under the camera cloth, Shira allegedly saw a “vapoury form gradually assuming the appearance of a woman” floating down Raynham Hall’s main staircase towards them. He asked Provand to snap a photo. Provand believed that what Shira had seen was just a trick of light, but when they developed the photo, there she was – just as Shira had described.

Who is the Brown Lady?

According to legend, the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall is the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole, sister of Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister. She married Charles Townshend, lord of Raynham Hall, and is said to have committed adultery with a fellow lord. Although legal records state that she died and was buried in 1726, legend has it that her funeral and burial were faked. Charles in fact locked Dorothy away in a remote corner of Raynham Hall and kept her imprisoned until her death many years later, as punishment for her infidelity.

How she eventually died is also up for debate. Some say it was smallpox. Others say she was pushed down the main staircase and broke her neck.

Lady Dorothy Walpole - the Brown Lady?

Lady Dorothy Walpole – the Brown Lady?

Is the Brown Lady photo a hoax?

Sceptics have argued that Provand and Shira’s sighting is fabricated, and that the photo is a fake – perhaps accomplished by smearing grease onto the lens of the camera. Some investigators who interviewed Provand and Shira at the time claimed they had no reason to disbelieve them. But many have argued since that there is evidence that one photo has been superimposed over the other.

Magician John Booth suggested that the photo is a composite of the stairs and an image of someone covered in a bed sheet. He demonstrated this himself and created his own faked ghost photo, which looked very similar to the Country Life picture. Others have argued that the photo was created by superimposing an image of an ordinary Virgin Mary statue over a photo of the staircase. And it’s quite telling that the Lady Townshend of the time, who lived at Raynham Hall, revealed in an interview that Shira had come to the hall hoping to photograph a ghost. Was it all just a publicity stunt for Country Life?

Of course, less cynical sceptics have argued that the photo is an accidental double exposure or film imperfection/anomaly. Provand actually admitted that his camera had faults and exposure problems.

There probably won’t ever be a definitive explanation for the photo. What’s interesting is that no sightings of the Brown Lady have been reported at Raynham Hall since the photo was taken.

Why is this? Could it be that she is trapped inside the photo? Could it be that Provand and Shira inadvertently captured and contained her when they snapped her image coming down the stairs – and now she’s frozen in time forever? The photo is still held in the offices of Country Life. What if future technology permits her escape and she exacts revenge against the makers of the magazine?

And what if my imagination starts running away with me?

Next week: a 300 million-year-old screw – more evidence of time travellers?

Sources:

Mysterious Britain – The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

Histories of Things to Come – The Most Compelling Ghost Videos and Photographs

Unexplained Mysteries – The Camera Never Lies?

Wikipedia – The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

The truth about Loch Ness – time travel and the Taos Hum

The world's most mysterious waters?

The world’s most mysterious waters?

Loch Ness in Scotland is a hotbed of intrigue, mostly because of copious alleged sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, affectionately dubbed ‘Nessie’. A little further investigation reveals that Loch Ness has also played host to poltergeists, the famous Taos Hum, birds going berserk and time travel. So just what is going on at Loch Ness?

In 1933, George Spicer and his wife encountered an enormous, long-necked animal, lurching across the road in front of their car and heading for Loch Ness a few metres away. This widely publicised story popularised the notion that the waters of Loch Ness are inhabited by a dinosaur-like creature.

Since then, many alleged sightings (and dubious photographs) have been recorded, and investigations and sonar studies have yielded some strange but inconclusive results. In 1954, the crew of the fishing boat Rival III observed sonar readings of a large object chasing their boat at a depth of 146 metres – then contact was lost. Biologist Roy Mackal’s Loch Ness expedition in 1970 recorded sounds that were unlike anything produced by known aquatic animals. And when 1987’s Operation Deepscan made contact with a large, unidentified moving object, sonar expert Darrell Lowrance said:

“There’s something here that we don’t understand, and there’s something here that’s larger than a fish, maybe some species that hasn’t been detected before. I don’t know.”

But the Loch Ness Monster is not the only source of weirdness at Loch Ness…

Poltergeists at Loch Ness

The notorious occultist Aleister Crowley moved into Boleskine House, a manor on the south-east side of Loch Ness, in 1899. While he was there, it is said that he was haunted by ominous dark shapes and strange winds on still days. Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who bought the house in 1970, also claimed it was haunted. And aeronautical engineer Tim Dinsdale claimed to have been attacked by a mob of ghosts and demons while he was anchoring his boat near Boleskine House. After this experience, he became convinced that the Loch Ness Monster itself was a ghost, not a living dinosaur.

The Taos Hum

In 2008, it was reported that residents in the Loch Ness vicinity were being woken up at night by a strange, low-frequency humming noise. The same phenomenon had been reported in other areas of the US and the UK, initially in Taos, New Mexico, and is completely unexplainable to this day.

Only 2% of the local population are affected by the Taos Hum, which apparently sounds like a truck diesel engine in the distance, and has been known to drive people mad. Some researchers have theorised that the hum is the result of unusual sensitivity to electromagnetic noise created by the growing number of gadgets and technologies around us. Others say it’s to do with aliens or secret military experiments. Another theory is that it’s the sound of the universe expanding.

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Blogger Sarah Hapgood reports that once when she was visiting Loch Ness, she saw all the birdlife in the area going completely berserk at around midnight – like something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Could this be linked to the Taos Hum in some way? Are the birds sensitive to it as well?

The time travelling couple

The most intriguing tale for me is the little-known case of a mysterious couple, cited by author Andrew Collins in his book Alien Energy.

In the mid-18th century this couple were travelling in a horse and trap near Loch End on the south side of Loch Ness – when they disappeared. Local people speculated that they had been kidnapped or attacked by outlaws and thrown into the loch.

A hundred years later, two people – a man and a woman – walked into a local almshouse to seek refuge from a storm. The priest who took them in noted that they were wearing old-fashioned clothing and were very confused, unable to explain how where they’d come from or how they’d arrived in the area. Two days later, they disappeared again.

Was it the same couple? Did the man and woman who disappeared in the mid-18th century slip forwards in time to the 19th? Did they slip back again after the two days – or to another time entirely?

Is the Loch Ness Monster a time traveller?

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The story of the time travelling couple is an enlightening one. It’s a similar tale to the one about Rudolph Fentz, the man who inadvertently slipped forwards in time from 1876 to 1950. And there are other famous time slip cases, such as the Moberly-Jourdain Incident and the story of the Vanishing Hotel.

But what if the most famous time slip case is the Loch Ness Monster itself?

Many believe, from descriptions given by those who claim to have seen it, that the Loch Ness Monster is a plesiosaur that survived the extinction of the dinosaurs. But if this plesiosaur and its ancestors have been alive for the last 65 million years, why did the sightings only start in 1933?

Maybe it’s because they didn’t survive extinction after all, and that Nessie’s presence in the 20th century is actually the result of time travel. Perhaps she slipped forwards in time from the Cretaceous Period and the reason you don’t hear much about new Nessie sightings nowadays is because she’s gone back to her own time.

Physicist Dr. John Brandenburg theorises that time travel might be the cause of lots of sea monster sightings, including the Loch Ness Monster. He says because lakes like Loch Ness have a large concentration of quartz, capable of generating enormous amounts of electromagnetism, this could’ve caused a portal through time to open in the lake. His theory is that Nessie might be going back and forth through this portal, which is why no one’s been able to find her.

And perhaps it’s the weakness in the fabric of time in the vicinity that is causing the Taos Hum and the birds to go berserk, and caused the 18th century couple to slip forwards in time?

But of course, time travel is just an unproven theory – and a plot device for Doctor Who.

Isn’t it?

Next week: the Mars conspiracy

Sources:

Sarah Hapgood – Loch Ness: Area of High Strangeness Indeed

Above Top Secret – Are Champ and Nessie Time Travellers?

James Donahue – Infamous Taos Hum That Drives People Crazy

Wikipedia

Haunting the set – the ‘Three Men and a Baby’ ghost

Did you know that the ghost of a little boy makes a brief appearance in Disney’s popular 80s comedy Three Men and a Baby? Apparently he used to live in the apartment where they filmed, and committed suicide with a shotgun…

Notice anything strange about the scene above? As Ted Danson and his character’s mother enter the room where the film’s eponymous baby is sleeping, a black silhouette resembling a shotgun is seen in the window in the background. After the mother cradles the baby and they start out of the room, the figure of a young boy appears in the same window, looking out from behind the curtains.

Three-Men-and-a-Baby Gun

This urban legend rose to fame after Three Men and a Baby was released on video, shortly before the release of the sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady, in 1990. The story goes that the mysterious figure is the ghost of a young boy who committed suicide in the apartment where they were shooting. The shotgun seen in the window immediately before his appearance is the one he killed himself with.

All kinds of stories sprang up following the dead boy’s alleged appearance in the movie. These included claims that the boy’s parents, who had since moved out of the apartment, were threatening to sue Disney if they didn’t remove the scene.

The truth?

Disney’s Touchstone Pictures division, who released the movie, soon revealed the truth. It wasn’t the ghost of a dead boy at all. It was a cardboard cut-out of Ted Danson.

But how do they figure that? It looks like a little boy – and nothing like Ted Danson! Doesn’t it? Take a look at this picture, taken from a different scene in the movie…

cardboard

The cardboard cut-out was produced as a part of a storyline that ended up being cut, but the cut-out still makes an appearance in the above scene. In the ghost boy scene, it was placed behind the curtains as a joke by the crew.

At first glance, the cut-out, with Danson in a top-hat and black waistcoat, looks nothing like the ghost boy hiding behind the curtains. Until you look closer…

The picture below is a higher quality image, probably taken from the DVD release of the movie. You can see the resemblance to the Danson cut-out much more clearly, in particular the curve of the waistcoat and the shape of a top hat.

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And this picture is just as the ‘ghost boy’ is about to go out of shot. At this angle, it’s even easier to see the shape of a top hat…

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What about the gun?

The gun is the one I struggled with, but the generally accepted explanation that the shotgun silhouette is nothing but a portion of the cut-out’s black waistcoat. The reason it looks so different (headless, for one) is because of the angle of the camera.

Another rather damning piece of evidence against the little boy theories is the fact that the movie was shot in a studio in Toronto, not in a real residential apartment (unless the studio itself was haunted). What we can be certain of, however, is that no family ever lived there.

Mystery solved? Or a cover-up?

Some people still don’t accept Touchstone Pictures’ explanation for the Three Men and a Baby ghost. They argue that the figure of the boy and the Danson cut-out are plainly not the same and Touchstone is feeding them lies.

What do you think?

Next week: Roswell, Part 4

 

 

The truth behind the Poltergeist curse – real dead bodies were used during filming

Perhaps the upcoming reboot of the classic horror trilogy, Poltergeist, isn’t such a wise idea. JoBeth Williams, star of the first two movies, reveals a possible reason why the cast of the original trilogy were stalked by death in one of Hollywood’s most notorious curses.

For those of you who need catching up, the idea that some Hollywood movies are cursed by ghosts, demons or the Devil himself is a common and creepy conspiracy theory. One of the most famous theories is that the Poltergeist movies are cursed because of the string of cast members’ deaths that occurred while they were being made.

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Poltergeist is a popular 1982 horror movie directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg. A huge box office success, the movie spawned two sequels that were a case of diminishing returns critically and commercially. (Though I always liked all three – the haunted mirrors in the third movie were a neat idea.)

These days the story of the first movie is rather familiar, having been imitated so many times. The Freelings, a nice American family in the suburbs, are haunted by a band of malevolent spirits. These ghosts communicate with the family’s youngest, Carol-Anne (the cutest child in movie history), through the static in the TV set. There are frightening scenes of demon trees, possessed clowns and a fillet of steak that comes to life (seriously not yum). The revelation at the end of the movie is that the Freelings’ house is built on the site of a relocated cemetery, except that it was only half-relocated. The gravestones were removed. The bodies were not. There are a few souls who are less than happy about the desecration of their resting place (okay, so the sequel kinda retcons this motive, but that’s a discussion for another day).

Dominique Dunne as Dana Freeling

Dominique Dunne as Dana Freeling

The first tragic event to befall the cast of these movies happened just months after the release of the original Poltergeist. Dominique Dunne, who played the Freelings’ eldest daughter, Dana, was strangled to death at the age of 22 by her abusive ex-boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney.

Julian Beck as Kane, who died during filming. Poor Mr Beck looks like he actually died before filming.

Julian Beck as Kane, who died during filming. Poor Mr Beck looks like he actually died before filming.

Then in 1985, Julian Beck, who played Kane in the sequel, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, died of stomach cancer during filming. To be fair, while his death is often cited to be part of the curse, he was diagnosed long before he took the role. But then Will Sampson, who played Taylor the medicine man in Poltergeist II (and was also known for his role in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Next) died from complications following a kidney transplant a year after the release of the film in 1987.

Will Sampson as Taylor and Heather O'Rourke as Carol-Anne

Will Sampson as Taylor and Heather O’Rourke as Carol-Anne

Finally, Heather O’Rourke, who starred as Carol-Anne in all three movies, died suddenly and tragically from septic shock following surgery to correct a bowel obstruction in 1988 at the tender age of 12.

Four cast members in 6 years… A curse? Or a sequence of horrible coincidences?

There’s another cast member I should mention. This one survived, but not for the Grim Reaper’s lack of trying. After several brushes with death throughout his life, Richard Lawson, who played parapsychologist Ryan in the first film, was in a freak plane crash in 1992 that killed 27 other people. He only survived because his ticket was upgraded to first class when the ticket agent noticed he was an actor. But the man who sat in Lawson’s original seat was killed. He’s still alive today – did he manage to dodge the curse?

JoBeth Williams as Diane, along with some angry corpses

JoBeth Williams as Diane, along with some angry corpses

JoBeth Williams, who played the mother, Diane Freeling, fuelled the curse rumours when she revealed on VH1’s I Love The 80s that the production crew used real human skeletons during the filming of the first movie’s swimming pool scene, when bodies and coffins start erupting from the ground. Apparently it was the cheaper, easier (and grosser) option.

A case of art imitating life?