Post Sun Sep 15, 2013 11:03 am

Isle of Ghosts

FOR A place of such small size, the Isle of Wight must be one of the most haunted spots in Britain. Countless tales of the supernatural and the unknown have their roots in her green and mysterious countryside. Tales of horror and violence, sudden death and bizarre intrigue. From the spine-tingling legend or a ghostly queen, to the baffling mystery of a murdered Frenchman From the horrifying story of a headless pilot, to the ancient tale of a phantom coach.
No sooner has the visitor stepped off Ryde Pier and set foot for the first time on Island soil, than he is plunged into a world of spine-chilling terror and eerie legend. For the sea-front of Ryde, so down-to-earth in daylight, is a place of awe and dread during the hours of darkness. Barely two hundred yards to the west of the pier lies the muddy expanse of Players Beach, where according to the locals, the restless spirit of a drowned child is supposed to wander by the sea-wall.
Behind the beach lie the rambling grounds of Buckland Grange, reputably Walked by it’s own shadowy phantom, and a mile away, in the opposite direction, the forbidding shape of Appley Tower, complete with goblin. Beyond Appley lies Puckpool, and the mysterious story of The Grey Lady.

Indeed there must be almost as many ghosts in Ryde as pubs. From a poltergeist with a dislike for mortals playing darts, to a Victorian house full of screams, groans, and “things that go bump in the night.” Just outside Ryde lies the crumbling ruins of old Quarr Abbey, and the tale of a long-dead monk in ghostly cowl walking an overgrown
tunnel beneath the Ryde-Newport road (a supernatural bid to avoid the traffic no doubt). Immediately north of this road is the leafy tangle of Eleanour’s copse, so named because the mortal remains of Eleanour of Provence, unpopular wife of Henry III are supposed to be buried in a golden
coffin nearby. But beware, all ye treasure seekers. At night the Queen’s uneasy spirit can be seen roaming the copse with “much wringing of hands,” and the coffin itself is said to be protected by various magic spells from all who might be tempted to chip a lump off.
Most commercialised of all the local “spooks ” is poor old “Lonely Louis,” the unfortunate wraith of a French traveller foully murdered in Brading’s oldest house. The luckless apparition is doomed to walk the creaking building — which now houses the famous Osborne-Smith Wax Museum — until such time as his poor, blanched bones are buried in his homeland.

To the west of Brading lies the tiny hamlet of Knighton, probably named after the Black Knight who thunders down the shute every Halloween, October rain or moonshine. This sorry gentleman is possibly in an even greater plight than Monsieur Lonely Louis, as he must make this annual journey strapped to his horse’s saddle for ever more as a result of a witch’s curse. Another knight, Sir Tristram Dillington, was once supposed to haunt the grounds and terrace of Knighton Manor nearby. A priest from Brading was called in to exorcise him. however, and he seems to have put paid to Sir Tristram’s nocturnal wanderings.
Overlooking Knighton on the wind-swept heights of Ashey Down stands the solitary phantom of Michael Morey, the hermit hanged in 1735 for the murder of his grandson. Further south is Godshill, and its celebrated legend of church stones moved by the Devil.
Almost every Island town has its own ghost or ghosts. Workmen demolishing a Ventnor hospital recently complained repeatedly of a strong smell of chloroform coming from the old operating theatre, and one poor chap had the fright of his life when a ghostly surgeon, complete with mask and scalpel appeared before his eyes.
Strange noises have been heard coming from a sealed-off room in the old Shanklin Rectory, and a phantom horse has been seen galloping through the streets of Bonchurch at night.
An irate ghost in Newport’s Bugle Hotel objects to alterations being made in the kitchen, and spellbound members of the staff have watched in awe as plugs and plates have lifted themselves up off the tables, and floated unaided in mid air.
As the season of peace and good cheer is not too far behind us, it seems only right to end this some-what ghoulish article on a festive note. I take you back, therefore, some three hundred years or so to a certain New Year’s Ball held. somewhere in Southern Wight.

It was a freezing January morning as the gentleman and his lady left the happy gathering for home. The family coach was ready and waiting but the couple were unaware of the fact that the coachman, not to be outdone by his master and mistress, had been having a private celebration of his own. With no police to fear in those pre-breathalyser days, the man was more than a little drunk.
Everything ran smoothly for the first part of the journey however, the coach and team rattled through the narrow Island lanes without incident.
It was not until they reached Newchurch that Phantoms walk while an Island sleeps things began to happen ! The team descended the steep shute much too fast for safety, and the coachman, only half sober, was unable to control them! The road was cold and slippery, and the horses slipped on the treacherous surface. The coach overturned, and the coachman. the gentleman, and his lady, were thrown to their death at the bottom of the slope.
The story would have ended there, had it not been for certain inexplicable events that happened afterwards. A few years later, a local farmhand, returning home late at night, watched in horror as a phantom vehicle, drawn by four ghostly horses, crashed down the hill in exactly the same fashion. Dozens of people since have sworn to have seen various similar re-enactments of the ghastly tragedy.
To this day, the phantom coach is supposed to return to the scene of the disaster. Rattling down Newchurch shute every New Year’s Eve. The grim tale is as old as the warning. IF YOU DRINK—DON’T DRIVE !