Ghost Hunters: Spirits of Bodmin Moor.

Another transcript from the 1990s British series, Ghosthunters. It's the seventh episode of the third series, and was broadcast in January 1997. My favourite is the first half. Jess, Tam and Val are totally believable in their accounts. What they saw is one thing, but they certainly believe what they saw.

Tam: It was just so plain clear that I still can’t get to grips with what I actually seen that night.
Jess: I said shall we go back and see what it is, and just everything on your body was stood up, like the hackles on the back of your neck and all that lot.
Tam: Freezing cold
Jess: - Freezing cold!
Tam: Absolutely freezing cold.
Jess: We just said no, sod this like, let’s go home like, you know.

Thijs: I saw all the time the shimmering of the air. And then it was that my wife said, “Do you see that in the far distance?”  “What do you mean?” “There – there’s something moving, like a man on horseback.” And I looked and said “Yes you are true, how is that possible?” And it was a man in gallop, he was galloping there, and he came nearer and nearer, and the shimmering of the air made the whole figure very unreal and very fantastic. I said ‘how is that possible, this, if the legs of the horse do not touch the ground at all. And this, if the whole figure is floating towards us."

Narrator: Bodmin Moor in Cornwall is one of the most beautiful parts of England – wild, untamed, mysterious. The high moorland runs down to the sea to create the romantic Cornish coastline – steep cliffs, narrow rocky coves and inlets. And the whole area is knee deep in a heady mixture of  myths and legends: part fact, part fiction, part history, part fairy tale. Stories of Arthur and the court of Camelot. Of a mysterious celtic priesthood. Of civil war and smugglers. Moreover, as long as people can remember Bodmin has been steeped in stories of the paranormal. Some believe it has to do with the strange qualities of the granite rock itself.

Colin Wilson, Author: I suspect what is special about Cornwall is that it’s mainly granite, and this may have something to do with the fact that you get such a very high proportion of so called psychic events taking place in Cornwall. We’ve got an enormous number of standing stones, and my own investigation of these standing stones has convinced me that they were stuck in like stone needles into acupuncture points in the earth. Certainly the places where there are standing stones appear to have some extremely powerful ambience to which the dowsing rod responds quite directly.

Michael Williams, Publisher: Paranormal activity has been going on for a very long time on the moor, and in North Cornwall. And indeed in the whole of Cornwall. And I believe that it is an ongoing process, and my great hope is that before many years pass, we shall see a major breakthrough in the paranormal field. That the reality will be established. And on the evidence of the past I think there’s a very good chance of that breakthrough being made here in Cornwall.

Narrator: But whatever the reason, geology or Celtic mystery, there is no doubt that there are various sites on the moor where many different people at quite different times claim to have seen events which they simply cannot explain. One of them for example is St Nectan’s glen, the site of an ancient Celtic monastery founded almost 1500 years ago. The glen is one of those places where myth and magic intermingle. But that having been said, many visitors go away convinced there is still a monastery somewhere in the valley. They’ve seen the monks.

Barry, Local Resident: St Nectan’s glen is a peace of paradise really. It’s steeped in history going back to the Druids even used to worship up here. King Arthur, his knights erm were baptised in the cave before they went in search of the holy grail. And you can actually see some red stones in the glen, in the river, that are locally known as blood stones. And they’re supposed to be when King Arthur had his last battle at Slaughterbridge, all the wounded and dying coming back through the glen to get to the castle, their blood landed on the rocks and it’s just stayed ever since.

Jean, Local Resident: My granddaughter, when she was very small, often used to see a man walking across and it was always away from the patio, actually he must have been walking on the air, because there was a vast drop where he was seen. And then lots of the visitors have come up and said that they see this old man standing at the edge of the building, very old man with a beard, rather stooping, in a monk’s habit.

Narrator: St Nectan’s glen runs down to the sea at the ancient fishing port of Tintagel, the very heartland of Arthurian legend. Were the knights of the round table here in the dark years between the departure of the Romans and the coming of the Norsemen? Some years ago a Dutchman spent a holiday here with his wife. He remembers what happened to him as clearly as if it happened yesterday.

Thijs: I saw the man on the horse no more clearly I could see how he was dressed, I saw first of all a strange hat, it was a hat with a wide brim, folded up on the front and going back there [points to back of neck]. And he was totally in black, he had [?] and coat in white pleats hanging down and I saw there was embroidery on the coat. And I saw his boots which were soft leather, and as well, of course, spurs, I saw.  And then the horse stepped forward to a nearby hawthorn. And the man dismounted and he walked to the hawthorn, and tied the reins on a low hanging branch of the tree. The shimmering of the air increased. It was all waving, and at that moment, all at once, the man and the horse disappeared totally. I was totally flabbergasted. My wife said ‘How is that possible, would you believe it!’ I said, “Come, let’s go back to the beach, it’s so hot here, let’s just go back to the beach." We didn’t talk so much to each other any more, she kept my arm, we walked down to the beach.  And she said ‘Is it possible that it was King Arthur?’ I said, Who else could it have been?"

Michael Williams: I don’t think think the Dutch artist at on the cliffs of Tintagel saw King Arthur. I think King Arthur belonged to a much earlier period of time. But he undoubtedly saw something of a supernatural nature. You can’t have a horse and rider seen very vividly and in detail by the man and his wife, there one moment and gone the next. I think that the rider was stylishly dressed would suggest that it was more likely to be within a smuggling context. Because we’ve got to remember that the gentry were involved with smuggling.

Narrator: During the 18th century the whole coastline was rife with smuggling activity, the isolated beaches, the country lanes, the inns and farmhouses on the moor. And so swingeing were the taxes on alcohol that all social classes were involved – the landed gentry, as well as poor fishermen. It was a dangerous trade – if you were caught you could be hanged from the nearest tree. At the historic old hostelry of Jamaica Inn, it seems that the sounds of the smugglers still ring out.

Tony, Manager: We live here immediately above this room, and this used to be the old stable block, and you know, I imagine that in the day it was a stable block, it being an old cobbled floor, and maybe 3,4,5 times a year one can hear ponies paddling about down here, people shouting, talking, and this won’t go on for just 2 or3 minutes, it’ll probably go on for 2 hours. The dialect that people talk in, is not understandable to my ears. Erm. I would think probably it’s of a Cornish dialect. Erm. And it just goes on, you can hear people outside shouting, talking, as if coaches and carriages were being unloaded and stuff being banged about. You can look out of the window, you can come downstairs, you can see nothing, but the noise still continues.

Narrator: Val is the cook at Jamaica in. As practical and down to earth a lady as you could find. But even Val has had her ghostly experiences.

Val: The ghost that goes through the door has a cloak on. But it’s mostly a cloak, it’s not, you know... - like, with no head. No, it’s just a cloak with a big collar. It starts off here and goes over here, and goes out there in the stable bar. And it’s very frightening, and I just go down to the kitchen and close the door behind me, which makes me more secure.

Jess: I was working as head chef at the Jamaica Inn, and we’d finished on Saturday night at about quarter to eleven, and we was proceding to drive home across Bodmin Moor towards Tor Point. And about two miles down the road we rounded this corner and all of a sudden I seen this figure hanging from a tree. And I said to Tam, ‘Did you see anything, Tam?’ He looked at me..
Tam: Well I says, I know what I seen, what did you see?
Jess: I said, A guy hanging from a tree like, you know.
Tam: And I says, that’s exactly what I seen as well.
Jess: And I said shall we go back? And see what it is? And just everything on your body was stood up like that – the hackles on the back of your neck and all that lot.
Tam: Freezing cold.
Jess: - freezing cold.
Tam: I felt freezing cold.
Jess: We said No. Sod this right! Let’s go home, like, you know? But every night since then, when we was going backwards and forwards to work, when you come back at night, you just instantly freeze and your hairs all stand up on the back of your neck as you go through.
Tam: And I can remember colours that night. I can remember black, I can remember white. And I can also remember a red, a red scarf or [pulls face] not a cravat, but just something red. I can remember black boots, shiny black boots. Erm. It was just so plain clear. That [looks incredulous] that I still can’t get to grips with what I actually seen that night.

Narrator: Galloping horsemen. The sounds of smugglers. Bodies hanging from trees. Round Tintagel and Jamaica Inn such stories are almost commonplace. But ten miles or so across the moor in the village of Altarnun, there is a cluster of quite different stories around the old vicarage. Of a vicar, and his mistress, and a distraught chambermaid who drowned herself in the village stream.

Part Two.
Narrator: The old vicarage in the village of Altarnun is called Penhallow, a name which means ‘on the edge of the moor’. The present house was built in the middle of last century, by the Reverend Trip. He is actually buried in the churchyard, but notably not alongside his wife. He lies with another lady, called Mary Hurley, who may have been his housekeeper. Penhallow has been a focus of paranormal activity for many years – some of it seemingly associated with Mary Hurley herself.
Harry Cleverley, Psychic Medium: Penhallow has been there for some… you know it was the rectory originally and the church sold it off and it’s erm it’s not the original house. The original one was burnt down and this one was built in 1842. Erm, but it’s been on that site for many generations as far as I’m aware. It used to have stables and a coach house and everything. It was in the days when the vicars were really somebody, they ran the roost, they were the top dog in the village. He lived with his wife in the house, but they also had a housekeeper – who was, shall we say a little bit more than a housekeeper. And she’s seen sometimes standing at the back door of the house. She’s been seen by several people as far as I know. And she’s buried just outside the gate to the house, beside the vicar. The wife is… I don’t know where the wife’s buried. But apparently they were having an affair.

Marie, Previous Owner: There definitely is a presence in the house. We can often hear strange noises like people going up and down the stairs when we knew there was no one in the house. It wasn’t a nasty presence, it was a friendly, sort of – ghost – if you want. Perhaps it is the housekeeper. Perhaps she doesn’t approve of having a licensed premised, you know, it being like an old vicarage and I think she use to look after all the old vicars and then perhaps she doesn’t like it!

Julia, Present Owner: Last week we had a guest staying here on Thursday night who was disturbed for whatever reason in the night, and awoke to see a lady dressed in grey – Quaker sort of dress she said – standing at the corner of her bed for what seemed like several minutes, and then she just disappeared. No harm done, nothing thrown about. But definitely a sighting.

Narrator: Harry Cleverly was called in by the previous owners of Penhallow to help them with some strange unexplained experiences in the house that were occurring again and again.

Jean, Former Owner : We told him that the footsteps going across this room. And he came across and walked around the house, didn’t he.
Barry: Yeah.
Jean: But he saw something in the next room to this room. And of course we did realise that possibly the rooms have changed, you know perhaps the walls haven’t always been exactly in the same places.

Harry Cleverley: Some time ago when the previous owner had it, they called me up because they heard footsteps overhead. It didn’t frighten them but they were just interested. So I went up there and I saw in one of the bedrooms. Well there were two bedrooms they are now 3 and 4. But I think at one time they would have been one big room. And I saw this vicar, I think he was, in a frock coat, pacing up and down with his hands behind his back, as if he was puzzling out his sermon for the coming service. At least that was the impression I got.

Narrator: Harry Cleverly lives in the village. Late one evening he had another strange experience as he passed the gates of Penhallow.

Harry Cleverley: About midnight, witching hour as always, I got to the bridge and the dog stopped. And his hackles rose, and I felt cold, this icy feeling. And I looked up and there was this entity floating down, well coming down this path to the side of the church, it came round and walked straight thorugh the gate which was shut. And went up the road and disappeared. And I didn’t know very much about them at the time. And I enquired around and someone said ‘Oh you’ve seen her have you?’ And he didn’t tell me what had happened, but apparently she comes down the lane behind the church. Where she comes from nobody actually knows, or what she did. But I found out later that she.. where the… behind the post office there used to be swampy land there. And she fell in that and drowned herself. Apparently.

Narrator: As so often in these circumstances, we are left with a judgement, to believe or not to believe these stories. There are slender links with the history of the place. There have been sightings by several people. But these can scarcely be called confirmation of anything. Is there any other kind of verification that we could plug into? We decided to call in another psychic medium.  With no notice whatsoever, we took her to the old vicarage on the moor. She claims to have no knowledge of Altarnun or Penhallow. She claims to have had no contact of any kind with Harry Cleverley. Indeed, she was quite prepared to take a lie detector test. We asked her simply to recount her impressions.

Shirley Wallis, Psychic:  Well this is a favourite, a very favourite place. The man I’m interested in, whose room I believe it was. This was a reverend gentleman, and this room was much bigger, in fact it actually goes in beyond here. One long room. And there’s books – it’s lined with books, it’s a bolt-hole for this gentleman. It’s a place where he did his own personal spiritual work. And inside of the church, through this window, he walked with his sermons up and down from window to window. And this view of the way in, was almost to him as if it was his spiritual pathway through. That may sound a little… but this is how his personality comes. And he had to get away from the rest of the household many times. It feels as if there is a bit of an undercurrent which wouldn’t have been mentioned in those days – this is a Victorian gentleman. And there was a lot of things going on in this household which he needed to escape from – let’s put it that way. He became himself in this room. He wasn’t all formal. He became himself, he – I could even – I’m not sure if he actually played an instrument (I feel as if he might have had a fiddle or a pipe.  But he became himself here, and almost danced and threw himself on the bed, you know, and that kind of thing – he felt free. The only place he felt free. That’s how I feel about him. But undercurrents. Other occupants of the house – I feel that are concerned with his family – are a little more intricate. I think I would rather not particularly say how I feel about that. But he feels as if he’s living two lives here. Being a rector or a vicar, it would have to have been a double life. And I’ve felt that there’s some concern that his very personal life was wrapped  up with one of the occupants of the house. In other words, he was probably having an affair with one of the occupants of the house. It was very happy. It was very, if I may be so bold, say very beautiful. It was a very good heart connection with this lady.

Narrator: As Shirley moved around the vicarage, she picked up another contact (as she called it) in what used to be the old kitchens.

Shirley: I went into the back of the house because I felt drawn to do so. I feel that it is a very active place in the kitchen area, and I was strongly convinced of a previous scullery maid, or perhaps that would be too…  er, she was a servant that worked in the kitchen. A delightful girl. But there are undertones. And she knows more intimate stories about the owners in the Victorian period than perhaps others would. And she lived in a cottage which is no longer down by the bridge, the old bridge in the village. It is now a space. There were a row of cottages there. I saw them. And the bridge itself connected with her. And I believe that she felt at the bridge and was drowned. And this was the young woman who worked here.

Narrator: So, two mediums who claim to have no previous contact, coming up with remarkably similar stories. And right across the moor there are countless stories from people who’ve had strange experiences so real and so vivid that they’re imprinted on their memories never to be forgotten. There are as we’ve heard, theories that have been bandied about - the somewhat unusual properties of the rock itself. The mysteries of the celtic brain, and so on. But there are precious few explanations. The only facts would seem to be that the area is indeed rich in history and event. And that people have had experiences here that have changed their view of life and death.