Ghost Hunters: Tales from Dartmoor

There really is a very high Guff Rating to this episode. And again it’s such a shame. Because we get the impression that something may really have been happening at the house at the beginning of the programme. I mean perhaps it wasn’t anything paranormal. Perhaps it was family troubles expected in a household with teenage children where the father has seen his business lately go down the pan. Or bad plumbing. Or perhaps it was something genuinely weird. But investigating where such weirdness might originate (it’s focused on Richard’s room – could it even be Richard, poltergeist style? Has he even spoken to a doctor about having feelings that Something was telling him to Do Things? That would be the place to start maybe.) But no. We go down the familiar route of getting in a Psychic. And they go down the familiar road of shouting in weird voices and sending spirits towards the light. The funniest bit is where the Entity’s mother turns up for him. For pity’s sake. But the family don’t know what’s hit them. In fact after the psychic showdown they just sit there in shock. Like you would. Still, as the narrator explains, things are better now. And maybe that’s enough isn’t it, the problem is solved. But is the end truly worth the means?

The second half employs John The Psychic again. And he puts on a truly Acorah-like performance at Jay’s Grave, regaling us with information that any child in Dartmoor knows. Don’t even get me started on the “local historian” who can’t tell the difference between folklore and fact. Anyway, things get fractionally more interesting when he and a ‘psychic artist’ allegedly both come up with the presence of a Reverend in a local house. If we’re very generous (going on John’s previous showing) and assume the two of them truly did access some information about a man who once frequented the place, ever so occasionally – this does still not go any way to explaining where that information came from. The thing is, Jane and Brian Harper, who live in the house, seem to know full well already of the man’s existence. Is it then not possible (keep assuming the information is not widely available) that it could be telepathy rather than Spirits that provides the information. But besides. What house wouldn’t get visited occasionally by the vicar in those days. It’s not like any name was provided. This could have been discussed by the Narrator. But I suppose I have to remember this is just Entertainment. I shouldn’t let it wind me up so.

Narrator: One of the most extraordinary findings from our researches for these programmes is that the so-called paranormal is far more normal than is commonly believed. Go to any town or village, almost walk down any road or street, and you will come across stories of extraordinary events that are difficult to explain away on any rational or scientific basis. In this programme we tell two strange stories that come from Devon, from villages on the southern edge of Dartmoor. The Allen family live in the village of Heathfield Down, and are just about as typical a family as you are likely to meet anywhere in England. Ricky, the father, is in his early 50s. He’s served in the armed forces. His business ran into trouble in the recession and he now runs a minicab service. Jackie his wife is a highly qualified surgical nurse. She spends her days in the operating theatre at the local hospital. Suzanne the daughter is 21 years old, and Richard, the son, is 20. The first indication that something was not quite right was a strange sense of dread and foreboding in Richard’s bedroom.

Richard: It was very strange feelings I had inside myself. The.. the ghost actually felt like it was.. I don’t know, it was telling me to do things or, trying to, but, it was all very confusing really.

Suzanne: There was, erm, not arguments but it was fraught. Richard especially was always in strange moods. He would get in really bad moods for no reason, and things like that. And you didn’t feel happy wandering about the house – or I didn’t feel happy wandering about the house, at night.

Narrator: At first the family were scarcely able to admit to themselves that anything was radically wrong. The strange events and disturbing feelings continued unabated, growing more unnerving all the time.

Jackie: And then there used to be this smell of – it’s like you have a candle, and you blow it out – it’s like that instant smell afterwards that you get.  And it used to be up the top of the stairs, on the stairs, in this room. Not all the time, but when it come, it was strong.

Suzanne: My tv used to turn on and off, and over channels quite a lot, it used to just – I mean the remote control used to be on the floor. There was just no reason, nobody was using the telly downstairs. We tried the remotes in the other rooms to see if it would switch channels in other rooms, but it didn’t. Erm, so that was another thing. Also when we first moved in, the toilet chain used to flush for no reason. Erm. We actually had the whole bathroom taken out and put back in when it was refurbished, and obviously everything was new. It used to be an old chain flush that you pulled down. It’s all new but it still used to happen, the chain would still go. Especially at night when you were settled down to sleep.

Narrator: So desperate had the situation become that Brenda, a neighbour interested in spiritual affairs, was asked if she could perceive anything wrong in the house.

Brenda: There was something definitely wrong in this room. In fact it was such a powerful thing that I could hardly stand up. Erm. I tried backing out of the room, which was very difficult, to get down the stairs. So I had to sit on the stairs because the power was too much for me.

John Parker, Psychic Medium: I had a phone call from Brenda to say that this house was very very cold, and there was a lot of bad vibration. The family itself, the atmosphere amongst the family had changed. I rung Helen, who was my friend, we worked together, and arranged to come out.

Narrator: John Parker’s day job is bricklaying. In the evenings, at night, he operates a psychic rescue service for people in distress. He claims that his caseload runs into the thousands. Helen is described as a trans-medium. As John explains it, entities or spirits they encounter would enter Helen’s body so that John can talk to them and try to convince them to move onto the next world. Helen however didn’t want to be filmed.

Rick: As they walked into the door, Helen walked straight upstairs where she felt she ought to go, and John came into the living room here. And Helen came down a few minutes later and she said yes, there’s definitely an entity up there that shouldn’t be there.

Jackie: And she said, John we’ve basically got to do this tonight, and now.

Brenda: We were all sitting round with our arms folded across our solar plexus. This was so that the entity didn’t jump into anybody else. We’re also not supposed to speak, for the same reason.

Suzanne: Erm, Helen sat down and went into a trance, and she just breathed very deeply. John then, after a while, started to talk to Helen. The voice come through first of all was another lady who puts the spirit into Helen’s body. And she said she was ready to begin.

Richard: And it didn’t actually like strike me that it was actually real until the lady, er the lady’s voice like totally changed. And it was like a deep masculine voice coming out of this lady. And the ghost was speaking through this lady, saying like Ah, ah I wanted to kill him, and things, and that like freaked me out a bit.

Narrator: According to John Parker’s explanation afterwards, the spirit was a long dead person called Phillip. He lived on the land where the house now stands. He was a practitioner of black magic. As part of one of his rituals he had murdered his best friend, and now seemed unable to escape from the location.

Suzanne: And Phillip come in and he was really angry at first, he started swearing at us and all sorts of things. It was as if he could use modern day language but he couldn’t understand it. Erm John called him ‘Babe’ a couple of times and he kept saying ‘I don’t understand Babe, I don’t understand Babe,’ and yet he could swear at us in modern day language.

Rick: The conversation between John and the entity, as I said was aggressive, and the point of that was that the entity didn’t want to leave. He was enjoying himself, he was getting up to mischief and generally creating havoc. And John’s point to him was that he should go because of the havoc he’s causing, and that he cannot advance himself or grow unless he actually moves on. It was his time to go, he shouldn’t be here, it wasn’ t his place.

Suzanne: He tried to get up, or to get Helen to get up out the chair several times. John kept telling him to sit down again. But John said he couldn’t actually get out of the chair, but he was trying because he was just trying to escape.

Brenda: There was one time when I felt quite afraid, and that was when the entity jumped out of the body of Helen the medium, because nobody knew where the entity was actually headed for. So I think at that point everybody felt a bit scared.

Suzanne: Erm, John said you’ve been taunting Richard, you’ve been doing wicked things. And he said ‘yes’. And he said ‘Why?’  - It was all for power and control and he wanted to kill people still even though he was dead.

Jackie: Erm, and there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and John got a bit angry at times because of the swearing the entity was doing. And basically it come down to it that it was actually a friend of his that he could actually see in the light, that actually talked the entity into going with him, from the light. Plus his mum was there as well for him to go to.

Suzanne: We all sat there very quietly for a while and just sat in shock, I think. Although things had happened before it was a great shock to hear it and see it in front of your eyes. It’s not the sort of thing you believe until you see. Erm, we sat there for a long long time, all of us! And sort of slowly, gradually, like you come round from a sleep, we began to talk.

John: I actually in terms of speaking about it, I broke him. I broke the mind so that he would accept what he done, he done. The minute you got to that stage, the mental attitude of the spirit changed. And he became like an ordinary human being. All you have to do is to convince the person, the entity itself, that it is not of this world. Once you can do that, it’s a simple matter then of bringing someone in, and both of them going together. And it’s as simple as that.

Narrator: In John’s explanation, the murdered friend returned and there was a reconciliation. They moved off together into the light – that is always the phrase that is used. The point is, whether or not you choose to accept John’s explanation, it is undeniable something happened in the house that evening that transformed the atmosphere there.

Richard: Since it’s all happened, and John and the lady Helen is gone, and the ghost has been sent forward and whathaveyou, I haven’t actually sensed any weird or different smells or any strange happenings. I’ve been a lot lot happier in myself. And my whole attitude’s changed a lot really. There’s no more flushing of the loo in the middle of the night or anything like that really.

Suzanne: We don’t get smells any more. Richard’s moods are better! [laughs] and things are a lot happier. I can wander about the house at night and go up and downstairs without worrying at all. I wouldn’t worry as much as I did, that’s for sure.

Jackie: After John and Helen went, there was never ever any more smells of candles burning, no more problems at all.

Rick: I went up into the bedroom where it was, and there was a very very strong smell of sweetness, like very strong flowers. A smell that couldn’t have been put there. Very very strong and very very fragrant, beautiful.

Narrator: A few miles to the west of Heathfield Down where the Allens live, right up on the edge of the moor, under the looming rocks of Hound’s Tor, there is a lonely crossroads. This is the site of a single isolated grave, known locally as Jay’s Grave. Jay, it seems, was a young woman – Kitty Jay, and her grave is associated with a long standing mystery. It always has a fresh spray of flowers on it. No-one admits to putting them there, no one has seen anyone putting them there. But nevertheless, they are always there day after day after day. Kirsty Peake has lived near here for many years.

Kirsty Peake: I ride past here every day, so I come up here with the horse to meet friends to go riding. And when I come past, I always notice that there are flowers on the grave. And even when it’s really bad weather there’s always flowers on the grave, or greenery or something local. And I speak to people and they’re not putting the flowers on.

Geanor Williams, local historian: During the summer I come here very very often and there’s always fresh flowers here.

Narrator: Gina Williams is a local historian who’s looked into the background of many of the stories of Dartmoor, including the story of Kitty Jay.

Geanor: She was an orphan girl who took work at a nearby farm called [Carna?] and she became pregnant and hung herself, because there was so much stigma attached to it. And she was buried at this crosswise. Because they believed then that the devil couldn’t get at her soul.

Kirsty Peake: Well James Bryant, who had the land round here in the 1850s, 60s, he in fact had the grave opened to check, and did in fact find the bones of a young woman. And it’s he who had the grave made as it is now, putting in headstones and footstones. And since then, the flowers have appeared, always.

Narrator: Over the years the mystery of the flowers has inspired many people to spend a vigil at the grave, to see where the flowers come from. But with no very conclusive result.

Geanor: Some time ago some scouts camped here and erm, they watched all night, or so they said. They never saw anybody or heard anything. And when they got up in the morning, there were fresh flowers on the grave.

Narrator: We asked John Parker to visit Jay’s Grave to see if he could shed any light on the mystery, both on her death and the perennial flowers.

John: To pick up a vibration, what is here, and what can be seen. Here lies a young lady between 16 and 22 years old as I look at her. And she is laid out in this direction, pointing due east. [He waves his hand about over the grave]. From this, I pick up a vibration of very very sad. But there’s not one human remains here but two. One of a baby, very very small.

Narrator: That of course doesn’t really get us any further forward. We already knew that a young girl was involved, and the legend has it she was pregnant. And that of course is the problem with mediums. It is extremely difficult to verify either the information they come up with or the contacts they claim to make. However there is no doubt that they do very often help to clarify or resolve difficult psychic situations.

Dr Peter Fenwick, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist: When a psychic medium is perceiving something that has happened, the question is what is occurring. There are two sets of explanations. The first one is that these are particularly sensitive people – sensitive to non-verbal cues, so they’re picking up atmosphere from everything that is around. There’s nothing paranormal about it. That’s the first explanation. The second one is, we do not yet fully understand the nature of time. As far as the brain is concerned, time can alter enormously. For example, the whole of creation I can see in one split moment of time in certain mental states. So time is an artefact of the way the brain is constructed.

Archie Roy, Professor of Astronomy: Nowadays, many people believe that – oh, isn’t mediumship just a bit of a charlatan’s paradise, and frauds and so on. And no doubt there is a percentage of mediums who are fake. But the fact that there are fake coins in circulation doesn’t mean that all coins are counterfeit.

Narrator: Counterfeit coin or real, we decided to set up a rather more difficult test. And so without warning we asked John Parker if he would visit the cottage nearest to Jay’s Grave to see if we could establish any verifiable connections to her story. The house is now owned by a retired couple.

Brian Harper: We’ve lived here for about ten years, having retired from the Royal Airforce, and we’re well aware of the story of Jay’s Grave. And as you’re aware, we’re about the nearest really old house.

Narrator: John spent some time walking round the house, absorbing the atmosphere. Meanwhile we had arranged for a psychic artist, Mary Searle, to come to the house and sit in one of the rooms set quite apart from John, to see if she could draw any of her own perceptions.

John: I, I couldn’t find anything incorporating Jay’s Grave, but I have seen two people who have returned on a nostalgic visit. One, a lady, early 50s maybe, 5 foot 4, 5 foot 5. I also saw a man in the main bedroom, 40-50 years old. Quite longish hair. With something about his neck, with sort of two tassels, who I have the impression is like a clergyman. Other than that, there’s nothing else, just that. But I think these two are here because when they were on the earth they had some sort of association with the building itself.

Narrator: John felt he’d made contact with two psychic personas. One of them he described as a clergyman, either of the 18th century or possibly the early 19th. Meanwhile Mary, completely isolated, had drawn a clergyman’s portrait. It was by any standards an extraordinary meeting of minds.

John: The vibration I get off him is – he’s friendly, he’s come for a visit as though he used to live here. Can you understand what I mean?

Mary: Yes, yes. He used to live here yes. But he wasn’t like an owner of the place. I felt he lodged here, John.

John: I dunno.

Mary: Well, I can’t…

John: Well, all I can put is that he’s actually stayed in this house, that’s what I was picking up.

Mary: Yes, oh yes. Mmm.

Jane Harper: I just think it’s uncanny that both John and Mary can come up with the same thought in one hand and portrait in the other, of the same person. Being a Reverend in this particular case. I don’t know if he’s put a name to it – has he put a name to it?  [gets spectacles out] Oh it just says parson or clerical. Erm, and that also Steven Nosworthy is mentioned in our deeds.

Brian: A Reverend Nosworthy, Steven Nosworthy, is mentioned in these abstracts of title. And though I feel he didn’t actually own the house, his family, the Nosworthys owned it. And there’s no doubt as a vicar in the local parish, there’s no doubt he either passed this way or visited a house owned by his family during the early 1800s. Well I was impressed by the similarity in what the two people had to say. Because although I’m not specifically a sceptic – I would say I’m a bit of a realist, I would like things presented to me in hard fact. But I did find it gave me rather a start when the parson or vicar type element was introduced into the conversation.

Narrator: But John had mentioned a second person, a woman this time. Remarkably, Mary had also produced a second drawing of a woman named Eliza attached to it.

Jane: As far as Eliza goes, in the deeds there is an Elizabeth Nosworthy who in fact was going to marry Robert Nosworthy. And looking at her face, although there have been Elizabeths later on, in 1910, er this woman is obviously too old to be a 19.. she’s got to be one of the older characters. And is possibly Elizabeth Nosworthy, who would look very weatherbeaten even at the age of 50 [The drawing shows an older masculine face with no clues of costume].  Because up here would have been a very hard life. It’s bad at times now! But then it would have been very bad indeed.

Narrator: Just who it is who puts the flowers on Kitty Jay’s grave we may never know. But we do know that one Reverend John [sic] Nosworthy, and later on a woman called Elizabeth, must have passed these very crossroads on many occasions. And who knows, they may still do so. Certainly it would seem that some element of their presence remains detectable in the house beneath Hound’s Tor.