TRUE GHOST STORIES FROM DORSET
The Ghostly Twins Who Nobody Wanted
The ghosts that haunt The Crown Hotel certainly display a poignant twist of melodrama.
Legend holds that in the 17th century deformed twins were born to an owner of the building, and their parents kept them chained in an upstairs room away from the prying eyes of the world outside.
Having endured their miserable existence for a while, the poor mites died and were, so tradition claims, buried under the floor of the inn’s larder.
Their ghosts have since become a more or less permanent ethereal fixture at The Crown, and the sound of children playing has often echoed across the inn’s empty courtyard at dead of night.
More substantial is the wraith of a despondent young girl in a white nightdress that has been seen from time to time leaning on a banister.
The door of one of the bedrooms has also been known to rattle violently. One guest who experienced it gazed on dumbfounded as the handle then slowly turned and the door creaked open to reveal that no one was outside.
Suddenly, he felt a cold chill pass over him; as it did so a blue light floated from his room, glided down the corridor and melted into the wall. Another guest had to be calmed with a glass of brandy when a man with whom he had been chatting in the toilet had the temerity to suddenly vanish!
Phantom Footsteps And A Chilling Encounter
In the Middle Ages Lyme was an extremely busy port. The first clash between Sir Francis Drake’s fleet and the Spanish Armada took place in Lyme Bay in 1588. It was also here that James, Duke of Monmouth – leader of the Monmouth Rebellion - landed in 1685.
Later Jane Austen would use the town as a setting in her novel Persuasion, as would John Fowles in his epic tale The French Lieutenant’s Woman. The subsequent film of the novel, starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep, was shot here. Many of its buildings were used as locations, including The Royal Lion Hotel, a coaching inn that dates back to the beginning of the 17th century – and which also happens to be haunted.
The most disturbing phenomenon encountered at the inn is without doubt the cloud of ectoplasm that several witnesses have seen in one of the corridors, and which one woman described as being like a ‘damp mist going right through you, turning you to jelly’.
People have also heard disembodied footsteps approaching them, and have told how their mystification turns to alarm when, as the invisible form passes by, a chilly sensation envelopes them.
What lies behind these mysterious and unsettling occurrences is not known, although some people believe the fact that public executions were once carried out on the site next to The Royal Lion may have something to do with the unseen revenant that now wanders the corridors of the old hotel.
The Ghostly Exciseman
The road that runs through Seatown ends abruptly at The Anchor Inn, an 18th-century establishment that sits almost on the beach and cowers beneath Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast of England.
The cove below the inn was an ideal spot for smugglers, and such was the extent of their nefarious activities that, in 1750, it was deemed that Seatown should be given a resident exciseman.
From his guardhouse in the village the unfortunate holder of the post was expected to single-handedly curb the activities of the smugglers.
Of course it proved a thankless and onerous task, compounded by the fact that the local squire was reputedly the leader of one of the smuggling bands.
The excisemen encountered frequent and open hostility, and one of their number was even shot dead at the top of The Anchor’s stairs as he eavesdropped on a group of smugglers in the bar below.
His ghost is still said to wander the premises, a sad and forlorn figure condemned to lament the lack of manpower that resulted in his demise.
Supernatural activity, however, is not only confined to the timeless interior of The Anchor. An old cottage that stands next to the inn was once let out for holiday accommodation.
Several visitors who stayed there were subjected to close encounters of an ethereal kind and several of them found their experience so alarming that they refused point-blank to go anywhere near the cottage again!
The Spectral Horseman
In 1924 Mr R C Clay, an archaeologist – who at the time was in charge of excavations at a Bronze Age site near Christchurch - was driving home one night along the lonely stretch of the A3081 that runs by Bottlebush Down, when he suddenly became aware of a man on horseback galloping alongside his car.
The man wore a long flowing cloak, his bare legs spurred his horse on without bridle or stirrups, and he was brandishing some form of weapon, which he waved angrily above his head.
As Mr Clay looked on in puzzled astonishment, the horse and rider suddenly vanished into the burial mound on Bottlebush Down.
Not believing the evidence of his own eyes, and determined not to dismiss the figure as something so unscientific as a ghost, the archaeologist returned to the spot several times over the next few weeks.
But having ruled out tricks of the light, optical illusions, or any other scientific possibility, he was forced to admit, grudgingly, that he was one of a long line of people to have witnessed the appearance of Bottlebush Down’s spectral horseman.
Although today the area is remote and isolated, there is ample evidence to suggest that it was once a thriving hub of activity.
The number of low, round burial barrows that litter its landscape, suggest a sizeable population two to three thousand years ago. An immense earthwork, stretching for close on six miles - and known as the Cursus - must at one time have been heavily garrisoned, and the old Roman Road, that connected Salisbury with Badbury, would later cross it.
The phantom horseman- whose galloping wraith has appeared to Shepherds tending their flocks, cyclists returning home across Bottlebush Down in the fading light of day, and walkers enjoying an evening stroll in the country air - could be a vestige of any one of the ancient peoples who have lived here.
But Mr Clay’s specialist training enabled him to date the figure as being of the late Bronze Age.
Which means that, whoever the warlike, galloping wraith may have been in life, in death he has achieved the possible distinction of England’s oldest ghost!
The Threshold of Another Realm
This earthwork might not be the easiest place to get to, but once you have managed to manoeuvre into what little parking space is available, and trudged along the muddy track that leads to it, you genuinely feel that you have arrived on a threshold that might admit you in to who knows what.
As you stand on top of the horseshoe-shaped earthwork and gaze down into the pool below, an eerie, almost surreal, atmosphere holds sway over your senses.
The banks that fall away to the shimmering water seem impossibly steep, but having struggled, or most likely slipped, down them you gaze into their mysterious depths, and waves of fear and fascination wash over you in equal measure.
The pool is thought to have been one of the places into which Sir Bedivere threw Excalibur, the fabled sword of King Arthur, and when the rays of the sun, glance off the gleaming surface, you really can feel as if a portal to another world, or even another time, is about to open before you, and reality deserts you for a few short moments.