Haunted Malham Tarn
In about 1978, despite the fact that I was a teacher of French, I accompanied a couple of Geography teachers on a field trip from our school in Nottingham, to stay at Malham Tarn Field Centre in North Yorkshire:
We used to work late into the evening, and then, between ten and eleven o’clock, usually retired to one of our staff rooms for a few whiskies, and a little R & R. After that, we would all go to bed.
One night, though, I found myself awakened around two or three o’clock in the morning, by what I can only describe as the feeling that there was some kind of evil presence in the room. As I looked out over my feet, beyond the end of the bed, it seemed to be down in the left hand corner, below the window, in the darkness in front of the wardrobe doors. I could see nothing at all, and could not reach the light to put it on, but I was certain of my fear, and the fact that I was not the only person in the room. Indeed, I was so scared that I remembered my experience of horror films, and used some of the remedies I had seen there. I imagined myself cocooned in a pale blue light, and, despite my status as a lapsed Christian, did not hesitate to repeat to myself, again and again, until I eventually fell asleep, ” In the name of Jesus Christ, I defy thee Satan.”
The following day, I asked questions about whether the building, a converted seventeenth century barn, was haunted or not:
From my colleagues, I could only get very non-committal answers, which clearly hinted that they knew a lot more than they were prepared to reveal. Eventually, I was told that there was indeed supposed to be a ghost in the place. On one occasion, just after midnight, it had walked into and out of walls, a party piece which had totally terrified a group of Sixth Form Girls, who had packed up and left, even though it was in the middle of the night and still dark.
The Beast of Glen Etive
In the middle 1970s, I used to go regularly to Scotland with my friend Bill. Normally, we would do a clockwise circuit around the whole country, camping each year in the same places. On the second day, we normally stayed at Glen Etive, a long and steep sided valley which runs off Glencoe, just to the south of Fort William:
This particular summer, in early August, if I remember correctly, we had again stopped in this dramatic glen, siting our tent and car just a few metres to the side of the single track road that ran the length of the glen. In those days, before the place was a film set, it was very isolated indeed. A single track road led for four or five miles down the valley to its very end, which was just a tiny wooden jetty large enough for a rowing boat. Nobody was camping anywhere near to us, and later in the holiday, when we followed the single track road down from our campsite to the wooden jetty and back, we met nobody in the ten or twelve miles we covered. No cell phones back then. This was genuine wilderness, where the orange arrow marks our orange tent:
As darkness fell, Bill and I were both sitting in the car, looking across the road, and the flat floor of the valley, over towards the precipitous cliffs on the far side. After a couple of cigarettes, Bill announced that he was going to take the toilet roll, and go off to do what a man has to do. He took with him the torch, and his cigarettes and matches.
At first, I could still see him as he walked away toward a huge well-used pile of granite rocks, some two or three hundred metres in the distance. After a few minutes, though, he was swallowed up by the darkness.
I was rather surprised that he did not switch on the torch, and looked in vain for the glowing end of his cigarette in what was by now total darkness.
After about fifteen minutes or so, I noticed a light well over to the left of where Bill had gone, and was a little worried that he had perhaps got disorientated in the darkness, and that he might fall over, and injure himself.
I began flashing the car headlights steadily to give him a reference point, and was then surprised to see a second light come on, and make its way at some speed towards the car. This, of course was Bill, who had been considerably frightened by the very loud roaring noises he had heard while out among the rocks:
It was for this reason that he had not switched his torch on. He thought that if he did, he might well attract whatever was making the noise. Inside the car, three hundred yards away, for some reason, I had not heard the roaring, perhaps because I was listening to music on the car cassette player. Strangely enough, Bill had not seen the second light, which by now had disappeared.
During the next few hours, though, we both heard the roaring clearly:
It was difficult to describe exactly, but at times it was a deep, loud bellowing, and at others it sounded like an almighty crash. I remember thinking that if a giant baby had dropped a full sized battleship into his bath, then that was the noise it would have made.
We were both frightened, and I slept with the carving knife under my pillow. On the other hand, the noise was always fairly distant, and, although alone, and many miles from the nearest house, we were never scared enough to pack up the tent, and drive off into the night.
Later, we tried to investigate the origin of the lights and the noises. We climbed up into the area which we thought they had come from, but with no success. We found nothing to explain either the bellowing or the isolated light which had been at least as large as a torch. Neither did there appear to be any difference between this section of the valley and any other.
Whenever the idea of “bellowing” or “roaring” appears in this article, the animal depicted in the photograph is a Red Deer stag. And yes, in the rutting season, Red Deer stags do roar and bellow. Set against this though, is the fact that the events described here did not really occur during the rutting season, which occurs from October to November. Likewise, the roaring is most frequently heard in the late evening and then during the early dawn. We heard it, though, when night had really begun. It was certainly pitch black, dark enough to need torches for safety reasons.
Forty years later, I would still describe the noise as “a full sized battleship dropped into a bath”. Strange! Very strange!!
Incidentally, this is the mountain which stands at the head of the glen. It is called “Buachaille Etive Mòr” and, statistically, it is much more dangerous than the Eiger: