Tag Archives: phantom

The Ghost of George’s Hill

I used to be a teacher. Not much connection there with scary monsters, but I did once hear an absolutely wonderful ghost story at a Parents’ Evening. The phantom involved is actually very famous in Nottinghamshire, but at the time, I had never heard this scary tale.

I was speaking to a boy’s mother. She said that the family lived in the village of Calverton.  She told me how her husband refused ever to drive again along a certain road to the north of Nottingham because it was strongly haunted, and he had been absolutely terrified when he met the ghost. Look for the orange arrow…

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In the map above, the yellow road in the centre is the B684, the “Plains Road” which leaves Nottingham northwards and climbs slowly but surely along what must have been at one time an ancient Stone Age Ridge Route and perhaps even a hunting trail. With some amazing views, particular to the east, the road eventually sweeps around to the west  to join the main road from Nottingham, the  A614. This road goes northwards towards the A1 at Clumber Park, the “Great North Road”. Just before this major junction there is a minor cross roads called Dorket Head where a country lane winds northwards down an extremely steep hill. It forms a short cut down to what is nowadays the dormitory village of Calverton.

The map below is a larger scale version of the most important features in the tale. (the orange arrow points to the steeply winding country lane in question)

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The mother explained how her husband had seen the ghost and he had been so absolutely terrified that, after this, he had never ever again driven back home along this road. He therefore ignored an obvious shortcut to Calverton from his office, one which would have saved quite a lot in petrol costs over the weeks and months. Instead the husband preferred to spend his hard earned cash on driving around the three sides of a rectangle, but a rectangle where there was no possible prospect of being terrified out of his wits on a second occasion. This circuitous route ran along the B684 to the main road, the A614, and then along the next turn right, the brown road past Ramsdale House and up to the Arts Centre, and then another right turn into Calverton. The three sides of his rectangle must have included making at least one right turn across the high-speed oncoming traffic on the A614.

Her husband had seen the ghost in the absolutely classic way which is featured on so many different websites about Nottinghamshire phantoms.

Basically it is a very simple scenario. As you drive down the narrow road following the twisting, turning descent with great care, concentrating hard on what is ahead of you, you suddenly notice that there is somebody sitting in the empty back seat of your car. You will see the stranger occasionally in the rear view mirror when the car swings from side to side as you follow the twisting loops of the road. Sightings of your unwanted passenger will be only fleeting, but they will seem more terrifying because of this. Drivers who stop the car to look behind them invariably find that the rear seat is empty.

Anyway, this particular father was so terrified that he never again even contemplated going down the hill. The ghost he saw, as far as I remember, was an old woman. The mother also told me how a very great number of people in Calverton, if they can possibly avoid it, would not consider for a moment driving down this hill for the very same reason as her husband.

Ten minutes’ research on the Internet revealed that the road is called George’s Lane and the hill is called George’s Hill. The haunting seems to be most frequent at Dorket Head or at the junction with Spindle Lane. On this map, Dorket Head is the crossroads which forms the junction of George’s Lane with the B684. The dotted line, indicated again by the orange arrow, is Spindle Lane.

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Nicholas A.C. Blake of Nottingham made an appeal for information on his website. He too had seen an old lady in the car and he sought other witnesses at “nblake42@hotmail.com”

Sarah Meakin of Carlton, Nottingham, returned from Calverton after some babysitting to feel the car suddenly go cold on a warm summer’s evening, and she then looked in her rear view mirror to see “a black hooded figure, which can only describe as looking like a monk”.
The absolutely splendid “Paranormal Database” reveals that…

“A ghostly entity is reported to materialise on the back seat of passing cars in both of these locations – on the lane the figure takes the form of an old lady, and on the hill the figure wears a black hooded garment. Normally the witness only sees the entity in the rear view mirror; when they turn round, the figure has vanished.”

Well, you know where George’s Lane is, and you know what might happen and you know what you might see. So off you go, and make sure you keep your eyes on the road, as well as on your rear view mirror.

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Hallowe’en Nights (5) Ghosts in the High School

It is often supposed that in a building as old as the present High School there should be a school ghost.

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Ray Eastwood, the caretaker, once told me this story, in the early or mid-1980s, although to be honest, I have forgotten the exact date…..

“One year, a small number of boys were expelled from the school because of their appalling behaviour. They made threats that they would return, and either vandalise, or even set fire to the school. Because of this, my colleague Tony Hatcher and myself were asked to sleep in the school to forestall any problems. In actual fact, we borrowed a German Shepherd dog from a security firm that I had connections with, and all three of us moved with our camp beds into one of the rooms at the front of the school, underneath Reception, on the ground floor.

One morning, around 6.15 a.m., Tony and myself were sitting up in our beds having a cup of tea and a cigarette, when we clearly heard footsteps in the corridor above. They seemed to start near the staffroom, and then to proceed around the corner, past the staff toilets, and along the corridor towards the offices, directly above us. We both of us thought that these must be the footsteps of somebody who had broken into the school, and we rushed out of our temporary accommodation. We grabbed the dog, and threw him up the stairs to pursue the presumed miscreants. The poor animal wanted none of it, and he slunk off back into the room to his basket, his tail between his legs. We ourselves went on, rushed up the stairs and charged into the area around Reception. We could find absolutely nobody. We explored all around. All the windows were secure. All the doors that should have been locked were locked. There was no explanation whatsoever of what we had heard. There was certainly nobody there.”

In actual fact, Ray did offer me an explanation….He thought that the footsteps that both Ray and he had so clearly heard were those of Eric Oldham, a caretaker who had worked at the High School until some eight or ten years previously. One sunny Saturday evening at the end of that blistering hot August of 1976, after many years of faithful and steadfast service, poor Eric had collapsed and died as he made his rounds to lock up the school. He was found by his poor wife, lying on the sandstone paving slabs just inside the Main Gates. In the School Magazine, Mr.Oldham was described as “one of the school’s most devoted servants and a warm hearted friend”.

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When Eric used to unlock the many various rooms inside the school every morning, he invariably followed the same route at the same time of day. Eric would have been walking along those same corridors, in the very same direction as the mysterious footsteps we so clearly heard, at the same early hour of the morning. Perhaps it was him, reluctant still to pass the school into anyone else’s care.

Shortly after the idea of a school ghost was first mooted, it later emerged that there had already been another claimant to the position. This phantom was in the then Preparatory School which educated boys aged between eight and eleven years of age.

Quite a number of reports had emerged that as boys walked down a particular set of stairs towards the Waverley Street end of the building, they repeatedly had felt what could only be described as invisible fingers grabbing at the bottoms of their trousers, as if somebody was trying to clutch at their ankles as they went past. This story was told to me quite a few times in the Main School by a number of boys of varying ages, so it must have been fairly well known at the time, although it was unclear whether any of the teachers in the Preparatory School were aware of it. At least one member of the Main School staff knew of it, however.
I have an explanation for this although it does require a certain “leap of faith”. The new building of the Preparatory School was constructed on the site of a magnificent Victorian house. It was still used for Sixth Form lessons for a short period during the early years of my time at the High School, and may well have been the Sixth Form Centre, although I am no longer totally certain of this. Originally, the house had belonged to Dr.Dixon, Headmaster of the school from 1868-1884. On May 29th 1876, his wife, Ada, died “of the effects of a chill”, leaving her husband with five children, who were, according to “The Forester”, “Robert, Charles, Harold, Sydney and one daughter to bring up, four sons and a daughter”.

My best guess is that the clutching fingers belonged to Ada, who, as a spirit, was unwilling to leave her children, as she could see that her husband was struggling with the job of looking after them. It may well be that the staircase in the modern Preparatory School occupied the same three dimensional space as a long forgotten room in the now demolished Victorian house.

Interestingly, neither of the two ghosts, if indeed they were ghosts, has persisted. The stories in the Preparatory School disappeared after just a couple of years at most, and as regards the tale of the footsteps in the corridor, both Ray and Tony were denying vehemently that anything had ever happened within weeks of originally talking about the event. Why that was, I never did discover, although it is always nice to have a School Conspiracy Theory.

Next time……The School Werewolf and how to apply for the job

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Periods of work……only a few days every full moon

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Paid holidays…….once in a blue moon

If you are interested in the ghosts of Nottinghamshire, there are at least two lists of reported hauntings.

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Hooooooo

 

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Hallowe’en Nights (4) Three ghosts from my past

My father was called Fred Knifton. He lived from 1922-2003, for the most part in Hartshorne Road, Woodville, which is to the south of Derby and Nottingham, in the East Midlands.

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Woodville at the time was a village of some 5,000 people. It was exactly on the edge of  a geological fault line, so to the west, coarse, heavy clay was mined in opencast quarries, and sewer pipes and drainpipes were manufactured. To the east there was no clay, but instead there were open green fields with Friesian cattle and tall hedges of hawthorn.

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Although as far as I know he never experienced any of the RAF’s many ghostly occurrences, Fred once told me that there was a well-known haunted hangar somewhere out there in East Anglia, possibly in Norfolk, where mechanics as they repaired aircraft late at night, would often hear dance music, even though of course, there was no orchestra within miles.

A modern day equivalent may well have been the occasion when I stood at the bathroom sink one summer’s morning, a good few years after Fred’s death, looking out over the roof tops of Nottingham. I was listening to “American Patrol” being played by the Glenn Miller Orchestra on a CD.

This moment suddenly gave me probably the most distinctive feeling of “déjà vu” I have ever had. I have wondered ever since whether my father had perhaps done exactly the same thing on some airbase in Lincolnshire on a long forgotten day some sixty or so years previously.

Strangely enough, for a man who always had so many tales to tell, ghosts and phantoms did not feature particularly highly in Fred’s repertoire, and I would struggle to think of any direct reference he ever made about the afterlife, although I am sure that he was aware of the alleged haunted house down near the Bull’s Head Inn in Hartshorne.

As a native of nearby Woodville, Fred would certainly have heard all the tales of the phantom attached to this large black and white timber framed Elizabethan house which stood between the old Georgian coaching inn and the Anglo-Saxon church in the middle of Hartshorne.

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Apparently, the story was often told of how….

“A brave group of people, made curious by the many ghostly accounts of bumps in the night, had gone up into the attic, unvisited through many decades of neglect, and found furniture piled up across the entire room. On the inaccessible far wall of the room, there was a delicate but obvious print in the centuries old dust, the unmistakeable impression of a ghostly human hand. Nobody could possibly have penetrated the great mass of tables, chairs and rubbish stacked across the floor. It could only have been the work of a phantom. ”

In 1970, I experienced an extremely strange happening when I accompanied my father, Fred, down to his parents’ house at number 39, Hartshorne Road. Fred’s parents, Will and Fanny, had both recently died recently within a few months of each other in hospital at Burton-on-Trent, with Fanny remaining mercifully unaware of Will’s demise after more than sixty years of marriage.

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Fred was paying regular visits to the property, presumably attempting little by little to clear the house out so that it could be resold. At the time, as a teenager of some sixteen  years of age, I was unaware of this, although, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had been, and I could perhaps have stopped Fred from throwing away so many of his father Will’s Great War souvenirs, such as his complete Canadian Army uniform, his German soldier’s leather belt and his extensive collection of German guns and ammunition.

We entered the deserted house through the front door, and as I walked along the hallway towards the kitchen, I distinctly heard the upstairs toilet flush. I turned round and asked Fred, who had been following me into the hall, how this could have happened, and who it could have been, given that we both knew that the house was locked up and empty.

Fred gave me some non-committal answer at the time, but afterwards, perhaps when he had regained his composure a little, he told me that, as he was some way behind me, he had been able to look up the stairs when he heard the sudden noise of the toilet being flushed. He had distinctly seen his recently deceased father, Will, walk out of the bathroom, across the landing and into the front bedroom.

My father Fred certainly knew the story about how an aging Mrs.Edwards had sadly passed away. This old lady had lived in the village a hundred yards further down Hartshorne Road from Fred’s own house, in a Victorian house next to the entrance of a factory making drainpipes.

Her old  friend, and our own family friend, Gertrude Betteridge, went down to Mrs.Edwards’  house to pay her respects and offer her condolences to her daughter, Margaret Edwards. The latter greeted Gertrude and showed her into the front room. Margaret then invited her guest to sit down on the settee while she went into the kitchen to make “a nice cup of tea”.

After a couple of minutes, as Gertrude sat there quietly and politely with the sunlight streaming brightly through the front windows, the door opened. It was not, however, Margaret with the expected tray of tea and biscuits, but Mrs.Edwards herself, exactly as she had been in life, who came in. She walked across the room to Gertrude completely normally, and quietly and calmly said to her, “Tell Margaret not to worry. I’m all right.” Then she turned and walked away, opened the front room door and disappeared back out into the hall, never to be seen again.

 

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