Friday, August 29, 2014

England’s Haunted Wymering Manor

This manor house, the oldest in Portsmouth, England, has more than its fair share of ghosts and legends.

The original Wymering Manor house dates back to 1042. One of the first owners of the manor was King Edward the Confessor. Then after the Battle of Hastings it fell into the hands of King William the Conqueror who retained it until 1084.

The oldest parts of the current manor house date back to the 16th century. Over the centuries it has had many owners and has been continuously renovated. Modern suburbs surround Wymering today.

Ghostly activity has been reported in the house for several centuries. Because of this, several U.K. paranormal groups have investigated it.

Here are just a few of the ghost stories that are told by people who have owned or stayed at Wymering.

A Cousin Returns

One owner, Thomas Parr was awakened one night to see the apparition of his cousin standing at the foot of his bed. She happily chatted with him about various members of their family that were deceased.

Before she faded away she fondly told him goodbye and mentioned that the family was getting ready to greet their Aunt Em. The following morning Parr received a telegram that his Aunt Em had died during the night.

One elderly relative that visited Parr at Wymering had an irrational fear the manor would be “invaded by burglars” so she kept her bedroom door locked as she slept.

One morning she awoke and was surprised to see her door unlocked and wide open.

Singing Nuns

Another owner of Wymering, Leonard Metcalf who died in 1958 reported several strange occurrences while living at the manor.

On several occasions he saw a group of nuns crossing the manor’s hall. He watched as they chanted to the clear sound of music. At the time, he did not know that the Sisterhood of St. Mary of Virgin had visited the house in the mid 1800s.

Metcalf’s bedroom in the house is known as the “Panelled Room.” This room is considered the creepiest room in the manor. One day while standing at a washbasin Metcalf felt a hand on his shoulder when he spun around no one was there.

Others who have stayed or just visited the room all report they become anxious and wanted to leave immediately.

A couple that lived in the manor also used this room as their bedroom. They stated they often felt fearful.

The Bleeding Nun

Attic Room
One ghost that has been seen for centuries is another nun. She is seen in the hallway outside the attic bedroom, which is directly above the “Panelled Room.”

It is said her hands drip blood as she stares down the narrow staircase that leads to the attic.

Reckless Roddy

Wymering’s most infamous legend involves Sir Roderick of Portchester.

Newlyweds were staying at the manor when the husband was called away unexpectedly. Reckless Roddy hearing the bride was left alone, went to Wymering to try and seduce her.

The husband returned earlier than expected and chased Reckless Roddy from the home. As he tried to mount his horse the husband killed him.

The legend states whenever a newly married couple stays at Wymering they can hear Reckless Roddy’s horse galloping down the lane.

Leonard Metcalf stated that shortly after his marriage following WWll he and his wife were awakened in the middle of the night by the sounds of this horse galloping away.

Sir Francis Austin

Another ghost seen at Wymering is the distinguished Naval officer who was the brother of novelist Jane Austin.

Sir Francis is buried at the nearby Wymering Parish Churchyard. Many witnesses over the years have claimed he haunts the old manor.

One paranormal group states they recorded a video of a tall man they think might be Austin.

Sir Francis Austin

Investigation Results

Various paranormal groups that have investigated Wymering report sightings of apparitions of both men and women descending the manor’s staircases.

Light anomalies have been photographed and cold spots are felt. One video captured what looks like a monk standing by one window.

One investigator reported being slapped on the chest.

Others have recorded disembodied voices, singing, and a piano playing--there is no piano in the manor house today.

A baby has been heard crying and the sounds of children laughing have been recorded.

Poltergeist activity has also been reported.

One group claims there are at least 18 ghosts at Wymering.

The manor has sat unused since 2006. It is up for sale for $600,000.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

San Diego's El Campo Santo Cemetery

This haunting is the result of old graves being disturbed.

El Campo Santos Cemetery, 1888.

In 1849 in San Diego, California the Catholic Church established a cemetery called “El Campo Santo”--The Holy Field. It was used through 1880.

This cemetery was placed in the area that would one day be San Diego’s historic Old Town. It is located just a couple of blocks from the Whaley House--which I wrote about here.

This cemetery eventually had 477 graves. Several of the founding fathers of San Diego are buried at El Campo.

Today this cemetery is only a quarter of its original size. As the city grew part of the cemeteries’ land was claimed for new development, which included: roads, buildings and homes.

With this expansion some graves were moved, unfortunately others were not.

In 1894 a horse-drawn streetcar was built through part of the cemetery, which later became San Diego Avenue. In 1942, this road was paved over leaving many graves under the street, sidewalk and buildings.

In former posts, here and here I mention it is never a good idea to build over existing graves. This often results in problems for the living.

A Renovation

In 1933, the San Diego Historical Society renovated this old graveyard. From one historic photo and varies descriptions they endeavored to accurately restore the cemetery.

An adobe brick wall was built around what remains of the cemetery. Markers were reset--only 6 of the original broken iron and wooden paling enclosures remained.

It was at this time that the surrounding businesses and homes started to officially report that the area was haunted.

In 1993, equipment that uses radar to penetrate underground determined that there are at least 20 graves under San Diego Avenue.

Just outside the El Campo Santo’s front gate there are small brass circular plaques that read “Grave Site” embedded in to the sidewalk and street. Just above the street is a plaque that reads:

“Remembering the more than 20 men, women and children who lie buried beneath San Diego Avenue.”

Ironically, only one person--a state Assembly member--was deemed worthy enough to be exhumed and re-buried within the cemetery walls.

Another 13 graves, mostly of children were found under the pavement on Linwood Street.

Restless Souls

For years, businesses and residents in the Old Town area that surrounds this old cemetery have reported poltergeist activity.

This activity is always described as “annoying.” Most often people report problems with their electricity. Lights, appliances and alarm systems often malfunction.

Many people who have visited and walked through El Campo report feeling freezing cold spots. Others that park their cars in front of the graveyard report they will not start when they return.

People that live and work in the area also report seeing a variety of apparitions within and outside the cemetery walls.

Sometimes these ghosts are mistaken for costumed actors promoting a local business.

Ghosts are seen gliding across the graves in the cemetery and groups of entities have been seen standing near the cemetery's walls.

Many of these ghosts are only seen from the waist up. When approached they disappear quickly.

One specific ghost that has been seen on several occasions is that of a gravedigger.

Many ghosts reported are described as Native American or Hispanic, which fits with the history of San Diego’s Old Town.

A Joint Effort

In the 1990s, during a three-year period, the activity became so pronounced that local residents and businesses came together and paid for an exorcism of the graveyard and surrounding area.

This settled the activity down but it is said apparitions are still seen--especially the gravedigger and a group of ghost children.

El Campos Santos Cemetery is a California Historic Landmark. It is located at the 2400 block of San Diego Avenue. Two notable interments at this graveyard are:

James W. Robinson known as Yankee Jim--died in 1852. He was a French Canadian Western Outlaw who was sentenced to death by hanging for stealing the only rowboat in San Diego Bay. He is thought to haunt Whaley House.

Antonio Garra who died in 1852. He was a Native American chief sentenced to death for organizing an Indian confederation to drive Americans out of California. He was executed at his gravesite, by a firing squad consisting of 12 men. It is believed he is buried underneath what is now San Diego Avenue.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

India’s Haunted Stepwells, Part ll

A stepwell is an ancient subterranean structure that was built to allow India’s citizens access to water year-round.

At one time there were 1000s of these wells in India’s villages, cities and alongside roads. Most had elaborate architecture and artistic stone reliefs. 

Here are two that are considered to be haunted--both having histories of people drowning.

Madha Vav

This stepwell is located in the village of Vadhavan in the state of Gujarat, India.

It was constructed under the ruler, Karnadeva Vaghela. He was a weak ruler and his people called him Karan Ghelo--meaning Ghelo the insane.

A statue of Ghelo and his wife can still be seen at Madha Vav.

This vav *, which is still intact is 55 meters long (60 yards) and has 6 pavilion-towers. It has 6 flights of stairs, which is the usual number. These steps go down 49.80 m (54 yards).

Madha Vav
According to local belief, a dangerous spirit haunts Madha Vav. It is believed this spirit rises every three years and claims a life.

His victims always drown in the well’s water.

This story is so prevalent that it is told in a popular folk-song.

Agrasen Ki Baoli

Agrasen Ki Baoli
Aragsen Ki is a 700 year-old beautiful stepwell that still exists in New Delhi the capital of India.

It was built in the 10th century by Rajput King Anang Pal ll of the Tomar Dynasty.

This baoli is an exquisite example of a single flight stepwell. It has 104 steps made of red stone.

At one time this well was submerged in murky water so it was considered to be one of the most “spooky haunted places in India.”

Today, many report feeling the presence of an invisible ghost. This ghost is said to follow people around--if they quicken their pace in fear so does the ghost quicken its pace.

For years rumors have persisted that this well had several evil spirits. It was said that the well’s murky black waters mesmerized or attracted vulnerable people.

If a person was discouraged or depressed it was said that this baoli * hypnotized them and lured them to their deaths. A power would overtake them and they would jump into the well’s waters.

For hundreds of years it was believed that “Baoli of the unseen” called people to offer their lives in order to raise a well’s water levels.

Agrasen Ki is a protected monument by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).

*  In Hindi-speaking regions these wells were referred to as "baoli." In the Gujarati and Marwari languages they are usually called "vav" or "vaav."

Here is a link to Part l India’s Haunted Stepwells where I talk about their history and demise.

India’s Haunted Stepwells, Part l

Click to enlarge.

Stepwells are centuries old structures that are unique to India. They were born of necessity in 300 AD.

India has a very erratic climate that is bone dry for most of the year. Torrential rains follow and last for weeks after this dry season. To make matters worse India’s water table is located 10 stories underground.

Because of this the Indians needed to figure out a way to provide a reliable year round water supply for drinking, washing and irrigation. They knew they needed to collect and preserve their precious rainwater.

They also needed to easily tap the water table. The result was the construction of 1000s of subterranean stepwells in cities, towns and along trade routes. These beautifully designed structures were built with flights of stairs leading down to the water.

Click to enlarge

These steps--normally in the hundreds-- allowed women to carry buckets down to the water level in the dry season. During the monsoon season all or most of these steps were submerged.

Over a course of one thousand years these Hindu and Muslim stepwells evolved into impressive feats of engineering, architecture and art. Their stone reliefs are incredible.

Stone Reliefs--Click to enlarge

They were often named for the ruler or patron who had them constructed. A quarter of these philanthropists were female patrons. This is not surprising considering fetching water was and still is the domain of women in India.

People of both genders and of all faiths were welcome at stepwells. For women they became a social gathering place. They also provided a cool place to escape the heat.

Most also were used as temples. Many have stone carved deities and the Indian people used them for ritual bathing, prayers and offerings.

Their Demise

Over the last century these stepwells have been in decline. This is the reason why many people today do not know about them.

Their demise came with unregulated pumping and a prolonged drought that drastically lowered the water table.

The Indian government has protected a handful of these ancient stepwells but many more have been demolished or left to deteriorate.

During the British Raj they were deemed unhygienic and were often filled in.

With the advent of centralized taps, plumbing and storage tanks these stepwells in essence became obsolete. But this left many communities bereft of an important social and religious meeting place.

Today, most stepwells are in various stages of ruin. Some are used as dumps. Others are over run with vegetation, and various critters, such as snakes and bats. If they have water pools they are stagnant.

The Indian government is considering restoring more and using them as possible cisterns, which would return them to their original purpose.

Example of deterioration.
The fear is that these beautiful and unique examples of Indian architecture may be lost for future generations.

Two stepwells that still exist--one in the village of Vadhavan and the other in New Delhi are both seeped in mystery, and haunted tales.

Here is a link to Part ll of India’s Haunted Stepwells where I share these stories.