The Dering Woods (Screaming Woods) 20 Dead Bodies, 4 Missing Students and Unexplained Lights

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

Since 1948 Dering Woods, AKA Screaming Woods, which lies between the villages of Smarden and Pluckley in Kent has been host to some terrifying true stories of unexplained deaths, missing people and strange phenomena.


Dering Woods Massacre of 1948
In 1948 twenty bodies from five local families were found in Dering Woods, the cause of death was never established

The Dering Woods, also known as Screaming Woods is situated in Kent, England, sat between the two villages of Smarden and Pluckley. The Dering Woods are reputed as being the most haunted woods in the UK, they are often known by the name of Screaming Woods because of the many reports of people hearing terrifying screams coming from the forest at night as well as whispers and footsteps during the day, particularly on days were heavy fog is present.


The forest is said by locals, to be haunted by the ghosts of the people who have previously got lost in them, there is also a local story that tells of an army colonel from the 18th century who committed suicide here and a highwayman who was captured by the villagers, held against a tree and beheaded.


Many people who live in the nearby villages have reported seeing black shadows following them whilst walking in the forest.


Dering Woods is also known for having one of the oldest Neolithic sites anywhere in the world.


Lights at night in Dering Woods
Reports of strange lights at night are frequent in Dering Woods

The Dering Woods have a long history of mystery, tragedy and terrifying events surrounding it.


On the morning of November 1st, 1948, twenty dead bodies were found, eleven of which were children. The bodies were found in a horrifying mound of human flesh, not a single body showed any injuries or clear reason for death. There were many reports from locals from the night before, which is when the massacre took place, strangely enough, this was also Halloween.

The autopsies on the bodies couldn't determine the cause of their death and after only a few weeks the local authorities quickly put an end to the investigation, stating that the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.


The fact that the police closed this investigation so quickly, and without any evidence of the cause of death from the autopsy reports, raised a lot of questions and theories from concerned local residents who started to believe that the authorities were trying to cover up what had happened, or were even somehow involved in it.

Dering Woods massacre newspaper report
The local newspaper clipping from 1948, the day after the bodies were discovered

In 1964, a private investigator by the name of Robert Collins conducted interviews with witnesses with the objective of uncovering clues to what could have potentially happened on that fateful night. Part of Collins investigation was also aimed at trying to find out information about the alleged activity of an unknown religious cult that was based in the village of Smarden.


Unfortunately the investigation that Robert Collins was carrying out was brought to an abrupt end when he was tragically killed in a car accident the following year.


Fifty years on in 1998, and on the exact same night another mystery was to plague Dering Woods, four college students who decided to visit the area for Halloween went missing. On the night of their disappearance, villagers from Pluckley reported seeing "figures of light similar to spider webs" in the sky above the woods.


The students were never traced and no bodies were every found, similar to the incident in 1948, the local police closed the investigation after approximately three weeks.


Four students go missing in Dering Woods
Front page of the Kent Messenger in 1998 following the disappearance of four students in Dering Woods

In April 2019, Dering Woods came into the news again for more paranormal activity, when Anne-Marie English took her four children and her nephew out to do some exploring.


Ms English stated that during her time in Dering Woods, her nor her family saw anything out of the ordinary, this was until she returned home and looked through the photo's she had taken from the day out.

Ghosts in Dering Woods
Is this photo Ms English believes the dark shadow looks as though it is a man watching her children whilst they play

Ghosts of Dering Woods
This photo, taken by Ms English shows what appears to be a small girls face within the tree

For decades Dering Woods (Screaming Woods) has been a hotspot for paranormal and unexplained activity, often being compared with Cannock Chase, another reported haunted forest in the UK, neighbouring Pluckley has also made it to the top of the ghost hunting list when it was branded as Britain's most haunted village.


Dering Woods was even mentioned in the doomsday book, stating that whilst the village of Pluckley expanded, residents moved closer towards the forest, until in the 14th century the areas population was decimated by the Black Death.


Let us know your thoughts about Dering Woods in the comments section below, we would also love to hear from anyone who has visited the area! Don't forget to follow us on Facebook for more stories like this.






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