The Red Monk, The Nun That Roams The Roads & The White Lady: True Ghost Stories From The UK
A collection of true ghost stories that have been reported by countless witnesses throughout the United Kingdom.
At about four o'clock on a dark winters morning in January 1964, two young women cleaners cycling home after their night shift at a recently opened car factory near Basildon New Town, Essex, suddenly saw walk, or float, across the road in front of them the ghostly figure of a monk. They rode on, speechless and considerably shaken, until well past ancient Holy Cross Church, near which the apparition had appeared.
It was a frightening incident which they did not expect to have repeated. But at the same time on another morning, the same ghostly figure seemingly robed in a crimson gown again appeared on the road, this time directly in the path of Mrs Rita Tobin's cycle. She rang her bell but the figure did not move and she cycled on right through it.
"The air was cold and clammy," Mrs Tobin said. "I went numb all over and could not speak. It was terrible." Her companion, Mrs Sylvia Smith, described the monk's appearance as ghastly and "just like a transparent rainbow".
Within the next few days, and before anything was made public, all ten women engaged on the night-cleaning shift at the new Ford factory had seen the phantom monk while cycling home in the early hours. They saw it individually and in pairs. The figure, one woman explained, was "just floating, in deathly quiet".
The monk was seen to come out of the bushes, shuffle silently across the road and disappear among the graves in the 600-year-old churchyard of Holy Cross. The ten women saw the monk more than a dozen times between them and were terrified. They decided they would only use the road from the factory in gangs, though this was hard on those among them who wished to get home early to their young children, as it meant they had to wait for the others to finish before they could leave.
All the ghost's appearances were made between four o'clock and six o'clock in the morning. Mrs Kay Bull, the supervisor of the cleaners, saw the figure twice, and her theory was that it might be a lost soul who wanted release. She thought it was, perhaps, the apparition of one who had been forced against his will to go into the monastery which once existed at the spot; he was always seen at the early hours when the monks used to hold their meditations at the monastery and might be trying to escape it.
Mrs Bull disclosed that prior to the monk's several appearances the cleaners had once been startled by a man's sudden appearance on the lonely road as they were going to work, and they told him, jokingly, that they thought he was a ghost. He replied, "Not me, lady, but there is one because I've seen it. And I wish someone would do something because the shock of seeing him could kill anyone with a weak heart."
The cleaners, on the ghost's first appearances, did not at once ask the local vicar for help because they thought they would be laughed at, but the persistent haunting of the road brought matters to a head. Their story, widely reported by the newspapers, found support from many old residents who were convinced that the Holy Cross churchyard was haunted.
The Rev Bernard Lloyd, curate in charge of Holy Cross Church, said he had often been at the church late on dark winter nights and on some occasions had heard odd noises, like footsteps in the church porch without anyone being there, but he believed so many things like bats or mice could be responsible for this. He had not seen anything strange. If there was a ghost, Mr Lloyd said, from the description given by the cleaners it could be that of a former Basildon rector who became dean of a London church. This would account for the crimson gown. Or it could be an apparition of one of the two Basildon rectors who were deposed at the time of the Reformation. But, said Mr Lloyd, whatever the identity of the apparition, as it was said to cross the road into the churchyard there was no question of an exorcism as such a ceremony could not be performed on consecrated ground.
Mr Lloyd took part in a special vigil kept outside the church, but nothing strange was seen or heard. The newspaper reports of the Red Monk brought a constant stream of sightseers to the haunted spot. One local clergyman, meantime, wrote in the local newspaper urging the cleaners "to have faith". The monk, however, was not seen again and there have been no reports of him since.
A report of a glowing figure in monk's clothing being seen walking the woods at Oxney Bottom, Kent, early in 1962, reopened the mystery of the hauntings at ruined Oxney Court, formerly a monastery. The Court, standing in fourteen acres bordering the Dover Road near Deal, was habited until 1936. It was badly damaged during the last war.
In 1962 the hollow shell of the old abbey was still to be seen in Oxney Woods, with the graves of members of the d'Auberville family, the original owners of Oxney Court, laid beside it. The report of the "glowing monk" came from three young men who took part in a ghost-hunting expedition in the woods one night. The figure was said by one of them to have appeared out of the blackness "brightly lit, in the habit of a monk, with its arms outstretched". Though they had gone out purposefully to seek anything unusual, the phantom monk gave them a shock.
Their seeing the monk's apparition was unusual, but only because the ghost most commonly claimed to have been seen in the vicinity of the old house has been that of a woman known as the Grey Lady of Oxney Court. Why the monk should wander in the woods no one knows, nor whose wraith he might be; but apart from this most recent appearance, on which the figure was said to be "glowing", all who have seen him describe him in exactly the same way: a monk wearing a grey habit with a hood, and no sign of a face or hands.
There is an explanation for the Grey Lady. In fact, several. The most common is that she is the spirit of a prioress of the abbey who was murdered by a person unknown, and who returns to search the area for her assailant. She walks through the woods, across the Dover Road, and into the fields in the direction of Eastry.
Dozens of people claim to have seen either the monk or the Grey Lady, as the East Kent Mercury discovered following reports of the "glowing" monk's appearance in January 1962. Once a motorist saw a woman in the middle of the road and was unable to avoid running her down, but when he got out of his car to find out the extent of her injuries, there was no sign of a body. On another occasion, a couple on a motorcycle also ran into a "woman in grey" in the road at the same spot, but could see nothing when they stopped.
Miss O. Pittock, of Walmer, told the Mercury of the strange experience she had had about four years earlier while driving her car, with three passengers, along the road past Oxney Bottom. She was near Eastry when she saw in the moonlight what appeared to be a clump of grass growing in the hedge at the side of the road, but in no time at all, it detached itself from the hedge and came on to the running board, next to the driver's window.
Miss Pittock continued, "Naturally, I swerved, and we ended up with the car stopped on the wrong side of the road. What I had seen, without any doubt whatsoever, was a person in a monk's habit, although there was no face, and the arms appeared to be crossed." She stressed that she had seen the apparition quite clearly, and was positive of its shape and appearance; in the moonlight, she could see that the monk's habit was grey in colour. A woman passenger in the car also saw the apparition and gave exactly the same description of it. One of the other passengers suggested they should go back and look around, but Miss Pittock did not much like the idea and drove on.
Miss Pittock said that when she described this uncanny incident to an elderly acquaintance who lived in Deal, he told her that as a young man he was driving a horse-drawn van along the road not far from the spot where she had seen the ghost, when a figure in monk's clothing jumped onto the cart and rode with him a short distance before disappearing.
A more recent appearance of the Grey Lady occurred in 1956. On an autumn evening, a man was in the woods picking blackberries when soon after dusk he saw a woman walking down the track towards the road. She seemed "somewhat transparent", and he hid behind a tree as she walked, or rather drifted along. At first, he thought it was not necessarily a ghost, but he was perfectly convinced when he next saw her walk through a bush, which did not even waver as she went through it.
Unfortunately, the publication in 1962 of these reports of the phantoms of Oxney Court prompted some young boys to set out on a ghost-hunting expedition that ended in tragedy. One boy, only twelve years old, fell to his death down a deep well after he and a companion had succeeded in removing a heavy cover placed over the well mouth. Shortly afterward the owner of Oxney Court said he had at last obtained permission to demolish the building, which had earlier been claimed as of historical interest.
In Huntingdonshire, the haunting of a lonely stretch of road is believed to have persisted for some forty years. Many motorists have had to brake sharply on seeing the figure of a young nun loom out of the darkness directly in their path near the bridge over Alconbury Brook, Huntingdon. Several cars have swerved and hit the side of the bridge. There have also been fatal accidents at the spot, which rumour has blamed on the nun.
Not far from the bridge lies Hinchingbrooke House, former home of the Earls of Sandwich, and it is thought that here the explanation for the wandering nun may lie. Hinchingbrooke, a sixty-roomed mansion on an estate of 1,700 acres, was originally Benedictine nunnery believed to have been founded by William the Conqueror and suppressed at the Dissolution in 1536. The present mansion, opened to the public in the 1940s, stands on the same site and portions of the old nunnery survive in the entrance hall, library, billiard room, and a concert hall built over the cloisters.
The nunnery, always small and poor, took in paying guests, and at the time of its dissolution, there were only three nuns there besides the prioress. Centuries afterwards, in January 1830, a disastrous fire broke out in the Great Bow Room of Hinchingbrooke House and demolished the floor and the ceiling. The north and part of the east side of the house, the halls and drawing rooms were burnt out, the great carved staircase destroyed, and many of the archives, papers, and records burnt. During the rebuilding, two skeletons of prioresses, in their thirteenth-century stone coffins, were found buried beneath the floor at the foot of the stairs outside the library. The actual burial ground of the nunnery was in the garden on the east side of the house.
And so it seems that the spectral nun haunting the road at Alconbury Brook, and seen on the bridge by many people, maybe the restless, and to motorists highly dangerous, spirit of one of that last small band of sisters in 1536, returned to haunt the vicinity of the cloistered home from which she was ejected.
Another phantom of the open road which has made a number of appearances in recent years is the ghost of Castle Hill, on the boundaries of Golborne and Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire. In tradition the Castle Hill ghost, which, according to popular belief, has haunted the woods of Newton-le-Willows for centuries, is known as the White Lady; but its appearances in recent years have certainly not been in that romantic image.
In 1947 it was seen as a white shape in the woods by Mrs E. Waywell, wife of a Newton butcher, and Mrs P. Hardman, wife of the Newton librarian, while they were out walking. Two years later Mr and Mrs Cyril Ball, also of Newton, were walking in the woods when Mrs Ball pointed to a figure motionless among the trees. About six feet tall it stood with its arms folded and appeared to be wearing a monk's habit. When the couple approached it vanished into the trees. Then it suddenly reappeared and they began to run towards it, but after a time they had to give up the chase, being out of breath. They then saw it vanish into the trees again.
In August 1960, nineteen-year-old John Swift, of Golborne, reported seeing the ghost as he was cycling home shortly before midnight through the Hollows, near Castle Hill. He was completely unaware that the area was reputed to be haunted and was terrified.
His description of the encounter was brief and vivid. "I picked up in the beam of my cycle light a huge figure, double the size of any normal man, dressed in white about the top part of the body. The figure remained for some seconds. Then I cycled as fast as I could go to the East Lancashire Road, half a mile away..." Now you have read about the Red Monk, make sure you read about the ghosts that have tormented the British Royal Family for years.