Huge numbers of people have encountered ghosts. Individual researchers and organisations like the Society for Psychical Research have collected tottering piles of their accounts. Even so, these are probably just the tip of the iceberg compared to all the experiences that people don’t bother to report.
But what are ghosts? And where do they come from?
One theory says that traumatic past events leave an imprint on the astral atmosphere. The ghosts we see are therefore a kind of fading echo.
However, many places seem more actively haunted than that. Perhaps these spirits find it hard to let go of experiences they had in that place.
With its rich and ancient history, Glastonbury is a prime location for that kind of ghost.
A good place to set off on this virtual ghost tour is Glastonbury Abbey. In the middle ages, it dominated this area for the best part of a thousand years. Moreover, it wasn’t just any Abbey. It was the oldest, most powerful and most prestigious in the land.
So it’s hardly surprising to find the Abbey’s monks still hanging around. People have seen them in all kinds of unlikely places – walking through houses, passing by windows – two were even seen fishing in the River Brue.
Visitors to the Abbey can sometimes hear the faint sound of their chanting. Cold shivers and goosebumps come up when they find out that no earthly choirs were practicing that day.
Different people at unconnected times have also managed to photograph white spectral forms in the Abbey grounds.
Although most of the monks who haunt Glastonbury seem to be here in a spirit of devotion, psychics have also perceived some from the darker side of Abbey life.
• There is a suicidal monk, of quite high office – blackmailed about his illegitimate child with a local woman.
• A harmless mad monk wanders the orchard, mumbling to himself. His madness came of innocently drinking the dregs of a lethal poison meant for someone else.
• The restless ghost of a monk who was secretly one of Henry VIII’s spies still prowls around the grounds.
GHOSTS OF FAMOUS ABBOTS
• In the 10th century, St Dunstan was both Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey and Archbishop of Canterbury. Many think that he now haunts St Dunstan’s church in his birthplace of Baltonsborough.
• Abbot Whiting is said to haunt Dod Lane – originally called ‘Dead Lane’ because funeral processions once went along this road. Whiting was hung, drawn and quartered on the Tor for resisting the king’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. So it’s not surprising to hear that his ghost may be haunting this ancient funerary pathway.
BLIGH BOND’S GHOST MESSAGES
A good source of information about Glastonbury’s ghostly monks was the architect and church restorer, Frederick Bligh Bond.
From 1907 to 1922, he used automatic writing to see if he could find out about the original structures of the Abbey. At that time, very little was known about that. Archaeological digging later showed that everything the ghost monks told Bligh Bond about the old Abbey was correct.
These monks were also quite chatty about themselves. (N.B. I have modernised the medieval spelling for easier reading)
“Why cling I to that which is not?” one of them remarked. “Part of me dwells in the past and is bound to that which my carnal soul loved and called ‘home’ these many years. Yet I, Johannes, am of many parts, and the better part does other things. Laus, Laus, Deo! Only that part which remembers clings like memory to what it sees yet.”
Johannes said he mostly remembers just the little things about his Abbey life. However, these human touches truly bring these memories to life for us.
“I remember using the stairs often for my fatness,” he said. “But it availed me not, though my father prior recommended it often. Alas! I waxed more fat.”
And: “I loved the rain on our hundred roofs and myriad voice that came from the waterspouts, when the gargoyles shouted each to each. The cloisters whispered comfort and refreshment as we lay under the dormer roof in parched and sultry nights. I did sleep on the south side, next to the great gable, and so I heard the sound whilst the others slept. Vai Mubi, that it is departed and the voices are heard no more.”
In the years of intrigue leading up to the 1540 Dissolution, all kinds of secret matters went on via the underground passage that used to run from the hotel’s cellar to the Abbey Gatehouse.
One of the hotel managers told me that both guests and staff regularly report paranormal encounters. He described his own experience:
“It was late night, after closing time. The place was locked up, the guests all in their rooms. A few of us were sitting quietly chatting. Suddenly the back door slammed. Footsteps came down the passage. We went to see who it was, but no-one was there – and all the doors were still locked.”
Other incidents people often report are:
• A man in historical dress walks through the bar then disappears.
• Ghostly footsteps creak in the passages.
• An inexplicable smell of cigar smoke drifts into certain bedrooms in the small hours of the night.
• Moving lights and sudden bangs happen at odd moments.
• A violent argument rages in the small lounge when no one is there.
• Spectral monks sometimes waft through the passages.
• Frightening presences lurk in certain bedrooms at night.
MAGDALENE STREET CHAPEL
The top of Magdelene Street is one of the oldest parts of town, and has some strange tales of its own to tell.
The small chapel and garden there is on the site of an old hospice once run by the Abbey. People have glimpsed ethereal monks here too, as well as a tall figure of white light in the entrance to the chapel.
A heavy feeling of sadness once permeated the place – especially in one of the upper rooms. A few years ago, the sad feeling was taken seriously enough to receive a full church exorcism.
I decided to see what more I could find out about that. Without giving them any information, I asked three different psychics to tune in and see what they could sense about that place. They came up with remarkably similar perceptions.
The sad tale that emerged was about a woman who gave birth in that upper room. She was in great fear, because she knew certain persons wanted her or the baby dead.
Desperately, she tried to hide the baby and keep the birth a secret. But one day, men burst into her room and snatched her child from her arms. She never saw it again, and grieved forever after.
THE BATTLE OF SEDGEMORE
In the 17th century, the Duke of Monmouth tried to raise a rebellion against the Crown. The king’s army brutally crushed the small rebel force at the Battle of Sedgemore, fairly near to Glastonbury.
The Sedgemore battlefield itself is famously haunted. The ghostly sound of marching troops – maybe the King’s men – sometimes echoes down Glastonbury High Street, and makes the ground shake for no visible reason.
THE SPIRIT OF THE PILGRIMS
The procession of devoted pilgrims coming to Glastonbury over the centuries has also left a strong imprint. Sensitives say that along Chilkwell Street in the still hours of the night, it’s still possible to feel the pilgrims’ tearful joy as they reached this important destination.
The Tor has a rich mystical history, and many strange things happen there. Because there’s just too much to fit in here, the Tor has its own articles, which you can read at these links:
Someone who was visiting a house in Roman Way said, “I went to get something from the kitchen. There I saw someone who I hadn’t been introduced to. On my return to the sitting room, I asked who it was.
My hosts were surprised and said no one else was in the house. When I described her, they said it sounded like the woman they’d bought the house from.
She’d left the place against her wishes when she and her husband sold it, and died shortly afterwards. The rumour was that she’d committed suicide.”
Another Glastonian told me that when she’s out driving she sometimes glimpses the ghost of her late father in the back seat of her car. When he was alive, he was always telling her to drive more cautiously – so she thinks these appearances are partly to say hello, and partly to remind her to be careful.
A young Glastonbury woman told me that she knows when her Grandad’s ghost has come to call because all the lights go fully bright.
“When I say ‘come on Grandad, you know I don’t like the lights so bright’ he dims them again,” she said.
Another household hauntee decided to challenge her ghost. She demanded, “If you’re real, why don’t you prove it and switch the kettle on?”
She said she had the fright of her life when the kettle suddenly started to boil all by itself.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU MEET A GHOST
The first thing to do is keep calm. Many ghosts come to us for positive reasons. These are often family or friends who have passed on. They want us to know that they’re not really dead – they are just living in another realm. When this kind of ghost appears, be open to any messages they may wish to give you.
Other ghosts haunt certain places because strong memories are keeping them there. Often filled with fear, sorrow or anger, these hauntings can feel the most disturbing.
However, if you have an encounter like this, the ghost may be hardly aware of you. Breathe slowly and deeply to keep yourself calm. Say ‘I wish you peace’. Then ask higher powers to guide this spirit to the light.
With this preparation in mind, who knows – one day you may give a sad spirit exactly the help they might have needed for centuries.
Have you ever encountered a ghost? If so I’ve love to hear about it. You can add your comments to this article, or CONTACT ME through my website.
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