ANDREW GARVEY goes hunting for some old paranormal articles from the Western Mail – Wales’ national newspaper
The Western Mail was founded in 1869 and is still running today – quite a feat for a regional newspaper. The daily tabloid that styles itself as Wales’ national paper has run plenty of supernatural-related stories over the years. As part of Spooky Wales Week, here’s just three from the Victorian era.
On 7th January 1885, the paper declared that:
“there are but few folks, in these days of practical science and negative theology, who care to be told that they have never out-grown the age of superstition. And yet that is so.
“Somewhere in all our economies there is hidden away a cherished belief in things for which our reason can find no foundation… Superstition is inherent to ninety-nine natures out of every hundred… Perhaps there is no nation more thoroughly superstitious than the Welsh, and yet there are no people to whom it is less harmful.
“Tradition has haunted every nook and corner of the Principality, and filled it with the ghosts of a glorious past. A primitive and poetical race must of necessity be deeply imbued with a love of the supernatural. A Welsh parish without a ghost is as rare a thing as a Welsh glen without its fairy ring; whilst the existence of corpse candles is, of course, as well authenticated as the electric light itself.”
Speaking of corpse candles (a common feature of Welsh mythology where a light like a candle was said to burn from the house where a death was about to occur), on 18th August 1885, in a story headlined THE CORPSE CANDLE AT TREFOREST the newspaper reported first hand on the debunking of an odd tale.
Apparently, mysterious lights above a local cemetery had caused people to gaze “at the distant mystery with horror. Fair eyes have been opened almost ‘as wide as saucers’ while the owners of those eyes have been heard to utter low moans as if under a mesmeric spell….”
Alone amongst the locals, one Mr. Tobin resolved to “interview the ghost, and to ask it a few pithy questions as to what it meant by its frightful antics….”
However, Tobin “did not carry out his intention, and the ghost was left to hold its nightly vigil among the tombs unmolested, and to frighten the whole neighbourhood.”
Eventually an expedition (including the author of the Western Mail article) ventured out at midnight to discover the light’s source. Beholding the light up close, one of the group was sent back to put out a nearby street’s gas light.
“We now watched intently the light in the cemetery. It disappeared with startling suddenness. We then ascertained that the light had been put out. It was presently re-lit, and the light in the cemetery, 400 yards away, re-appeared in the darkness at the same time.
Thus was the whole matter explained, it being nothing but the reflection of the distant gas light on the polished marble work on the summit of one of the tombs in the cemetery.”
Finally this week, under the headline ONLLWYN COLLIERS AND THE GHOSTS – MEN REFUSE TO WORK the 14th December 1895 Western Mail reported the following tale in a slightly sneering way (transcribed here in full):
“Our Neath representative writes: – According to information which reached me on Friday, the Onllwyn colliers have their own special ghosts. Two figures arrayed in befitting garments of white appeared at the entrance to the level on Thursday night, and several men, who were about to proceed to work, were so frightened that they actually dropped lamps and beat a precipitate retreat.
“The tale of the ghostly appearances rapidly spread, with the result that a body of men, whose belief in the supernatural must be stronger than their common sense, have increased the ranks of the indomitable six who first saw the uncanny apparitions.
“The managers of the colliery are of opinion that some mischievous spirits of substantial and earthly mould have been playing a practical joke, and last evening the police were on the watch in the hopes of arresting them and placing them under lock and key.”
ANDREW GARVEY lives in Staffordshire. He writes (infrequently) about mixed martial arts, professional wrestling, history, horror and folklore. Follow him on Twitter: @AMGarvey Check out more Andrew Garvey articles for the Spooky Isles here.