EDDIE BRAZIL tells us that not all ghost children as friendly as Casper …
A curious aspect of a number of British hauntings is that the apparitions which would appear to cause the most alarm and fear are of those people who, when in life, are considered to me the most weak and vulnerable in society; namely young children.
Why this should be is worth considering.
No matter how lovingly parents may view their offspring, children can be mischievous, malicious, spiteful, cruel and vindictive.
It is no wonder that poltergeists are often described as paranormal juvenile delinquents.
Such a catalogue of malevolent traits in a living soul is bad enough, but to encounter a crying ghost child who has a nasty and vicious agenda is, no doubt, to be avoided. As these three cases will show.
The Weeping Children
Muncaster Castle stands on the north west coast of England near the town of Carlisle. It was established in the 12th century by the Pennington Family after Roger De Pennington was given land by King John. Like most of England’s castles it is not without its ghosts, the most famous being that of Tom Fool, a 16th century court jester with a peculiarly vicious sense of humour. For fun he liked to direct travellers to a treacherous river crossing knowing full well that they would be swallowed up by unseen quick sands. He was said to have murdered a rival to win favour with his master. Following his death his ghost was reported walking the corridors of Muncaster. However, it is not the spectre of the jester which has caused so much fear at the castle, but rather the sounds of crying children.
In 1988, James Cartland, an archivist and friend of the Pennington family, was staying at Muncaster and was allocated the tapestry room in a wing of the castle away from the main living quarters. During the night he was awoken by what he describes as indistinct mutterings which seemed to emanate from the chimney. On investigation he could make out that that they were the voices of a man and a child. It sounded as if the adult was talking to the child who became increasing distressed and began to weep.
Cartland was totally puzzled by what he could hear and, thinking the sounds were coming from elsewhere he opened the door to look out on to the landing. The dimly lit castle corridor was empty and lapped in utter silence. Yet when he re entered the room the sound of the crying child seemed to increase in volume until it sounded as if the adult and the infant were in the room with him. The archivist was so disturbed by his experience that he could not sleep and sat up until dawn when the sounds faded away.
He wasn’t the only person to hear the sound of the crying child. A year before Carland’s encounter, a female guest was sleeping in the tapestry room when during the middle of the night she heard footsteps come along the passageway. Sitting up in bed she saw the door slowly open , but there was no one there. Soon after, the sound of a crying child could be heard throughout the room forcing the terrified girl to flee to her Mothers room in panic.
Learning of other peoples experience of the distraught ghost child Cartland researched the history of Muncaster and discovered that at one time the tapestry room had in fact been the castle nursery. In the late 19th century, Margaret, the eleven year old daughter of Augustus Gamel Pennington, the Lord of Muncaster, died prematurely in the nursery. It was said that she was a poorly child and constantly wept and had screaming fits.
It is not only Britain’s stately homes which have experienced this type of phenomena. Something similar to what was heard at Muncaster occurred in the more mundane setting of a semi detached house in the town of High Wycombe In Buckinghamshire. In April, 1992 Andrew MacLean and his wife, Jan moved in to their new home, and. for the first few months of their tenancy they experienced nothing out of the ordinary. One night, however, Mr MacLean was awakened by what he described as two young children or babies crying. At first, he thought that the sounds were coming from the house next door, but realised that couldn’t be as his neighbours were an elderly couple in their late 70s. Sitting up in bed, He listened. The sounds of the crying children seemed to be coming from the room below. As his wife slept peacefully beside him Mr MacLean got out of bed, and somewhat hesitantly, went downstairs to the living room. On opening the door and switching on the light the crying abruptly ceased. Puzzled, he inspected the house but could find nothing to account for the sound of the distraught children.
Mr MacLean continued to hear the sounds of the crying babies on and off for the next few weeks, but refrained from telling his wife for fear of alarming her. Yet, she too had also heard the distraught infants and had likewise held back from telling her husband. On several occasions, whilst alone at night, Mrs MacLean heard the sound of crying coming from an upstairs bedroom. Very reluctantly she climbed the stairs to the room, yet, on entering and switching on the light, the sounds ceased.
The MacLean’s were to later discover that prior to their tenancy the house had been rented by a Scottish couple who lived there with their three young children. However ,Mr and Mrs MacLean were shocked to learn that some years before the Scottish couple became the proud parents of three healthy kids, two of their children had tragically died in infancy in the house.
The Laughing Children
Not all tragic child deaths result in subsequent eerie night time weeping and crying. In October 1995 a nocturnal metal detectorist was returning to his car through woods near the village of Penn in Buckinghamshire when he heard the sound of laughing children. It was indeed puzzling as the time was almost three in the morning and the detectorist wondered what youngsters could be doing in the wood at that hour.
The sound of the children seemed to be coming closer, yet the laughter and playful yelps would also veer off in another direction, only to once again sound in front of him. As he listened the voices sounded behind, then to the side until they were audible from a distance. The confused detectorist found himself twisting and turning this way and that wondering how the sound of the kids could be all around him.
Eventually he heard what seemed like the snap of branches and rush of bushes as if someone was approaching at speed through the undergrowth and trying to startle him. And yet no figure appeared. It was then that the alarmed man realised that what he was hearing was not real and he took to his heels.
The detectorist never returned to the wood by day or night, yet the experience of the laughing children mystified and troubled him for sometime afterwards. He was to later learn that in 1941 two young pupils on their way home from the village primary school were offered a lift by a soldier in a truck. The two girls did not return that night , and three days later the bodies of six year old Kathy Treadle and eight year old Doreen Hearn were found in a nearby wood. Both had been strangled. Their killer,, Harold Hill, was arrested soon after and was subsequently hanged at Oxford castle in 1942.
The Evil Children
Between 1965 and 1966 three families were forced to leave an ordinary, semi detached house in the town of Northfleet, in Kent, near London. It wasn’t bad plumbing, faulty central heating or rising damp which caused their sudden departure, but, incredibly, a ghost.
The disturbances began with inexplicable footsteps heard in the bedrooms during the day and also the sound as if furniture was being moved. The mother of the family became increasingly anxious and uneasy about the noises.
Her two young children also became to terrified to sleep in their own room as they complained of scratching noises which came from under the bed and of having their hair pulled and their arms pinched by invisible hands.
In February 1965 matters came to a head in a most horrifying way. One night around 2am the mother got up to attend to her baby who was sleeping in another room. After settling the infant she returned to her room and got back into bed. Before laying down she looked across to the doorway and was surprised to see the figure of a child enter the room from the landing. Thinking it was her four-year-old daughter she responded automatically “Linda?” The child immediately moved across the floor and advanced towards her. As it approached it began to grow in height until it had become a tall figure which bent menacingly over the bed. The mothers terrified screams awoke her husband at which the apparition vanished. The family left the house the next day.
Subsequent tenants of the house were also subjected to similar frightening apparitions, including“ Exorcist” style levitation and shaking of beds. When the residence became unoccupied the phenomena did not cease. A woman living alone in the adjoining property was kept awake at night by the sound of banging and thumps which emanated from the empty building. It seemed if as children were running up and down the stairs and throwing a huge ball around the stairwell. The booming of the sounds became a real concern for at one time the thudding noise transformed itself in to scratching and scraping as if something was trying to claw through the wall. The phenomena became to much for the petrified lady and she left the house soon after.
At the same time that a malevolent ghost child was forcing people to flee a house in Northfleet, thirty miles away in South London another family, or to be more precise a divorced mother of seven children, was being subjected to the malicious attention of a seemingly evil ghost child, albeit, through the medium of terrifying nightmares.
Forty two year old Joan Benson had recently separated from her husband and was left to bring up her seven children single-handedly in an 18th century house in Stockwell. As her kids socialised elsewhere she sat watching TV alone. One night she had the incredible and harrowing experience of seeing the figure of a child in a nightgown suddenly materialise in front of her in the living room. The youngster crossed the floor and vanish through a wall. At first she was unsure whether or not a real child had entered and left the room. She fled to the kitchen and tried to put the incident out of her mind.
Yet strange incidents began to occur. During the day doors would open and close of their own accord. Footsteps would be heard in upstairs bedrooms, and during the night invisible hands would pull at her hair and pinch her arms as she slept. Throughout the day soft whisperings could be heard throughout the house as if people were engaged in some malicious conversation On one occasion as she stood at the top of the stairs Mrs Benson felt hands on her shoulders. It felt as if the touch was that of a child who wanted to push her off the landing.
However it was the nightmarish visions which eventually forced the divorcee and her family from the house. In sleep she viewed images of an evil looking child peeping around her bedroom door grinning. Ultimately she dreamt she stood at the top of the stairs and could here soft footsteps ascending. Out of the shadows emerged a child in a long dress. As the shape drew closer it began to grow in to a tall figure, yet retained its cherubic expression until it came with in inches of the terrified woman’s face The sanctuary of waking in a cold sweat dispelled Mrs Bensons terror. The family left the house soon after
No explanation was discovered as to the cause of the haunting, or indeed the other cases described. The crying sounds at Muncaster could be a psychic echo of the trauma tantrums of eleven year old Margaret Pennington . Likewise the weeping heard by the MacLean’s might be a stone tape replay of the distressing deaths of two children. Like many accounts of ghosts, be they children or adult, we still have some way to go to understanding them and cracking the paranormal code.