Two heads are scarier than one when this gruesome Welsh phantom stalks the streets of Abersychan, says guest writer MARK REES
From Anne Boleyn to the Headless Horseman, headless spirits have been a popular mainstay of ghost stories for centuries.
But in Abersychan, Wales, in 1856, the town’s unique ghost wasn’t missing a head, but quite the opposite – it had gained a second head.
The two-headed entity was described as having a ‘hideous appearance’ and had ‘stricken many of the inhabitants with great terror’, nearly driving one fearful local to an early death bed.
Multiple witnesses claimed that they could minutely describe him, and a theory was put forward as to his identity and how he had managed to gain an extra head.
As one resident explained: ‘It is the ghost of an old man who suddenly met his death by falling down stairs and splitting his skull.
The old man, when living, was an apostate from the Roman Catholic faith, therefore, could not have rest in the other world; consequently, he is a wanderer upon the face of this one’.
So rather than being a ghost with two heads, if this gruesome description is to be believed, it was a ghost with one head, but a head so badly severed that it was hanging open like a sliced watermelon.
The journalist reporting on the case noted that many of the locals were too scared to leave their homes after dark, but the best first-hand account came from a man called Dan Harley who, after working late one fateful night, was compelled to walk home past the ‘haunted spot’.
Abersychan labourer comes face to face with phantom
The labourer summoned all his courage to make the journey and very nearly made it to his destination when he came face-to-face – or face-to-faces? – with the ‘dreaded phantom.’
He lost all ability to speak and move, and unable to scream or run, he remained transfixed to the spot until the spectre began to disappear. Seizing his chance he made a desperate dash for safety, slamming the door behind him on arrival, and giving breathless prayers to the Lord above for delivering him from evil.
Following a restless night of little sleep, Harley attempted to walk to work the next morning when, feeling faint, the events of the night before began to take their toll.
He was found by a colleague who assisted him back to his sickbed, but so ill did Harley feel that he was convinced he was going to die and even dictating his will to his co-worker, dishing out what little he owned to his nearest and dearest.
Fortunately, he survived a little longer – and kept hold of his belongings – and the reporter concluded by noting that while Hartley was sceptical of the paranormal, he could not deny what he had seen with his own eyes, contradictorily claiming that: ‘[H]e says, very seriously, that he never was afraid, nor never will be afraid of all the ghosts of the earth or of the spirits of the air; but that such a two-headed monster was enough to put the dread on any man, and no man could help it.’
A version of this story was first published in Ghosts of Wales: Accounts from the Victorian Archives (2017, The History Press) by Mark Rees available from: http://markreesonline.com/ . Similar spine-chilling tales can be heard on the Ghosts and Folklore of Wales podcast.
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