JEAN SHORNEY recalls a family legend of a ghost bear first seen on a hunting trip in 1930s Berkshire
It actually began sometime in the 1930s. If eyewitnesses are to be believed, continues to the present day. This strange occurrence was related to my father by his brother Edward.
Edward and his friend, George were walking across the fields in Chaddleworth in Berkshire after a Saturday afternoon’s shoot. Most of the fields in those days were overgrown. The houses that exist now were not there then.
The location where the incident occurred is commonly called School Hill. The fields directly opposite were covered in grass, shrubbery and trees.
It was growing dusk when the two men stopped for a bite to eat before continuing their journey. All at once, his face going pale, Edward clutched George’s arm and pointed across the fields. Traipsing boldly, but with a shambling gait in their direction, was what appeared to be a gigantic, white bear.
Recounting the story later, neither man could say for certain what it was they had actually seen. Was it a bear? It certainly resembled one.
George carried a shotgun, and was about to fire at the creature. But Edward warned him they did not know what it was, or what might happen if he had fired. As the creature passed through, all the grass, the shrubbery, and even small trees, bent over to allow its passage.
There was no wind. Nothing to account for such a happening. The vegetation sprang up again behind it. The men swore emphatically that the creature made no sound, but appeared to be floating at least an inch off the ground.
Everything was silent. No birdsong. It was as if the entire world had ground to a standstill.
A strange tale indeed, and one that perhaps could be put down to two countrymen enjoying a tipple with their bread and cheese. That is, until almost 70 years later.
There now stands two cottages, built in the 1950s, that face the open fields. Late one night a man was walking up School Hill with his dog. Alerted by the dog’s distress, the man saw what appeared to be a tall, bear-like creature actually pass through the wall of the first cottage.
The woman who lives in this cottage told me that she saw two piercing yellow eyes shining in the semi-darkness of her landing. She has also heard unexplained noises in the house. When I asked her if the cottage might be haunted, she went pale, and admitted she believed that it was.
Was bear-baiting a village pastime in Chaddleworth in earlier centuries? Was this the bear’s ghost they had seen? Or perhaps an elemental spirit of the fields? Something that has never inhabited human form.
I have long since left the village, but the story has always fascinated me. Uncle Edward insisted he hadn’t been drinking.
JEAN SHORNEY is a West Berkshire-based author who has “grown up with ghost stories and love writing and hearing them”. She currently has three books available for download from Amazon, All of them Vampires!, Staying Out and Borrowed Time. You can check them out here.