Minsden Chapel in Hertfordshire is one of England’s most controversial haunting sites, says RICK HALE…
Fakery of any kind has been the proverbial thorn in the side of psychical research since its earliest days.
The annals of this noble pursuit of enquiry is replete with hoaxed episodes of paranormal phenomena and phony pictures so clever, they may even fool the most astute of sceptics.
With that being said, I pose this question to you seeker of truth: Does a faked photograph of a supposed ghost necessarily invalidate a place as being haunted?
That is the very question that looms over Hertfordshire ‘s Minsden Chapel in Hitchin.
And you be surprised who might say no, only Britain’s greatest ghost hunter, Peter Underwood, who spent a night there. And came away with a story to tell.
What is Minsden Chapel?
Located along a hidden path, in an isolated forest can be found the Grade II listed Ancient Monument, Minsden Chapel. (The closest postcode is Langley, Hitchin SG4 7PW)
This ancient ruin was built in the 14th century, but has sat derelict since the 18th century.
To say this ruin is a cause of division in the paranormal community would be something of an understatement.
Dozens who have visited there have claimed that something odd is going on. Something supernatural even.
However, others claim that a hoaxed photograph taken there over a century ago causes its reputation to be questionable.
We’ll take a look at both sides of the chapel’s, shall we say, spirited history. But first we must take a look at the ominous words of a local historian and solicitor.
The Ominous Words Of Reginald Hine
Reginald Wesley Hine (1883-1949) was a historian and solicitor hailing from the nearby town of Hitchin.
Upon visiting the ancient ruin, Hine was immediately smitten with the crumbling old house of the lord.
Hine went to the local vicars and managed to convince the clergymen to give him a lifetime lease of the property.
Regrettably, Hine’s tenure didn’t last long at Minsden.
Hine, learned that he was about to be subjected to a disciplinary action by the Law Society.
Desperate to escape his possible disbarment, he did the only thing he could think of.
Reginald Hine stepped in front of a moving train as it came roaring into Hitchin rail station.
Before taking his own life, Hine left something of a suicide note with some rather ominous words.
He wrote, “Trespassers and sacrilegious person’s take warning, for I will proceed against them with the utmost rigour of the law.
And after my death and burial, I will endeavour in all my ghostly ways to protect and haunt its hallowed halls.”
Heavy and frightening words to say the least. But you might be surprised to learn, that despite this stern warning, and his suicide, old Reginald is not the ghost that haunts these “hallowed halls.”
A Phantom Monk and a Phony Photograph
Since the 18th century, visitors to the chapel have reported the presence of a frightening sight, a ghostly monk in a black robe.
According to legend, at the stroke of midnight on Halloween, the darkest of nights, a monk is seen climbing a stairway that hasn’t existed for centuries.
Hine, who claimed to have seen the ghost on more than one occasion asked a good friend and local photographer, Thomas Latchmore to come and capture the spectre on film.
And in 1907, Latchmore, did just that. And this picture was considered to be proof positive of the existence of ghosts.
Well, as with anything claiming to be proof positive, the photo fell under intense scrutiny.
In 1930, the jig of the ghostly photograph was up. Latchmore, admitted to author and controversial ghost hunter, Elliot O’Donnell that his photograph was fake.
Latchmore explained to O’Donnell that it wasn’t intended as a fake, but rather an experiment in double exposure. A subject he was interested in.
With the obvious fake exposed, ghost hunters were all too willing to dismiss any reports of paranormal activity at the ruined chapel.
It was theorised that in his zeal to protect his beloved property, Hine fabricated the story of the ghost to keep interlopers away.
And all but one ghost hunter shunned the property, a man who holds a special place in this ghost hunter ‘s heart, Peter Underwood.
According to him there maybe more than just good natured shenanigans going on at Minsden Chapel.
Peter Underwood Spends The Night
In the 1940s, the famed author and president of the Ghost Club Society, Peter Underwood, spent the night at the ruins.
While there, Underwood experienced some of reported phenomena said to happen there.
As he sat quietly, he could hear the haunting sound of music that seemed to come from everywhere. And yet from nowhere.
This mysterious music may be enough to chill the bones of even the bravest among us.
Nevertheless, this wasn’t the only thing Underwood encountered that night.
While listening to the music, Underwood witnessed another long reported phenomena.
He watched as a giant, fiery white cross shined brightly on a wall and then fades away.
Others who have seen the cross believe it is a sign that this ancient building is still very much in God’s grace.
Peter Underwood, however, believed the cross may be nothing more than the moon shining brightly through the trees.
The cross was more than likely debunked. But the music, that’s a different matter entirely.
So I leave it to you the reader, do we take the word of Peter Underwood?
Or do we dismiss Minsden Chapel all because a man loved it so much that he allegedly created a ghost story to protect it?
In all honesty, as far as I’m concerned the jury is still out on what I think.
Regardless of what you may think, Minsden Chapel may hold the memory of its long and stories past in its crumbling walls.
Minsden Chapel is currently open to the public and is undergoing a series of renovations to make it safer for curiosity seekers.
As for me, I’ll wait until the stroke of midnight on All Hallows Eve to see if there is any truth to the tale of Minsden Chapel.
Tell us your thoughts on Minsden Chapel in the comment section below!