This blog is about one of the weirdest ghost photos I have ever seen! The stone ghost girl of Eyeworth Pond. I appreciate that many readers may disagree with me. It was taken in The New Forest, so not a Wiltshire story, but really just over the border.
I had never heard about or seen this photo, which is strange because so many ‘good’ ghost photos seem to be all over the internet. This one, however, is not widely known! Curious yet?
The Stone Ghost Girl
A lady called Lisa was chatting with my partner, Nick. He told her I write about ghosts (and other strangeness, of course) and she was keen to share a story she had heard about as a child. Lisa had grown up in The New Forest and remembered visiting The Royal Oak pub in Fritham. On the pub wall, she recalled an old newspaper clipping about a phantom carriage and horses. It was driven by a spooky headless carriage driver. This must have been in the 1970s.
She recalled that the ghostly carriage had been sighted crossing a bridge in the village and then fallen over the side. She thought there had been a terrible accident at some point and this phantom horse and carriage has been seen recreating the sad event. This was all Lisa could remember, but she had mentioned it as she wondered if I had ever heard of this story. I hadn’t!
Nick took it upon himself to do a bit of internet digging during his break time from work. He found nothing about a phantom carriage. But he did find a bizarre photo and back story, also from the Fritham area, just down the road at Eyeworth Pond. This led me to the weird stone ghost girl image.
It was found on The New Forest Hounds website.
In the first photo, you can see the hunt approaching a wooden bridge at a trotting pace. It would have been only seconds before the second photo was taken. Horses moving at a ‘hunting trot’ pace cover the ground quickly. Have a look at what appears in the second photo.
At first, I thought it looked like a stone statue. It’s a reasonably solid figure. But I don’t see how the person taking the photo (or even a helper) would have had time to duck out, put a statue in the bushes and get out of the way before the second photo was taken. It’s the same horse trotting towards the camera, by the way! If there was to be any placement of items, they would have had to be pretty speedy to get it done between photos and then get out of the frame.
I see no reason why this photo would have been a set-up. What does the hunt gain from it? It doesn’t sound like they have any interest in the paranormal or fake pictures of ghosts. Personally, I think this is no trick photo. In reality, whatever it is, it has me somewhat miffed!
The Stone Ghost Girl and her Red Eyes
Now have a look at the close-up photo. Red eyes! I am happy to admit, I did not like this photo one bit!
Pat Hudson’s Backstory
This was pulled straight from the New Forest Hounds website and is written by Pat Hudson, a member of the hunt.
“The photograph was taken at the end of a Saturday meet in January l987. The meet was at the gatehouse cottage by the entrance to Eyeworth Lodge. It was a frosty morning so the meet had been put back to midday. A friend was riding with me and as hounds left the meet, his wife ran over the bridge to take a photograph of hounds coming towards her. They went back to London where a few days later she had the film developed at a branch of Boots. The two photographs are shown just to indicate that the figure appeared within a few seconds, between the two photographs being taken. Who or what she is is open to discussion. All we are certain of is that there was no one there on the day that looked or was dressed remotely like her. The film has been looked at by an expert and it is definitely not a case of double exposure. Some people say she is holding a camera but, even if she is, how was it that no one saw a very grey person dressed in these clothes on the day?
I thought the photograph was interesting enough to take it to the local paper and they printed a story with the pictures which lead to an approach from an independent photographer who asked if he could buy the negatives from us. I suggested that we let him exploit the photographs, as he had the expertise, and we go 50%/ 50% on anything he made out of the story. He agreed to this and over the course of the next year a double page spread appeared in the Sunday Mirror, the National Examiner in the States ran a big story on it and a glossy Japanese magazine also picked it up – and that is but a few. I was sure we were going to enhance hunt funds by thousands of pounds and be able to do some much needed repairs to our property- if not a total rebuild! Alas, when I tried to get some of our 50%, the man had turned to straw – or maybe to a ghost!!”
Time to have a nose about!
I know this area of the New Forest pretty well as back in the 1990s, I used to share a lovely horse in Fritham and would ride there three times a week. I didn’t really need any excuse to go back for a visit as it’s such a lovely area. However, having a poke around Eyeworth Pond, to see if I could find this location and the mysterious bridge seemed as good a reason as any!
I headed off in early September, OS map in hand, family in tow. We found the pond easily and decided to walk around it to see if we could find the bridge. We did find it!
This is the same bridge where the mysterious stone ghost girl appeared. And, if there was ever a phantom carriage and horses that fell off the side of a bridge, I think this was probably the bridge they were spotted on. Could they be connected to the sighting of the stone ghost girl?
I ploughed through old newspapers from the area and could find no trace of any carriage accidents. That being said, my search was not exhaustive and if I had more hours in the day, I could have spent much more time on this.
Eyeworth Pond and the Schultze Gunpowder Factory
I did find out there’s a story surrounding Eyeworth Pond. It was artificially built in 1871 by damming the original Latchmore Brook to supply the Schultze Gunpowder Factory. This was based at Eyeworth Lodge and made powder for sporting guns. It was a huge factory considering how rural the area was then and the amount of people that lived nearby. At the height of its success, the factory supplied one third of the sporting gunpowder in the World.
As you can imagine, there were several industrial accidents on this site. According to the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers in 1878 there were reports of explosions where men had been killed and injured. Another explosion that occurred mentioned workers cottages being flattened and bricks found half a mile away. I found this information on The New Forest Guide and you can read a far more detailed history of the Schultze Factory here. No mention of ghosties though!
The road that runs past the factory is called Powder Mill Road. It was originally a track that connected the Downton and Cadnam roads. Now it is a cycle track/ bridleway. There were probably quite a few accidents in and around the site as well as the workers that had died there. The road would have been well-travelled with horses and carts, just associated with the factory. But would any accidents involving horses on the road (or little girls) have been recorded? Unlikely, I think.
In 1921 the factory closed. Some of the original old wooden buildings remain, although you can’t get in and nose around as it’s on private land. In fact, it looks like a gang of free-range pigs are living in there and they looked very happy!
It’s worth noting the whole site has connections to the Doomsday Book. There has been a hunting lodge there for many, many centuries.
At the end of my ghost investigation, I am still none the wiser! This seems to be a common theme with much of my detective work, ahem, but I still learnt some interesting information. My guess is that the stone ghost girl was somehow connected to the gunpowder factory. Maybe there was an accident on that little wooden bridge at some point and this little girl was one of the casualties.
No matter the back story, this photo is still a fascinating one.
A new witness – 5th December 2021
Following on from posting this blog post on 20th November this year a lady got in touch with me. She told me a fascinating new account of a possible sighting of the stone ghost girl. I was so grateful for D (names have been changed to protect their privacy) for contacting me and really helping to build on the story behind the photo.
Here’s what she sent me:
“Whilst looking for information on Google about the Grovely Wood Handsel Sisters’ trees, I found your recent blog post about Eyeworth Pond. I was interested in it for the following reason.
In @1987/8, a friend who lived in the forest, told me that Eyeworth Pond was supposedly haunted by a lady in a long dress (I think he said a white dress). He told me that it was “local knowledge” and so we went to the pond to have a look. Of course, we didn’t really expect to see anything, which proved to be the case.
Roll forward to February 2014 and by this time I’d seen the New Forest Hounds’ photo, having researched the Eyeworth lady at some point. Anyway, I sometimes used to meet up with another friend, P, for breakfast and a chat – mostly about photography (we’d met on a photography course).
This particular time P told me that he’d recently been to Eyeworth Pond, to take some star trail photos with his friend, K. They’d gone there one evening, at about 10:30pm for a couple of hours. He told me that he’d seen something a bit odd while they were there. As he started to say this, I immediately thought how weird it would be if he said he’d seen a woman in a long dress. Then I thought that maybe he’d seen the NF Hounds’ photo, and was going to wind me up by saying he’d seen the ghost lady.
He told me that they’d both been standing on the track (that leads to the car park) with their cameras and tripods, when he saw a woman walk across the path to the water – from right to left – but she never re-appeared. She was some way away, but it was a clear and cold night, so he could see well enough to know that it was definitely a woman.
Still thinking it was a wind-up, I questioned him. “You do know about the Eyeworth Pond ghost lady, don’t you?” I told him what I’d been told all those years ago, but it was clear from his reaction that he genuinely didn’t know because he thought I was winding him up! It took quite some time to convince him that I was being serious.
I asked him if there were any other cars in the car park; could it have been a dog walker, or perhaps a deer? There were no other cars, no dog walkers – definitely nobody there except the two of them. He was also adamant that of course he’d know the difference between an animal and a person!
Unfortunately, his friend didn’t see this woman because he was concentrating on his camera settings and P didn’t tell him at the time; he said he knew he’d be scared.
I showed P the NF Hounds’ photo. He said that the woman he saw was actually quite similar, was definitely wearing either a long dress or long coat, and also seemed to be quite short. In fact, I could tell that the whole thing really had unnerved him quite a bit.
When he got home he looked through all his photos, but because they were all long exposure there was nothing there. He did tell his friend in the end, but I’m not sure what his reaction was.
Anyway, I thought you’d like to hear this story because there really doesn’t seem to be any logical explanation for what he saw that night. Unfortunately, P passed away a while back, so I can’t question him further. If you’re wondering how I can recall exactly when this was, it’s because I’ve just looked back at our Messenger chat from then, where we discussed him not finding anything in his photos.
I have thought about going back to Eyeworth after dark, but it’s not really a place I’d want to be on my own!”
Another update! 23rd December 2021
Brice Stratford got in touch with me through Twitter. He is a writer and has a new book coming out about the folklore of the New Forest next year. He had a mini-teaser for me about the Stone Ghost Girl. Here it is:
“Fascinating to see this! There is a very obscure local story that the girl was waiting for her fiance to come back from the hunt, but that he fell and broke his neck. She went mad and waited and waited, for days/weeks/years (depending on story) before drowning herself in the pond.”Brice Stratford
So, yet more interesting info about this ghostly figure. It appears she isn’t quite as unknown as I first thought. Brice’s information makes so much sense. This is why she appeared when the hunt trotted over the bridge. She was looking for her lost fiance. I wonder if she has been watching any future hunts that leave from Eyeworth Lodge?
I’ve pre-ordered Brice’s book. If you are interested, you can find it here on Amazon.
Can you help me with anymore updates?
I’d love to carry on building on this interesting story. If you have any further information or have you ever been to Eyeworth Pond and noticed anything strange? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
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