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Damn and blast! I have just spent three hours looking for a load of old photos so I could share a couple of my weird ghost (or not!) experiences with you. Can I find them? No! But, sometimes, I do get the urge to get a story down on paper. And today is one of those days. So, I’ve sacked off my work and wasted three hours trying to find a pile of old photos that have disappeared. No doubt they are hiding with all the black socks and teaspoons and the missing Enid Blyton library book that I’ll be needing to pay for!

Let’s get to it. I have mentioned before that I have had many strange experiences over the years. Some can be explained away by my overactive imagination and others by everyday phenomena that I could have interpreted in a mysterious way.

spring cottage chilmark

I have lived in what I felt was a haunted cottage. I recount my time living there in this blog, Sharing Spring Cottage.

My family and I stayed in an old lock keepers cottage back in the 1980s and we are pretty sure there was some sort of presence there. That’s my best ghost story and I’ll tell you about it soon. Subscribe to Weird Wiltshire if you want to read it, as I send out reminders when I post a new ghost story.

I once had a ‘funny turn’ up at the grotto at Wardour Castle and then another similar experience up there again. I have never fainted before in my life but something really affected me that day. You can read about my funny turns and the ghosts of Wardour Castle here.

wardour castle grotto

And there is my most recent unexplained experience with an astral projection at Stonehenge. Read about that very weird day here.

The next three stories don’t need an individual blog post as they are shorter, but I want to share them nonetheless. And now, I’ve just said that; I know I like to drone on, so they probably won’t be that short!

stone henge

Smoke Alarms

In 2006 I lived in a tiny, three-story terraced cottage in Salisbury with my boyfriend Nick and dog, the rather grandly named Woodchuck Delaney! We had smoke detectors back then, and they were battery-operated.

It was around 2am one night when the smoke alarm went off. As you can imagine, adrenaline flashes through your veins when you are woken from deep sleep by a frantic-sounding alarm and you spring into action. We ran downstairs to the ground floor, thinking the likely source of any smoke would be from the kitchen. We checked the third floor. Nothing amiss. There was no smoke and nothing out of the ordinary. We turned off the alarm, calmed our nerves and headed back to bed. The smoke alarm had never gone off in error, although we knew it worked, thanks to my occasional cooking disasters.

The following morning, I received a phone call from my mum and dad. They reported my grandma had passed away the in middle of the night at the nursing home she lived in. She had been ill for some time and my grandad had died just weeks before. I wonder if it was around 2am that she passed? I didn’t really think anything of it at the time; The smoke alarm activating the same night my grandma died.

I think it must have been a week or two later that I asked my mum and dad whether they knew what time it was that grandma had died. They didn’t know. I told them about the smoke alarm going off for no reason.

‘That’s weird. The smoke alarm went off in our house that night and there was no smoke anywhere.’ They told me. It was sometime around 2am.

We all thought this was quite a coincidence. And here’s the other strange thing. My grandma had been a heavy smoker all her life. She had died of emphysema. Is that why she chose to let us know of her passing by using smoke alarms?

This story could be explained away by coincidence, I suppose. But I find it hard to put it in that box. I think my grandma set off both alarms before crossing into the light.

fovant badges
Courtesy of Fovant Badges
The camp at Naishes Farm courtesy of the Fovant History Society

Whispering Ghost Voices in the Wind

For ten years, I was a livery at a rundown farm on the fields that run below the Fovant Badges in Wiltshire. By livery, I mean I kept my horses at Buxbury Farm and rented a field and stable from the owner. Because I took care of my horses myself, I could often be found down in the fields a couple of times a day, dawn and dusk. Even though the barn was a safety hazard and the owner was a total looney to deal with, it is a beautiful spot.

The farm runs alongside the A30 in Sutton Mandeville. There is open, flat, green sand farmland, both arable and pasture, all along this road. A steep hill rises from the farmland in the near distance and then rolls on for miles of beautiful chalk downland. At the top of the hill are several ancient hillforts and old settlements. Long abandoned and now used to graze sheep.

The Fovant Badges are military emblems carved into the chalk on the hillside. Created by the regiments stationed in the fields below during World War I, nine of the original badges remain. British and Australian soldiers were stationed here before being sent to serve on the Western Front in Belgium and France. These temporary garrisons were used as demobilisation camps when soldiers returned from the war.

It was down in these fields that I would be wandering around picking up horse poo (yes, that’s just one of the daily chores of a responsible horse owner.) Also mending and moving fencing, filling water butts and dishing out hay and feed. I was there twice a day, every day of the year, in light and in dark.

I should add that, it was in these fields that I had the joy of witnessing the International Space Station passing from the West one early morning at dawn. I’ll never forget it! It’s not at all paranormal but I loved seeing it drifting by.

Anyway, besides occasional space stations, there is no light down in these fields and no noise. On a still day, you would be able to hear the noisier vehicles on the A30. If the wind was blowing in a South Westerly direction, which was nine times out of ten, you would not be able to hear any road noise. Only the wind, be it blowing a hoolie or a gentle breeze.

I was mainly down in the field alone with my horses and dogs for company. And it was down there, in those fields, when the breeze was blowing softly through the grasslands, that I would hear what sounded like conversations. People chatting. Far enough away that I couldn’t listen to what they were saying but loud enough to know people were talking nearby. It happened several times and I put it down to the sound of the wind. There was no one and nothing else about. I heard it in the darkness and during the long summer evenings.

One day I was talking to my friend from down the road. I told her I swore I had heard voices down in the fields sometimes. Emma (my friend and I share a name!) is an archaeologist. She told me that it all makes sense. There had been evidence of ancient settlements found throughout these fields, dating back to the Bronze Age. It sort of twigged. That was the kind of sound I was hearing. Like a group of people living their daily lives.

On another occasion, I talked to another friend who had kept her horse in the same fields. I asked her if she had ever heard any voices down there. She hadn’t been aware of anything but told me it also made sense. She reminded me of all the soldiers stationed there during World War I.

‘And of course,’ she remarked, ‘don’t forget many of them came back from the war malnourished, sick and injured. Then Spanish Flu arrived and tore through the camps. Many soldiers that had survived the war never made it home because the Flu got them.’

So, whilst this isn’t a dramatic and juicy ghost story, I still think the residual energies of the Bronze Age settlements or World War I camps remain in this open landscape. The sounds I heard were not just the blowing winds. They were carried on the wind.  

looking out towards the badges
Sully, looking out towards the hill (and the juicier grass) where the voices are carried on the wind

Falling photos

This is my last tale for today, and again, it’s not massively juicy. But, it is somewhat unexplainable and deserves a little spot at the end of this blog.

For the last twelve years, I have lived in my 1960s bungalow. It’s a bit small but is homely and cosy and has a nice atmosphere. Given I have always lived in old houses and cottages, I was and still am quite relieved to live in a place where I don’t get any sense of hauntings or ghosts! But, over the years, we have witnessed shadows occasionally passing doorways. And our cat used to stare at one of our empty armchairs like he was watching someone sit there. Nick and I would shrug it off and maybe make a little joke of it.

The only thing that has ever really freaked us out is the story of the seemingly jumping picture frames.

In our hallway are several random photo frames. They are mainly made from wood, reasonably heavy and nailed securely to the wall. There they have sat for the last eight years. Never moving, never falling and never doing anything unusual.

One night, when the photos had been on the wall for over two years, we were awoken by a large crash. We jumped out of bed and ran into the hall. There, on the floor, was one of the photo frames. It had come off the wall with some force, hitting the radiator hard enough to dent it. Another of the frames was at a weird jaunty angle. They aren’t close enough to each other to have touched, even if one did fall off the wall.

This was a frightening event, even if you don’t consider it paranormal. A photo frame crashing into the radiator in the depths of the night makes a large bang. We tried to figure out what had happened, were slightly creeped out, and then went back to bed. Our only rational explanation was that our cat, Albert, had jumped onto the radiator and somehow leapt in the air and knocked the frames off the wall. But, I have never seen Albert on any radiator and can’t say why he would leap up and do this. I wasn’t aware he was even in the house that night. I really, really doubt it was him but if a sceptic was looking at the situation, I guess they would ask whether it could have been him.

I took photos of this event but these were the ones I seem to have lost. Not to worry, though, as I have found the next lot!

Fast forward to mid-Covid pandemic. Once again, whilst sleeping like a log, there is a mighty crash. Out of the bedroom we come into the hallway. And there is the same photo, broken on the floor. Plus, two others at jaunty angles are still on the wall. We had a real good look on the back of the frames to make sure the wall fastenings and nails were secure. They were! I played around, trying to figure out how the frame on the floor could have knocked the others skew whiff. Maybe one, but not both at the same time. They were too far away from each other for us to truly recreate the ‘fall’. And Albert was sound asleep on my daughter’s bed. Not having moved a whisker.

We’ve decided, moving forwards, not to put the middle photo frame back on the way. Who knows what this may be about? Paranormal? Perhaps, but maybe not. I guess it depends on how much of a believer you are!

So, that’s me tapped out of ghostly tales for now. Except for the holiday cottage story. But folks, that’s a story for another day!

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Further reading and references

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fovant_Badges

https://fovanthistory.org/introduction/world-wars/camps-around-fovant/

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