10 Hertfordshire ghosts of Christmas past
PUBLISHED: 10:34 15 December 2020 | UPDATED: 15:42 15 December 2020
Credit: Dale O'Dell / Alamy Stock Photo
Everyone wants to enjoy Christmas, even the dead. Author Jenni Kemp reveals 10 Herts apparitions that will give you the willies
Ghosts can be witnessed at any time of year, but in the depths of winter, with long cold nights, it's a busy time for spectral sightings. Hertfordshire is riddled with apparitions appearing in the winter months, writes author Jenni Kemp, you just need to know where to look.
In Datchworth, considered to be the most haunted village in the county, the groaning ghost of Walter Clibbons may be heard on December 28. Walter and his three sons were criminals of the late 18th century who frequented country fairs selling food. They used this trade as cover as they sought out traders who were making a profit. At the end of the day they would lay in wait to ambush their victims as they travelled home. One fateful night, the Clibbons gang were disturbed at their wicked deed and a violent struggle took place in which Walter was shot by a servant. Tradition says those who caught the Clibbons tied Walter by his heels to a horse and dragged him up and down the lane. The villainous Walter was buried at the spot, a stake through his heart. A wooden marker, Clibbons' Post, stands there and to this day people say they can make out an indistinct horse pulling a groaning, contorted body towards The Horns pub....
More mysteriously but equally spooky is the ghost of Hawkins Hall Lane in the village. A little old lady who shambles along all in black, she appears to have a hunched back but from the front she is headless! She often appears as it grows dark on the lane in wintertime. Little else is known about this terrifying apparition.
In the south west, there is the story of a driver travelling along the B651 from Wheathampstead late one November night, who was more than surprised to see a legion of Roman soldiers marching with a standard bearer. The car's passengers said they could hear the stamping of feet and chinking of harnesses but saw nothing at all.
On a different road, in Braughing, it was snowing when a taxi driver was passing through. He saw a woman standing by the road in a chic two-piece suit with her hair in a bun and stopped to enquire if she needed a lift in the frightful weather. She did, but as he drove away, he looked in the rear view mirror and found the woman had vanished from his car.
In St Albans, a ghostly servant is obsessed with polishing the staircase handrail at Ivy House. The young blonde-haired girl, all in immaculate white, stands at the top of the stairs as she polishes, but her formless footsteps can be heard approaching the entrance hall at Christmas time. It's thought she is the ghost of a girl believed to have been walled up in the chimney of a house which once stood on the site.
The magnificent St Albans Cathedral houses many a ghost and it is said St Alban himself has appeared in a golden glow there. During the Second World War, on Christmas Eve night, a firewatcher heard the plaintive strains of the Fayrfax Albanus Mass emanating from the abbey. When he entered, he saw the keys being played on the organ, but no-one playing. The sheet music could be seen at the organ with a lighted candle, its flicker cast on a congregation of ghostly monks. In the early hours of the morning many more have heard the strains of music from ghostly hands echoing from the ancient site of pilgrimage.
On Christmas Eve in east Barnet, historically a part of Hertfordshire, the spectre of Geoffrey De Mandeville, a prominent baron during the 12th century reign of King Stephen and reputed to have buried treasure at the site of Trent Park, has been seen. Dressed in a festive red cloak with silver spurs, he is sometimes accompanied by a lady in grey. He is said to appear every six years - the next sighting is due in 2022 - but time means nothing to a ghost, so look out for a knight and his lady on a cold Christmas Eve, they may yet appear sooner.
Another mysterious lady in grey appears in winter at The Wagon and Horses off the A5183 in Elstree. Here, in a small lay by opposite the pub, a spectral coach and horses sometimes stands, awaiting a well-dressed gentleman in a three-cornered hat, jacket and knee breeches, who helps the ghostly lady to alight from the coach. The same couple have been seen to cross the road and enter the pub.
The Junction of Meadway and Barnet Hill in High Barnet is haunted by an alarming apparition of a young woman and child. They have been seen to stand in the middle of the road as traffic passes right through them. Though unidentified, it is thought these are the ghosts of a woman and child who were tragically killed at this spot one Christmas.
A roaring log fire in the grate is synonymous with the festive season. If you take a walk up Bendish Lane out of Whitwell, you may be able to hear the distinctive sound of a woodman's axe chopping into wood and felled timber hitting the ground. Despite this often heard sound, no matter how quickly the area is approached or how quietly, there is never a woodsman to be found, and no felled trees.
These stories and many more are documented in Jenni Kemp's new book Ghost Tours of Hertfordshire and Essex, published by Austin Macauley. The book features 62 tours, more than 800 sites and around 1,000 ghost stories. All purported to be true…