Ghosts of Waltham Abbey

As my last ghost write up went so well here, I thought you might like the results of another case some of us looked into in 1994/5. It may not be as ‘spooky’ or spectacular as some other cases which can boast eerie settings and atmosphere, which is probably why it generally avoids reference in many contemporary ghost books.

With colleagues, I spend several days investigating this haunting; a fact made easier that the small town of Waltham Abbey is only 15 miles or so from where I live in North London.

I included a short piece in my book “Dark Journey” about this haunting, and it reads as follows:

“THE Ancient Ruins of Waltham Abbey, like nearby Minsden Chapel, have for long been reputed by a ghostly monk, a shrouded figure that has been reported in the scant ruins. Its main haunt is an old stone archway, one of the few relics still left standing in the grounds.

Diana Dean, Parish Clerk to the magnificent church of Waltham Holy Cross and St. Lawrence (just adjacent to the ruins) confirms that this ghostly figure has been sighted by many people, although she points out that the rector clad in his clerical make-up on his way to choir practice, could account for some of the sightings.

Other local residents remain unconvinced, however, that the ghostly figure is of human origin, and relate tales of ‘ethereal music’ heard in the grounds late at night and of a black-clad figure that mysteriously disappears as it walks past witnesses, leaving in its wake a lingering smell of incense.

But ghostly stories and legends connected with Waltham Abbey, are by no means of recent origin.

One legend has it that towards the end of the 18th century, a local maiden committed suicide in the nearby river Lea after being rejected by her suitor. Her ghost is supposed to haunt the Abbey ruins, a sad wraith that beckons to people and then just disappears.

But back to monks; there is another story which, if true, could well give these reports some authenticity, bearing in mind that many psychic occurrences could have as their cause events of great tragedy.

According to legend, at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, several monks were murdered at the Abbey by soldiers of the king. It amounted to a futile resistance; leastwise made martyrs of an unnamed few who were buried in a mass grave within the Abbey precincts …

Whatever the truth behind this tale, it is unlikely that we shall ever know. Truth here, would appear to be as evasive as the elusive phantoms that reputedly haunt Waltham Abbey.”

David Farrant

  • reply Columbine ,

    David, this investigation sounds as if you went to great lengths and depths to reveal a lot of the phenomena. You certainly uncovered a lot of history, which is what a good paranormal investigation should do. I wouldn’t mind having a gander up to Waltham Abbey myself. (I used to work close by to it about 20 years ago.) One of the delivery drivers where I worked swore that he’d seen a lady in white who simply disappeared into some trees one day.

    I have sent you a PM on the main website regarding a new trip.

    Columbine.

    • reply David Farrant ,

      Do you have any more details Columbine? Don’t suppose you know the person’s name now, but do you know what area he lived in. Only asked because I could then put a request for information in his local paper.

      Long shot, I know. But if you don’t try, you never get anywhere!

      Thanks

      David

      • reply David Farrant ,

        Hi Angela Bassett

        Just to welcome you and thanks for saying you love the Blog.

        I am putting your welcome here as it most recent place.

        Please do keep posting if you want to,

        For now,

        David (Farrant)

        • reply Columbine ,

          Hi David,

          The delivery man’s name was Roy and he lived in Loughton. I can’t remember his surname but we worked for a plant hire company called Builders Hire Service. This was c. 1987 and he was based from the Walthamstow depot. These details might be of use. I used to be the peripatetic branch accountant, and Roy told us about the sighting one afternoon, upon his return to the depot.

          Let me know if you need any more info and I’ll try to get it for you.

          Columbine.

          • reply David Farrant ,

            Yes, it certainly does help a LOT Columbine. It gives me enough to go on for the moment.

            Anything else you remember would be very helpful. Ideally, I’d like to trace him.

            Thanks for that,

            David

            • reply matt ,

              Dear David
              Have you ever investigated the site of the infamous Borley Rectory?
              Regards Matt

              • reply David Farrant ,

                Hi Matt,

                Not so much by way of a full investigation, but we (that is, myself and my wife) spent a couple of days visiting the site in 1979 and made fairly extensive enquiries there. We stayed in a small hotel in Sudbury and looked at a couple of other reputedly haunted sites in the vicinity.

                When we were at Borely, the site was just in the process of being developed and a large portion of the land where the rectory once stood had been cemented over. Nothing had been built on it at that time, but I nevertheless took a couple of photographs for the record.

                The church was locked, but a clear notice on the door gave the address of the nearby caretaker. She let us in, and left us to look around. My wife took several photographs inside the church and in two of these when later developed a strange sphere of oblong light could be seen to my right. This was nothing like an orb, and it certainly wasn’t visible when the photographs were taken.

                We spoke to quite a few local people, of course, and took some more photographs.

                There was one thing that I remember: there was strange but distinct cloud formation in the sky over the church. I don’t mean ‘faces in the clouds’ because there weren’t many. This was a definite spiral of cloud that seemed to stretch across the sky on its own. It definitely wasn’t a jet, or the aftermath of one, it was far too low for that.

                I remember wondering at the time if perhaps some energy force from the earth below could have caused this.

                I understand that some cottages have been built on the old site now, although that was our only visit.

                For now,

                David

                • reply Columbine ,

                  Hi David,

                  My son’s ex-girlfriend’s brother lives in Borley village, and we used to visit quite often. There are several bungalows built on the site of the old Rectory. However, personally speaking, I think the Borley investigators missed their chance – the church is far more haunted than the Rectory was. There was an investigation of the church carried out in June 1974, during which utterly chilling sighs and footsteps were recorded inside the church during the very early hours.

                  I am certain that the Rectory was haunted by the ghost of a nun. I say this because the investigators who dealt with Borley Church also dealt with an allegedly haunted airfield in the Midlands. Rubble from the old Rectory was used in the construction of a runway there, as well as a local school. Pupils at the school, and personnel at the airfield, all reported seeing the ghost of a nun.

                  Another worthwhile site to check out is Bircham Newton Airfield in Norfolk. The ‘Nationwide’ programme in the 1970’s sent an intrepid reporter up there, following reports of ghosts in the old hangar. She discovered mutterings on a tape left in the old squash courts.

                  Columbine.

                  • reply Columbine ,

                    The Bull at Long Melford is another site, which is reputedly haunted. Claims of a ghostly soldier, telekenesis and terrified dogs are among the witness statements. I made a cursory investigation of the place during my trip to Borley. Whilst I didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary, the place has ‘atmosphere’ I must say.

                    Well worth a visit.

                    Columbine.

                    • reply Columbine ,

                      Sorry – hijacking the blog a bit – just to say that on one of the Borley Church noticeboards is a small note. It says, ‘Ghosts. While people are fascinated by ghosts and the stories surrounding Borley please remember that this is a place of worship and comfort for those who pray here.’

                      This may be a reference to the villagers having had enough of ghost enthusiasts, and why they have removed the direction sign to Borley from the direction of Sudbury. However, most serious investigators such as we, know how to conduct a proper investigation without making a nuisance of ourselves in the process.

                      Columbine.

                      • reply David Farrant ,

                        That, or a similar Notice was there in 1979.

                        It seems a shame when reputedly haunted places become over-commercialised. It makes it more difficult for genuine investigators. That’s why I never spent too long there.

                        For now,

                        David

                        • reply Jack O'Boyle ,

                          hey,
                          it may sound silly but if you were ever to return to waltham abbey to carry out further investigations, i would very much like to come along with you, as im just down the road in harlow, im 18 and have had a keen interest in all sorts of paranormal activity for as long as i can remember, and the fact that i could explore these grounds with someone professional excites me. to give me an incite and this first hand experience would thrill me and encourage me to look further into things in a professional sort of manner.
                          cheers

                          • reply Jim Hawkins ,

                            Hi David,

                            I live right next to Waltham Abbey church. Up until most recently I have seen bright lights in the very early hours (4/5 am) within the graveyard while outside smoking a cigarette. I have a 7 month old and as a result I am up most of the nights at the moment.

                            • reply Karen ,

                              In twilight, I saw a “Thing” (cross between a dark shadow and a wisp of smoke) travelling along before disappearing between a gap in 2 stone walls amongst the ruins. It made no sound, was not attached to the ground and definetely not on wheels. I laughed it off at the time, but it was interesting, I must say.

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