AMONG THE MANY GHOSTS reputed to haunt rural Dartmoor, many of which have been the subject of investigation by the British Psychic and Occult Society, perhaps none holds as much interest in the Moor’s ‘ghostly heritage’ as the evil devil-like spectre said to lurk in the ruins of Lydford Castle. Lydford was once a thriving community and headquarters of a powerful hierarchy of tin-miners who virtually ruled Dartmoor.
The castle was built in Norman times on the site of an earlier castle (the old moat still remains amongst the present ruins) and for several centuries afterwards used as a Court house, prison and execution chamber for unfortunate victims who managed to incur the wrath of their feudal masters.
These included member of Parliament, Richard Strobe, who at that time was imprisoned in the castle dungeons for daring to introduce a bill to which the tin-miners objected.
This grim ruin still holds today an atmosphere of intense cold and despair – and there are stories of a devil-like creature with glaring red eyes who drives away or possesses anyone foolish enough to venture into the ruins at night.
Local legend also has it that this same spectre also haunts nearby Lydford Gorge, this time apparently in the form of a sinister woman draped in black who lures unsuspecting travellers to their deaths on the rocks some 200 feet below.
Whatever the foundation of these beliefs may be, it is perhaps now impossible to tell; but it remains a fact, taking into account atrocities at the prison and other events connected with Lydford that may have given rise to such stories, (for example, about a band of brigands who terrorised the district in the 17th century from their hideouts in the gorge and who supposedly cast to their deaths any who came in pursuit), that there exists in the present day a firmly established belief that some hostile presence haunts Lydford Castle’s ruins. .
An investigation by the British Psychic and Occult Society in 1996, may bear out this view.
In fact, the BPOS investigation into the Lydford case has revealed that some psychic manifestation, whether recent or otherwise, does exist within the ruins and has almost certainly been effectual in creating a basis for the current local stories.
As part of this investigation, members of the Society spent an all-night vigil inside the ruins at full moon (a time when psychic forces are most potent) and the results were, to say the least, intriguing.
Perhaps most apparent from the onset of this vigil was the decidedly cold atmosphere in the old dungeons in the ruins; added to this the fact that a trained alsatian dog ‘froze’ at the top of the wrought-iron staircase leading to the dungeons and barked repeatedly at something unseen below.
When eventually carried down the stairs, it whined continually and cringed in a corner, ignoring all attempts to be pacified.
The next incident occurred at exactly ten minutes to three when a dark shape, resembling a ‘large bear’, was seen to materialise in an adjacent alcove and appeared to glide for several feet before promptly disappearing just below a stone archway leaving behind an intense atmosphere of evil and icy coldness.
Notwithstanding an attempt to photograph this apparition, the negatives when later developed were blank and despite a thorough check of the area, there was nothing to indicate that the witnessed phenomenon could be anything other than supernatural by nature.
While some may argue that these occurrences do not produce irrefutable proof as to the existence of paranormal activity, it may be reasonably stated that the Society investigation, albeit only in its initial stage, had succeeded in establishing that local stories about an evil presence that lurked within the ruins of Lydford Castle are not entirely without foundation. END
(c) David Farrant
The above case was first published in David Farrant’s book : ‘Dark Journey – True cases of ghostly phenomena from the files of the British Psychic and Occult Society’