Following the enormous success of our latest film “Robin Hood’s Grave Revisited” released on YouTube almost two weeks ago (to date almost 200 hits), I thought it might be an appropriate time to release (rather re-release) an article I wrote on a British Psychic and Occult Society investigation on events in the area in 2008. This article first appeared on The Book of Thoth and Supernatural World websites and has been republished on “Ghosts UK”; but is my exclusive copyright as were the photographs that accompanied its original publication. My article really provides some insight in various reports and accounts about the alleged ghost being that of the legendary Robin Hood. Actually, I carefully refrain from offering any personal conclusions about the latter. But the BPOS did investigate the case and I have merely offered the facts as we found them. READ ON . . . and make up your own minds! David.
IS ROBIN HOOD’S GHOST REALLY AT REST?
An exclusive account by David Farrant, president of the British Psychic and Occult Society, on his recent investigation into the ghost of the legendary Robin Hood which culminated in a full scale exorcism and blessing of the graveside. [Ghosts UK]
SOME YEARS NOW controversy has surrounded a secluded woodland grave in the grounds of Kirklees Hall near Brighouse, West Yorkshire, over whether it could be the last resting place of the legendary Robin Hood.
An inscription on the grave itself (Here underneath this memorial stone Robert earl of Huntington FOR as he no archer e’r was good and people called him Robin Hood. Such outlaws such as he and his men will England never see again. Died December 24th 1247), clearly states that it is, although others have stated that is only a Victorian folly, although never expounded upon the ‘folly’s’ purpose or just what this is supposed to represent; or indeed, why it should lie in such an isolated spot away from human habitation or any apparent footpaths.
Its exact origins may be unclear, but certainly the legend of the grave and its association with the legendary outlaw can be traced back to a manuscript in the British Library, Sloane 780, which dates to circa 1400, and states that Robin was buried at Kirklees near the King’s Highway. In 1569 it was mentioned in Grafton’s Chronicle. An ordnance survey map dated 1850 marks the spot and the grave as being Robin Hood’s Grave.
Barbara Green, Founder of the Yorkshire Robin Hood Society, has become convinced that beneath the grave lie the mortal remains of Robin Hood. Barbara first became intrigued with rumours about the grave when, in the early 1980’s in her capacity as a district nurse, she had cause to visit nearby Kirklees Hall. Stories and rumours about the grave being supposedly haunted were already rife then, but Barbara learned more about the history of the grave itself, that convinced her that it might well conceal the remains of Robin Hood. She decided to do her own research and founded the YRHS in 1984; its purpose being to conduct more thorough local research and uncover facts that might have given rise to the Robin Hood legend.
There was plenty of information to assimilate. Not least, were local stories that the grave was haunted by a fearsome female spectre. Stories and legends about a ghostly figure associated with the grave can be traced back to Victorian times – probably still further – although it is of course no easy task, if nigh impossible, to produce feasible accounts or testimonies about events which may have long since disappeared into history.
Barbara Green was lucky enough to learn of one such account in the late 1980’s however, which, if nothing else provided ‘proof’ that at least 90 years ago Robin Hood’s Grave and the area surrounding it was supposedly haunted.
It came from one Edith Ellis, then aged 72, who recalled that as a young girl in the early 1900’s, she often used to stay with her cousin, Alice, who lived in an old cottage in Little Thorpe Hill near Hartshead Church, that overlooked the grounds of the Kirklees Estate. Robin Hood’s Grave lay only a quarter of a mile or so away and in those days (although this has long since disappeared) a large green stone statue of Robin Hood, holding a bow and arrow and clad in a red hat and boots, rose almost proudly from one edge of the grounds.
Alice had a window-box of flowers on her bedroom windowsill, and she said that often, as a young girl, when she used to tend this, she heard Robin calling out Marion’s name from the distant woods below. It was an eerie but distinct voice, that resonated regularly from an area around the secluded grave; a cry so precise, in fact, that she swore in later years this was not merely the result of child-like imagination.
Edith Ellis had never heard this ghostly cry herself, but one night unable to sleep, she went to the bedroom window and stared out. It was a clear night and, all of a sudden, she saw a bright flash of light that came from the middle of the darkened stretch of woods below. It seemed to come from the vicinity of the grave itself; although of course, this was not possible to tell precisely.
Intrigued by the sudden appearance of this mysterious light, next day both girls decided to visit the grave and look around to see what had maybe caused it. They knew it was on private land, so decided to take baskets and gather blackberries at the same time, giving them some excuse for their presence there.
As it was, they could find no explanation for the light, although exploring further near the grave, they discovered an old silver arrow embedded in a broken stone wall, which had hitherto been concealed in the undergrowth.
There is no real evidence to suggest that earlier stories and accounts, about ghostly goings on at Robin Hood’s Grave, differ considerably from the usual exaggeration and hypothesis that accompanies many modern ghost stories, although in more recent times, accounts about the ‘female spectre’ that has for long been said to haunt the gravesite have tended to take on a more sinister perspective. It is asserted nowadays, for example, that this figure is seen to have a ‘devilish countenance’ and it has also been claimed that it is the ghost of the evil Prioress who bled Robin Hood to death in nearby Kirklees Gatehouse (now a secluded ruin) and who is in fact now a vampire!
Reports of her appearances would certainly seem to take on the characteristics of one; although the ‘vampire element’ probably came about because Robin was supposedly murdered by being drained of blood. Whatever, this fearsome spectre (a ‘banshee-like’ wailing sound sometimes accompanying her presence) is said to have piercing red eyes, and is reported to have a poignant effect upon anybody foolish enough to venture near the isolated grave at night.
Having heard these stories and apparently choosing to ignore their consequences, one small group of aspiring ‘ghost spotters’ claimed to have visited the grave one night in 1990, only to confront the devilish entity. The whole thing was an absolute disaster: the ‘demonic hag’ gave them such a fright that it caused them to scatter in all different directions, and for one of them to become painfully entangled in a bramble bush as he tried desperately to escape! (Or so they say!)
Of course, such stories are bound to invite fantasy and exaggeration, but in the course of her research into the grave’s history, Barbara Green came across an account that seemed to be altogether more plausible . . .
It came from Mr. Roger Williams who lives in Brighouse – only a mile or so from the grave.
It was October in 1963 when he was 15 and he had gone up to the grave with a friend when, all of a sudden, he saw a figure emerging from some distant trees. As it drew closer, they could see that this was a woman with flowing black hair clad in white, although ‘she’ made no sound on the scattered leaves despite appearing to be ‘solid’. As she drew closer, she glared at them both intently, as if acutely aware of their presence, before gliding silently away and disappearing out of sight behind some bushes some twenty yards away. “I did not actually see her disappear”, said Roger Williams, “but got a distinct impression that she conveyed intense anger when she looked at me – almost as if conveying a message that we should not have been there.”
He now refuses to go there, saying that it is “an evil place”.
There had been similar reports, not least from many people who attested to experiencing an ‘oppressive atmosphere’ around the grave and who swore to an over-bearing impression of ‘being watched’.
Determined to see if there could be any substance in these reports, in 1997 Barbara Green, and an intrepid group of five others, visited the grave one night under cover of darkness. It is not that they intended to do anything illegal, but the grave lay in the grounds of the Kirklees Estate (although there no signs marking this as “private” where the woods met a busy main road) and technically they were trespassing without proper permission, and wanted to avoid any prowling gamekeepers. They made their way cautiously through the dense undergrowth to the grave, but before actually finding this one of the group became detached from the others; a fact not so surprising perhaps, as Barbara Green later pointed out by saying “It was pitch black, the moon unable to penetrate the enveloping canopy of leaves and branches. We switched on our torches unwillingly, hoping that their light would not attract the prowling gamekeepers, and tried to get our bearings. All around us were gnarled, ancient trees, twisted into demonic, witch-like shapes.”
Mark Gibbons, the one who had become separated from the group, was soon found not far away; in fact, as it transpired only a few yards or so away from the grave. He was shaking badly and had seen a figure, although it was a few moments before he managed to stammer out what had happened . . .
“I saw the figure of a lady dressed in a kind of white robe just standing there in the thick brambles pointing towards where we could find the grave. I could feel the anger and bitterness and pure evil coming from this apparition. I felt as if it was watching us.”
At this moment, Barbara Green herself spotted the figure which had now moved back into the trees, but which was discernible by its white robe and it still appeared to be pointing to the grave. If it was ‘real’ in the first place, the direction in which it was pointing certainly indicated the location of the actual grave.
Stories and controversy continued to surround the grave until, in the latter part of 2004, the Yorkshire Robin Hood Society decided that perhaps the best way to ‘quiet’ the restless phenomenon said to haunt the grave, and to thereby put at rest the fears of many local residents in the process, was to conduct an official exorcism at the gravesite to dispel the malevolent force – or forces – there.
To this end, Barbara Green enlisted the help of leading historical researcher and exorcist Gareth J. Medway and psychic investigator David Farrant, who both joined Barbara’s members, including YRHS secretary, Catherine Fearnley, to conduct a full-scale exorcism at the grave on April 20th 2005.
This group, accompanied by some others, met at the grave site at around 7 p.m. – several of them having approached from different directions to avoid suspicion from one large group of people travelling together.
It was a forlorn evening; not too cold, but a stubborn ‘dampness’ pervaded the atmosphere. As well, all observed a distinct ‘coldness’ that seemed to encompass the actual grave within an area of two feet or more. Thermal readings confirmed this, but compass alignments reacted unpredictably – although the latter could have been caused by the old rusty railings that surrounded most of the grave.
The stone front of the grave was cleared of rubble, and once cleared was adorned with certain mystical accoutrements including burning incense and candles and other symbolism necessary for the successful performance of the ceremony.
Gareth Medway, in his capacity as a hierophant of the Fellowship of Isis, conducted the hour-long ceremony which mingled – almost uncannily – with the fast approaching darkness.
He based the ceremony upon the invocation of three Greek Goddesses to essentially banish evil from the grave and then to give the grave – and the surrounding area – a formal Blessing.
In Gareth Medway’s own words . . .
“The ritual conducted there by me, at sunset on 20 April 2005, was based upon the invocation of three Greek Goddesses. Firstly, Athena was called upon to banish all evil from the place. Secondly, Hecate, who guides the spirits of the dead to the next world, was asked to lead any ghosts “into the light”. Thirdly, Themis, the Goddess of cosmic order and balance, was invoked to bring harmony to the site in place of the discordant forces that had been there. The ceremony finished with a general blessing. In my opinion it is too early to say whether it has been successful, but two ‘sensitive’ women present thought that “the powers of darkness at the grave have now been fully dispersed”. What I did notice was that, when I arrived, I felt very cold and my nose kept running, but that after the ritual I did not notice the temperature at all. Barbara Green, who had been campaigning for many years for such a ritual to be done, seemed to be satisfied.”
It might be a little too early to say if this ritual was hopefully successful as Gareth Medway has stated. But at least now some positive action has been taken that might have otherwise dispelled the malefic force reputed to haunt Robin Hood’s Grave.
Copyright: David Farrant, President, BPOS (May 2012).