We’re all over the ghost and witch thing around Halloween, but what about all those other weird and wonderful places and goings-on that are part of the Forest’s ancient landscape and folklore, every single day? If you’re looking for something a little different to visit or contemplate this witching season, check out some of these…
1 – The Bisterne Dragon
Burley Beacon looks peaceful enough now. But 400 years ago things were very different because – according to local folklore – it was inhabited by a dragon “doing much mischief upon men and cattle” and demanding ‘a pail of milk a day’. The dragon was said to have been vanquished by Sir Maurice Berkeley of Bisterne and its corpse became Bolton’s Bench hill outside Lyndhurst, but no one knows for sure. Just as they don’t actually know if the ‘dragon’ was not a fire-breathing monster and merely a particularly vicious wild boar…
2 – The Naked Man
Don’t worry, all is now decent up at the Wilverley Oak although that wasn’t always the case. This tree – the remains of which are carefully fenced off – was used to hang highwaymen and smugglers and one of these miscreants, whose body was left to swing for too long, is said to haunt it still.
3 – The grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – creator of Sherlock Holmes
Take a walk to Minstead church. Then proceed as far away from the building as is possible to the perimeter wall. Because that’s where you’ll find the memorial to the man who created the world’s most successful fictional character. Conan Doyle’s 1950 re-interment caused controversy because of his vociferous belief in the supernatural and so, although he was allowed to be re-buried on hallowed ground from his previous resting place, he was placed at the graveyard’s southern end, as far as possible from the holy building.
4 – The Burley witches
Rumours of witchcraft have always hung around Burley village. But as late as the 1950s the area was home to the famous white witch, Sybil Leek, who was often seen walking around in a long black cloak, with her pet jackdaw on her shoulder.
5 – A Royal ghost
The unquiet spirit of King Charles I is said to wander lonely Hurst Castle near Milford-on-Sea. And no wonder – the doomed monarch was imprisoned there before he was marched off to London, tried and then beheaded in 1649.
6 – The Occultist
He was an adventure novelist, a former member of Churchill’s planning staff and dreamer-upper of such notable escapades as the ‘Monty’s Double’ wheeze.
But Dennis Wheatley was best-known for his book The Devil Rides Out.
Incorporating Nazi symbolism and his author’s note about the dangers of dabbling in the supernatural ensured it became a sure-fire hit. He moved into Grove Place in Lymington in 1945 and only left in 1968.
7 – Haunted Inn
Reputedly one of the most haunted inns in the UK, The Angel & Blue Pig (formerly The Angel) in Lymington has had more than its fair share of spooky sightings. Recurring apparitions include those of a coachman, an individual wearing a naval uniform and a blonde girl, and there have also been strange sounds such as someone playing a piano.
8 – The cursed portrait of Breamore House
Two sisters were said to live in this house, which is now a museum and a visitor attraction, during the 1600s. A portrait of the elder sister hangs in the house to this day, as on her death bed she threatened to put a curse on anyone who dared move it. It’s claimed that a man who was cleaning the house during the 1950s did move it and had a fall later that day, breaking his leg. Nobody, it is said, has touched it since.
9 – The Red Pond at Ocknell
Every year this pond near Stoney Cross is said to mysteriously turn red. Why? Because, after killing King William Rufus, Sir Walter Tyrrell was said to have washed his hands of the monarch’s blood in the nearby pond. Every year, it is rumoured, a black hound called Tyrrell’s Dog is said to appear as a death omen.
10 – The Mysterious New Forest Cult
After establishing a cult following due to her preaching about celibacy, chastity and the Second Coming of Christ, Mary Ann Girling arrived in the New Forest in 1873, settling in New Forest Lodge. They 160 believers cultivated vegetables and worshipped but very soon, their money ran out and they were all evicted one bitter December night. They later returned to Hordle but by 1886 there were only 12 women and eight men left. Girling died of cancer in 1886 and was buried in Hordle Churchyard.