Nicola Kirk: Author and Collector of Paranormal Stories and Other Strange Encounters

Welcome To Our Haunted Village – Don’t Plan On Leaving Any Time Soon…

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything but, as I’m sure all new parents out there will agree, it’s rather hard to do anything when you have a newborn baby demanding constant room service day and night.  Can anyone remind me what sleep is, please?  Delighted as I am to be a new mummy, I have missed writing, so I’ll do my best to sit down every so often and write something vaguely entertaining…

So.  The other evening (between nappy changes and burping sessions) I saw a programme called Celebrity Ghost Stories (quite a good series, I’d recommend it) – I do my best to record anything spooky and sometimes I even get to watch what I’ve recorded.  The actor Daniel Stern (of Home Alone fame – you remember, he was the tall idiot burglar) made an appearance on the programme and talked about the time he visited England and encountered a haunted village.  The haunted village in question was Widecombe On The Moor which is located in the heart of Dartmoor National Park, Devon.  Daniel Stern said that, as newly weds, he and his wife had decided to honeymoon in England and during their travels they came across Widecombe On The Moor.  It appeared to be a quaint English village in the middle of nowhere so the Sterns decided to stop off and investigate.  They parked their hire car and went for a wander.

From the start, they felt there was something strange about the village.  It had a peculiar atmosphere and the couple felt ill at ease as they walked around.  The local residents were a peculiar bunch.  They shuffled around at a snail’s pace, refused to make any eye contact and for some reason they all seemed to be wearing black.  No one spoke a word – the village was deathly silent.  Daniel said they resembled a bunch of extras from ‘Night of the Living Dead’.  However, it appears that fortunately none of the residents tried to maul them ‘zombie style’.

The Sterns decided that it wasn’t in their best interests to linger and, unsure of directions to their hotel for the night, they reluctantly approached the figure of an old woman who was standing outside the church with her back to them.   They were feeling spooked anyway, so when the old woman turned on them and began to speak to them in a strange language, it didn’t improve matters.  The Sterns nervously stood their ground, politely listening while the old woman chattered away in an unknown tongue.  Trying to look the old woman in the eye proved to be difficult too seeing as her eyes were an eerie milky white.  The encounter with the old woman couldn’t finish quickly enough for the Sterns and it wasn’t long before they were hotfooting it back to their rental car.  They leapt in and raced out of the village but they didn’t get more than half a mile or so away when their tyre blew out.  They could still see the spire of the church in the near distance so help was technically but a short walk away, but they couldn’t bring themselves to return to the ‘village of the damned’ and instead chose to drive the ten or so miles on the rim to their hotel (I assume they managed to find their own way there seeing as they couldn’t understand the old woman outside the church).

Hotel Managers Get Creative:

“I know, Bob, let’s give the porn sites a rest and invent some ghost stories to freak out the guests!”

When they reached their hotel, they told their extraordinary tale to the hotel manager and he delighted in telling them that they had actually stopped off at a ‘haunted village’.  Chilling indeed.  The Sterns were informed that on 21st October 1638, there had been a great thunderstorm and the spire of the church (St. Pancras) had been hit by ball lightning, causing huge amounts of damage to the church, killing four people outright and injuring 60 others.  So had the Sterns unwittingly dropped in on a village of wandering souls desperately searching for eternal rest?

It is interesting how a bit of an odd day out gets people’s imaginations going.  When something a bit out of the ordinary happens, we love to assume something paranormal has happened.  It seems that a lot of us would rather believe that than rather than go to the effort of investigating things a bit further.

A ‘haunted village’ would suggest to me that the village has been long-deserted and if I were to visit it, I’d expect to find nothing but derelict remains of dwellings and the shell of the church. However, having had a little browse on the internet, I came across Widecombe On The Moor’s own website ( which vehemently denies that its lovely village is a ghost village.  It also points out some errors in the Stern’s account and some possible explanations of what they experienced.

The Sterns allegedly reported that the church they saw had a spire, but the Widecombe On The Moor website states that St. Pancras doesn’t have a spire, but four pinnacles (are the Sterns sure they were in the right village?).  The website states that one of the pinnacles was struck by lightning causing it to crash through the roof of the church.  Four people were killed although a few more unfortunately died shortly after the event due to severe burns.  The fatalities were interred at the front of the church under two large granite slabs.

But what about the villagers’ strange behaviour?  Well, when someone dies in a close knit community such as Widecombe On The Moor, people within the village tend to pay their respects to the recently deceased, so it’s possible that the Sterns arrived on a day that someone had died and the mood of the village was somewhat muted and sombre and people chose to wear black out of respect.  I’m not sure they would appreciate their grief being described as similar to ‘Night of the Living Dead’ though…

Yes, It’s Terrifying But It Can Be Explained!

Experiences like the Sterns, which can be explained without too much effort, often make me wonder just how many other stories could be pulled out of the supernatural bracket.  It pays to take people’s spooky stories with a large pinch of salt. Unless it’s your own personal experience, of course, because there’s no way that could ever be explained away so easily…


©Nicola Kirk and 2011




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