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

Posts tagged ‘Essex’



Nestled in the Essex countryside is an unremarkable looking bungalow. But appearances can be deceiving. For this is no ordinary bungalow. Its unassuming appearance hides bloodcurdling secrets and a horrific history.

Built in 1952 and protected by blast screens, Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker was the intended base for the Prime Minister and top government officials in the event of a nuclear attack.

When the government abandoned the bunker in 1993 everything was left behind. Even now, military and hospital equipment lies unused, alongside rows of bunk beds, radiation warning posters and cardboard coffins. But the most chilling reminder of this building’s history is the mysterious presence that walks the long, dark corridors. Rumoured to be the spirit of a construction worker whose body is buried somewhere in the 10 foot thick concrete walls, this sad spectre regularly makes his presence known…

Come and stay the night –  if you dare…

On 30 October 2010, St John Ambulance will be celebrating Hallowe’en by leading a group of its most intrepid supporters to investigate the paranormal activity reported at Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker.

We will be joined by psychic-mediums, Nicola Farmer and Paul Woods.

Schedule for the night

  • 8pm – Arrive and tour of the bunker
  • 9pm – Buffet and introduction
  • 9.30pm – Room-reading with psychic-medium Nicola Farmer
  • 10pm – Ghost-hunting, séances and torch-lit tours with Nicola Farmer and Paul Woods
  • Midnight – Horror films, roaming the bunker or trying to sleep
  • 7am – Tea and coffee and debrief (for those who have survived the night…)

Sign up today

To register for the Buried in the Bunker you will need to:

  • Pay a registration fee of £35 (incl. VAT)
  • Raise minimum sponsorship of £150.

Register and pay online

If you’d like more information, please call us on  020 7324 4173 or email

Terms and conditions

  • I pledge to raise a minimum of £150 for St John Ambulance. Any Gift Aid claimed from my sponsor’s donations is not included in my sponsorship total.
  • Sponsorship money must be paid to St John Ambulance NHQ by Friday 26 November 2010.
  • I enclose a registration fee of £35.00 (incl. VAT) and I agree to take part in the Buried in a bunker at my own risk. St John Ambulance will provide a safe environment for this event but will not be responsible for any loss, damage, illness or injury caused or arising out of my involvement with this event (St John Ambulance does not exclude liability for personal injury or death resulting from its negligence). Refunds of registration fees will not be given unless we are unable to offer you a place at this event.
  • I will act responsibly during the event. Should I be considered acting irresponsibly by St John Ambulance or Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker staff I may be asked to leave.
  • I am not aware of any medical condition or other reason why I should not participate.
  • I will be over 18 years of age on the day of the event.
  • Should I not be able to take my place after it has been confirmed, any sponsorship money raised should be offered back to my sponsors. In the event that they wish to donate it, it should then be sent to St John Ambulance NHQ.

Buried application Form

Kelvedon Bunker Poster.jpeg

Link to St John’s Ambulance Website




Men At Work – Body Snatchers Stealing A Corpse

You may have heard of an exhibition called ‘Bodyworlds’.  It’s not for the faint of heart but, being of stout nature (and not to mention incredibly morbid), I’ve been to a couple of the exhibitions.  The exhibits consists of human bodies (although the creator of Bodyworlds, Gunther von Hagen, also managed to include a rather unsuspecting horse at one point) which have been skinned, plastinated (removing bodily fluids and fats and replacing them with resins and elastomers – no, I have no idea what elastomers are either…) and posed in various lifelike positions. This sort of thing, whilst a little unnerving for the average person to look at, is great for medical students and people seem to be falling over themselves to donate their bodies to the cause.  But there was a time when getting enough bodies to study human anatomy was a bit of a trial.

Before the Anatomy Act of 1832, corpses for medical research were rather difficult to come by.  Only criminals who had been condemned to “death and dissection” by the Courts were legally allowed to be used by medical students and the supply of such corpses was painfully short.  Unless you were one of the ‘Resurrection Men’ or ‘body snatchers,’ as they were more commonly known.

Perhaps the most famous body snatchers were William Burke and William Hare who managed to murder 17 victims between November 1827 and October 1828 so they could make money selling the fresh corpses to medical schools.  The fresher the corpse, the more money you got for it.

Their method of killing their victims was eventually named ‘burking’ and the process generally consisted of getting the victim rip-roaring drunk so they were practically insensible before one man shoved a finger up each of the victim’s nostrils and clamped their jaw shut with his thumb and his accomplice sat on the victim’s chest to stop them breathing.  ‘Burking’ left minimal marks on the corpse (perhaps just a small bruise under the chin) so suspicions were not aroused.  The surgeon who purchased the bodies from Burke and Hare, Robert Knox, was so pleased to get his hands on a steady supply of fresh corpses that he probably didn’t look too closely at the cause of death.  The old 1960’s film, The Flesh and the Fiend, tells the story of Burke and Hare with much screaming and skullduggery – here’s a trailer to whet your appetite:

Of course, the law eventually caught up with Burke and Hare and they were finally arrested. Hare, however, betrayed Burke and testified against him to save his own neck.  Burke was hanged in January 1829 and dissected at Edinburgh Medical College.  Some students went to the effort of making a book bound with Burke’s skin and if you pop into the little police museum which, if memory serves me correctly, is on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh there is also a small wallet made out of Burke’s skin.  Having had a close look at it, you can even see the pores in the skin…

William Burke, in his confession, said that Robert Knox had no knowledge of how the corpses had been acquired and Knox was not prosecuted.

Burke’s skeleton

Becky Wash, curator of the Essex Police Museum (do go along and have a nose around the museum if you’re in the area – it’s brilliant) sent me details of the following body snatching incident at St John’s Church, Little Leighs, Essex, which took place in December 1823.

St John’s Church, Little Leighs, Essex

Body snatching used to take place mostly in and around larger towns, but as people got wise to the Resurrection Men’s tactics and went to more strenuous efforts to secure their loved ones graves, the body snatchers had to travel further afield to get their hands on valuable corpses.  Little Leighs was one such place targeted by the body snatchers.

1823 saw an unusual amount of people shuffling off the mortal coil in Little Leighs (9 people in a year, which is quite a few considering the population was only 160).  Three of those nine people died in December 1823 and were buried in St John’s churchyard.

A body snatcher called Samuel Clark left his horse and cart tied up near the graveyard while he went about his nefarious deeds only to find that, when he was ready to make his escape, the toll collector, John Redwood, thinking the horse and cart had been abandoned, had moved it to a local landlord for safekeeping.  Clark was forced to dump the body he’d dug up and go off in search of his missing horse and cart.  He was eventually arrested for his crime.  Further investigation showed that two further graves were empty but it was not thought that Clark stole those corpses.  A link to the Essex Police Museum Newsletter which contains all the details about this particular body snatching debacle is attached below under the Sources section.

It does make you wonder – how many other graves are missing their occupants thanks to the Resurrection Men?  Hundreds?  Thousands…?


©Nicola Kirk and 2010



Essex Police Museum

Wikipedia – Body Snatching

Wikipedia – Burke & Hare


He’s a dandy highwayman!

Richard (Dick) Turpin (1705 – 7th April 1739) has strong connections to the area I live in.  Many people think of Dick Turpin and conjure up images of an absolute studmuffin on a huge horse rampaging through the countryside, mugging the rich and leaving hoards of swooning women in his wake.  Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the reality is very different to the legend.

Dick’s E-fit:

Don’t bother locking up your daughters after all

Dick Turpin was a cruel and ruthless fiend with a heavily pockmarked face (so give thy heaving bosoms a rest, ladies, he wasn’t much of a looker) who joined forces with the Essex Gang (also known as the Gregory Gang) in the early 1730s and thought nothing of torturing little old ladies to get their cash out of them.  The list of crimes he committed ran from highway robbery to horse stealing to murder.  There wasn’t much he hadn’t had a go at by the time he was dragged to the Tyburn in York for execution in April 1739.   As York lacked a permanent hangman, a pardoned highway man by the name of Thomas Hadfield took the role instead; there really is no honour amongst thieves.  An entry in The Gentleman’s Magazine dated 7th April 1739 said:

“Turpin behaved in an undaunted manner; as he mounted the ladder, feeling his right leg tremble, he spoke a few words to the topsman, then threw himself off, and expir’d in five minutes.”

Five minutes?!  That’s a long time to be dangling around, kicking your heels (quite literally).

Dick’s grave – Fishergate

Turpin’s corpse was buried in St George’s Church graveyard, Fishergate, but his ghost refuses to sleep quietly.  Turpin apparently had a whale of a time winding up the Most Haunted crew in December 2003 when he led them on a wild goose chase around Epping Forest until they had to be rescued by the forest ranger (shouldn’t laugh…).

Despite being hanged in York, Turpin seems happier lurking in and around Epping Forest and people have reported hearing disembodied hoof beats, believed to be Turpin’s horse, Black Bess, and complain of the strange sensation of being watched as they ride or walk through the area.  Of course, if they are being watched it might not be Turpin at all – many people have met their end within the forest over the centuries and it is also a popular place for murderers to dispose of bodies, so chances are there will be more than one pair of eyes watching your every move if you linger too long.

Keeping it local, Turpin’s ghost is also said to thunder down Traps Hill, Loughton (Essex), perhaps revisiting the scene of one of his infamous raids which took place on 1st February 1735.  He burst into the home of Widow Shelley’s house with the rest of the Gregory Gang and proceeded to torture £700 out of the old woman (apparently this is about £60,000 in today’s money, if Google serves me correctly).  Being a stout old bird, Widow Shelley apparently refused to give up the location of her valuables until Turpin threatened to lay her across the fire.  I guess that would be enough to make anyone change their mind.

Smokin’:  Widow Shelley gets a roasting

Turpin also seems to have had a grudge against the clergy and in a little hamlet called Stubbings (Berkshire) he peppered the window shutters of the vicarage with lead shot.  It would seem he wasn’t too pleased with the end results because his ghost still lingers in the area (perhaps in the hope he might get his hands on the vicar, too).


©Nicola Kirk and 2010


Wikipedia – Dick Turpin

Canadian Forum

Wikipedia – Most Haunted Live

Berkshire History

Absolute Astronomy

National Archives

The Haunting of Hill Hall – Epping, Essex

A few days ago I received an email from Ann of North Weald, Essex.  Considering I’ve lived in the area for my entire life, I have to confess to feeling a little ashamed at never having heard of Hill Hall, Epping.  Especially as it happens to have its very own ghost.

Hill Hall boasts some of the earliest classical decoration on any surviving building in Britain as well as a series of late 16th century wall paintings including scenes from the story of Cupid, Psyche and the mother in law from hell, Venus.

The origins of Hill Hall date back from before the Norman Conquest when the site was owned by a Saxon chap called Godric. I’m sure Godric would be delighted to see what they’ve done with the place over the centuries.  The first proper house was built on the site in the early 13th century and the mostly timber framed building was then rebuilt by Sir Thomas Smith during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The Smiths remained in residence at Hill Hall right up until 1923.

During World War II, Hill Hall was used as a maternity home before becoming a billet for RAF officers.  The stately pile was then abandoned in 1942.  After a while the building was converted into the most unlikeliest of things: a women’s prison which opened for business in 1952.  Things ticked on quietly at Hill Hall until one unfortunate day in 1969 when an inmate started a fire. This is where Ann’s story begins:

“When I was about seventeen, I was doing a project on Hill Hall.  The building has been converted into flats now but it was a women’s prison many years ago.  I was allowed special access to take photos and at the time the place was boarded up due to the fire that had taken place while it was a women’s prison, caused by one of the inmates setting light to herself in her room.   I had access to the grounds only as the building was unsafe to enter.  I was round the back of the house with my dad and I was looking at the back of the house when I saw a woman in a long white night dress.  I watched her for about a minute as she walked along the back of the house and then turned to my dad and asked him who he thought the woman was.  He hadn’t seen her.  When I looked again she was gone but there was nowhere for her to go.

I know it was a ghost I saw that day and I can see the image in my mind even now, as if it happened yesterday.  Hill Hall is reported to be haunted by the lady who set herself alight and caused the fire.”

English Heritage now look after Hill Hall and even though the building has been converted into some rather swanky private houses, the public are still able to view certain areas by prior arrangement.  If you’re lucky, perhaps the lady in white will join you on your tour.


©Nicola Kirk and 2010

Baker 4, Can You Return Home Immediately…

David Hobbs, who has recently been spotted lurking in the depths of south east Essex, first became interested in the paranormal about 45 years ago, but it was only 23 years ago (give or take a year) that he became actively involved in the subject.  Dave’s website, GHE Paranormal has been running now for 18 months and offers a range of services, from paranormal investigations to psychic readings and Holistic healing.  There is also a forum on there so you can have a chat with likeminded people.

The following is a story that Dave related to me a little while back and he has kindly given me permission to post it here:

“Saturday night was the busiest night of the week for us taxi drivers and our earnings depended on working flat out all night, so when I was called on the cab radio and told, “Baker 4, can you return home your wife is distressed,” I knew that something was very wrong.

I headed home as soon as I had dropped my fare off and was alarmed to see the house in total darkness.  As I opened the door and walked in I looked into the darkened sitting room to my left and saw my wife sitting on the floor by the front window.

“What’s happened?”  I asked.  Her voice was shaky as she replied that she had heard footsteps going up and down the stairs and that she could hear the light switch in the kitchen being flicked on and off.  This was just one in a long line of incidents that we had been experiencing in our new home and although I was a little annoyed at being called back on the busiest night of the week, I could tell that she was very frightened indeed and would not have called me back on a whim.  I sat down and said a bit lamely that there must be a logical explanation for what she was hearing.

A rattling sound made me look up at the ceiling and then another over by the hallway.

“It’s the central heating,” I said.  It was obvious to me that the sound was made by an air lock in the heating system.  “There it is again; it’s definitely the central heating.”

“What about the footsteps and the breathing?” she asked.  Ignoring her question I said: “Tell you what, I’ll go into the kitchen and turn off the heating and I bet it stops.”

“Do you really think that’s it?” she asked, sounding hopeful.

“Absolutely,” I replied, trying to sound positive but inside I was praying that I had found the answer.  I went into the kitchen and looked at the ageing boiler which stood in the corner of the room.  I turned off all of the switches and, as an afterthought, I walked back and pulled the plug out of the wall.  That should do it, I told myself.

Returning to the sitting room I made myself comfortable on the settee. No more sounds, no more knocking.  Five minutes had passed and I felt the room becoming chilly.

“There you are,” I declared, “it was the heating all along.  I’d better put it back on.  It’s getting a bit cold in here.”   I walked towards the door and stopped in the doorway.  “You see,” I told my wife reassuringly, “nothing’s wrong, it’s just the central heating.”   The truth was that I was relieved because I had been hearing what sounded like footsteps and light switches being flicked on and off ever since we had moved into the house six months before, and now I had found the explanation.

I stopped dead in my tracks as I entered the kitchen.  The boiler was off but the plug that I had removed and placed so carefully on the floor was back in its wall socket.  At times like that you begin to doubt your sanity and I even told myself that perhaps I had not removed the plug after all.

But I had.

I did not tell my wife what had happened but resolved that my next move was going to be in the direction of the Spiritualist Church.  I would do it as soon as I could and get this matter looked into by people who deal with hauntings.  I was becoming desperate.  This was just a small incident out of the many that we experienced in that house but it stood me in good stead later in life when I myself was called out to sort out other peoples paranormal problems.  I knew exactly how they felt.”


©Nicola Kirk and 2010

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