Guide to the Most Haunted Places on the Island
Ghostly goings-on were the stuff of local legend until the mid 1970s when Gay Baldwin started writing her series of Ghost Island books (then called Ghosts of the Isle of Wight) and people began to have a much more (un)healthy interest in all things beyond the pale.
Everyone knew the old stories that had been passed down by oral tradition, but nobody laid claim to having seen a ghost in print until Gay started to prompt them. But once the gates were open, stories began to flood in and these were some of the ‘Most Haunted’ locations that came out of her interviews.
The Hare and Hounds & Arreton Manor
The Hare and Hounds and nearby Arreton Manor had long been quoted in tales of the unexpected. The ghost of Michael Morey who had killed his nephew, burnt down the house around the body to cover his tracks and gone to ground in a cave in Burnt House Lane (named after the deed) was rumoured to have been spied on the downs road where his body hung from the gibbet for months after his execution.
Over a few bevvies in the back bar of the pub the stories of his headless torso startling unsuspecting motorists would be told to scare those who were intending to drive home, often encouraging them to take a different route. But Gay Baldwin managed to find quite a few who had seen him on his nocturnal wanderings or had had the disconcerting experience of having their engine and their lights cut out for no apparent reason whilst driving past the gibbet site along that downs road.
Down at the Arreton Manor car park canoodling couples had seen some strange apparitions when the lights were dimmed. Some thought it was just friends playing tricks in the dark, but those concerned vowed never to trespass there again after dark. In the house there were reports of a little girl in blue crying for her mother – apparently a young girl was thrown from an upstairs window by her brother after coming upon him as he murdered their father.
Off of the Downs road further east are the gateposts of the former Knighton Gorges – an enormous stately home dogged by a curse of phenomenal proportions that followed its inhabitants down through the ages. It’s said that this started when Sir Hugh de Morville(d.1202) fled to the house that stood there after being one of the four knights who murdered Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canturbury on December 29, 1170.
Death and dishonour dogged the owners and tenants of the house down through the ages until the last owner George Maurice, deliberately destroyed the manor in 1821. This deed was done out of spite because his daughter was marrying a clergyman, against his wishes, and he therefore prevented her from ever owning the manor.
A ball is said to have been held at the house every New Year’s Eve and it is on this night that ghost hunters gather to maybe hear music echoing across the fields and in the hope of seeing the statues of the dogs that were once on the gateposts reappear. Nothing remains of the house but more than one person has claimed to have seen it, lit up with a thousand candles. Be aware that the land is privately owned and there is no access to the general public if you’re thinking of joining in the ghost vigil at the turn of the year.
Just to the south of Newport and now converted into luxury apartments, the former asylum Whitecroft Hospital is another huge haunted site. Many of the former inmates are thought to inhabit its walls, screaming in mental or physical pain.
In the former nurses' block behind the hospital, doors open and close on their own. Workers on site sometimes feel a ghostly hand tap them on the shoulder; they also complain that tools vanish, or are moved by unseen hands. One of the worst places for this is the base of the clock tower. Some of the men refuse to work there; others just treat it as a laugh.
A misty white figure moves across an old car park near the laundry. This ghost, believed to be a former doctor, stops to peer into one of the empty rooms before vanishing. The figure of a young man in his twenties has also been seen running nearby by several people. Another doctor or senior member of staff has been seen in one of the patient blocks. This smartly-dressed spirit in a dark suit and cravat, and an unkempt mop of hair, moves quickly through the first floor wards, followed by an assistant who hurries behind.
Ventnor Botanic Gardens
When it came to the time to demolish the Royal National Hospital for Chest Diseases, that stood where the car park for Ventnor Botanic Gardens now sits, there were loads of reported sightings from the demolition men. In 1969 as they were attempting to destroy the former operating theatre a young man was seen in the room and the workmen downed tools and ran.
The hospital treated the killer disease tuberculosis and thousands of patients died there – a tunnel leads out through the cliff from the Botanic Gardens. It was said to be for getting rid of medical waste and in 1980 I smelled the distinct scent of ether at the garden end, when nobody had used the tunnel for over ten years. A sickly, consumptive-looking ghost, and phantom nurses in old fashioned uniforms walking the gardens and ghostly weeping and groaning have been seen and heard by others.
Golden Hill Fort
Golden Hill Fort, just outside Freshwater and high on a hill, is a former barracks that is now a top end apartment complex. But ghosts have been seen, heard and smelled in the days before it was developed and, who knows, they may live there still. In the eighties the fort was used for large rave style parties and there were lots of weird things going on amongst the walls – some of them of a spiritual nature it seems.
There is said to be a phantom of a treacherous sailor who was hanged after trying to sell secrets to the enemy and the ghost of a WWI Sergeant Major who was so hated by his men that he ‘accidentally’ fell down one of the fort’s spiral staircases, breaking his neck. Locked doors have opened of their own accord, long-gone pipe smoke is smelt and strong cold spots are felt among the 2 metre thick walls. Apparently you are never completely alone at Golden Hill Fort!
There are many more haunted houses and locations across the Island, but these are just a few that have come up over and over again when people share their spooky stories. If you wish to visit any of these sites it is a good idea to read up on the stories first or to go with a group of like-minded seekers, and if it’s private land, don’t trespass without permission.
1 October 2017