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Monday, 26 November 2012

The Haunted Highway

Two friends of mine recently told me of their encounter on the road with what they could only describe as a "ghost". It happened on a clear frosty night in February 2003, when the couple were driving along the A1086 road to the village of Grasby to collect their daughter from her grandparents house. As they approached a turning leading to the village of Ownby a figure with its head bowed and "wearing a kind of tweed-patterned overcoat with the hood up "Stepped from the verge straight out in front of them. There was a screech of brakes and they could only watch helplessly as an imminent collision between car and hapless jay-walker was inevitable. The impact never came however, because the figure simply vanished into thin air. They stopped the car and got out to look but the road was empty and deserted. The couple have since found out that years earlier the body of a murder victim was found close to the spot where the apparition appeared.

My Friends` unnerving encounter has prompted me to recount the following purportedly true stories of paranormal happenings on some of Lincolnshire`s highways and byways. Starting with a haunting that took place in the 1950`s on the A16. near the hamlet of Walmsgate. Motorists travelling this stretch of road reported seeing a green glowing mist come out of an old sandstone pit, which then drifted across the road and disappeared onto fields on the other side. The place became known as "Green man Pit" because the mist, according to some was said to take the shape of a man. One night a driver travelling towards Walmsgate stopped his car when he saw a glowing green figure emerge from a copse and onto the road in front of him. The figure dashed towards the car and the terrified driver could only watch in disbelief as the apparition ran straight passed him and disappeared into the night. It is interesting to note that a Neolithic long barrow, the biggest in the county and said to be the grave of a dragon slain by a local knight in the 12th century, is situated just north of the road here. Such ancient sites have long been associated with paranormal activity. A more recent encounter with a phantom of the road occurred in June 2006, when two holiday makers from Leicester reported seeing an old man wearing "A Jacket, trousers and a cloth cap that looked to be from the turn of the century" riding an equally old fashioned looking bicycle along the middle of the Louth bypass. It happened in the afternoon between London Road and the A157 roundabout. They said the man was only a short distance in front of them but when they drove closer both cycle and cyclist vanished into thin air.

Sightings of the ubiquitous phantom coach and horses have become increasingly rarer since the advent of the motor car, but they are still occasionally reported. For example a lady driving along the A169 between Louth and Grimsby related her experience of this phenomenon to Jared Williams in the "Lincolnshire Life" of April 1985. She said: "I was driving down to Grimsby just as day was breaking. As I approached the village of Waithe I was surprised to see a horse-drawn cab ahead of me and going in the same direction. As it had no lights I thought I `d better over take and tell the driver. I did so. But when I looked in the driving mirror the road was empty. And there was no turning this cab could have taken."

Much has been written over the years about the ghostly Green Lady that haunts Thorpe Hall, a Tudor mansion situated near Louth. The ghost is said to be the shade of a beautiful Spanish noble woman who was taken prisoner after the battle of Cadiz in 1595 , by Sir John Bolle, the then owner of Thorpe Hall. It is said that during her captivity the lady fell in love with Sir John, and according to one dubious legend she killed herself when her love for him was unrequited. The fact she never visited Thorpe Hall (nor England) during her life time, has not stopped reports of her ghost dressed in green (giving rise to her being called the Green Lady) haunting the hall and its environs down through the centuries. The Reverend HJF Arnold, a former vicar of Wainfleet, had a most strange encounter with green lady ghost, because he claimed to have seen her on a road many miles from her usual haunting ground of Thorpe Hall. It happened on a rainy December evening in 1935, as the Revd was driving to Aisthorpe, near Lincoln. Suddenly in the glare of his headlamps he saw a woman step into the road in front of him: "Alarmed lest I should run into her I applied my brakes and stopped. I took my eyes off her for a second while getting into neatral gear and in that second she had disappeared. Revd Arnold was later convinced the woman he saw "dressed in green silk, a tight bodice and flowing skirt, with bare head, arms and neck, was none other than the Green Lady of Thorpe Hall. He based this assumption on a rather tenuous connection that a mansion belonging to a relative of Sir John Bolle had once stood at nearby Scampton.

Not all spectres of the road take human form. At "Double Tunnels" between Fulstow and North Thoresby it was said that " something used to role across the road and frighten horses". Nobody liked to drive there at night and many accidents occurred where the thing was seen.

More traditional road hauntings include the sounds of a ghostly horse and cart in Ings Lane Utterby, and in the same village a ghostly woman in a cloak has been seen running across the road in Pear Tree Lane. There are also a variety of headless ghosts including a headless bride who walks the lanes of Scremby at midnight, and the phantom coach of Ostlers Lane Maidenwell, with a driver who keeps his own severed head on a seat besides him. However, none of the above have been seen to my knowledge within living memory and I suspect they are folklore rather than actual phenomenon. Unless, of course you know different!

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