Pluckley: The world’s most haunted village, according to the Guinness Book

No matter where you are in the world, there’s probably a haunted house, hotel, or old historical site that’s waiting for you to visit. Some of these places are shrouded in mystery, with legends passed down for centuries. And ghost hunters everywhere are always trying to catch a glimpse of a ghost wandering a haunted hallway, hear mysterious voices in an empty room, or even feel a chill as their investigating a dark corridor. Then how would it be to investigate a living village which had its streets and almost all the houses were haunted?? Yes, such a place does really exist even in this 21st-century world!

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Pluckley, a traditional English village, just outside of Ashford, is said to be the most haunted place in England. References to Pluckley of Kent county can be found in the Domesday Book, at which time it was a more significant thriving-settlement than the now considerably larger town of Ashford.

This quiet historic-place boasts a phantom headmaster, a dying highwayman, a dead Watercress Woman, an old church with a number of haunting phenomena, a coach and horse that dashes through the village, and the Screaming Woods, in which it is said blood-curdling shrieks and wails are commonly heard.

Most of these haunted spots are connected to the Dering family, Lords of the manor from the 15th century until World War I. During the Civil War, Lord Dering escaped capture by Cromwell’s forces when he dived head-first through such a window. When he later came to rebuild his manor house he commemorated the feat by having every window built in the same style, and this, in turn, was copied throughout the village.

Sadly, the house itself burnt down in 1951, but many houses on the streets still feature this reminder of his great escape.

In 1989, the Guinness World Records named Pluckley as the most haunted village in the country, with 12 apparitions. This pretty, picturesque village earns its ghoulish moniker for its high ghosts to residents ratio, being a settlement of just 1,069 people. That’s one ghost for every 89 people. However, you can discover more spooky stories about 12 to 16 apparitional residents there, depending on who you believe.

The haunting legends that are often recited by the people about the village are, respectively:

A ghostly re-enactment of the battle between an unknown Highwayman and lawmen has been seen at Fright (Frith) Corner. The highwayman was killed and pinned to an oak tree with a sword.

The phantom schoolmaster whose body was found hanging by some children in Dicky Buss’s Lane. His lifeless body can be occasionally seen hanging there.

A watercress lady is said to haunt Pinnock Bridge, where she accidentally set herself on fire. Her misty figure has been seen sitting on the bridge. Legend has it that she burned to death having fallen asleep whilst smoking her pipe.

At Rose Court, a Tudor Lady, believed to be the mistress to a member of the renowned Dering family who took her own life after eating poisonous berries is apparently heard calling her for her dogs between 4pm and 5pm.

Named after the lady, Dering Woods is situated just outside Pluckley and is also said to be haunted. Nicknamed the Screaming Woods, the screams are said to be those of the men and women who came to their end after becoming lost among the trees.

A Little Chart Church that has its fair share of hauntings. St Mary The Virgin and Holy Rood, as it was originally called, was built by the Normans in the 11th century next to ”the screaming woods.” Many visitors described a beautiful yet eerie feel to the church, however on August 16, 1944, it took on a whole new existence with the name of St Nicholas’ church. However, it is said that the sounds of knocking can still be heard in the church at night, sometimes a flickering light can also be seen. It has been said that the light belongs to Lady Dering, who was buried in three lead coffins to try and prevent her decay. A red lady is said to search the graveyard for her stillborn baby, while a white lady has been seen within the church.

Even the Black Horse pub is said to have more spirits than those in the optics, with an invisible hand which moves items on the bar and sometimes hides purses and tidies mess, and disembodied screams. The poltergeist responsible is believed to be a woman called Jessie Brooks who has also been seen wandering, looking for a child she had lost.

The Greystones house which was previously named Rectory Cottage is said to host a phantom monk, although no sightings have been reported by residents since the name was changed.

Phantom sounds and visions of horse-drawn coach are said to haunt the Maltman’s Hill area with two apparitions in recent times.

The Dering Arms, once a popular hunting lodge is now home to the ghost of an old lady who is said to be seen sitting in the bar in Victorian dress, so clear that punters are said to have mistaken her for a real customer!

Ghost of Former Mill site. The dark, ghostly figure of Miller Richard ‘Dicky’ Buss has been seen at the site of his windmill, usually prior to a thunderstorm. The windmill was destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning in 1939.

The Blacksmiths Arms, where the three ghosts― a Tudor maid, a coachman and a Cavalier are said to be residing there. It was previously called The Spectres Arms and The Ghosts Arms.

At Elvey Farm, a phantom walker is said to frequent the farmhouse, now a hotel. There have also been reports of a haunting smell, that of burning yarn or wool.

Residents, however, are far less concerned with the ghost per capita ratio and more irked by the number of ghost-hunters who skulk around the village at Halloween in search of the supernatural and scaring themselves witless. They even declared that Halloween in the village would be cancelled and asked for help from police to chase off the scores of fiend-friendly tourists. So before you consider a trip, be warned: if the ghosts don’t get you, the locals might.

However, you could casually go and visit this hauntingly beautiful place to feel the excellency of a traditional site. The village, approximately 8 km from the nearest junction of the M20 motorway, is served by Pluckley railway station, about 2 km to the south. It lies on the Greensand Way long-distance walking route and is close to the Stour Valley Walk.

Few years ago in 2008, a courageous young reporter at The Telegraph, named Francesca Hoyles set out to assess this reputedly haunted village, daring to spend a full, spooky day and night there. Yes, she really did it. However, she found the village “far too pretty to be spooked” and saw neither hide nor hair of the paranormal. Remaining alive and well after her investigation in the Garden of England, she said: “Pluckley is the epitome of a traditional English village: pretty cottages, a small post-office, a butchers’ and a pub (also haunted, apparently) cluster around the main street. There is a timelessness about the place that must have made it appeal as the location for The Darling Buds of May which was set in the 1950s.”

When she contacted the Guinness Book of World Records to check that Pluckley remained the most haunted village in England, she was told that the category had been “rested” – meaning the record is no longer monitored.