RICHARD Holland, editor of Paranormal UK magazine and the website www.uncannyuk.com, is the region’s foremost authority on ghostly goings-on and has written numerous books on hauntings in North Wales.
On the eve of Halloween, the Leader revisits some of the tales from one of his earliest and most popular publications: Haunted Clwyd.
In the countryside outside Chirk there is a cave which is said to stretch all the way to Llanymynech, south of Oswestry. This cave has a sinister reputation. It is said that if anyone went within five paces of its entrance, they would find themselves drawn into it and would become lost inside its catacombs forever.
One Halloween, a fiddler by the name of Iolo ap Huw decided to prove the cavern’s extent by walking from the Llanymynech end to the Chirk opening, playing the fiddle as he went. He provided himself with an immense amount of bread and cheese and 7lbs of candles and, striking up a tune, entered the yawning entrance. He was never seen alive again.
However, years later, a shepherd passing near the cave’s mouth at twilight heard the strains of a violin coming from within. Then an appalling apparition revealed itself – Iolo ap Huw, playing the fiddle like the devil, his face white, his head lolling about on his shoulders, only the frenzied movement of his arms keeping him upright.
The shepherd stared with numb horror, then the apparition vanished back into the cave, “dragged inwards like smoke up a chimney.”
- HALKYN MOUNTAIN
It is indeed the place for a ghost and one has frequently been seen on the road connecting Pentre Halkyn and Milwr, a forlorn figure, head down, carrying a large bag under his arm.
The Flintshire edition of the Leader investigated the sightings in 1970 and found numerous witnesses. A Mr John Rees, of Pentre Halkyn, was quoted as saying: “I’ve seen wispy figures in the road dozens of times but one particular morning we saw something that really startled us. There was a man wearing a short coat and carrying a bag under his arm. It was a nasty morning so we stopped to pick him up. We had the fright of our lives when he disappeared.”
Legend has it that the ghost is that of a man whose job it was to deliver pay to miners employed in the area in the 19th century. He was supposedly murdered for the cash he carried and now haunts the scene of his violent death.
If a youngster in Rossett stayed outdoors too long after his bedtime it was once common to hear his mother scold: “Come inside at once – or Old Jeffrey will get you.”
Old Jeffrey was a criminal gibbeted on Rossett Green in the 17th century. He had attacked a labourer near Gresford and run away, leaving him for dead. But the man recovered and gave testimony. Jeffrey was captured and hanged at Ruthin. His body was stapled to the gibbet at Rossett and left to rot.
Its grim presence in the village seemed to put a stigma on the community and farmers would find that no-one would buy their produce at market. Eventually a group of men decided to take matters into their own hands. One night they assembled at the gibbet and, prizing apart the iron staples, took the body down and buried it on the green before breaking up the gibbett.
Wood from the device was used in an outbuilding of a local pub where Jeffrey’s ghost has been sighted on numerous occasions over the years.
A former vicar of Mold, the Rev J. J. Morgan had an unnerving experience on the hill now crowned by Theatre Clwyd which he recounted in his 1949 biography. In those days this was a sparsely populated and eerie spot on the Llwynegrin estate.
The reverend had been preaching in a chapel in Northop and was detained until rather late. Returning home, and passing Llwynegrin Hall, he noticed a man and woman sitting on a stile in the hedge by a house called Glasfryn – now a popular gastropub.
They were huddled together and the vicar saw the man putting his arms around the girl’s shoulders.
But then he realised that this was no lover’s embrace – for flashing in the moonlight he saw the blade of a dagger. The man plunged the knife through the girl’s hair and into her neck. She let out an unearthly scream and the Rev Morgan, believing himself the witness to a murder rushed over ... but, when he reached the stile he found it to be empty – the couple had vanished.
- Haunted Clwyd, by Richard Holland, is published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch and is available at www.carreg-gwalch.com.
See full story in the Leader