Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Readers' UFO sightings

This is where I’ll be posting readers' UFO sightings.

"The only sighting I had was 1 year ago it was night at 10 or 11pm, I was at the top floor of our new house when I saw 2 flashing red lights following a plane, at first I thought they were the plane lights, but then they started moving away from the plane then they moved to the right then left again and kept doing that for a while then suddenly disappeared, I’ve never seen an air craft that moves from right to left for almost a minute then disappear suddenly, I told my brother and my family but they didn’t believe me, I hope I see it again, next time I’ll use my camera like the tons of videos on You Tube uploaded every day."

 Mohammed from Cairo, Egypt

"Briefly, in 2007 I took a sequence of photographs (6 in total) - at the end of July from my lounge window in Lockerbie, Scotland, of UFO's and a Mother Star ship in the sky. It is too long to inform you about all of the facts of that night and the night after, just to say that I submitted my photographs to an American Scientist who deals in UFO's - (Extra terrestrial in nature) - and he has informed me that, in his opinion, my photographs look like a "unique floating city in the sky" and from which there is a large amount of data to be gleaned. Since then I have had other sightings."
Lisa from Northumberland, England

If you’ve had a UFO sighting you’d like to share please contact Richard Thomas at richard@richardthomas.eu.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Silvery-white over Swansea

I saw my first UFO in Swansea Bay, an inlet of the Bristol Channel, in January 2003. I was about 17 years old at the time and my father was driving me and my younger brother home from town along the Mumbles Road, Swansea. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the exact time of the sighting, but it was probably the early afternoon. It was definitely still very light outside.

While we were stopped at a red light, my eyes turned to the relatively cloudless sky and I saw what at first glance I took to be an aeroplane. I quickly realised, by the strange way the object was moving, that it could not have been. As well as being very curious, I remember getting a bit scared at this point because I really did not know what I was looking at.

The object was moving up and down diagonally from right to left over and over again in the sky. It was a shining white line or rod, almost silver in parts, and appeared to have small round lights spaced out equally in a horizontal line along the centre of its body. I got the impression that the lights were moving around the object.

After registering that what I was looking at was very odd, I pointed the strange moving object out to my father and younger brother. For some reason it took them both a little while to find the object in the sky. After watching and discussing this unusual object among ourselves for a couple of minuets, the traffic light turned green again and we began to move off. As we were moving away, I continued to watch the object for another minuet or so until, most strangely of all, the object suddenly disappeared in a silver flash.

A few weeks later, on February 1, 2003 (the same day as the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster), me and my younger brother had a second daylight sighting - very different to the first. This was of a yellow and orange fireball and was probably just a conventional meteor.

Whatever these two sightings were, they definitely had a very real and lasting effect on me and were chiefly responsible for my general interest in UFOs turning supernova. Back then I think I only had two or three books on UFOs but now I have a bookcase full, so these sightings definitely fuelled the flames of my interest in a big way.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Monk at Winchester Cathedral

The following guest article is by Rupert Matthews, author of the book Haunted Hampshire.


The Monk at Winchester Cathedral
By Rupert Matthews

Winchester Cathedral is surely the most popular building in the city. It is among both the largest and the oldest of Winchester’s many tourist attractions, it has been celebrated in music and has featured on postcards sent to almost every country on earth.

So popular is it, that visitors come back time and again to wonder at its beauty and majestic setting. Some come back more often than others. One has been coming back at intervals for the past 600 years. He simply cannot get enough of the Cathedral.

The phantom in question, for a ghost he undoubtedly is, is that of a monk. He seems to feel the attractions of the Cathedral more strongly at some times than at others. He was seen frequently in the post-war years and again in the 1970s, but at other times rarely puts in an appearance more than once a year.

If the frequency of his appearances are irregular, his habits - if you will pardon the pun - are not. He slowly materialises out of nothingness in the southern end of the Close, close to house No.11. Having become solid, the phantom moves across the Close towards the arch which forms a roadway to gardens near the South Transept.

But this ghost does not glide in the approved fashion of ghosts. He limps. And he limps quite badly. No footsteps are heard, but those who have seen the ghostly monk notice that he almost drags his right foot as he moves across the Close. Continuing has painful progress, the monk approaches the arch and then fades from sight. Some claim he passes through the arch, others that he shimmers and slips away into a misty form that fades from sight.

I came to the Cathedral on a bright spring day when there was still a hint of winter in the chill breeze. Office workers and shop staff were munching on sandwiches in the Cathedral Close and on the Green in front of the great West Front. There were some tourists too, but they were intent on getting into the Cathedral, or out again and on to the next tourist site.

Most of the sandwich scoffers knew little or nothing of the ghostly monk. Though one young woman ventured “Oh, yeah. Some chap took a photo of the ghost in the Cathedral. I’ve seen it in a book.” This, in fact, was a quite different ghost entirely - of a medieval workman, but that is another story.

Finally, I found someone who knew of the spectral cathedral monk. “My brother saw it  once,” declared a middle aged gent in a well-cut tweed jacket. “Nothing very frightening about it though. Just a monk walking to the cathedral. He didn’t even have his head under his arm.” But then very few ghosts do appear as the popular stories would have us imagine. When was this? “Oh some years ago now. The 1970s? Could be, could be.”

Quite how old the phantom might be is rather unclear. Winchester Cathedral is one of the oldest religious foundations in England. As the centre of the old Kingdom of Wessex, Winchester was the home of the kingdom’s most prestigious religious building since the conversion of Wessex in the 7th century. The foundations of the Saxon cathedral can be seen traced out on the green just north of the present building.
The mighty cathedral we see today was largely the work of the Normans, who tore down the old church and erected their own to mark in majestic stone the start of the new regime. The church was extended in the 13th century and in the 14th was remodelled in the then fashionable Perpendicular Gothic. Throughout all this time, the Cathedral was served by monks. Only after Henry VIII’s Dissolution in the 16th century did the monks leave the cathedral to the clergy. In theory the phantom monk might date back to any century from the 7th to the 16th.

But there is one clue. During one of the periods of alterations that take place around the cathedral from time to time a number of burials were unearthed in what is now a private garden, but was evidently then part of the cathedral precincts. The bodies were all male and date to about the 14th century. They were probably monks.

What does this have to do with our phantom? Well, one of the bodies had a grossly deformed arthritic right knee. It would have given him a very bad limp.

Having explored the Cathedral and its Close thoroughly, I felt it was time for some refreshment. Luckily the Old Market Inn was at hand. The ancient bar played host to a wide variety of local ales, and one of these was swiftly consumed. Meanwhile the menu carried some truly exotic dishes from the Mediterranean. Being something of a traditional chap, I resisted the temptations of linguini, penne or prosciutto and instead plumped for the Old Market Mixed Grill. And jolly good it was too!

Winchester Cathedral is easy to find. If arriving by car, park in one of the town centre car parks. If coming by public transport, alight at the central Winchester stops. Either way, you should then follow the tourist brown and white signs to the Cathedral. The Close lies south of the Cathedral and can be reached on foot from the green which lies in front of the great west front. The Old Market Inn stands just to the north of the same green.

Rupert Matthews is the author of the book “Haunted Hampshire” which is published by the History Press (ISBN 978-0752448626) and available on Amazon and from all good bookshops. You can find Rupert’s website at www.rupertmatthews.com. He also maintains a blog about the unexplained at www.ghosthunteratlarge.blogspot.com.

If you would like to contribute a guest article for the website please contact Richard Thomas at richard@richardthomas.eu.

The Ghosts of Battle - Alton

The following guest article is by Rupert Matthews, author of the book Haunted Hampshire.


The Ghosts of Battle - Alton
By Rupert Matthews

The Hampshire town of Alton has spent most of its centuries-long history slumbering in gentle tranquillity. But on one violent and bloody day in 1643 it leapt to national fame. The fame may have gone, but the marks of the violence remain - both physical and spectral.

During the 1640s, England was torn apart by the Civil War that would see King Charles I sent to the scaffold and end in victory for the Parliamentarian roundheads of Oliver Cromwell. But in December 1643 the war had only just begun. The King had raised an army from the Midlands and the West Country, while Parliament hold London and East Anglia.

The townsfolk of Alton were fiercely Royalist, so they viewed the arrival of a Parliamentarian army in Farnham with unease. Help was at hand, however, for a regiment of infantry and a squadron of cavalry, led by Lord Crawford, rode into town to hold it for the King. Crawford bivouacked his troops in the hopfields that then surrounded the town and converted the Church of St Lawrence into his command post. Firing platforms were built inside each window, allowing musketeers to fire through the glass. He then sent scouts out towards Farnham to keep an eye on the Roundheads.

The Parliamentarian commander, however, was the notoriously wily Sir William Waller. He allowed Crawfords scouts to see his men encamped around Farnham and foraging around Bentley. Then he marched his main body of men northwest, swinging north of Alton to attack the town down what is now the A339.

Crawford was taken by surprise and hurriedly gave the order to retreat towards Winchester. He left in the town a rearguard of about 100 infantry under Colonel John Boles with orders to delay Waller’s 3,000 men as long as possible before running for it or surrendering.

Boles skirmished through the streets of the town before making his final stand in the Church. For several hours his crack musketeers held off the Roundheads, shooting down any that dared to cross the churchyard. But eventually the ammunition ran out and the Roundheads were able to batter down the church doors and burst in.

The enraged Waller gave little quarter and only a few Royalists were taken alive. Colonel Boles was not among them. He took his stand in the pulpit with pistols and sword. It is said he killed 6 Roundheads before he was cut down. But he and his men had not died in vain. The main Royalist force had slipped away from the trap to regroup in Winchester.

The marks of this fight are still seen in the Church. The South Door has a loophole cut in it from which Royalist musketeers fired at the enemy, and it is pitted by bullet holes. Elsewhere the stonework, especially around the windows, is pockmarked by bullets, some of which remain embedded deep in the stones. When the roof was repaired in the 19th century dozens of bullets were retrieved for the old timbers, some of which are on show in a glass case in the church.

But I was more interested in the less obvious relics of the grim battle. The ghosts of Boles and his men are said to return to fight their last battle time and again in the Churchyard and in the Church itself. Several people have reported hearing shouts and cursing as well as the slash of metal on metal and the unmistakable “phut-bang” of ancient muskets being fired. Some have even reported the smell of burnt gunpowder. The noises of battle begin outside, then move inside and end at the pulpit, still standing, where Colonel Boles died so valiantly. Nothing, however, is ever seen.

I came to Alton on a calm spring summer’s day after an hour of sunshine had dried up the water left by a torrential downpour. Nobody much was about, perhaps fearing another heavy shower. He heard no gunfire, nor smelt gunpowder. The Church of St Lawrence stood peaceful and serene within its great churchyard.

This is, perhaps, how it should be. The Church dates back to about 1070, having been built in the exciting new Norman style within a few years of the Norman Conquest. This original church remains, though it has been extended to north, west and east over the years. It has not, however changed much since the day of battle. The West Door has been bricked up, but otherwise it stands pretty much as it was when repairs after the battle were completed in 1646.

Whether you are hunting ghosts, looking for a historic church or just after somewhere for a quiet moment of peace, the Church of St Lawrence in Alton is well worth a visit. I recommend it.

The Church of St Lawrence is one of the most imposing buildings in Alton. The town lies just off the A31 and is well-served by carparks. The train service on the London-Portsmouth line is frequent and the train station close to the centre of the town. From the High Street take the side street which runs beside the Crown Hotel. The Church lies off the left of this road, as it bends to the right, after about 200 yards.

Rupert Matthews is the author of the book “Haunted Hampshire” which is published by the History Press (ISBN 978-0752448626) and available on Amazon and from all good bookshops. You can find Rupert’s website at www.rupertmatthews.com. He also maintains a blog about the unexplained at www.ghosthunteratlarge.blogspot.com.

If you would like to contribute a guest article for the website please contact Richard Thomas at richard@richardthomas.eu.