Phileas French

Travel Writer

Phileas French

Phileas French

Travel Writer | Exploring every country in the world, one adventure at a time

Pluckley: Still Haunting for Britain


Pluckley Crypt

Given that our children love ghosts and cryptozoology and we live in a nation that seems to pride itself on frantic paranormal activity, every now and then I go and check such phenomena out for myself.

Pluckley has received a paranormal downgrade in recent years.

In 1989 it was granted the title of most haunted village in England by the Guinness Book of World Records, but when Telegraph journalist Francesca Hoyles checked in with them twenty years later, they claimed that the title had been “rested”; the category is no longer monitored and the record is not really recognised. Hoyles came away from her investigation feeling that the village was too cute for spooks, and expressed worry that ghosthunters were destroying the fragile village ecosystem.

This struck me as a pity, because many of its 12 reputed ghosts sound pretty cool, especially the highwayman, the screaming man and the Watercress Woman, the latter a gin-swilling gypsy who burnt to death. You’ve got to feel for these spirits. In most villages any one of them would get top billing, instead of having to vie for supremacy on Pluckley’s spectral greasy pole.

Reassured by journalistic claims that the village is more twee than terrifying, we set off to rural Kent, but had decided to do a recce before bringing the children along.

Well, maybe we scare easily but Pluckley seemed horrifyingly eerie from the get-go. Even the pub car park was unnerving, with its sign creaking in the wind, rather like The Slaughtered Lamb in that classic tale of supernatural, lethal English villages, An American Werewolf in London.

We ate lunch at the Black Horse Pub, which dates back to the fourteenth century and which serves really delicious traditional English cooking at competitive prices. I was pleased to be seated directly opposite the incredibly spooky fireplace, where the ghost of a little girl is meant to appear. The string of tiny skulls hanging from the fireplace lamp is presumably to ward her off.

Pluckley Skulls

The skulls didn’t prevent weird lights and shadows from bothering me over my latte though.

Pluckley Lights

Not content with having an ancient haunted fireplace and, apparently, a violent poltergeist, the pub found a secret room recently. It had such a disturbing atmosphere that a crack team of paranormal investigators ran out of it. Not encouraging, is it?

Make sure that you enjoy the pub cuisine, because wandering around the Church of St Nicholas is a significantly less convivial experience.

Now, why do all the tombstones have to look like their inhabitants have done their damndest to push them to one side?
Red Lady Dering is meant to haunt the churchyard, presumably around her family tomb in particular...I wasn’t a fan of the fencing around the grave, as it’s unclear whether it is there to keep people out or ghosts in...

Pluckley Graves

We’re taking the children next time, in the hope that they will show more backbone than their quivering parents.
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Sunday, 15 December 2019