Saturday, 15 October 2011


PERHAPS ONE REASON so few ghost stories have emerged from Wales compared to the flood of stories and legends hailing from other parts of the country, is a definite suspicion in some rural communities of  'outsiders' who, by posing ‘alien’ questions, are seen to pose a threat to intimate, if not the guarded, lifestyles of some people.  Perhaps it follows that anyone pursuing enquiry’s of a supernatural nature  - enquires which in turn may be seen to intrude upon the privacy of both those living and dead, are often treated with disdain, if not with cold indifference or outright hostility.

Such at least, proved to be the case during a visit by the author to North Wales, though it should be said that patience and persistence revealed an unique haunting and one which had hitherto escaped written documentation.

For some years a ruined cottage near Deiniolen in the Snowdonia valley has been linked with stories of supernatural happenings and a wandering shadowy figure that emanates an aura of intense evil and despair.  Blackbird Cottage as it is known lies secluded near the bottom of a deep mountain slope, its stone walls intact, the broken roof still withstanding despite persistent falls of rain.

Its history is relatively unknown but it has somehow acquired a fearsome reputation, sufficient it would appear, to prevent most villagers visiting the area at night.  Although some have lent their testimonies to the existence of something "very sinister" lurking in the vicinity, most displayed a marked reluctance to recount details of any given experiences, making consecutive accounts hard to track down.

But despite the local  'veil of secrecy' that seemed to envelop the case, eventually research led to two young ghost hunters who actually claimed to have encountered a ghostly figure at the cottage first hand and (perhaps in refreshing contrast to others interviewed) did not mind relating their experience.

Paula Haywood and Jemima Mitchell with David Farrant

Paula Haywood of Tyn-y-Gerdd, Deiniolen and Jemima Mitchell of Bordorgan, Anglesea, both claimed to have seen the ghostly figure on two occasions after deciding to explore the ruins for evidence of its ghost.

Their first visit took place during the day and before long they both sensed an overbearing sense of melancholy inside the cottage and a distinct feeling of being watched from one of the back rooms. It was a mild day with a gentle breeze blowing from the mountains but inside the temperature seemed to have dropped to the extent it was 'like being inside a refrigerator'.  They decided to leave but glancing back they both saw a  'shadowy figure' coming towards them from out of the back room.  The ghost hovered motionlessly before suddenly disappearing into a bare stone wall one side of the corridor.

Shaken but undeterred by the incident, Paula and Jemima returned about a week later, this time at night and accompanied by a male companion.  There was a bright moon and as they approached the cottage, all three clearly saw a dark figure standing beside a stone wall outside.  They walked away rapidly as the figure appeared decidedly menacing, but they were horrified to see the figure following them as if in pursuit. It stopped at intervals down the mountain slope and did not disappear from view until they reached the roadway.

Asked to describe the figure in more detail, Paula said it was about six feet tall in the shape of a man although it was not possible to make out any discernible features.  But it looked ‘solid’ despite being without positive features and it made no sound whatsoever.  She added that there was no question that the figure could have been a human being; for one thing they noticed that it cast no shadow despite the bright moonlight, and on the first occasion they had actually seen it disappear.

From a psychic point of view, there obviously arises the question as to what the nature of the entity was, and whether it was really 'intelligently malign' as described, or whether it was merely some earthbound phantom taken out of all context from a relatively innocuous appearance.

For it is sometimes the case, that relatively harmless phenomena are judged to be entities having some terrible intent, when in reality, they might only be reflections of some past event, shadows or unintelligent pictures that might be witnessed by the human senses.

This would otherwise help to establish if some  'intelligent' force or being lurked - indeed, still lurks - within the confines of the cottage or if this was merely just an unintelligent picture of some long forgotten past event capable of being witnessed spasmodically who happened to be in the vicinity at a given time.

Intrigued by these accounts of the ghostly figure, it was decided to conduct a nightly vigil at Blackbird Cottage to see if some contact could be made with the entity. Members of the British Psychic and Occult Society conducted this vigil in March 1985, and also present were Paula and Jemima, occult medium Colette Sully and the author.

From the onset, it was impossible not to be aware of the distinctively cold temperature inside the cottage  (which was well below that of outside) and an almost uncanny atmosphere of 'trapped isolation’ that seemed desperately alien to the world outside.  A small fire was lit in a derelict fireplace fuelled by gathered logs and everyone settled down to await developments.

For almost an hour everything was quiet, but then a distinct change came over the atmosphere and a  'heavy tension' descended on the room whilst simultaneously a fleeting figure was seen in the doorway, similar to a movement caught quickly from the corner of the eye before having been brought properly into focus; although this had occurred in most peoples' direct line of vision. Only seconds after this, the cottage was illumined by a bright white light passing overhead that cast eerie shadows through the broken timbers of the roof. Probably, most people present assumed that this was a distant helicopter or reflections from an overhead plane; although strangely, there was no sound accompanying this light.

Almost immediately following this, a loud  crashing noise’ came from above and large pieces of bricks and rubble fell down the chimney obliterating the log fire and causing the room to be filled with a dense collection of dislodged soot and smoke. There was also a strange 'breathing sound' that seemed to accompany this; although this could have been that wind howling down the presumably unblocked chimney.

Whatever the cause of this, nobody seemed inclined to investigate further: the prospect of no fire, freezing temperature and torches that made virtually no impact in the dense smoke, persuading everyone present that it would better to postpone the vigil.

In fact, as it turned out, there would have been no alternative to this decision, for just after leaving the cottage, a local police patrol car arrived and two policemen  - after having been enlightened for the reason for our presence  - warned us that, aside from the possibility of trespass - it was unsafe to enter derelict buildings on the mountainside at night.

Pressed about stories and sightings of the black figure, the police confirmed that the cottage was indeed reputedly haunted and, interestingly enough, the conversation led to local reports about mysterious lights in the sky. They said these were numerous, and added that they had seen one only some ten minutes before they approaching the cottage.  They would not be drawn further than this, although later enquiries to locals revealed that the two policemen had, not exaggerated the extent these mysterious lights had been officially reported.

 In fact, for some reason, local people seemed far more willing to discuss these lights  (which many referred to as UFO's) than they did to discuss cases of ghosts - probably because they were commonly known and this reduced the risk of potential ridicule.

From a personal point of view, however, the mysterious lights seen in the sky over Snowdonia  (in this particular instance, perhaps over the cottage), raised another potential to this investigation ...

Could it have been a feasible possibility, perhaps, that the light seen momentarily through the cottage 's broken roof, was in some way connected with the appearances of the ghostly figure?  And to speculate a step further, was the cottage itself perhaps situated upon an earth energy line (a ley line) along which such lights and other ghostly phenomena had been reported over other parts of the country?

Following the police intervention at Blackbird Cottage, however, there seemed little point in holding another nightly vigil there.  It was fairly obvious that the cottage would now be under police observation, not to mention the possibility of a hostile reaction from locals if word of any further nightly vigil came to light.

But the investigation into Blackbird Cottage had not been entirely without success. We had managed to catalogue what we considered two definite sightings. And, of course, the nightly vigil had also brought limited results - at least, in suggesting the possibility that 'non-worldly’ forces may have been connected with events at the ruin.

It had not been possible to establish the exact nature or cause of this phenomenon, but what remained of importance was, that we had reasonably established that some psychic force  - or 'forces' - were active in and around Blackbird Cottage.

-  By David Farrant - 
President of the British Psychic and Occult Society