Situated in the sleepy district of Ashford, Kent, Pluckley is a small, rural village in South-East England; home to a little over 1000 residents.
Surrounded by cheery apple orchards, roving fields and full of historic, ivy strewn buildings this charming little village presents a postcard-pretty image of traditional British life. So much so that it was even used as the film location for the 90’s classic The Darling Buds of May!
But this idyllic, tranquil exterior proves that looks can be very deceiving. Because in addition to being one of Britain’s prettiest villages, it is also its most haunted. Literally. Pluckley is officially listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as ‘Britain’s Most Haunted Village’. Which, given how haunted the UK is as a whole, is quite an achievement.
Pluckley is allegedly home to at least 12 ghosts; and that just includes the officially recorded ones! Many locals believe the real number is even higher, but regardless of the actual number of spooks residing in Pluckley, it will always remain the UK’s most unbelievably haunted location.
So just what bone-chilling spectres can you expect to encounter on the cobbled streets of Britain’s ‘Real’ Haunted Village? Allow me to introduce you…
The list is expansive, but one of Pluckley’s most famous ghostly residents has doubtlessly got to be that of highway man Robert Du Bois. He can be found at the appropriately named Fright Corner Crossroads, where legends say he died in a duel; having been gruesomely impaled on an opponent’s sword and pinned to a hollow oak tree. The very same tree where he was known to lie in wait of unsuspecting riders to rob at gunpoint.
Centuries on, local folklore states that on dark nights Robert’s agonized screams can still be heard emanating from the crossroads. Some villagers have even claimed to glimpse Robert hiding in his old oak tree; awaiting unsuspecting travelers even now.
And Robert isn’t alone in his vigil of Fright Corner. He is also joined by the spirit of a pipe-smoking gypsy woman, whose misty form has been seen sitting on the Crossroads Bridge.
A well-known figure locally during life, the woman was said to have made her living by selling the watercress she collected from the river banks. Never seen without her beloved pipe, she was apparently killed when she set fire to her bedding after she fell asleep still smoking. But this painful end has apparently not altered her smoking habits, nor has it prevented her from continuing to sell her wares by the roadside.
Gypsies and highway men aside, the most dramatic spook to frequent the quiet roads of Pluckley has got to be the apparition of a phantom coach. Driven – ghoulishly enough – by a headless horseman! This startling apparition has been both seen and heard by villagers on a number of occasions, and at different locations throughout the village. The most recent occasion being when a visitor to the village was suddenly assailed by the deafening thunder of hooves on cobbles – the noise apparently reverberating through the very car itself!
And it isn’t just Pluckley’s roads and bridges that are haunted. Many local buildings also proudly boast phantom occupants of their own.
While there is some fairly strong competition going on, one of Pluckley’s most haunted buildings is the former Blacksmith’s Arms pub. Or the ‘The Spectre’s Arms’ as it is locally known. Dating right back to the 1300’s, this ancient pub is said to be haunted by the spirits of a little boy, a tudor-era maid, a cavalier – who is heard pacing the upper floors – and a coachman, who is usually spotted sitting by the fire.
Not to be outdone, the local parish St Nicholas Church is also said to be haunted by two different female ghosts. The first – and most tragic – is an apparition known as ‘The Red Lady’. Believed to be the late Lady Derring, the Red Lady is said to wander the church grounds searching for the grave of her stillborn son, after they both perished during childbirth. The White Lady on the other hand has no such tragic back story, but does have the interesting claim to fame of having been buried in seven coffins and an oak sarcophagus! While the Red Lady wanders the churchyard outside, the White Lady is said to haunt the interior of the church itself.
A small white dog has also been seen running around the grounds of St Nicholas, and unexplained knocks being heard from inside the church building is another common report.
But it’s not just public spaces in Pluckley that are said to be haunted. At least one private home is too. Rose Court Cottage is reported by its owners to be home to a spirit nicknamed ‘the tudor woman’, who committed suicide by drinking a concoction made from poisoned berries. While little is known about her, she is believed to have done so after becoming involved in a love triangle with a local monk. Her apparition has been seen strolling through the cottage gardens with her two dogs in tow between the hours of 4 and 5 am – the same time she’s believed to have taken her own life.
But putting the rest of Pluckley’s dozens of paranormal hotspots aside, there is one location that stands in a league of its own in terms of true nightmare value; Dering Wood. Or, as it’s more commonly known; Pluckley’s ‘Screaming Woods’.
Widely recognised as one of the most haunted forests in the world, the Screaming Woods is thus named after the horrifying screams that can be heard coming from the woods in the dead of the night. The source of this petrifying phenomena is unclear, but some people have theorized that this is the result of all the unfortunate souls who have lost their lives after becoming lost in the woods.
In addition to the unidentified screams, other phenomena reported by those brave enough to venture in to the forest include unexplained footsteps when no other visitors are about, as well as sightings of mysterious, ghostly figures. These apparitions include that of a colonel whose phantom corpse has been seen hanging from a tree, or occasionally strolling through the forest in full military regalia.
Over the last few decades numerous paranormal groups have held investigations in these infamous woods, including the likes of Most Haunted and even SYFY’s Ghost Hunters International! Many photos taken in the forest have captured unexplained orbs and mists, certainly adding to the creepy, unsettling atmosphere ascribed to the area.
But however scary the legends surrounding it, visitors to Dering Wood remain undeterred, and it remains a popular destination for ramblers and even campers!
Visitors just better take care not to become lost in the woods, for fear of becoming the next to join those unfortunate lost souls crying out in the dead of night. After all, no one wants to become the next ghost cursed to forever roam the streets of Britain’s Most Haunted Village….
So after hearing its history, what do you think? Would you be brave enough to camp in Pluckley’s Screaming Woods? Do let me know in the comments!
Pin for later
If you enjoyed this post you may also like: