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  • The Spectres of Souther Fell 7: Embellishments August 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    roman soldiers

    One of the funnest bits of any in depth historical examination of Forteana comes at the end. You turn from the original sources to the later sources, just to have a sense of how big the snowball has got rolling down the hill. Fortean researchers are exceptional at hunting out sources, but rather worse at critically sorting the chaff from the grain. Here are a few recent ‘elaborations’ of the Souter Fell phantoms. First, there is the absolutely bizarre idea that the Souter Fell spectres were Romans… There is a particularly curious passage from  Patrick Fancher, Diana, Princess of the Royal Forest of the Peak:

    Even though Souter Fell in Wiltshire [!!!] is some distance from York, perhaps the legend written about in the book, Haunted England, A Survey of English Ghost-Lore by Christina Hole could have been inspired by the Ninth Legion’s disappearance.

    Beach has Christina Hole’s Haunted England but honestly can’t be bothered to look to see where this misunderstanding came from. He headed the post though with a shot from Taffy Thomas’ Cumbrian Folk Tales and Taffy’s lively retelling. Are these Roman soldiers too…? There has been a mania in recent years with Roman soldiers in the Peak District (in the English Midlands). Are Roman ghosts now moving north towards ‘their’ wall.

    Another interesting meme is the notion of guards sitting out on 23 June to wait for ghosts.

    It wasn’t until eight years later in 1745 when people began to take the ghosts of Souter Fell a little more seriously, as on this occasion, they were witnessed by almost thirty people! By then it was decided that a watch should take place on the anniversary of the sightings, which was midsummer’s eve. Everyone attending was chosen specifically to observe the phenomenon and each had their own jobs to do in order to document the event should the phantom army make their appearance, which of course they did. All those attending observed open-mouthed and rooted to the spot as, for two hours, the spectral army marched across the fell top. Darren W. Ritson, Supernatural North

    Beach has been unable to track the origins of this idea, but he suspects that it might be quite old. He came across this reference, which is vaguely similar from 1880:

    About the middle of the last century the people residing in the Cumberland were in terror about a strange phenomenon in connection with Souter Fell. On Midsummer Eve in each year the side of the hill was peopled with a moving army of horsemen, and the ‘fact’ was patent to anybody who chose to look. For years the people assembled in awe and wonder and gazed upon the mystery, and it was only when it occurred to someone to pay a visit to the spot and examine the turf, &c that the belief in the reality of the apparition began to abate. Anon, ‘A Most Respectable Ghost’, Sheffield Daily Telegraph (17 Jan 1880), 10

    Note the author’s misunderstanding of examining the turf. The whole point was that nothing was found: he implies that something was found and that the phantoms were shown to be real men.

    Any other embellishments? drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com