Britain is not short of mysteries but some are just a little stranger than most. The home of Flicker Spirits and haunted castles the United Kingdom has many unexplained phenomena. Most people will experience something paranormal at least once or twice in their lifetime and the UK has plenty of surprises in store.
TOADS IN THE COAL
According to official and reputable sources there have been over 90 recorded unexplained cases of amphibians being found alive but fully encased in coal pockets or stone geodes. Of these cases, 40 involved frogs or toads.
The most well respected case is documented in the Reader’s Digest book – “Mysteries of the Unexplained”. There is a pattern to the various discoveries. In most cases the frog is discovered in a chamber full of mucous and is usually very pale or white in colour. After a few minutes exposed to air it comes-to-life and is usually quite active for a short while before turning grey and apparently developing respiratory difficulties. In most cases the animal dies within 24 to 72 hours but there are some references that when these creatures were quickly allowed into fresh pond water they seem to have survived indefinitely.
Logically, these accounts of entombed amphibians seem impossible but it is worth noting that certain frogs do seem to have some ability to enter a state of suspended animation. Also, the most credible accounts of these incidents suggest that the “rocks” may have formed within the past thousands of years rather than millions. Finally, frogs and toads do burrow into soft “muds” that can appear to fossilise quite quickly and, in the correct environment, appear to turn to stone particularly if they are exposed to high levels of mineralised water such as the Petrifying Well of Knaresborough, England.
WILTSHIRE CROP CIRCLES
Crop circles – also known as crop formations – are large and often geometric patterns created when crops such as barley, wheat, rye, maize, or rapeseed are flattened creating a distinct colour and light difference in relation to the unaffected vegetation. Historical records indicate that the phenomenon dates back to at least 1686 and possibly much earlier. It has been suggested that the occurrence of these shapes in early Neolithic grasslands may have inspired the construction of the many dozens of stone circles that can still be found in Britain today. During the 1970’s the number of crop circles appearing in fields in South West England increased dramatically and subsequently started to appear around the World.
The County of Wiltshire in England is considered to be the most active region and these formations appear with regularity each year.
Over the past decades the designs have become increasingly complex and still remain a mystery as to their origin. Clearly some of the formations are man-made but experts are quick to point out that it is fairly easy to identify these as their construction is often very basic and there is usually evidence of human activity ranging from footprints to vehicle tracks. However, a great many of the formations simply seem to appear as if from out of nowhere – often during the night but occasionally during broad daylight.
Crop circles in Wiltshire often appear at the centre of the county and within a 15 mile radius of the megalithic stone circles of Avebury. They tend to materialise from late April and continue to manifest throughout the summer months of June, July and August.
Mainstream science is generally of the opinion that crop formations are the work of human artists with a few formations being caused by whirlwinds. Researchers into the phenomenon disagree. They point out that while some are clearly created by humans the vast majority have a more complex and mysterious origin. They point out that over 6,000 crop formations have been recorded in Britain alone and yet less than a handful of people have ever admitted to creating them. Also, attempts to record the creation of formations using night vision and time lapse cameras have been largely unsuccessful. Finally, some crop formations have appeared during broad daylight and within a time frame simply too short for human action. The best example was a formation that appeared near Stonehenge in less than 30 minutes. The calculated time it would have taken a team of twenty people to create was six hours at the very least.
According to great scientists such as Albert Einstein, time is not as stable as most of us think. As humans we’re adjusted to time and our evolution has established tricks to allow our conscious minds to deal with it but in reality it’s a slippery concept. Time slips occur when a current time (now) interlaces with a previous time (then) and can be experienced by the person from the more recent time. However, the event is usually unnoticed by the people from the earlier time.
In fact this phenomenon is so common that we’ve even built it into the English language. We’ll explain. When a time slip occurs people in both realities are able to experience the alternative reality. Still, according to most accounts, this usually lasts for only a few seconds and the human brain does its best to filter out these anomalies.
This has given rise to expressions such as “I could have sworn that I’ve just seen” or “my eyes must be playing tricks on me” or even “you won’t believe what I just saw”.
Over the years people have claimed that they’ve seen old airplanes parked in fields that were once airports or roman soldiers marching down their road. In almost all cases the person experiencing the time slip blinks, looks again and is startled to find that whatever they saw has now vanished. However, photography has captured these anomalies from the time that the camera was first invented. In fact, the longer exposure times of early cameras have revealed more than the modern “instant” versions do but there are still oddities such as the image captured on Google Earth that clearly shows a World War Two bomber flying over Britain. Is this a time slip or just the folks at Google having a laugh? Perhaps it’s a reconstruction from an air show? Not all time slips are brief and there have been occasions when people have entered a room and been startled to find that they are in a completely different time.
One case was recorded by Mr Archie “Racer” Carmichael who was driving from Birmingham to London in 1953 when he stopped for a drink in a Cotswold village near Borton-on-the-Water. He parked his Austin-Healy 100/4 outside the local pub and entered for a drink. He was shocked when the he found the people inside the bar looked as if they were from an earlier century. His cautious attempts to communicate were ignored and after a few minutes the scene dissolved and Archie found himself being asked if he was alright by a worried looking barman. It seems that he thought he had seen ghosts but was probably experiencing a time slip.
WELL LIGHTS & SPIRITS
For thousands of years pools, natural springs and wells in Britain have been associated with sacred sites and legends of mythical creatures from friendly water nymphs to malevolent Kelpies, Crodh Mara and Water Wraiths. With the arrival of Christianity many of these sites became holy wells with reputed healing powers.
The most famous healing spring can be found in Glastonbury in England and is known as the Chalice Well. The most famous healing pool is St. Winefride’s Well in Flintshire, Wales. There are two distinct phenomena associated with sacred pools. The first is the sense of peace and tranquility that people often experience and secondly, many visitors claim to have seen a strange luminescence either in or hovering above the waters. It would be easy to dismiss these claims as nothing more than overactive imagination but recently a number of these strange lights have been recorded by digital cameras.
RAINS OF FROGS, FISH & ANGEL HAIR
The village of Acle in Norfolk experienced a downpour of frogs in such quantities that apparently the people of the village were “sorely inconvenienced”. First the frogs were swept into piles and then carried in pails to a local field for burning. It was said that all were dead when found. (Source: Michell & Rickard: Phenomena) It is worth noting that by far the most common animal sky fall is the humble frog.
Gilbert White records that on 21 September 1741 he went to the nearby fields just before dawn to discover that they were covered with a strange cobweb-like substance. Prodding it with a stick he found it to be “as like cobweb but more slippery in nature and although sticking easily to the rod dissolved quickly into nothingness after it had been touched.” He further describes how his dogs became so covered with this material that they had to scrape it from their eyes with their paws.
Later at about nine in the morning Gilbert records that the sky filled with clothes of the same material that was clearly heavier than the air and while he first believed them to be cobwebs soon realised that they were not strands but densely woven and five inches on a side and one to two inches on the other. This phenomenon continued for the better part of an hour and by Gilbert’s estimate covered an area of some 32 square miles and caused much comment. No spiders were found in the webs and no person complained of bites. Although Gilbert White doesn’t state exactly where he was at the time, the event took place in a triangle made up of the towns of Bradley, Selborne and Alresford, so clearly this event took place in Hampshire – England. The event is recorded in the 1829 book, ”Popular Biology”, by Rev. W. Bingley. It is clear that the event was attributed to the Gossamer Spider but had never before been seen on this scale. The fact is that while the Gossamer spider can create a field of webs to have them fall in such numbers from the sky is a near impossibility.
On Sunday 6th August 2000 the residents of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk discovered that it was raining … fish! Thousands of small ‘Sprats’ were dumped on the town by an unusually fierce storm. Scientists ‘believe’ that the storm of two-inch fish was just a recent example of a rare – but not unheard of – weather phenomenon.
Most people will experience Hyper Perception at least once or twice in their lifetime. This phenomenon usually occurs when a person visits a place they’ve never been before and yet experiences a very strong sense of familiarity. This should not be confused with déjà vu which is often fleeting and is really just a brief feeling of having seen or done something before. Hyper Perception is extended when the same person may perceive things about the place that they couldn’t possibly know. Unlike time slips or déjà vu, the feeling grows stronger the longer they stay and in some cases people have reported suddenly being aware of very clear memories of the place from other times often decades or even centuries in the past.
Tour guides in stately homes or other historic sites have become quite used to people coming up to them and saying things like “Wasn’t there a statue by that tree” or “Didn’t this floor used to be wood?”
In many cases the guides will admit that this used to be the case many years ago but they were moved or renovated. The guides then usually ask how the visitor knew this to which the answer is almost always: “I don’t know I just seem to remember it being that way”. In certain cases people who have experienced very strong hyper perceptions find the experience quite disturbing. The picture above is of the main hall in Warwick Castle in England.
Some years ago a member of the team visited the castle to take photographs and was so overwhelmed with a sense of having actually lived there before that he later spent months researching both the history of the Castle and his own family tree to see if there was any connection. He didn’t find one but still keeps looking. To test his own perceptions he visited the Castle again several years later and felt the identical sensation which he states he has never experienced anywhere else. Strangely, very little has been written about hyper perception as it is usually and unfairly bundled together with claims of clairvoyance, ESP and fortune telling.
STRANGE BIG CATS OF BRITAIN
For well over 200 years people in Britain have claimed to see large cat-like creatures roaming the wilder parts of Britain. The Beast of Bodmin Moor is just one example. Research suggests that there are around 2000 such sightings every year. In general the creatures look like large black cats roughly the size of a panther and very muscular. Sometimes the reports describe cougars, lynx or even leopards. The problem is that all big cats like these became extinct in Britain around 10,000BC. Wolves lasted longer but by around 1500AD even they too had been wiped out by hunting. The truth is that most wildlife experts believe that the’ British Big Cat’ phenomenon is just a case of mistaken identity and mass hysteria. They have a point. Very little if any real evidence has been found for the existence of such animals. Photographs taken of these beasts are generally of very poor quality and in some cases have turned out to be deliberate hoaxes.
In 2005 the skull of a Puma was found by a farmer in Devon and in May 2012 the Mirror Newspaper published very clear photographs of what appears to be the carcass of a young leopard found in Scotland. However, the debunkers claim that the Devon skull was probably that of a young animal that had recently been an exotic pet that escaped and died of starvation and the leopard cub carcass found in Scotland was just the body of an adult otter. Opinion is strongly divided but every year the sightings continue to flood in and every year the experts claim this unexplained phenomenon is just nonsense. But … as many of the very credible eye witnesses have said – “you may not believe and then you see one and then you do believe. It’s that simple.”
WILL O’ THE WISPS
The Will-o’-the-Wisp is a strange and inexplicable luminosity that often appears in or near wet or boggy ground. As such, they are also often known as Marsh Lights. According to British Folklore they are ‘Faerie fires’ lit by mischievous and sometimes malevolent spirit-creatures and will try to lead unwary travelers to their doom. In some cases, usually where there is only one light, it can actually be a friendly flame that will lead the traveler to a hidden treasure or a place where humans can meet with the Faerie folk. It’s this theme that is used in the 2012 animated film ‘Brave’ by Pixar. The irony is that the traveler never knows whether to trust the Will-o’-the-Wisp. In the English counties of Cornwall and Devon the phenomenon is known as ‘Pixy Lights’ and in this part of Britain they are also associated with strange – often rude – noises. Here they are said to guard ancient burial chambers and are sometimes also known as Barrow Wrights.
On the Channel Island of Guernsey the lights are known as the Faeu Boulanger (rolling fire). It’s said they are the life forces of lost souls that failed to move on to the next plane of existence. The actual cause of these lights is still unknown. The most popular theory is that they are methane-based marsh gas that has spontaneously ignited. However, many researchers dispute this theory and claim that the effect is generated by a form of ball lightning. Recent studies now suggest that it is actually a phenomenon similar to the well document St. Elmo’s Fire where static electricity caused by the motion of long grasses interacts with localised gasses to create luminescent plasma that looks like flickering blue flames but is actually not burning. The truth is that it’s still a mystery.
The words “Flimmern” and “Geist” are Germanic in origin and translate as Flicker-Spirits or Flicker-Guides. This unexplained phenomenon was first described by the alchemist Jakob Bohme in the 16th Century as the ability to see shadowy figures out of the corner of your eye. Generally, these beings flicker in-and-out of a person’s peripheral vision and appear to be humanoid, dark and agile.
The truth is that almost every person alive has at some time seen a fast moving shadow just at the edge of their vision and turned to look but seen nothing more. These observations are most often accompanied by shivers, chills and a sensation that something odd has happened. Scientists are quick to suggest that this phenomenon is just a “trick of the eye” but fail to explain both how and why.
It is possible that these unexplained apparitions are just the hallucinations of the brain as it tries to decipher the edge of visual perception but others believe that it is in this marginal zone that the eye and the mind is able to perceive another more paranormal dimension.
These Flickering Spirits are often described as being cloaked but those that have trained themselves to observe this phenomenon simply describe a blurred outline that can easily be mistaken for dark clothing. According to late 16th century culture and superstition, these Flimmern-Geists were largely associated with death. They may well have given rise to the popular image of the “Grim Reaper” the personification of Death – a dark hooded figure that flickered in-and-out of a person’s vision shortly before they died. There is a current school of occult thought that proposes that these “Flicker-Ghosts” are somehow the guides that lead a person’s soul to the afterlife. The reality is that nobody really knows why or how individuals see these things but there is no doubt that many millions do. In fact, so many humans see them that they treat them as just-one-of those-things that, you know, just happen.
COIN TREES / WISHING TREES
An old phenomenon has reappeared in Britain. Gnarled old trees embedded with coins have started appearing alongside many popular hiking trails from one side of the country to the other. The coins, which are usually copper, have been hammered into the bark of fallen trees by passersby. There is no mystery as to who is adding the coins or why. The tradition of making votive offerings at ‘Wishing trees’ can be traced back many hundreds of years by ancient peoples who believed that divine spirits lived in trees. The tradition actually survives in the decorations people place on their Christmas tree. The real mystery of this new phenomenon is why people have resurrected the concept using coins and why certain fallen trees have become the focus of this activity. Experiments have shown that simply selecting a fallen tree and starting the process by hammering in twenty or thirty copper coins doesn’t seem to encourage other passersby to do the same.
It seems as if certain places and certain shapes reach out to people as they pass by and almost compel them to add to the collection. Also, certain villages seem to be far more prone to the new activity. The eccentric coastal village of Portmeirion, in Wales, already has seven such ‘Coin Trees’. Other famous coin trees can be found near Ardmaddy House in Argyll, Scotland and alongside the Ingleton Waterfall Walk in North Yorkshire. No firm study has been conducted to determine how many of these trees exist but it’s believed that there are now well over fifty scattered across England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland.