Berry Pomeroy Castle

Storyteller: Planning a spooky autumn of paranormal events

David Phillips

As regular readers will know, alongside my Moors Tours business, I’m trying to connect with suitable locations to host further meetings of my ghost hunting group (TIP), with a view to putting on paranormal events.

So far, two venues have already come on board, they are the visitor centre in Princetown – the Duchy Hotel – and the Guildhall in Tavistock.

Both managers contacted me and, after a bit of brainstorming, we came up with a series of events that we can put together to make a most intriguing paranormal weekend.

Searching for dates after the summer holidays, I spotted a suitable anniversary in my diary, the day the church in Widecombe in the Moor got struck by lightning, causing death and injury among the congregation on that fateful Sunday – the event being commemorated on some wooden plaques, now hanging in the bell tower at the back of the church.

St Nicholas' Priory, Exeter
St Nicholas' Priory, Exeter

Folklore, however, suggests another explanation, that it was the work of the Devil himself!

Seven years previously he had made a pact with a local chap, Jan Reynolds, who had asked for seven years good luck as a gambler, in exchange for his soul and an eternity in Hell.

On the day the Devil came to collect his due, Jan was to be found playing cards with his mates in the pews at the back of the church.

In his haste to secure his prize, the Devil accidentally let loose death and destruction on the church and congregation.

Definitely one of my favourite Dartmoor tales!

It actually took place on October 21, 1631. This year, 2022, that date falls on a Friday, so what better date to choose to launch our spooky endeavours, than that particular weekend?

The event will be called The Devil Comes to Dartmoor, and will include talks by myself, about the Devil’s many connections to the moor; explaining about the Devil’s Door, the feature I’ve recently discovered in old churches; as well as sharing my own stories and experiences from my years of paranormal investigation in the local area.

At the end, there will be an opportunity for the audience to share their own experiences.

Abbey ruins in Tavistock
Abbey ruins in Tavistock

On the Friday, the talks will be followed by a ghost hunt around the Princetown Visitor Centre, while on the Saturday we will focus our attention on the Guildhall in Tavistock.

Both buildings have a fairly active haunted history, while the Duchy Hotel has never been investigated before, making this a unique opportunity.

During the day, on the Saturday and Sunday, I will be conducting my Moors Tours, using a minibus, to guide people around the route the Devil took while claiming Jan Reynolds’ soul, and pointing out some other areas of interest along the route.

Meanwhile, back in Tavistock, there is the possibility of a psychic fayre being held there during the day on Saturday.

There are a lot of things to get involved with over that weekend, grab tickets fast as numbers will be limited.

This will make a fabulous pre-Halloween event.

Prior to that, in September, I’ve been asked to give some talks as part of the Agatha Christie Festival, about the writer’s connection with the paranormal in her home county of Devon.

I’ve devised the talks to incorporate known hauntings, and legends of Dartmoor, that she would have been aware of, maybe even inspired by, and added my own personal twist to them.

One talk is on Monday, September 12, at St Nicholas’ Priory in Exeter, the other is on Wednesday, September 14, in the Undercroft at Torre Abbey in Torquay.

Both events start at 7pm, tickets cost £10 with £8 concessions.

Both venues have a reputation for being haunted, so this should add to the atmosphere, and help make for an interesting evening.

To tie in with the festival week, I’m planning a paranormal event at Churston Court, which features in one of Agatha Christie’s novels, The ABC Murders.

It will be over the weekend of Friday, September 16, to Sunday, September 18.

Bust of Agatha Christie
Bust of Agatha Christie

The Friday evening will start off with a welcome buffet, and introductory talks, by myself, about the hauntings at Churston, and my own personal experiences investigating with TIP.

This will be followed by a ghost hunt around the building, until the wee small hours, ending with a debrief of our findings.

On the Saturday, after breakfast, there will be a Moors Tour over Dartmoor, via minibus, guided by myself, stopping for lunch in a moorland pub or cafe.

In the evening we will head into Brixham for dinner, followed by a ghost walk around the town, where I will share my knowledge of its haunted buildings and my own involvement with them.

On the Sunday, we will take a trip to Berry Pomeroy Castle, where we will be joined by local author, and good friend of mine, Bob Mann, who will share with us the haunted history of one of the spookiest ruins in the country.

After a spot of lunch, we will continue into the historical town of Totnes, where Bob hosts a weekly ghost walk, every Tuesday evening throughout the summer months, and he will guide us on our very own tour around the haunted hotspots.

Finally, it will be time to return to Churston Court to say our farewells.

If you’ve never spent a night at this wonderfully atmospheric hotel, this would be the ideal opportunity to do so. Once again, don’t delay in making a booking, places will be limited.

So, as you can see, I’ve got some interesting projects in hand for later in the year. I’m definitely making the most of my contacts, and my knowledge, to boost my business.

If you share my interest in the spooky side of life, and all things Dartmoor, then why not join me for the ride? You won’t be disappointed!

Tales from the storyteller, written by David Phillips