Tales from the Storyteller: Happy Halloween!

Kitty Jay's grave

Kitty Jay's grave - Credit: David Phillips

Welcome to the spookiest time of the year and my favourite season!

It’s actually the law that I write an article about ghosts and witches, so here goes, as I take you on a mini tour of one of Dartmoor’s scariest corners...

Last week, I introduced you to the tragic tale of Kitty Jay and her lonesome grave.

I suggested that, apart from the floral displays which, allegedly, appear miraculously overnight, the spot is haunted by its fair share of ghosts, which have been experienced on at least three separate occasions, that I’m aware of.

You won’t find these stories in any book like the rest of the Legend, these were shared personally with myself and my group, TIP. 

Over the years, our Monday night meetings have been visited by many who wish to share their own personal weird stories, several of them concerning Jay’s Grave.

One such visitor was a psychic artist, who went on to become a good friend to the group.

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She told us about the time she was asked to be part of a TV programme, where she and a local medium were taken to the cottage down the lane from the grave, at Swallerton Gate, near to Hound Tor, to see if they could pick up any connection to Kitty Jay.

During the course of the filming, our new friend produced two drawings, one was of an old woman, a bit hag-like in appearance, the other was of a priest wearing an old-fashioned dog collar complete with hanging tags.

Now, unbeknownst to the group, two of our newest members had gotten together to spend time at Hound Tor as it was one of their favourite places to go to meditate.

One of them had never been to the grave, so to put that right they had paid a visit and while there they both received a psychic vision of a young girl being held in place, by her wrist, by an old hag.

Trying to rescue the girl, they both meditated, sending her into the light, and felt they had been successful, only to have another blinding vision, as they drove home, of Kitty Jay still tethered to her grave!

They both couldn’t wait to come to the next meeting to share their experience.

Now, imagine their reaction when our psychic artist friend produced her two drawings at the same meeting, and the girls recognised the old woman as the hag they had both seen in their visions... they freaked out!

The best piece of evidence I have received, regarding this particular haunting at the grave, came via a message on the BBC’s Video Nation website message board that was attached to my own personal contribution.

It was from a girl who had been invited to stake out the site from the safety of her friend’s car. They had parked up on the bank overlooking the grave with headlights focused on it.

While they watched, two figures approached and knelt down by the headstone, as if in prayer.

Once done, they stood up and began walking back down the lane, the way they had come, in the direction of the cottage.

The two friends decided to drive after them, shining the headlights on the pair the whole time. The lights didn’t seem to bother them, instead the couple just faded away to nothing in front of the girls!

She went on to describe the figures as an old woman and a priest with an old-fashioned dog collar. Needless to say, they, too, had freaked out!

As we move away from the grave across Cripdon Down, heading east along the path that forms the crossroads, you will see a rocky ridge rising above Hayne Down in front of us.

Bowerman's Nose

Bowerman's Nose - Credit: David Phillips

Pan left and you will see a solitary pillar of rock standing out from the rest, this is known as Bowerman’s Nose. Upon closer inspection, the rock formation certainly has some distinguishing features, so much so that it has been adopted by Dartmoor National Park to appear on many of its advertising logos over the years. 

Now, the Bowerman, or bowman, was a hunter who frequently exercised his horse and hounds across this part of the moor.

On one occasion he happened across a coven of witches, with their cauldrons, busy casting spells and brewing up potions.

Instead of doing the gentlemanly thing and steering his horse around them, he spurred it and his hounds onwards, scattering witches and cauldrons aside as he galloped through their circle, with a smug grin on his face as he did so.

He had no time for the local sisterhood. As you can imagine, the witches weren’t best pleased with this kind of treatment, and they vowed vengeance!

The next time they received word he was hunting in their area, one of their number transformed into a hare and put herself in his path, allowing him and his hounds to chase her.

She led him a merry dance, always keeping ahead of the pack and away from their snapping jaws.

What the Bowerman didn’t realise, was that he was being drawn back to the place where he had insulted the coven... and, as he rode his horse into the now empty clearing, the sisters stepped out from their hiding place among the rocks, casting a spell that turned him to stone on the spot - the very spot where he stands to this day!

It was the witches turn to smile now!

As for his hounds, they got as far as Hound Tor, before they too were turned to stone, for it is his pack that make up that particular formation, across the valley from Hayne Down.

Hound Tor

Hound Tor - Credit: David Phillips

So, when you next pass that way, spare a thought for what lies beneath those rocky outcrops,  and, when trick or treating, think twice before knocking on a door with a Do Not Disturb sign, there may be consequences for showing a lack of respect...

Happy Halloween!