Basingstoke in Hampshire and its surrounding locations don’t have a typical history of the mysterious as some places around the UK might have that puts it in the national psyche as a town known for its paranormal activity and hauntings.
Basingstoke in Hampshire and its surrounding locations don’t have a typical history of the mysterious as some places around the UK might have that puts it in the national psyche as a town known for its paranormal activity and hauntings, but it does still happen to house stories and mutterings of ghosts that have survived even the modern concrete and glass buildings of this 1960s London overflow.
Its urban streets by night are an orange glow of florescent streetlights that protrude out from the concrete maze of roads and ally ways, which low hum is only broken by the sound of a distant cat fight, or fox knocking over a rubbish bin while scavenging for scraps .
One might not be surprised to see a transparent figure gliding around an old grand university town, or spot of land that once saw an ancient battle or major disaster, but Basingstoke is not know for its colourful past, or memorable historic events that some towns and cities might be famous for, but still it has a history and energy that is unique in its self, that causes the unexplained to show its self to the often unsuspecting members of its townsfolk.
One of the only things Basingstoke has been famously noted for in recent times, is its many roundabouts, which has caused it to be nicknamed “Doughnut City”. It also has more CCTV cameras in its town centre than in any other town in the UK, More so than New York believe it or not, so one would imagine the odd spectre or two might have been caught on video at some point in its more recent past.
Old Basing, is one place in the vicinity of Basingstoke with more of a past than anywhere else around the town, as it’s the location of the ruins of the historic Basing House, which was the last stronghold of the Catholic Cavaliers in the English Civil War. Oliver Cromwells spirit, a Catholic Cavalier and political leader, is said to walk in and around the location of Basing House and can even be seen walking every night from Lychpit to Plovers’ Dell. This haunting can even be traced as far away as Crondall where a skirmish took place, in which a Puritan was killed, and to this day he has been seen galloping on a ghostly horse up the driveway of the house, to then disappear into the church.
The Basing house grounds are also famous with local people for the apparent haunts of hooded monks, that seem to aimlessly wander around the now ruins.
The nearby village of Hook has also been home to the sightings of ghostly Cavaliers connecting to the violent history of Basing house. He is said to be dressed in a long cape, and a broad rimmed hat, he is also said to have long wavy hair. He is thought to be a messenger slaughtered in combat by the Roundheads, when delivering a message to the Royalists Garrisons, he is often seen wondering around what is now known as Hook Common.
Beneath the now office blocks of the Houndsmill Industrial Estate, lies the remains of an old road to Kingsclere, probably around the location of Rooksdown House, the body of a Monk lies. Nothing has been seen since the offices were erected, but before they were built stories became known of a ghostly man standing at the point of the Aldermaston junction on the Kingsclere road. A late Mr George Willis told a story of how a friend of his apparently “of sound mind and not imaginative at all” was returning home from the cinema in the late 1960s, when he saw the figure of a man in a monks abbot, the monk was apparently lighting a cigarette, but with no flame or light to be seen, and was described as having dark black eyes. The man seeing this was supposedly attracted to the figure, and could not resist moving towards the monk type apparition, even though his normal reaction would have been to run away in terror, when the man got close enough he was said to then become possessed by the spirit, and then had visions of himself running up the road to near by Park Prewett, which just so happens to be the home of a well known mental hospital, which might indicate that this particular experience was that of a paranoid schizophrenic, although Mr Willis was adamant right up until his death at 92 years of age that his friend was mentally stable.
Other Paranormal activities have been reported in the Old White Hart pub in Hook, a women land lord was said to be murdered in the pub by strangulation with chains, the women’s ghost or spirit can still be heard walking up and down the upstairs corridors, sometimes the sounds of chains can also be heard.
Another White Hart Pub in Basingstoke on the London Road has had many strange goings on. One such goings on is the sound of beer barrels being rolled out in the dead of night that wake the landlords up who happen to live and work there, but when it is investigated nothing can be seen out of the ordinary. Residence of the pub have also reported hearing footsteps following them, also sounds of people rustling through gravel have been heard in some of the bedrooms at night. Staff have also seen strange illuminated figures walking around outside at night.
The Haymarket Theatre is also said to be haunted by spirits that once performed there, although little information exists as to who haunts it, or to why they do.
A strange haunting is said to have happened in The Swallows private house (now demolished), on the outskirts of town in the mid nineteenth century, of a baboon and even a large black cat, The owners complained of loud screams coming from the attic, no logical explanation could be found as to what was causing it, so they soon moved out, no one else would buy the house because of the strange disturbances, so they knocked the house down.
The Barge Inn like just about everything else in Basingstoke, had been knocked down due to “progress”, it was located in the old part of town, and was a wharfside building used to house workers and bargees of the nearby Basingstoke canal at Greywell near Odiham in the 17th century right up until the early 20th century. One story from its past is that of a 16 year old girl working there at the time as a chambermaid who was brutally raped and murdered there by one of the canals bargees. In 1959 the landlord Jack Hopkins was working in the pub, which was the then Goat and Barge pub late one evening, with no wind present whatsoever, when suddenly and violently the heavy pub door swung open, the curtains billowed out across the pub and the customers at the time said they felt as if something rushed across the pub floor, that knocked one costumer of his feet and kicked another in the knee. Other strange things have been reported in the pub, such as in 1965 Mrs Hopkins reported seeing, along with a punter, a faceless ghostly women walk across the front of the bar. Strange poltergeist activity has also been going on in the pub, tables and chairs are said to be moved around at night, and even the Hopkins baby son was found on the floor on a mount of piled up coats and jackets, when only moments before he had been tucked up in his cot behind the bar. A cat that had been missing for days turned up in a room days later that had been locked for months. Screaming or wailing has also been heard, but no one can quite make out what is being said. Not long before the building was due to be knocked down the Hopkins moved out because they could not deal with the constant barrage of paranormal activity. But just before they moved Mrs Hopkins placed Crucifixes on all the mirrors, and one of her grandmothers rosaries in the room the young girl had been murdered in, and the disturbances immediately ceased. However the couple and their son decided to move anyway.
Pagan rituals and witchcraft are said to sometimes take place within the grounds of Odiham castle, better known as St johns Castle because of the nature and countryside that surrounds the structure, and because of the nearby Basingstoke Canal. Ghostly figures are said to wander the castle, paying no attention to observers. Strange lights have also been seen in and around the grounds, although it has been suggested these could be natural phenomena such as Will o' the wisp or swamp gas.
Barry Stevens (Faeden)
UK Paranormal Tavern