Monday, 28 January 2019

The Hanging of Derek Bentley.

On the 28th January 1953 (very much in living history), Derek Bentley who was 19 was hanged for the murder of a policeman which was committed during an attempted robbery. The case sparked a huge public controversy and many people questioned the sentence and it's circumstances.

Bentley was proven to have many health and developmental issues and had been tested for such previous to and during the trial. He had epilepsy and a low I.Q, being described as "quite illiterate" with a reading age of just 4 1/2 years old. This obviously led to concerns about culpability and whether he was capable of recalling events accurately when questioned, especially under pressure.

At the time the murder was attributed to Bentley's friend and partner in crime Christopher Craig who was then aged 16, however this was later called into question and Bentley was convicted as a party to murder in no small part to a comment he is supposed to have made of "let him have it". Judge Chief Justice Goddard described Bentley as "mentally aiding the murder of Police Constable Sidney Miles" and sentenced him to death by hanging which was apparently the only suitable sentence.

Following many years of controversy and appeals by the family (his parents until their deaths then by his sister until hers) and many people caught up in the case Bentley was given a posthumous Royal pardon in 1993, his conviction was eventually quashed in 1998.

Thursday, 24 January 2019


Many plants have legends and folklore associated with them throughout the world, established and native ones especially. The pretty, wild plant periwinkle is no exception and the mythology linked with it – both good and bad - is very interesting. 

In folklore, periwinkle, the evergreen trailing plant which has delicate, five-petaled flowers in shades of white and purple-blue, is thought to have powers associated with ghosts, spirits, witches and the dead. It was traditionally grown on graves and used in garlands for the recently deceased but more often than not periwinkle would grow naturally in graveyards thus empowering the belief that it was intrinsically linked with death. In many countries it was used as a funeral plant specifically for children, often woven into wreaths to be placed on top of their coffins, as it was thought this would help them on their way to the afterlife. Mostly seen as a protective plant or having a guardian duty for the dead it was not to be feared but respected, however in Welsh folklore it is said that if a periwinkle flower is picked from a grave the person will be haunted for one year by the dead spirit 

People often used periwinkle for its protective properties and there was a lot of superstition surrounding its use. If harvesting periwinkle for magical use there were some strict rules to follow, the person should be free of all illness, and it could only be picked on certain nights of the month depending on the moon’s phase, only then could it be used properly. Periwinkle was commonly hung in wreaths or bunches on the front doors of houses and other important buildings to protect them and their occupants from evil and to ward off vermin and pests, travellers would also carry periwinkle with them for protection from wild beasts and bad fortune. 

There were some very positive qualities connected to periwinkle too, in Germany for example it was regarded as the plant of immortality and was grown in abundance, it is also said to increase passion if scattered underneath the bed of lovers! 

These days periwinkle has been classed as a bit of a pest as it grows very quickly and in most climatic conditions, indeed in the USA it is illegal to plant it in some states because it is so rampant, but it has a long and fascinating history and deserves to be admired for its important heritage. 

Monday, 21 January 2019

Blue are you feeling?!

Hi all, well it is officially the saddest, most depressing day of the year in the northern hemisphere apparently. I hope you are all coping and not getting too down - I am actually quite chipper today, but then I have always been a bit odd and I don't tend to conform...

It has been calculated (by an actual mathematical formula no less) that typically the third Monday of January is the most depressing of days. A combination of post Christmas blues, self-hatred of failing in New Year's resolutions (a great reason not to make any in my opinion), bills arriving through the letterbox and the generally dark, dull, damp, cold weather. I do agree that January seems never-ending, it's only the 21st today and it feels like the month has gone on for ages.

The thing is, if this is the drabbest of days, things surely can only get better...the days increase in length and although we are bound to get colder weather yet, spring is on the way - snowdrops are peeping through and there is light at the end of the tunnel. So I try to look forward, take my vitamin d supplements and think of this all being over.

Far too cheerful...back to researching dark things!

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

2019 already!

Hi folks, hope you had a fantastic festive period whatever you did and however you celebrated, I can't believe its 2019 already...I remember celebrating the millennium and it really doesn't seem that long ago!

There are many things planned for this year, mostly research for a book I am compiling as well as the usual keeping up to date with the stranger goings-on in the world...far too much time spent browsing on Twitter and not enough posting...can't see that changing to be honest.

Anyway, just checking in, first post of the year and all that. Incidentally today would have been Professor Stephen Hawking's 77th birthday, he was born 300 years to the day since Galileo died (plus he died on Einstein's birthday...spooky) men of science all linked in time, fascinating stuff.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Ludlow Castle and the ghost of Marion de la Bruyere.

Ludlow Castle is a stunning and imposing ruin that sits high on a perfect vantage point overlooking the River Teme. It is thought to have been founded by Walter de Lacy after the Norman Conquest and is one of the most impressive Medieval castles in England as well as being one of the first stone castles built here.

It is a very popular tourist destination being open for most of the year, it plays host to several events in the town including Ludlow's famous food festivals and it's Medieval Fayre each November. However for those of us with an interest in the darker side of things, Ludlow Castle also has it's fair share of haunting stories, the most famous being that of Marion de la Bruyere - a favourite tale to school children in the area who were all taught included as it is my home town.

She dates right back to the 12th century when she was resident in the castle, at the time there were some soldiers imprisoned there from the enemy's side, one of these was Arnold de Lys with whom she fell in love. Following his exit from the castle they continued their affair in secret as he was on the side of the enemy, she would lower a rope from the battlements for him to climb and their visits continued. However one night he purposefully left the rope hanging down so it was available to his comrades who entered the castle and murdered many of it's inhabitants.

Marion was so distraught by his betrayal she grabbed his sword and killed him with it, then overcome by grief and guilt she threw herself from the top of Pendover Tower and fell to her death.

There have been since - right up to the present day - reports of her ghost at dusk. Some say it is seen reenacting her fall to death, screams have been heard and others recount that they have seen the ghost wandering at the base of the tower, whichever way, she still seems to be present in the ruins after all this time.

Ludlow Castle at dusk.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Haunting of Hill House

Wow...we finished watching it a couple of days ago and my goodness it was good. A gripping, believable horror that completely enchanted us. I'm not a fan of the blood and guts type horror films, I don't want to see people suspended on hooks or having their fingernails pulled out, I like to exercise my mind, and this programme certainly did that! Each episode left me wanting more...hence the almost binge-watching that followed.

Everything from the writing that transformed a classic novel into a modern day setting, together with the scene settings, atmosphere, sound and lighting made this an absolute winner...I may need to watch it again if only to spot all the ghosts I missed (which add to the almost subliminal 'did I just see that' feeling) first time round.

Watch it, I recommend it!

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Lammas / Lughnasadh

Beginning at sunset on July 31st and ending at sunset on August 2nd is the sabbat or festival of Lughnasadh, commonly known as Lammas, it is the first harvest festival in the pagan calendar, the other two being at the autumn equinox (Mabon) in September and Samhain (Halloween) at the end of October.  

The first grain harvest is signalled by Lammas and much celebration is associated with it, it is told that the Sun god transfers his remaining light and warmth to the goddess Nass to ensure the continuing growth of crops; he will also protect the land and die defending it. Traditionally, soldiers and men who were working away from home would return just to help with the harvest and make sure all the grain was stored safe and dry before the autumn rains came so that the store would last until harvest the next year.  

There is a lot of tradition related to Lughnasadh, certain things are eaten, made and done for the festivities. Bread is very significant to the sabbat, to make bread on Lammas eve and stir it with family and friends whilst making a wish for the harvest you desire should ensure a good crop, to give some of the bread to the birds and then eat the rest of the loaf at breakfast on Lammas day will seal the ritual. Other foods that are important are nuts and fruit especially from local sources, homemade pies, elderberry wine and ale. Herbs associated with Lughnasadh are incorporated into decorations and meals, some of these are cornstalks, oak leaves, wheat, heather and acacia flowers.  

Decoration is an important and lovely way to personalise any festival and the most traditional decoration and symbol for Lammas are corn dollies or corn animals, in some rituals they are burnt as a sacrifice to the gods but most often they are placed on an altar or Lammas table display sometimes where the main meal will be eaten, or maybe on a mantelpiece. Together with candles in the colours of the land, golden yellows, oranges and greens, and dried grasses tied with ribbons, thanks are given to the gods and wishes for a continued spell of good weather for the harvest has more intensity. 

The Lughnasadh sabbat is said to be a perfect time for handfasting ceremonies, the ‘wedding’ of a couple in nature is very symbolic in pagan culture and there ceremonies are beautiful occasions. The marriage vows may be taken for a year and a day, a lifetime or for all of eternity. It is a joyous event with merriment and laughter way into the night! At the warmest time of year, with family and friends of the couple home for the harvest, together with the long summer evenings, the perfect handfasting scene is made. 

(This post is also on the blog at my site )