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  • Writer's pictureJohn Wick

The Charterhouse Ghosts and Cryptids

The English County of Somerset has a rich history with distinctive tales of myth and legend. Many mysterious and unexplained occurrences have took place in Somerset and one of which is known as the Charter House Guest.

Rolling their way through the verdant Somerset countryside, the Mendip Hills run all the way from the Eastern side of the county, across to the West. These imposing limestone features look down onto both the Somerset levels and the iconic Cheddar Gorge, exhibiting some of the highest geographic points in the region. But beneath their seemingly impenetrable exterior, lies a honeycomb of tunnels and caves that conversely provide the lowest depths recorded in Southern England. It is said that this labyrinthine network of passageways is home to numerous mystical and supernatural entities. Some believe the hills are the final resting place of King Arthur who lies concealed in an underground chamber, watched over by the faithful Merlin.

History of Charterhouse

One ancient story describes the case as being home to a pair of fearsome medieval giants, whilst others tell the legend of Roman soldiers who ventured beneath the surface, never to be seen again. Having crossed the English Channel and established a foothold in Britain, the men of Claudius' Legions expanded outwards, forging transport links and establishing settlements as they progressed. The remains of an ancient road constructed by Roman Engineers still traverses the Mendips, leading to the tiny hamlet of charterhouse.

There had been people living at charterhouse since the Bronze Age, but it was the occupying legionaries who first discovered the substantial deposits of lead and silver lying deep in the caves of the Mendip Hills. A small hill fort was built which afforded the Romans protection of their assets and the area is still visibly pockmarked and scarred by the work they carried out. After the vanquished Roman Legions retreated to Mainland Europe, mining continued throughout the centuries that followed, claiming the lives of many young people until the process was finally abandoned at the end of the second world war. All that remains now are a few residential premises and an educational center which provides outdoor pursuits for local school children.

The center also acts as an operating base for the local search and rescue team, who venture forth to assist hikers and climbers, who find themselves in distress. Many visitors to the center over the years have reported strange encounters, similar in nature to stories that are found in other parts of this mysterious region. On a cold and rainy February weekend in 1982, 15 pupils from a secondary school in nearby Bridgewater arrived at the charterhouse center in order to participate in a hiking expedition across the Mendips.

The youngsters divided themselves up into three teams of five and then set out on foot from the education facility at intervals, each group accompanied by an escorting teacher. The fourth teacher accompanying the trip, Richard Gardner, took the school's minibus on ahead to a pre-arranged point along the planned route and then waited to check on the welfare of the children as they passed by. The first two parties arrived in good order. But when the third group of hikers approached, it was apparent that one of the girls had managed to become separated from her classmates, for she was nowhere to be seen.

The teacher who had been acting as this group's escort headed back out into the driving rain in order to retrace their steps and hopefully encounter the missing pupil. In the meantime, the other four children sought warmth and shelter in the minibus. Richard took this opportunity to drive back up to the center and check if the girl had headed back there after realizing she was lost. However, when he parked up next to the building, she was still nowhere to be found. And so he decided to conduct a wider surge of the nearby picnic areas and rest stops.

One of these sites was a small collection of old mine workings, and open pit shafts called velvet bottom, which had been named after the tufty and uneven nature of the ground it was located upon. Other than an aging scout hut and a few dilapidated wooden picnic tables, there was little else to be found there, but Richard figured it was as likely a place to find the missing girl as any other. After parking up nearby, he gave three blasts on the horn and then wound down the driver's side window to listen for any reply. As he strained to hear anything above the incessant hammering of the rain on the roof of the bus, he could have sworn he heard what sounded like children's laughter coming from the direction of the nearby Scout Hut.

The Ghostly laughter

The old building itself was clearly locked and secured. But as he continued to listen, Richard could again hear the sounds of boys and girls happily playing together out in the rain fall. Thinking that his lost student may have encountered the local youths, Richard advised the school children to stay put and then set out towards the Scout hut.

As he slowly trudged through the sucking mud towards the isolated property, the happy sounds of play fighting and laughter seemed to increase in volume, apparently emanating from behind the building. Moments later when he eventually rounded the corner of the hut, the voice is abruptly ceased and to his utter surprise, there was no one there. The school teacher looked all around him in confusion, but there was nobody to be seen. Bewildered, he turned to head back up to the bus, when a piercing shriek of childlike hilarity made his heart skip a beat. The cry of laughter had come from somewhere behind him. But when Richard again looked around the picnic area, there was nothing.

There was a tall thicket of trees located about 50 meters from where he was standing and he now assumed that this was where the laughing was coming from. Filled with a growing sense of unease and foreboding, he turned on his heel and started to walk slowly and deliberately towards the darkness of the tree line. He peered intently through the pouring rain into the gloomy shadows that separated the thick tree trunks, but could detect no movement. He was less than halfway towards the thicket when the smothering stillness at the scene was again punctured by a ripple of childish cackling and jeering.

Richard didn't even have to look to know that the laughter had come from the direction of the Scout Hut, which was now behind him. Filled with frustration, he spun around and Jogged through the mud towards the structure, throwing himself around the corner, but again saw nothing. He became frustrated, convinced someone was enjoying themselves at his expense and decided he'd had enough. As he stalked aggressively back towards the minibus, loud and incessant laughter immediately erupted from the direction of the tree line and the Scout Hut.

He could hear boys and girls chortling to themselves, seemingly from all around the rest area. He turned sharply and once again, the noise ceased. Richard hurried back to the minibus jumping into the driver's seat and instinctively locked the door as it closed behind him. One look of the terrified faces of his four students answered any question over his sanity: they had heard it too. He quickly started the engine and drove straight back to the rendezvous point where he founded his colleague, sheltering from the rain under a nearby tree along with the missing girl.

The rest of the day's activities passed by without incident and when the hikers returned to the Charterhouse that evening, they found that the warden had come up to check on them. He was a kindly local man by the name of Terry Birch and he sat and chatted affably to them at length. After the children had settled into the dormitory for the night, Richard decided to ask Terry about the laughter he had earlier in the day, as he was still perturbed by what had taken place. When he asked the warden whether there were any young children living in the hamlet's nearby residence, a haunted look washed over the older man's face.

Terry explained that he had been Warden at the facility for a good many years now and that Richard was not the first person to have reported hearing the voices of phantom children up on the heights. But it was Terry's own personal unexplained encounter at the site rather than his own that would cause the young teacher to lose some sleep that evening. And as well as his General Worden duties at the center, one of Terry's additional tasks was to head up to the remote building ahead of each holiday season and to check that all the stored mountain Rescue equipment was clean and in working order in case of an emergency.

As a former Royal Marine Commando, Terry was more than comfortable with his own company and would stay on site overnight during these sessions rather than risk worrying his wife by trying to drive back down the treacherous roads through the darkness.

The Cryptid's visit

Roughly a year prior to Richard's own ghostly encounter, following a long afternoon of charging torch batteries and scrubbing waterproof clothing, Terry had finished watching the evening news, before making his way upstairs to the center's sick bay to get some sleep. Preferring the cot that was situated in the corner of the first floor treatment room to the cold and draughty dormitory, he'd checked that all the ground floor doors and windows were secure, before bedding down for the night. Terry was awoken some time later by the sounds of movement in the darkness outside.

As he laid still in the cot, he could clearly hear something making its way through the undergrowth of the rear of the building following the line of the perimeter. Believing the visitor to be an inquisitive badger or fox, he dismissed the sounds only to hear them again a few minutes later, this time much closer. Instead of the rustling of dead leaves and foliage, he could now hear the persistent clattering of claws on the center's wooden floorboards downstairs.

Whatever had been moving around outside had now somehow found its way inside the premises. At first, the ex-servicemen was confused and then a little annoyed. He had personally checked that all of the downstairs entry points were locked and secured before retiring for the evening. So how the creature had managed to gain entry was puzzling to him.

Still, he resolved that if it had found its way in, it could find its way back out again. He was far too tired and comfortable to get out of bed and spend another hour chasing an animal, trying to shoo it out of the building.

He furtively glanced across to the locked door at the sick bay and tried to get himself back off to sleep. But the sounds of movement did not stop and only continued to get louder. After a time, he began to hear a faint thudding sound, which gradually began to draw closer and closer. The nocturnal intruder was climbing slowly and deliberately of the center's staircase, before it came snuffling and scratching at the sick bay door. Recounting his story, Terry did not know why he chose to remain in bed. He was still hopeful that the curious animal would lose interest and leave the premises of its own accord. But unfortunately, that would not be the case.

As he laid there, he heard that wooden door creak in protest as it was nudged inwards from outside, but the lock held and it remained stubbornly closed. For a moment, there was silence and then came another sound, terrifying in its nature. Terry would relate to Richard how he was frozen in horror, not daring to look as he heard what he could only describe as the sound of stiff brush would make it from slowly against a polished surface. Something was sliding under the door. The space between the door and the floor boards could only have been half an inch wide and most, but whatever this creature was, it was managing to push itself through the tiny gap.

The dragging noise gradually stopped and then uncomfortable silence descended on the room. Terry laid in the cot, staring at the wall next to him, his back to the door. As he slowly and deliberately turned over to look at what was behind him, he caught sight of an indistinguishable black shape, barely visible in the darkness of the room. Suddenly the small bed was rocked by a violent impact and he felt claws and teeth connecting with his feet and legs. With an angry and desperate scream which he directed towards the unknown creature, Terry kicked out wildly, feeling his repeated blows connecting with the unknown shape that jerked and recoiled from each impact.

There was a high-pitched shriek, unlike anything he had ever heard before and then the sounds of frenzied scuttling and scrabbling as something ran across the room away from where he was lying. The door crashed on its hinges as the darkened shape hit it at full force, but it held. There was more scrabbling and sliding, before the sounds retreated back along the corridor and off down the stairs.

Terry shot out of bed and switched on the light. Inspecting the room, he found his night bag upended in the middle of the floor, his clothing strewn everywhere. There were fresh scratches and scuff marks along the side of the bed and then his desperate struggle to foil the creature's attempts to drag him away. Terry found he had inadvertently turned an electrical wire and some plaster out of the wall next to him. A cautious walk-through of the ground floor found nothing out of the ordinary, with all of the doors still firmly locked and bolted. Terry could find no possible way that the animal could have gained entry into the secure premises or indeed made its way back out again. And yet, the visible signs of his overnight battle with a mysterious interloper was still plain to see in the room he had tried to sleep in.


So just what exactly did both Terry and Richard encounter up on the windswept and isolated heights of rural Somerset? In the case of Richard, were these the mischievous and playful spirits of children who had died at the location whilst scraping precious metal deposits from the brickwork of industrial chimneys? And what was the unidentified creature that tried to drag Terry from his bed in the middle of the night? Was it a supernatural entity or was it simply an extremely vivid dream? And if it was the latter, how do we explain the damage to the bed? Could Terry have done this?

When viewed objectively, one has to question Terry's Behavior throughout the whole ordeal. His refusal to investigate the sound of a possible intruder sounds almost contrived, but who knows how one might react or behave in similar circumstances? Certainly not everyone would have stepped foot out of that bed. It is not difficult to imagine some undiscovered cryptid dwelling deep within the limestone tunnels and caverns that sometimes ventures out at night to explore or perhaps even hunt.

And with reports of ghostly Cavalry men, and Phantom hitchhikers warming themselves by the fireplace in local hostelries and the antics of the infamous Witch of Wookey Hole caves continuing to persist, it is not difficult to imagine some supernatural force hanging over the idyllic Countryside of Southwestern England. All we know is that we don't know and probably never will.


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