Whether you believe in them or not, Pluckley has the reputation of being the most haunted village in England according to the Guinness Book of Records.
This record is what attracts people to the village at Halloween: all expecting to see something 'spooky.' If you are intending to do a little psychic research please note that the majority of sites are private residences and the owners do not welcome ghost hunters.
But let's be honest - no self-respecting ghost would be seen dead on October 31 amongst so many earthbound visitors all anticipating a performance in the Black Horse, churchyard, or along the roads.
In the past, coach loads of sightseers in fancy dress have descended on Pluckley on the last night of October: and the ensuing jollity has caused very little disruption to residents. But during the last decade, this mild form of partying has taken a more troublesome turn.Vandalism has made it necessary to actively discourage revellers, a large police presence keeps the evening orderly, and more parking restrictions than usual line the roadsides.
Despite this, there is always much media interest throughout the year and several television programmes have featured the village.
While books tell stories of twelve traditional ghosts around the village, in general, nowadays Pluckley residents to tend to play down all reports of ghosts and few residents, if any, will admit to having seen any of them. The stories gradually grew up over the last eighty or so years, and have become embellished and enhanced. Other stories of haunting have also been added. One might suggest that any unusual occurrence is nearly always put down to paranormal activity!
The Ghost Stories
England is renowned for having more ghosts per square mile than any other country, and Kent, in the south-easternmost part, has more than its fair share.
Pluckley, a village of about 1,000 people, is situated almost half way between Maidstone and Ashford (with its International Rail station for the channel tunnel and Europe) and is situated on the edge of the North Downs and the 'Andredsweald' - the ancient Saxon forest which spread along the whole of the South coast of England as far as the Isle of Wight and north to the Down, a high ridge of chalk hills spreading from Surrey towards Dover. The forest that remains is probably some of the oldest woodland in England. Certainly older than the Saxons, who merely named it.
In Kent, especially in the autumn, 'the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness', suddenly drivers run into almost dense walls of fog lurking along narrow country lanes, or catch the swirling fingers of a disappearing grey cloud. It is not surprising that some well known landscape features are mistakenly attributed to apparitions when approached in these conditions.
The earliest records of haunting seem to be in a book written in 1955, by Frederick Sanders titled Pluckley was my Playground. Mr Sanders mentions both the Highwayman and the Watercress woman as potential spirits; squashes the idea of the miller; and mentions the hanging schoolmaster - as a person not a ghost, and Radio 2 presenter and actor, Desmond Carrington, has admitted to 'concocting a whole string of them' for an article in TV Times in the 1950's.
Of the 12 'official' ghosts mentioned in such books as Peter Underwood's 'Ghosts of Kent' and Joan Foreman's 'The Haunted South' one of the more popular is the Coach and Horses, last seen in the mid 1990's. Four people claim to have seen the coach and horses in the past 30 or so years; one has also seen the monk.
Of the other 'official ghosts', no one claims to have seen them - at least recently. These others are: the Red Lady of St Nicholas churchyard; the White Lady of both St Nicholas and Surrenden Manor; the Colonel; the screaming man; the Tudor lady.
There are reports of a small dog haunting the churchyard; 2 cavaliers (one at the Blacksmith's and another near Rose Court); old ladies (one again at the Blacksmith's, the other at the Dering Arms); a tramp (wandering around the village); poltergeist activity at Surrenden, the Black Horse, and the Blacksmith's Arms during the time it was a tearoom; A local hotel has been investigated by the Centre for Psychic Research (although the proprietors are not keen to be interviewed) At least four other houses have reported unusual occurrences at various times.
There are several booklets written about Pluckleys ghosts. There are inconsistencies within all of them. Stories of this nature do inevitably vary depending on who is telling the tale.
Pluckley's most popular ghosts
1. The Coach & Horses - various locations
2. The Colonel - Park Wood
3. The Highwayman - Pinnock Crossroads
4. The Miller - Site of Old Mill
5. The Monk - Greystones
6. The Red Lady - St Nicholas Church
7. The Schoolmaster - Dicky Buss Lane
8. The Screaming Man - Brickworks
9. The Tudor Lady - Rose Court
10. The Watercress Woman - Pinnock Stream
11. The White Lady - St Nicholas Church and Surrenden Manor
12. The Black Horse - The Street
13. The Dering Arms - Station Road
14. The Blacksmith's Arms - Pluckley Thorne
15. The Screaming Woods - Dering Woods & Frith Wood
16. The Devil's Bush - Frith Corner