WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Chicken-Hearted

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Chicken-Hearted

In the midst of researching and writing, I came upon the town of Pluckley in Kent. It holds the distinction of being in the Guinness Book of World Records (circa 1989) as the most haunted village in Britain, with 12-14 verified/documented spookety happenings.

Well done!

Someone, at some point, in one of my stories, must reference this place, and one of its shivery tales.

Chicken-Hearted

Fearful, cowardly.

Pluckley is a village dating from the Roman era in the southeastern English county of Kent, and characterized by orchards, grazing sheep, and rolling woodlands. The village benefited from the railroad and a fairly busy crossroads…which also benefited those who would become ghosts.

The most famous story seems to be of the Gypsy or Watercress Woman. Her tale states she used to sell watercress collected from the stream running under the Pinnock Bridge. She tragically burned to death in an accident on that very bridge, and can now be seen on its edge, benignly puffing on a pipe.

Pinnock Bridge, Pluckley, Kent, courtesy Andy Jones.

The story of the Highwayman takes place at the aptly named Fright Corner. This unnamed criminal was dispatched via sword by other unnamed men; whether they were comrades, competitors, or lawmen is unknown. His ghost is purported to reenact his last moments, with some witnesses stating they’ve seen the doomed highwayman pinned to the tree and cut up by the sword, while others have stated he hides within the tree only to be stabbed repeatedly.

Fright Corner, Pluckley, Kent, courtesy Tracy Monger.

The sound of horse hooves on cobblestone streets despite said streets being paved? Check.
Ghostly apparition of a horse-drawn carriage? Check.
Eerie light glowing and spilling from the carriage windows? Check.

Haunted Carriage Road, Pluckley, Kent, courtesy The Line-Up.

Any good haunted village always has a sad ghost story, and Pluckley doesn’t disappoint. The Red Lady is said to search the cemetery next to St. Nicholas Church in a desperate quest for her stillborn child’s grave. Nothing more is known about the story dating from the early 12th century, other than the spectre’s name supposedly arose from the red rose placed on her child’s grave.

St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Pluckley, Kent.

Dering Woods, also known as Screaming Woods, lies between Pluckley and Smarden, and is known as the most haunted woods in Britain. Multiple reports of screams during the night have given rise to the name, but tales of footsteps and whispers have also been documented during the daylight hours. Perhaps the worst story is a both a mystery yet with very tangible evidence: on 1 November 1948, twenty people from the Maltman’s Hill area, just south of Pluckley, were found in a pile, deceased, in the woods. Eleven of the dead were children. There were no visible wounds and no cause of death was determined after autopsies. Reports of strange lights in the woods the previous night – Halloween – were reported, but no cause could be determined. The investigation was closed after a few weeks with a ruling of carbon monoxide poisoning despite no evidence indicating this.

Twenty Dead Bodies Found in the Woods, The Smarden Post, 2 November 1948, courtesy CreepyPasta.Fandom.

Here’s the only list of the heebidy-jeebidy happenings I could find for Pluckley:

  • The spectre of the highwayman hidden in a tree at Fright Corner.
  • A phantom coach and horses on cobblestone streets that no longer exist.
  • The ghost of a Gypsy woman who drowned in a stream at Pinnock Bridge.
  • The miller has been seen at Mill Hill.
  • The hanging body of a schoolmaster in Dicky Buss’s Lane.
  • A colonel who hanged himself in Park Wood.
  • A man smothered by a wall of clay who drowned at the brickworks.
  • The Lady of Rose Court, who is said to have poisoned herself in despair over a love triangle.
  • The White Lady, a young woman apparently buried inside 7 coffins and an oak sarcophagus who haunts St Nicholas’s Church [author’s note – wouldn’t you be inclined to haunt the place if this happened to you?]
  • The Red Lady, reputedly a member of the Dering family who haunts the churchyard of St Nicholas’s Church. A small white dog has also been reported in the same location.
  • The Dering Woods Massacre.

Dering Woods, also known as Screaming Woods, courtesy CreepyPasta.Fandom.