Ghostly encounters date back to the 3rd century when people believed that throwing bodies into the foundations of buildings protected the living from evil.
Reculver Towers, near Herne Bay in Kent, are claimed to be haunted. The beautiful towers are all that remain of an old Saxon church, St. Mary's. Originally, the church, dating from the third century, was built on the site of a fort, but in 1809, the main part of St. Mary's was demolished as it was about to collapse into the sea. The two towers were saved, to provide a useful landmark for shipping, and later, during the 1990s, new sea defences were erected to stop erosion of the shoreline.
Reculver Towers Protected by the Spirits of Infants
The Roman fort on which St. Mary's stood was once 2 km from the shore, but the sea has gradually claimed back at least half the land. From the remaining half, some terrible discoveries have come to light. During the 1960s, eleven tiny infant skeletons were discovered during a dig. Most had been placed precisely beneath walls and the corners of the walls, as though to help prop up the structure. People really believed in past times that tossing small babies into the foundations of buildings helped protect them and their occupants from evil spirits.
As a result, many people claim to have heard the cries of these infants late in the night. They think they are calling to be freed from their entrapment within the foundations. Other people say that babies have been washed ashore from shipwrecks and their cries are added to the laments of the others.
Spooky Reculver's Nightly Hauntings
During the evening, two hooded figures are said to appear, although no one knows who they are. A local builder told me that workmen no longer report the discovery of bones beneath their excavations, because then everything is closed down and the place is over-run with archaeologists and scientists. "I work for myself," he said, "and we are not compensated by the government when that happens. We lose the use of our tools and equipment and the sites can sometimes remain closed for a year or more."
Sometimes, a phantom medieval customs officer and a smuggler engage in a ghostly sword-fight, and other ghosts haunt the dykes, where bodies were flung in the past.
How long the towers will remain intact, no one knows for sure. Kent Wildlife Trust say that the shore is receding at the rate of approximately 1-2 metres a year.
Reculver Visitor's Centre.
Adapted from Haunted Kent, Janet Cameron, Tempus Publishing, 2005.