Saturday, 8 December 2007

Odd coincidences still intrigue

Since writing the previous Haunted Wales blog, I have cause to mention the Johnson family again but this time in my Uncanny UK blog at

The story ties in with an article I've written for the More Uncanny section which is accessible to Registered Readers at (it's free to register and all you have to do is fill in your email address and choose a password).

The article revives two stories I originally uncovered in the obscure old journal called 'Bye-gones', which has proved an absolute treasure trove of ghosts, folklore and weird incidents from Wales and the border counties. Both stories feature men who experienced a dream so vivid that it forced them to take action, thereby saving a complete stranger to them from imminent death.

One of the stories features a minister who nearly drowned when overtaken by the rising tide in the Dee Estuary and the other a young girl who nearly suffocated in the cellar of a house in Welshpool, Montgomeryshire.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Return of the ghost of Ty Gwernen

In 1992, my book 'Haunted Clwyd' included a story from Gwernymynydd, in Flintshire. Ty Gwernen, a lovely old house on the hillside overlooking Mold, was lovingly restored by Dave and Ann Johnson and is still their home, although their three sons Daniel, Matthew and Edward have now found homes of their own.

In 1990 the boys were all in their teens. Matthew told me that one evening he had been frightened by the sight of 'a horrible face' peering in through his bedroom window. He said it was 'very wrinkled, ugly and, in my frightened state it also looked very evil'.

Coincidentally, a few hours after telling of his experience, he went home to discover younger brother Edward in a state of shock after seeing a ghost. Matt phoned me up from Ty Gwernen that night and put Ed on to me.

Ed told me: 'I was on my own in the house watching television in the sitting room when suddenly this old woman walked into the room. She was very old and white haired, with a thin face. She walked into the middle of the room and stood in front of the fire, staring at the wall.

'It was terrifying, she was just a few feet in ront of me. But she didn't seem to be aware of me at all. After a few monents, she slowly disappeared. I've spent the rest of the night hiding in the kitchen!'

Eldest brother Daniel admitted to hearing mysterious tappings and scratchings in an upstairs room but had never seen a ghost. Neither had Dave or Ann, who naturally played the incident down and assumed an air of healthy scepticism.

Seventeen years later, however, and the ghost has been seen again - this time by Dave. When Matthew got married on November 17 (to the lovely Emma), the whole family came home and Dave wasted no time in telling me that his own doubts of the ghost of Ty Gwernen had been dispelled by the 'seeing is believing' rule.

Dave told me that earlier in the year, he had been repairing a set of glass sliding doors overlooking the garden and which filled the original entrance to the building. He had been steadily, quietly working away for a while but then looked up to glimpse an elderly lady watching him. She seems to have been the same figure seen by Edward back in 1992. She too vanished on being spotted.

'I think she was just seeing what I was up to,' said Dave. 'Making sure she was happy with what I was doing to her old home.'

It is true that building work often brings ghosts 'out of the woodwork'!

(The picture reproduced here from 'Haunted Clwyd' shows Matthew and Edward standing outside Ty Gwernen - at the very spot where their father Dave saw the ghost this year. 'Haunted Clwyd' is still in print and published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch).

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Alien Big Cats on the prowl

One of the two articles recently uploaded on gives a brief outline of the so-called Alien Big Cats that are so often reported prowling round the countryside.

Almost every county in Britain seems to have had reports of people glimpsing panthers, pumas or whatever they might be in the fields and hills. My own small county of Flintshire is no exception.

A few years ago I was talking to a young chap called Callum who told me he had seen a strange animal one evening in his home village of Cymau. Cymau is very much a rural village, on a B-road from the main road connecting the towns of Mold and Wrexham. It is in a fairly wild corner of pastoral Flintshire, surrounded by wooded hills.

Callum told me that he and a few friends were walking along a path that skirts 'the park', an open area in the village with a few swings and a slide. It was early evening. As they walked past a house, a security light came on, causing Callum to glance up to a spot where it had illuminated the top of a bank at the far end of the park.

He said: 'I saw a silhouette of some animal. It was dog-shaped but three or four feet high. The thing is, it was bounding like a cat, not running like a dog. And it was very fast: it cleared the width of the park in seconds. Then it disappeared into shadow. No one else saw it.'

This was in 2003. A year previously reports had been circulating about a big black cat spotted by several witnesses around the village of Leeswood, about eight miles from Cymau as the crow flies (or the cat bounds).

There is a string about big cats in the area on the BBC North-East Wales website, including a sighting at Alex's Pool, Leeswood by a teenager named Matthew. Matthew says: 'It was black and had a tail about one metre long, and its body was even bigger. I heard something rustling in the bushes and when I looked around there it was. It stopped and then just made its way through the trees away from me.'

Maybe it was the same animal, for big cats can cover a large territory. What intrigues me, though, is Callum's description of his creature's being 'dog-shaped', although it moved like a cat, and that he saw it at twilight. This brings us smartly into the territory of the Gwyllgi, the mysterious Black Dogs of Wales that appear to be more ghost than substance, and include the strange beast seen by Malcolm Jones at Brymbo (which is only four miles from Cymau).

Perhaps some of these black cats are actually Black Dogs, or variants of them, and not real animals at all. There are quite a few articles on Black Dogs to be found on Uncanny UK at
If you have seen what you believe to be an Alien Big Cat or a Black Dog, in Wales or elsewhere, please let me know.

Visit the Big Cat string for North-East Wales at:

Saturday, 10 November 2007

The Gwyllgi, Black Dogs of Welsh folklore

The second part of the 'Beast of Brymbo' story has been uploaded on Uncanny UK, with witness Malcolm Jones's account of a huge, unidentifiable animal he saw one evening in the early 1970s.

His description of this creature, seen on a lane leading into the Wrexham village, echoes those of the Gwyllgi, the mysterious dog-like apparitions of Welsh folklore. These commonly reported yet inexplicable spectres have their counterparts in England, where they go by a variety of regional names, including Padfoot, Skriker, Trash and Black Shuck. In the literature, they are usually simply referred to as Black Dogs.

In Wales, as elsewhere, they are usually described as being black in colour, with a shaggy pelt and closely resembling a dog of the mastiff breed but much larger, about the size of a calf. They are said to haunt lonely lanes at night or twilight. Mr Jones's spook has many of these characteristics, although his had a leaner outline, more like a lurcher. There are other variants throughout Wales. In the Afan and Margam district of South Wales, for example, they were described as being blood red in colour. The most grotesque is that which haunted a green lane near Llysworney in Glamorgan: this was described as having the hind-quarters of a spotted dog but the head of a man.

When I was writing my 'Wales of the Unexpected' column in the Daily Post newspaper, I received accounts from readers of two separate Gwyllgi seen on Anglesey. These accounts are reproduced in my book of the same name (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, ISBN 1-84527-008-8).

The word Gwyllgi, incidentally, first appears in a rare book, 'The Vale of Glamorgan', published in 1839. I believe the best translation of the word would be 'Dog of the Twilight'.

The are several other stories of the Black Dogs to be found on the Uncanny UK website, including one that could fly! To read more visit
To buy a copy of 'Wales of the Unexpected' from Amazon, visit:

Thursday, 1 November 2007

The Beast of Brymbo and other horrors from Wales

My new website, Uncanny UK, went live on Hallowe'en night with a range of articles on ghosts, witchcraft, fairies and strange creatures. If you haven't already visited Uncanny UK, I do hope you'll give it a go and that you will regularly revisit to read the further features that will be uploaded every week.

There are several stories from Wales, including an account of fairies arriving in a UFO, Welsh women being accused of witchcraft as late as the 19th century, and a horrible ghost which chased a preacher up a road in Mid Wales.

The 'Latest Story' features a particularly frightening, and previously unrecorded, apparition that looks like 'a cow standing on its hind legs'. It lurked around a village in North-East Wales and on separate occasions terrified two small children and two women returning home late one night. I have personally interviewed the latter two witnesses of 'The Beast of Brymbo' (as I couldn't resist calling it) and I have no doubt that their experience of seeing this devilish phantom is entirely true.

Over time, I hope more writers will join me on Uncanny UK and that readers will favour us with their own experiences, too. In this way we may be able to record other previously unknown ghosts, from Wales and elsewhere in Britain. Shortly, there will be a Forum where readers will be welcome to share their views and comment on the articles.

I'm asking readers to register on the site (for free, of course), because it will help me gauge its popularity or otherwise. Registered readers will be able to use the Forum and also access an otherwise exclusive series of 'More Uncanny' articles on a range of weird subjects (fairy-ghost hybrids, guardians of burial mounds, prophetic dreams, all sorts of peculiar stuff). The 'More Uncanny' section will be presented with a new article every month.

Please visit Uncanny UK at and let me know what you think. You can send your comments to:

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Solution to the riddle

Mr Daulby has come up with his own translation (possibly with some help!) of the limerick below:

A boy who lived in Llansannan
Saw ghosts everywhere
Until one night he saw
One rise out of the ditch/dyke/trench/moat
And today he's a ghost himself!

Inspired by this, he's written another one:

There was a young man from Gwespyr
Who went ghost hunting on his Vespa
At Talacre, from the sand
Came a bony old hand
And now he's good friends with Casper!

Excellent! Kind of Scooby Doo meets the Mod Squad, what with that Vespa.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Spooky limerick

Alan Daulby came across an odd litle book that he thought might help him with his dauntless efforts to learn Welsh. It's called 'Cerddi Dwli' (which means something like 'Nonsense Verse') and is by Leslie Harries, with sketches by E. Alwyn Lloyd.
It's general style gave it the appearance of having been published at any period from the 1920s to the '50s, although a scanning of the introduction made it clear it appeared sometime post-1960.

Among the many sub-Edward Lear limericks (llimericau?) in Welsh is one about a ghost at Llansannan in Denbighshire. Here it is:

'Roedd bachgen yn byw yn Llansannan
Yn gweled ysbrydion ym mhobman;
Nes gwelodd un nos
Un yn codi o'r ffos, -
Mae e' heddiw fel ysbryd ei hunan!

Mr Lloyd's cartoon shows a classic bwbach grinning under a tree. Welsh ghosts seem to enjoy haunting the countryside more than stately homes and castles, as they do over the border. Anyone able to translate the rather old-fashioned and perhaps provinicial Welsh of Mr Harries' verse will perform a kindness by uploading it here.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

The haunted valley, Glyn Diffwys, near Corwen

Recently, I made a visit to a classic site in haunted Wales, Glyn Diffwys, just off the old A5 near the village of Llangwm. Once upon a time Glyn Diffwys was one of the most visited sites in North Wales, considered one of the highlights of any tour of this wild region in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

When George Borrow stopped here on his tour of 'Wild Wales', he described Glyn Diffwys as 'one of the wildest and most beautiful scenes imaginable'. According to a recently erected plaque, the little projection in the wall beside the road you can see in the picture is where Borrow stood to admire the view. You may be wondering what all the fuss is about. The tragedy is that the tree cover has been allowed to grow so extensively that the view that made Glyn Diffwys famous has been almost entirely obscured.

Hidden behind those trees is an old, single-arched bridge perched high over a narrow gorge through which the River Ceirw tumbles down a series of falls, overlooked by steep precipes and dramatic outcrops of rock. When I visited with my friends Stuart, Beth and Cameron McFadden, we could all hear the roaring of the falls but alas could do no more than glimpse the occasional splash of white water through the trees. The four of us even tried to make our way up through the valley, but were defeated. I'm not usually one to suggest chopping down trees, but in this case some management of the smaller trees choking up the foreground would return to view one of the most spectacular scenes in North Wales.

For a long time the view has been impossible to access because the A5 was just too busy along this stretch. Now that a new stretch of the road has been provided, this wiggly bit of Thomas Telford's road has been turned into a footpath. It's ironic that Telford incorporated viewing platforms into the road verges so that the majesty of Glyn Diffwys could be enjoyed by the visitors of his own day. It's even more ironic that Conwy Council should set up a plaque highlighting the beauty of the scene without considering that it is now obscured. I'd like to see the tree cover thinned and a foorpath created to improve access to this formerly celebrated spot.

They'd have to put up new signs warning about the ghosts, though. This is what Elias Owen had to say about Glyn Diffwys and the bridge that spans the gorge in his book 'Welsh Folklore' published in 1896:

'There is a picturesque glen between Corwen and Cerrig-y-Drudion down which rushes a mountain stream, and over this stream is a bridge, called Pont-y-Glyn. On the left hand side, a few yards from the bridge, on the Corwen side, is a yawning chasm, through which the river bounds. Here people who have travelled by night affirm that they have seen ghosts - the ghosts of those who have been murdered in this secluded glen.

'A man who is now a bailiff near Ruthin, but at the time of the appearance of the Ghost to him at Pont-y-Glyn, was a servant of Garth Meilio - states that one night, when he was returning home late from Corwen, he saw before him, seated on a heap of stones, a female dressed in Welsh costume. He wished her good night, but she returned him no answer. She, however, got up and proceeded down the road, which she filled, so great were her increased dimensions.' (p. 197)

If you're interested in ghosts, you may also like to visit my other blog

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Exploring Supernatural Wales

I've just received a new, or shortly to be published, book: 'Exploring Supernatural Wales' by Alvin Nicholas. To quote the blurb: 'The book contains information on over 40 supernatural locations in Wales. The main featured stories are accompanied by 25 walks of terror and mystery.'

No quite sure about the 'terror and mystery' (publishers are always writing blurbs that embarrass their authors, though) but Alvin certainly covers some fascinating and beautiful locations. Alvin draws on some of the classic works of Welsh folklore, particularly 'Folk-lore and Folk Stories of Wales' by Marie Trevelyan and 'British Goblins' by Wirt Sikes, and he's also used my own 'Haunted Wales' for inspiration. I am delighted, though, that where he has used my research, he has given it full credit. Not every author is so polite.

Two of the spooky sites Alvin has based his walks around are particular favourites of mine.

One is an ancient track at Llysworney in Vale of Glamorgan. It took me ages to find the 'Lisworney Crossways' mentioned by Wirt Sikes because this archaic spelling was no longer on the map and failed to turn up on any genealogy websites. If I'd lived in South Wales, like Alvin (who's from Caerphilly), I might have known Llysworney and made the connection but this was an area I was unfamiliar with. I was relieved when I spotted the village on a map and pleased when I worked out the exact location. It's a pretty little spot, or at least it was when I visited it one summer's afternoon. It's probably eerie as hell at night. According to folklore, it was haunted by a weird apparition in the shape of a big, spotty dog with a man's head. Eek!

The other site is the Old Warren at Broughton in my home county of Flintshire. This is another lonely, wood-bound lane. Its ghost, a floating clergyman who terrifies courting couples, was previously unrecorded until a kind lady wrote to tell me all about it when I was writing my 'History and Mystery' column in the local paper back in the early 90s. Both her mother and her aunt had been bothered by the disapproving spectre as young women in the 1930s.

There's also a great deal in 'Exploring Supernatural Wales' that was unfamiliar to me and which has got my Spookisense tingling. I'm especially impressed with Alvin's pictures of the Carreg y Bwci (Goblin Stone) near Lampeter, and the mighty burial mound of Twm Barlwm, near Risca. Alvin Nicholas is clearly a great enthusiast, with considerbale knowledge, of folklore and weirdness in Wales. I have no doubt that I will find lots more intriguing gems when I read it more fully.

'Exploring Supernatural Wales' by Alvin Nicholas is published by Landmark (the same publisher as 'Haunted Wales') and is priced £9.99.

(For more high strangeness, UK-wide, visit my other blog, http://uncannyuk.blogspot. com)

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Mold gets spookier

My home town of Mold (Yr Wyddgrug) in Flintshire has a long history of haunting happenings. In fact, I once took a camera crew on a ghost tour of Mold for an HTV programme called 'Night Owls' some years ago.

Recently Mold's ghost factor appears to have been stepped up. I was talking to Roy, the owner of the town's second-hand bookshop in Earl Road a few weeks ago and he told me that a ghost appears to be haunting the entire row of shops. It's all rather vague: cold spots, inexplicable noises, vague figures glimpsed out of the corner of the eye and that sort of thing. But it's funny how these things start to manifest after years of inactivity.

Interestingly, the shop on the end of the row, nearest the town centre, has had a ghost for a century or more. Now a fancy dress shop, the building started life as a doctor's residence, back in the days when Earl Road and beyond were all fields. The story has it that a small girl - a patient or the doctor's own daughter - lived in the upstairs room overlooking Earl Road and was confined there after contracting smallpox. One day she threw herself out of the window and died on the cobbles below. Her badly scarred face is said to have been seen peering out of that window ever since.

When I was researching my second book 'Haunted Clwyd' in 1992, I felt a chill when I looked up at this window and saw that it had been whitewashed over. Why would anyone wish to paint over a window in an upstairs storeroom? Was it because of the face? The current owners had no idea, which is why they scraped the paint off it - they were a bit creeped out when I told them the story behind it! Moreso, because they had already become convinced the building was haunted. They frequently hear bumps and crashes coming from that room and the stock is often found in disorder. Maybe the spirit of the unfortunate little girl has taken to wandering further afield. After all, once upon a time, the land on which those modern shops, including Roy's, now stand may have been her garden.

And just a few days ago my friend Alan Daulby was having his hair cut in the hairdressers in Wrexham Street when one of the girls started hollering that she'd seen a ghost in the back room. It was just a shadowy shape, but she saw it several times and was convinced she hadn't been imagining things.

Of course, I ought to go and investigate. But I probably won't. I can just sit here quietly twiddling my thumbs and wait for another ghost to come along. That's one of the things I love about living in Wales - it's just so damn' spooky!

Don't forget to check out my other blog at . You can buy Haunted Clwyd through Amazon. Just type the title into their search engine and up it will pop up for purchase.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

'The most haunted country in the world'

When I wrote my book ‘Haunted Wales’ (published in 2005), I made the bold assertion on the cover blurb that: ‘Wales is the most haunted country in the world’.

My research had uncovered such a wealth of ghost stories pre-dating World War 2 from such a small and under-populated nation that I felt justified in making such a claim. After all, this didn’t even include all the modern ghost sightings, which so far as I can tell from years of writing and broadcasting on the subject, seem to happen on an almost daily (or nightly) basis in Wales.

Admittedly, even as I made the claim I knew three other countries might have a right to argue the point: England, Scotland and Ireland. Taken as a whole, I believe it's certainly true that the United Kingdom is the most haunted nation on earth. In terms of its legends, folklore, spooky literature and first-hand accounts of the supernatural our little nation is unrivalled.

This year I will be launching a website, in which I and a few likeminded friends will be collecting together accounts of ghosts, fairies, witches, monsters and other supernatural phenomena in Britain. In time I hope it will become a superb resource for everyone interested in the supernatural and a repository for accounts of genuine experiences of the paranormal in the UK. The website will be launched on Hallowe’en (when else?).

Because I live in Wales, however, I decided I should write a blog devoted to this very spooky corner of the world. For one thing, I have a wealth of material to draw on, having spent very many years carrying out research into the Principality's folklore and supernatural history. Also, because I'm fairly well-known now for my books, broadcasts, talks and columns on the supernatural in Wales, friends, neighbours and acquaintances are kind enough to tell me about strange things that have happened to them. Because I didn't want the Uncanny UK website to be too biased towards Wales, this blog will serve as an excellent space to record them.

I would be delighted to hear your stories, too, and any comments you care to make on the yarns and musings I'll compile here. Who knows, between us, we may be able to prove that Wales really is ‘the most haunted country in the world’ after all!

(You might also be interested to look at my other blog at: )