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: