Sunday, November 25, 2012

Screaming Skulls

The myths surrounding Screaming Skulls are almost always connected to stately homes in England. These skulls, which are believed to contain a spirit, are still kept within these homes because it is believed that if they are removed it will result in a relentless haunting. 

Over the years not many investigations have been done because most of the homes that own these skulls are privately owned and are not open to the public. So separation of truth from myth has not been established but nonetheless these haunted skulls and the folklore that surrounds them is intriguing.

Most Screaming Skull stories have several elements in common. 

It is often stated that these skulls were discovered somewhere hidden in these homes and that they are the remains of a person who directly wished to be buried there. But it is these last wishes that cause the hauntings—for if these skulls are removed from the home and given a proper burial chaos ensues. 

This chaos includes strange noises, hauntings and even poltergeist activity if this deceased person’s last wishes are ignored. Early on, the people who encountered this activity tried to rid themselves of these skulls in a variety of ways. Some threw these skulls into lakes and rivers others tried to grind them up to get rid of them, others tried to burn them but it is stated that these skulls would reappear regardless of the method of destruction that was attempted.

Once these skulls were removed-- terrifying screams were heard along with other unnatural loud grunts and groans until finally these skulls were physically retrieved and placed back within the house. 

Because of this many of these skulls are kept in a prominent place in these homes—at the top of the stairs, on a ceiling beam or on a centrally located table. Some are even kept in glass cases. All in an attempt to show these spirits that their last wishes have been respected.

These stories often recount that these homes experienced bad luck when these skulls were removed. It is stated that terrible storms occurred, crops failed, livestock died or even family members died as a result of these skulls being removed. 

In contrast it is believed that if these skulls are left alone they actually bring good luck to the home and the family that resides within. Hence the prominent position they are given in most of these homes so they can rest in peace.

Screaming Skull stories are all relatively recent in English history. Most date from the middle of the 16th century. One famous story surrounds the Bettiscombe Manor located in the village of Bettiscombe in Dorset, England.

This story involves a man, Azaniah Pinney whose involvement in the English Civil War, he supported the Duke of Monmouth, caused his banishment to the West Indies in 1685. 

While in the West Indies he became a successful businessman so when he returned to Bettiscombe Manor in England he was a wealthy man. He brought back with him an African slave. This slaves’ existence was one of misery and the legend states he died as a result of foul play. It is not known if he murdered someone or someone murdered him.

As this slave lay dying he announced that his spirit would not rest in peace until his body was taken back to his homeland. Pinney, contrary to his slave’s last wish had his body buried in a local churchyard. Soon after his spirit started to haunt in protest. Screams were heard coming from the grave and strange noises were heard within the house.

This continued until Pinney was forced to have the corpse dug up at which point it is said that he stored the body within the manor's attic. When several more attempts were made to rebury the body the screaming would always start up again. 

At some point during this process the body was lost and only the skull remained. The skull was then thrown into a nearby pond but the noises became so unbearable the skull was retrieved and it has been at Bettiscombe Manor ever since.

This story has been debunked in more recent times. It was discovered that this skull probably is that of a female and is much older than what was originally thought. Despite this the Bettiscombe Skull is still kept for good luck. It is kept in a box in a bureau drawer. In future posts I will share other Screaming Skull stories.

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