Burton Dassett

In 1923–4, there were repeated rumours of strange lights moving around this village and the nearby ones of Fenny Compton and Northend; nowadays they would be classified as UFO apparitions, but at that time the local explanation was ‘ghosts’. The then president of the Folklore Society, A. R. Wright, quoted some of the current reports in his address to the Society, to illustrate the curious fact that a haunting may shift from one place to another within a neighbourhood:

A ‘ghost light’, a yellow and blue ray, has been said to flit over the lonely range of hills between [Fenny Compton] and Burton Basset. It appeared in 1924 on the exact anniversary of its appearance in 1923, and in 1924 was said to have left its haunt in the hills to dance and caper in the churchyard. Many people have been scared by it, and say that the ghost has the traditional large eyes of fire. The explanation that it is due to marsh gas is, of course, scouted.

Wright’s references are a mere summary of the narratives which those who believed they had actually seen the lights gave at the time, as can be seen from many contemporary press reports quoted by the local writer Meg Atkins when she investigated the matter for a book published in 1981. One man described watching the light, which was strong and dazzling, ‘of a very beautiful mingled blue and red’, later changing to orange, as it moved quickly among trees and bushes, occasionally hovering and sweeping the ground ‘as if searching for something’. Some people saw it on the hills, others in the churchyard. A motorcyclist told how he saw a brilliant light hurtling along a road towards him, then vanishing; a railwayman spoke of an oval light hovering about two feet above the ground; a woman gave a lengthy account of seeing a yellow-blue flame bobbing about among derelict farm buildings and then suddenly turning into a dazzling glare, which returned on later nights as a milder but still uncanny glow which would light up her bedroom.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008