In August 1977, the road linking this village to Frome, three miles (5 km) away, became famous in the press as the setting for an encounter with a phantom hitchhiker. Some time previously (probably in 1975), a driver had given a lift to a middle-aged man in a check jacket who was standing by this road; this man sat in the back of the car, complained of being cold, and then vanished from inside the car while it was still in motion. The horrified driver reported this to the police at Frome. On another occasion, the same driver saw the same man standing in the centre of the road; in trying to avoid hitting him, he crashed his car into a lamppost (or into the hedge).

It was alleged that this had caused such panic in Nunney that people were afraid that attendance at their Silver Jubilee celebrations would be affected, and a posse of vigilantes began patrolling the lane in search of the ghost. This was only a publicity stunt by the Jubilee Committee (as their chairman admitted to a researcher a few years later), based on their awareness of the driver’s account of his experiences. However, it drew a response from a retired lorry-driver who recalled that some of his mates in the 1940s used to report seeing a ghost at this spot; they thought it was due to the dying curse of a cyclist knocked down by a car. If this was indeed a local tradition, it would account for the sex of the Nunney apparition and its unusual garb (phantom hitchhikers are more commonly women).

While he was inquiring into these rumours, Michael Goss found that some of his informants recalled a belief that Judge Jeffreys had ordered some men who had supported Monmouth’s rebellion in 1685 to be hanged from the trees bordering this road, and that the creaking of these gibbets can sometimes be heard at night. It is unlikely that hangings actually occurred here; the ruthless sentences Jeffreys passed on the rebels are so well remembered in Somerset that horror stories about him are found in many places where he did not in fact go.



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