West Horsley

Headless ghosts are a cliché of folklore, but according to a Surrey writer, William Hurst Chouler, in 1978, the church in this village is haunted by the reverse phenomenon, a head without a body – that of Sir Walter Raleigh, executed by decapitation in 1618. Normally, heads of criminals were kept on display at Tower Bridge or elsewhere till they rotted, but Raleigh’s wife persuaded the judges to spare him this final disgrace and allow her to embalm the head and keep it herself. It is said that she carried it with her everywhere until she herself died, some twenty years later; it was eventually buried at West Horsley, where Raleigh’s son Carew lived for a few years, from 1656 to 1664.



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