; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Monday, September 20, 2010

Museum Investigation Produces Curious Evidence

BBC - A group of investigators from Weymouth have released the findings of their investigation into paranormal activity in Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

They have photos which they believe to be of "hanging" Judge Jeffreys and local fossil collector Mary Anning in the museum's main hall.

Judge George Jeffreys died in 1689 and Mary Anning in 1847.

The team used infra red cameras, barrier alarms and EMF meters during their investigation.

EMF meters measure electromagnetic fields. They are scientific instruments that are often also used by people with an interest in the paranormal.

"What we've found now is amazing - we're really chuffed," said case manager Trudy Jordan of the PIT (Paranormal Investigation Team) group.

"It wasn't until we looked at the footage afterwards that you could actually make out the figure of a man.... You can make your own mind up but it's so detailed," she said.

"We also have a photo of a woman with a cape going round her shoulders, and no head."

Judge George Jeffreys

Both Judge Jeffreys and Mary Anning have links with the museum - it is home of the chair from which he sentenced many convicts to death, and Mary Anning was the establishment's first honorary member.

Ms Jordan also said that the barrier alarms they set up in the Victorian Hall part of the museum went off repeatedly. They are sensors which detect physical movement.

Is this image the ghostly figure of Judge Jeffreys?

"We've used them now since 2003 and never known anything affect them to make them go off unless someone actually goes through them."

Meanwhile upstairs in another part of the museum known as the writers gallery, Beryl Smith said she experienced strange swings in measurements from her EMF meter.

"I thought it was fascinating because somebody had come to me to want to talk through the meter," she said.

She believes she was communicating with a male spirit, but admits that she does not have any proof.

"I asked one of my colleagues to come and stand next to me to verify what the meter was doing and it started fading."

Fundraising officer Nel Duke has worked at Dorset County Museum for over a year and says she is "unconvinced".

"I haven't had any paranormal experiences here," she said.

"I don't know to be honest, I can see an argument on either side, there is some compelling evidence but I'll stay open minded to all the different explanations - I'm unconvinced but could go either way."


George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem - 'The Hanging Judge'

George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, PC (15 May 1645 – 18 April 1689), also known as "The Hanging Judge", became notable during the reign of King James II, rising to the position of Lord Chancellor

James II appointed Judge Jeffreys to try the rebels, and he was so brutal that he became known as the hanging judge. The trials were held at several places but the main centre was Taunton where the rebel army had assembled. Jeffreys sentenced 200 to hanging and another 800 to transportation to the West Indies. Monmouth himself was beheaded on Tower Hill in London on 15 July.

The sound of running feet and horses’ hooves is regularly heard at Westzoyland. Supposedly, a farm lad with a reputation as a runner was made to race a horse for his life from a standing start. The boy is said to have won the race over a short distance but was hanged anyway. This sounds rather mythical and might be a much older story modernized at the time. A Celtic goddess is supposed to have raced a horse and won.

At Moyles Court at Ellingham in Hampshire, a 70 year old dowager was accused of hiding two fugitives from Sedgemoor, and Jeffreys condemned her despite her age. Her sentence was to be burned to death, suggesting that Jeffreys took her to be a witch. In fact, the sentence was commuted to beheading and she is now one of the many headless ghosts of Britain.

Frome was associated with the Orange Rebellion because the Duke of Monmouth is said to have stayed at a house in Cork Street now called Monmouth House. And locals found guilty by Jeffreys passing through Frome for his “bloody assizes” were supposed to have been hung, drawn and quartered at Gore Hedge, just past the top of what is now Bath Street, but then was Rook Lane. There might be some doubt about this name, however, since a “gore” is an ancient name for a triangular field.

Judge Jeffreys attended many of the hangings in person, and his ghost is said to haunt several west country locations as well as his own home at Walton on Thames. He used to dine and drink at the Prospect of Whitby public house at Wapping in London. This old pub famously has staging over the river and is still a pleasant place to sit in summer, but Jeffreys liked to watch the executions of criminals across the river at “Execution Dock.” Condemned pirates were hung over the river at low tide, and were not cut down until they had been washed by three tides. This is reminiscent of the ancient fertility ritual of the Jack in the Green, who was paraded in a decorated basket before being lowered into a river or lake on May Day.

Several towns had gallows trees for the victims including Croscombe in Devon. Twelve People were hung at Lyme Regis where Jeffreys dined in the Great House in Broad Street, a spot still troubled by his ghost even though the original house is long gone. He is said also to haunt a house in Lydford in Devon and a house in the centre of Dorchester. It is said that the sound of choking men rather than the ghost of the Judge is heard in some places. People have reported the sound of horrific gasping on quiet nights in Bath Street and the approaches to Gore Hedge in Frome.

James carried on with his plans to turn Britain back to Catholicism, but the rich Whigs still had William of Orange waiting in Holland. With much more money and provisions, William succeeded where Monmouth had earlier failed, landing on 5 November 1688 AD at Torbay. John Churchill, the future Duke of Marlborough and ancestor of Winston, deserted to the rebels and this time it was James who fled. William and Mary were made rulers in February 1689, but the Whigs made sure that Parliament, not the king had control of the army and the judges, and that the king had no right to suspend or dispense with Parliament’s laws. Furthermore, Parliament controlled the exchequer. The Whigs became monarchists when the monarch had to be a Whig.

At the Revolution in 1688, he was nearly lynched by a London mob and took refuge in the Tower, where he died of kidney disease. - minehead-online

Mary Anning, Finder of Fossils

Mary Anning lived through a life of privation and hardship to become what one source called "the greatest fossilist the world ever knew."* Anning is credited with finding the first specimen of Ichthyosaurus acknowledged by the Geological Society in London. She also discovered the first nearly complete example of the Plesiosaurus; the first British Pterodactylus macronyx, a fossil flying reptile; the Squaloraja fossil fish, a transitional link between sharks and rays; and finally the Plesiosaurus macrocephalus.

Her history is incomplete and contradictory. Some accounts of her life have been fictionalized, and her childhood discoveries have been mythologized. She was a curiosity in her own time, bringing tourism to her home town of Lyme Regis. Only her personal qualities and her long experience brought her any recognition at all, since she was a woman, of a lower social class, and from a provincial area at a time when upper-class London men, gentlemanly scholars, received the bulk of the credit for geological discoveries.

Anning learned to collect fossils from her father, Richard, a cabinet maker by trade and a fossil collector by avocation. But he died at 44 in 1810, leaving his family destitute. They relied on charity to survive.

Fossil collecting was a dangerous business in the seaside town. Anning walked and waded under unstable cliffs at low tide, looking for specimens dislodged from the rocks. During her teenage years, the family built both a reputation and a business as fossil hunters. In 1817 they met Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Birch, a well-to-do fossil collector who became a supporter of the family. He attributed major discoveries in the area to them, and he arranged to sell his personal collection of fossils for the family's benefit. Most of Anning's fossils were sold to institutions and private collectors, but museums tended to credit only people who donated the fossils to the institution. Therefore, it has been difficult for historians to trace many fossils that Mary Anning located; the best known are a small Ichthyosaurus discovered in 1821 and the first Plesiosaurus, unearthed in 1823.

Mary had some recognition for her intellectual mastery of the anatomy of her subjects, from Lady Harriet Silvester, who visited Anning in 1824 and recorded in her diary:

...the extraordinary thing in this young woman is that she had made herself so thoroughly acquainted with the science that the moment she finds any bones she knows to what tribe they belong....by reading and application she has arrived to that greater degree of knowledge as to be in the habit of writing and talking with professors and other clever men on the subject, and they all acknowledge that she understands more of the science than anyone else in this kingdom.

Visitors to Lyme increased as Anning won the respect of contemporary scientists. In the last decade of her life she received an annuity from the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1838). The Geological Society of London collected a stipend for her and she was named the first Honorary Member of the new Dorset County Museum, one year before her death from breast cancer. Her obituary was published in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society--an organization that would not admit women until 1904. - sdsc.edu

Museum Investigation Produces Curious Evidence