Saturday, 25 November 2017

Saturday November 25th 2017

I was first told of the alleged haunting associated with Sandwell Priory, in West Bromwich, during the mid 1980's.  I'd not even so much as 'heard' of the site at that time, though - interest piqued - I subsequently did my best to look into the matter and discovered a mass of intriguing lore that spanned back a number of decades at least.....

I use the word 'lore' above, as it seemed that the priory area was akin to a great many other, supposedly haunted, sites, insomuch as it clearly had 'stories' associated with it..... though the tales concerned were pretty much all many years old, third-hand (at best) and, most likely, apocryphal?  As with any such cases, however, the data concerned was collected, checked and catalogued as fully as possible.....

For anyone who does not know the area concerned, the site of the 12th Cent. Benedictine monastery lies in the depths of Sandwell Valley Park, a couple of hundred yards from the busy M5 motorway (which cuts straight through the entire region).  Up until the late 1920's, the whole of the immediate area was occupied by the palatial Sandwell Hall, though, upon it's demolition, remnants of the former ecclesiastical structure were discovered and subsequently played host to a number of archaeological investigations, which, of course, give us the remains that can be viewed today.   Along with the little that can still be seen of the priory site, visitors can also view the nearby, ancient 'Sand Well' itself..... from which the borough takes it's name.

With regards to the 'haunted history' of the region, it's unsure exactly when tales of 'ghostly monks' first surfaced.... but coverage on the subject from a former paranormal research group in the region - The South Staffordshire Metaphysical Society - certainly aroused public interest in the topic a few decades ago, via the local media.  Most - if not all - of the stories we see today would appear to stem 'from' this period, onward, it seems(?)

And so, coming to the point of this post, it would seem - as mentioned above - that the bulk of the 'ghost stories' associated with this case are, at best, a little dusty and moderately questionable.  With this in mind, it was, however, rather exciting to recently speak to someone who reports that they saw the figure of a 'monk-like' character in the region some 5 years ago - an apparition that was seen to walk along the side of the road they were travelling on before 'vanishing' from sight!!  What makes this situation even better is the fact that the person concerned was not alone in their experience, but happened to be in a car with 3 other family members.... everyone present sharing in the encounter!! 

Quickly moving from a 'plus' to a definite 'negative' on Sandwell Valley ghosts though:  in the same week, I happened to speak to a gentleman who pours considerable scorn on the notion that the aforementioned section of  M5, that transects the region in question, might be also haunted!?  These particular tales are fairly well known and much repeated, it seems, and usually entail people - using the section of motorway nearest the priory ruins - either seeing monk-like figures in the cutting concerned.... or sometimes having to swerve to avoid such phantoms!?  It is frequently claimed that the people concerned are not locals and do not know of any spooky reputation to the area and that a number of these experiences are reported to the police.......  Personally speaking, I heard this story during a 'ghost talk' being given by a local historian some years ago now and must admit that I'd never heard of that specific angle prior to this.

As mentioned, however, I've now been informed that such tales - or at least aspects of the stories - are potentially hog-wash!?  The gentleman informs me that he had been chasing these encounters up some while ago as part of a media-related project and, in speaking with a policeman whose job it has been to patrol the section of motorway involved since it was built.... and he had NEVER heard a single ghost report, it seems!?  As the man commented to me:  "Just goes to show..... if 'ghosts' don't exist, sometimes, people just invent them.   It all makes for a good story......!!"

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