That’s the spirit!

That’s the spirit!

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As Halloween approaches, acclaimed folklorist and writer on the paranormal Neil Arnold explains why we are so fascinated by ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties…

Hurst Wood
Hurst Wood

Why are we interested in the Other Side?

I write about local folklore and investigate strange cases, but have never had an encounter with anything ‘ghostly’.

I believe people see ghosts when they least expect it and because I’m involved with folklore every day, I may be too immersed to experience anything. While it’s important to have a healthy degree of scepticism, one cannot dismiss the many reports of spooks over the years.

I think some places can seem to be haunted because of, say, the age of a building or its remote location but a new building could still seem ghost-infested because of the land it has been built on.

The trouble is, many ghost-hunters and the like, prefer to visit places with ghastly history or creepy looks, which fuel the imagination. People often talk about The Pantiles being haunted and there is history to suggest it should be but I believe it’s down to perception.

To me, there appear to be two sorts of spirits: residual energy, played back time and time again; and ghosts which can interact with humans and the modern day.

The term poltergeist derives from the German ‘noisy ghost’ – poltergeists are rarely if ever seen but can cause disturbances such as throwing items around and in some cases inflicting wounds upon people.

However, poltergeist activity can also be unintentionally projected from a living individual which suggests such phenomena have deep, complex connections to the psyche rather than anything ethereal.

In some cases, it has been recorded that ghosts have scratched, pinched and bitten people. One scenario is known as ‘sleep paralysis’ or ‘old hag syndrome’, in which people wake at night and report that they cannot move, or scream. Victims speak about being crushed by an unseen presence, or seeing figures; often an old crone or hag.

It’s been suggested that such manifestations are the product of stress or tiredness but even so, they affect millions of people but science has no answer.


The ghost of a hanged man is said to haunt Coach and Horses Passage. It is said the beam can be heard creaking under the weight of an invisible rope, and that the man was driven to suicide having been mugged for all his money.

The Pantiles is said to be haunted by at least 20 ghosts. Possibly best-known is drunken harridan Mary Jenning, who, it is documented, was seen by two women sheltering under a tree in heavy rain. There have also been reports of a female voice calling out ‘Daniel’ in the and a rider dressed in mauve on a black horse.

In Friends Passage, it is believed the ghost of the wife of James Friend, the owner of the Hand and Sceptre Hotel in the 19th century, has been spotted.

Coach and Horses Passage
Coach and Horses Passage

Neil Arnold is the author of Haunted Tunbridge Wells which is available online or signed by the author on 01634 819746