The site of Gracedieu Priory has become renowned as one of the most haunted locations in Leicestershire. Over the last eighty years, numerous people have claimed to have witnessed a ghost in the vicinity of the ruins. Almost all accounts make reference to a woman in white, which may carry some significance. For although the priory at Gracedieu was of an Augustinian Order (in which nuns wear black habits), research has revealed that the Sisters of Gracedieu, in fact, deviated from the rule and chose instead to wear white. (LM: 02.12.74)
The main aim of this page will be to compile a comprehensive record of sightings, backed up (wherever possible) by dates, names and information sources. I have chosen not to include stories of unspecified origin.
The legend of the White Lady first seems to have captured public imagination though the claims of the late Mr Charlie Gough of Thringstone. Mr Gough's sighting is mentioned in a Leicester Mercury article of 1964, when he was then aged 75, as having taken place some years previously.
Mr Gough (a worker on the Gracedieu estate for about forty years) told of how he had encountered the spectral form of a nun one night in the grounds of Gracedieu Manor. The figure was dressed entirely in white and wore a wide-brimmed hat, though the apparition disappeared as Mr Gough attempted to take a closer look. (LM:10.01.64)
But perhaps the most celebrated sighting of all was that said to have taken place in 1954, when the driver of a bus heading for Shepshed pulled over at the lonely shelter opposite the ruins to pick up a woman in white. The bus door opened but no-one boarded the vehicle. Both the driver and his conductor are said to have got out, astonished by the fact that the figure had simply vanished. The bus driver related this account to various people afterwards, including Mr David Callaghan of Ellistown, who made a written record of the story. (Bell/CMTC)
The 'bus stop story' is now a piece of local folklore and has regularly been used as the basis for newspaper features. It was one such feature, published in the Coalville Mail of July 1996, that prompted Mrs Mary Bates of Coalville (then aged ninety-nine) to contact the newspaper about the incident. Mrs Bates had been a passenger and fully confirmed the sighting. (CM:08.08.96)
Another elderly lady who contacted the Mail newspaper on the subject was eighty-year-old Mrs Hetty Wilson of Loughborough. Her account of a ghostly encounter at Gracedieu was simply amazing and represents what is possibly the earliest claimed sighting of spectral phenomenon hereabouts. The incident took place in September 1926, when Hetty was aged eleven, and she and her parents were travelling home from Coalville, where her father had been selling horses. Mrs Wilson said, "We were passing the ruins when the horse driving our landau stopped. Its body was quivering. When we turned to see what was wrong, we saw six ghosts coming out of the copse." Mrs Wilson remembered her father shouting, "Good God, ghosts !", and that she had been so scared she hid her head. "When I looked again, the ghosts had crossed the road and were heading up to the ruins. They wore white robes and had no faces or feet", continued Mrs Wilson. (CM:01.08.96)
A number of rules and customs were peculiar to the sisterhood at Gracedieu, most notably their adoption of a white habit. Describing themselves as 'White Nuns of Saint Augustine', the sisters seem to have attached some importance to this distinction and thought that there was no other house of their own Order in England (VCH). The nuns here were also forbidden ever to leave the precincts of the priory, though such a restriction does not appear to have been adhered to posthumously, as sightings of a white nun have variously occurred at some distance from the ruins, in and around the surrounding woodland.
Mr Tommy Allen of Whitwick recounts a strange incident that took place many years ago whilst watching his elder brother Herbert take part in a cricket practice one summer evening at the Gracedieu Park cricket ground, to the rear of the Bull's Head public house. Mr Allen estimates the incident to have taken place when he was ten or eleven years of age, in 1934/35 (TA). From the corner of an eye, Mr Allen was distracted by the figure of a nun, dressed entirely in white, moving along the footpath at the edge of the ground. Mr Allen shouted his brother and another friend, Jack Lee, both of whom also saw the figure before it disappeared under the cattle arch which passes through the Charnwood Forest Railway embankment. The three men at once ran to the tunnel to investigate, but on reaching the other side, there was no one to be seen and the friends were mystified by the fact that the 'nun' had simply 'disappeared into thin air'. (B&D, p.8)
In the spring of 1961, the White Lady was encountered by the off-duty village policeman who was out walking his dog in fields about half-a-mile south-west of the priory. (Bell, p.105)
His account runs as follows: "On finishing duty just before midnight on a warm April evening, I decided to take my boxer dog for a walk along the footpath across the fields opposite my home, where now stands the Melrose Road housing estate. It was a beautiful night, almost a full moon, and not a cloud in the sky. We had been walking into the field for about a hundred and fifty yards when suddenly my dog gave a deep-throated growl. I looked around me and could see no one, or anything to upset the dog. However, he continued to growl and came and stood close to me as if protecting me. I put my hand down to stroke him and the bristles along his back were stiff and rigid.
A few seconds after this there was a chill in the air and a white form in the shape of a long cloak and hood glided by me and disappeared in a high hawthorn hedge about twenty-five yards from me. When this form went out of site, my dog quietened down and the chill went out of the air. The next day I told my neighbour of this and he said, 'You have no doubt seen our local nun, and she could have been on top of the tunnel'. On delving into this further I learned that a tunnel is supposed to exist between the monastery and the priory, which is now Grace Dieu Ruins.
...I know in my own case it could not have been a practical joke, as the hedge was so thick it was impossible for any human being to walk though it". (C.H, website)
One of the closest White Lady encounters was that which involved Denis Baker, the well-known local history author and lecturer, who claims that he actually drove straight through her!
Mr Baker recounts that the incident took place one evening during the early 1960s, possibly earlier, when he was driving home from Loughborough. He recalls driving under the redbrick railway bridge (which was demolished in 1967) and negotiating the sweep of road which bends round to the signpost for Belton. It was there, on the left hand side of the road, opposite to Belton Lane, that Denis suddenly became aware of a woman standing very close to his vehicle.
Due to the abruptness of the woman's appearance and the speed involved, Denis had no time to properly observe her, but was conscious that she wore long, light coloured clothing, which did not seem unusual at a time when the 'maxi-look' (long skirts and coats) was in fashion.
Neither did Denis have time to stop when the woman stepped out straight in front of his car ("there was no way I could have stopped..."), but instinctively he braked and looked into the rear view mirror where, to his astonishment, Denis observed the woman continue to cross the road!
Understandably 'shaken' by the experience, Denis pulled up at the nearby Bull's Head public house where, equally understandably, he ordered 'a stiff drink'. On relating his experience to the then landlady (who Denis recalls served up 'super bacon sandwiches'), she told him of the White Lady Ghost - something Denis had never heard about until that day.
Denis later disclosed his experience to his father-in-law, Mr Ernest Thurman of Swannington, and was surprised to find that he too claimed to have seen an apparition in exactlty the same spot many years previously. Mr Thurman had been 'courting' a girl who lived in Shepshed and was returning home on foot.
Interestingly, Mr Baker informs me that this is one of two inexplicable ghostly happenings that he has experienced in his lifetime. On another occasion that also took place many years ago, Denis was on holiday in the New Forest, where he visited the quaint thatched church at Minstead. Here, he took a photograph of the interior from an elevated gallery, whilst his two young sons were busy exploring the 'nooks and crannies' of the building. Denis and his young family were quite alone in the church that day, yet when the film was developed, a ghostly image was seen standing in the aisle. (DWB)
Recounting boyhood memories from the 1960s to John Dickinson in 2004, Whitwick resident John Hall disclosed his experience of a ghostly encounter at Gracedieu whilst looking for birds' eggs with friends. On finding that one particular nest in the ruins of the Chapter House was just out of their reach, John suggested to his companions that they should leave to enlist the assistance of his elder brother, which they did. The friends duly returned on their bicycles and approached where the nest had been sighted, but to their surprise, it had gone and they concluded that someone else must have taken it in their absence.
As they began crossing the field back to their bikes, John casually glanced back toward the Chapter House and saw the form of a nun, clad in a white habit with a hood, emerge from around a corner of the ruin. All present stood, momentarily transfixed, before running for their bikes and returning home. Nothing was ever mentioned about this incident by any of the friends until many years later, when John happened to mention the egg hunting trip in a general conversation with his brother. His brother concurred with the account, but was quick to change the subject, leaving John in no doubt that the experience had not been a figment of his imagination. (B&D, p.7-8)
Father Dennis Hare, the Chaplain of Gracedieu Manor School, recalls that the ghost was also once encountered in the Manor Grounds by Miss Bream of the nearby farmhouse, whilst out walking with her dog. Apparently, the animal took fright and Miss Bream was so disturbed by her experience that she went into the school and sought the calming effect of a brandy! Relating the story from a 'second hand' source, Father Hare is unable to give a precise date for the incident, but believes it took place at some point after 1973.
Father Hare adds that stories of Gracedieu's ghost have existed for a very long time and would have been well-known to members of the Booth family who once lived there. Though the stories of this time were not written down, Father Hare believes that they were perpetuated verbally by generations of local folk and certainly Gracdieu's reputation for being haunted was well-established when he was himself a pupil at the school more than sixty years ago. (DH)
In August 1981, the ghost was sighted by Nigel Beck of Thringstone, then also a police constable, who was returning home on a motorcycle following a shift at Loughborough Police Station. Mr Beck explained, "It was 12.30 a.m, the weather was still warm and I was riding at about 50 miles per hour when I went into the left hand turn at Gracedieu. Suddenly I felt intense cold and, as I was going round the corner, this grey, shadowy figure glided across the road and behind the bus shelter." Mr Beck describes the figure as having been hooded, with a long gown and no feet. "I was absolutely petrified", he continued, "I stopped near the bus shelter, but couldn't see anything. I then resumed my journey home, looking back all the time." Mr Beck is still a regular user of the A512 road, but states that nothing out of the ordinary has occurred since. (CE: 06.08.97)
It would also probably have been during the early 1980s that Vincent Ball, another motorcyclist, claimed to have seen the ghost whilst travelling along the A512, en route from Loughborough where he worked as a nurse. He mentioned his sighting to his then mother-in-law, Mrs Emma Butterworth of Thringstone, stating that both he and another motorist had pulled up near to the ruins when startled by an apparition seen in the road. Both Vince and the other motorist confirmed to one another what they thought they had seen before resuming their journey.
In about 1985, the ghost was sighted by Mr Danny MacDonald who then lived in John Street, Thringstone. Mr MacDonald was travelling by car to Loughborough one evening to visit his parents when he suddenly became aware of a white figure standing by the bus stop. The figure disappeared in an instant, but Danny was so convinced that he had experienced something out of the ordinary that he later mentioned it to his younger brother John, who recently communicated the incident to the author. (JM)
In 1990, the ghost was seen by an entire family after an outing in Loughborough. Recounting the incident in a newspaper article of 1998, eighteen year old student Renee Lea said: "On March 29 1990, my family and I were returning from Loughborough. It was about 10.30 in the evening as we approached the Gracedieu Ruins.
My Mum said, 'Oh My God...what is that?', pointing to the bus shelter opposite the ruins. We all looked and saw a huge, bright object that appeared to be hovering above the pavement.
As we drew closer to it, we saw that it was a human in form, but it had no hands, no face or feet, and it looked as though it was wrapped in a shroud." Renee continued, "As we drove past it, it did not move. All six members of the family saw it, but on the countless times we have driven past Gracedieu since, we have never seen anything odd. But seeing what I saw has convinced me that Gracedieu is haunted".
Another sighting took place in November 1997 when a council warden involved in preservation work at the ruins fled the site in terror. The incident made local newspaper headlines, though the warden concerned refused to talk about the matter. An account was given by the District Council's heritage manager, Mr Alan Scott-Davies, however, who explained : "It was just starting to get dark and we were starting to pack up for the day. The warden not only saw her but claims that she pushed him. He was doing some strimming when he saw this woman staring at him. The next thing he knew something pushed him, but when he looked up there was nothing. When he told us what happened he was as white as a sheet and genuinely scared. I went to have a look around where the incident occurred; the grass was wet with dew and you could quite easily make out my footprints, but where the ghost appeared there was not a trace of anything." (CE: 26.11.97)
The warden was later identified as Martin Redfern, who claimed to have encountered the ghost on two separate occasions - once as described above, and another time when he was working in the brook and glanced up to see the figure of a woman, who disappeared moments later.
Alan Scott-Davies also claimed that he and others had seen a black figure standing across the road from the priory. (CT: 23.01.98)
A year later, the Leicester Mercury featured an article about a Whitwick clairvoyant known as Tarona (pictured above), who claimed to be inexplicably drawn to the ruins and that she had felt the "energy" of the site while passing by in her car. The medium claimed to have picked up decidedly negative vibrations while visiting the site, sensing plague, rape and murder and 'young women who were pregnant'. (LM: 23.05.98)
(See also "Tarona'a Ghostly Encounters", by Tarona Gail Hawkins, publd. by Echo Press, L'bro, 2000 )
It was also in 1998 that two other clairvoyants - Sue Shuttleworth and Jason Smith - accompanied a local reporter and his friends on a nocturnal walk around the ruins. Though there was no physical manifestation, the psychics were convinced that the site was the subject of multiple haunting and at precisely 10.23 pm, the party was mystified to hear what sounded like the chime of a church bell. (CT: 23.01.98)
Tracey Evans of Swannington believes it would have been November or December 2000, at around 11.30 in the evening, when she had an eerie experience at Gracedieu. Tracey was travelling back from Loughborough with her then husband, Mick and their two children, who were sitting in the back of the car. As the vehicle swept round the bend at the edge of the priory grounds, the car suddenly became enveloped in a thick, intense fog that seemed to appear out of nowhere, at about the point of the Belton turn, near the bus stop. Mick instinctively slowed down and then stopped the car on seeing a figure pass in front of his vehicle, at which point the fog seemed to vanish as quickly as it had appeared. Tracey then remembers her husband saying, 'did you see that?; Tracey confirmed that she had and the couple were so unnerved by the experience that they decided not to mention the matter again. Tracey described the figure as being distinctly human in form, and was mystified by the fact that the fog had appeared and disappeared in a matter of a few yards.(TE)
In April 2002, the Coalville Times mentioned another sighting in a feature on the Gracedieu restoration project. The sighting had first been reported in the Coalville Times two years previously (CT: 03.11.00) and told the story of thirty-two-year-old Robert Finch, who experienced a terrifying encounter whilst travelling by car one night along nearby Swannymoat Road. Mr Finch felt compelled to stop his vehicle when he suddenly felt "unnaturally hot". It was then that the engine stalled and he was left alone in an eerie silence. Although the car was cold, Mr Finch felt as though he was "burning up" and perceived himself sweating profusely as his heartbeat raced. He got out of the car and stood in the icy night air, only to sense that there was another presence somewhere in the mist. At once he jumped back into the car and started the engine and remembered being momentarily startled as a moth brushed past his windscreen as he pulled of from the edge of the road. He then glanced into the rear view mirror and "his stare was met by the icy, emotionless gaze of black eyes set deep in a misty face". (CT: 26.04.02)
It should be mentioned that Swannymoat Road actually lies closer to the site of another reputed haunting at High Sharpley. There is an old legend, commemorated in a poem which appeared in Potter's History of Charnwood Forest (1842), that the area is haunted by the ghost of Lady Aslin. She is said to have married Goisfrid Aslin, keeper of Whitwick Castle, but was so traumatised by his cruelty and fornication that one night she fled and drowned herself in the Blackbrook pool ('a mirror to the mountain').
This article prompted Margaret F Guise of Leicester Road, Whitwick to write into the newspaper to share her experience and her letter was published the following week. Ms Guise explains that she moved from Derbyshire to live in this area in the 1970s and, not being local, had never even heard of Gracedieu Priory, let alone its reputed haunting. One day she had to catch the Coalville to Nottingham bus to make a connection with a bus to Derbyshire to visit a sick relative. On passing by the ruins at Gracedieu she describes how she saw "a grey figure of a nun, shrouded in a mist of sadness, 'floating' through the ruins, which I take to be the Chapter House now". Ms Guise explains that this sighting took place on a Saturday afternoon in broad daylight. (CT: 03.05.02)
On March 26 2003, two Canadians who had come over to England to visit friends or relatives in Shepshed took a drive over to the Bull's Head public house in Thringstone for a meal. On their way to the pub, they noticed the nearby ruins at Gracedieu and during the course of the evening decided to wander down and take some photographs with a digital camera. On returning to the Bull's Head, staff were astonished when one of the photographs revealed not only a smiling tourist, but also a bizarre, swirling smoke-like formation close to his left hand side. The Canadians were happy to provide the landlord of the establishment with a print of the image, which was subsequently brought to the attention of John Dickinson of the Gracedieu Archaeology Group. (JD)
Gracedieu Priory has recently been the subject of great attention by paranormal research teams and other visiting psychics/clairvoyants. A recently published booklet entitled, 'The Ghosts of Grace Dieu' (2004), records the results of a series of 'Ghost Walks' held during the autumn of 2003, led by two local 'spirit mediums' named Barbara and Jackie. Jackie's diarised account of these occasions (ten in all) is fantastical, describing interactive dialogue with numerous spirits, including nuns, monks and soldiers and culminating with poltergeist-type activity during a walk on October 31st 2003 (Halloween), when Jackie was hit on the head by a flying stone, another member of the party was pushed and all present claimed to have heard footsteps on the scaffolding erected during priory restoration work. During these nocturnal excursions, many photographs were taken revealing 'orbs' and other light formations described as 'ectoplasm'. Commenting on these photographs, the book's co-author John Dickinson remarks: 'Initially I was very sceptical at what they revealed ... Repeated checking of the sites and conditions under which the photographs were taken has ruled out camera fault, raindrops, reflections, head lights or torches ... It may be difficult to believe the interpretation given to what has appeared on the photographs, but please remember they were taken by different cameras, at different times and by different people'. (B&D, p.26)
Possibly the most intriguing photograph is one taken on October 28th 2003 which, in the upper left-hand corner, appears to reveal the head and shoulders of a man in the vicinity of the Sustrans cycle path which runs alongside the brook to the west of the priory.
Members of the party who examined this digital image were baffled and amazed, apart from Jackie Brown - the younger of the two spirit mediums - who claimed that it showed the ghost of a soldier that she had seen crossing both the path and the brook at the time the photograph was taken.
Both mediums were surprised that the strongest levels of residual energy at Gracedieu were to be found, not among the ruins of the priory, but in the adjacent field containing the cycle path and standing stone. Barbara writes, "My first spiritual feeling standing in this small clearing was one of 'men', dozens of them. Then I was picking up an impression of a 'camp area' and that these men were waiting or resting..." (B&D, p.24). It eventually became clear to Barbara that she was sensing the presence of soldiers, and this has inevitably generated speculation that this was the area where the King's men had based themselves at the time of the dissolution.
Adding another curious twist, John Dickinson subsequently discovered that the soldier apparition coincides with the anniversary of the dissolution - Agnes Litherland, the last prioress, having finally surrendered the convent on October 27th 1538. (Nichols)
Above: During March and April 2004, a paranormal investigation was carried out by the 'Haunted Britain' team, a Leicestershire based ghost research organisation, which proved to be a scary experience for the members. The investigation - comprising three nocturnal visits - witnessed the appearance of bizarre lights (see picture Left), whilst during a seance (see picture Right), footsteps were heard running round the group (this was heard by every member) and every light switched off on all the cameras. (HB, Website)
Such ghostly activity has never presented itself to professional ghost hunter Andrew J Wright (above) however, who writes of Gracedieu in his website: "I and many others have spent countless night hours here with no results. There is no atmosphere to the place" (Wright; extant, Jan 05).
However, in an email correspondence to the author (18.01.2005), Andrew writes:
"I did have one funny carry-on whilst returning from Belton church one Sunday morning to confirm the tomb of Roesia de Verdun.
I got site of a 'white thing' in a field well to the left on the road back to
the ruins. The chap with me said it was
On reflection either a farmer wishing to 'wind-up' visitors had set the thing
up or the phantom itself made an appearance. It was too far away to photograph
and I would say situated about halfway between Belton and the site not far
from the old railway line. It was early 1998 as I recall.. approx 11.30am."
Several observations have also been carried out at the Gracedieu site by Leicester-based group, 'HAUNTED'. This group was formed in about 2002 by Mr David Flanagan and its members have since visited sites all over Britain, including the site of Borley Rectory in Essex. During one of the Gracedieu visits, David's brother Roger was startled to see 'a very tall' black figure standing in the vicinity of the Chapter House as they stood near the gate at the edge of the field containing the ruins. On reaching the priory however, they found nothing, but have been intrigued by several photographs containing orbs and other light anomalies.(DF)
Another recent investigation by the Swadlincote Ghost Project yielded some incredible results, when the Group's medium even claimed to have been in touch with Henry VIII and on getting home, group member, Ian Griffiths played back film of the visit and found that he had captured a female voice on the tape which appeared to be saying, 'Sindy', or 'See me'. (IG)
On Wednesday 28 September 2005, members of the Whitwick Historical Society accompanied John Dickinson on a twylight tour of the priory ruins. Among the group was Anna (aged twenty-two), a friend of John's eldest son, Jamie. During the ramble, Anna took a photograph with her mobile 'phone and on later inspection found that she had captured a very distinct image of a male, walking out from underneath the Chapter House arch, which was unlike any member of the party gathered on that occasion. John describes the figure as having dark hair, wearing a white shirt or cravat, with a black coat and trousers and possibly spats. The image can be seen above, though picture quality is very poor, having been snapped originally on a mobile 'phone, and subsequently enlarged, printed out and re-scanned by myself. (JD2)
John later showed the photograph to three spirit mediums on different occasions, all of whom claimed to discern another image/images within the archway and suggested a nineteenth century subject date. John asked if it was felt that the apparitions were linked with nearby Gracedieu Manor or with the Beaumont family of Coleorton Hall. The feeling was that the apparitions were connected with the Beaumont family and all three mediums came up with the letter,'W' as a possible clue. This has led John to question whether the images may possibly be those of William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and his sister Dorothy (1771-1855), both of whom had strong local connections. In 1811, Wordsworth wrote a poem about 'the ivied Ruins of forlorn Grace Dieu', for a seat in the groves of Coleorton, where he was a frequent guest of Sir George Beaumont. Dorothy's nephew, John Wordsworth, was ordained Deacon of Whitwick in 1828, and she spent sometime here as his housekeeper and companion. (JD3)
Whilst the photograph undoubtedly contains the image of a man, it should also be said that there is a tendency for the human eye to make out faces or figures which are actually formed simply by naturally-occuring abstract shapes and textures (rather like seeing faces in the clouds). I wondered whether the hooded skeletal figure that I discerned to the far right of the photograph was such an illusion, though I am assured by John Dickinson that the figure is actually that of a real person, namely his son Jamie, but distorted due to the limited focussing ability of the mobile phone camera. (JD4)
I had the pleasure of joining John on one of his organised ghost walks on Wednesday 30 November 2005. Several of the party on this occasion were delighted with 'orb photographs', taken in the clearing containing the standing stone - one of which was particularly spectacular. My results, alas, were only modest. Nonetheless, I did capture some orbs, which I found puzzling as I had previously taken my camera out at night in different places, in the hope of capturing orbs, but with no success. My camera also seemed to cut out on several occasions.
On August 14th 2006, an interesting email was received from Melanie Cleall of Long Clawson near Melton Mowbray, entitled 'Possible Ghost Sighting'. It read: "I came across your site while looking for some information about Gracedieu Priory ruins. While visiting some friends in Loughborough today, we decided to go and have a look at the ruins as my husband and I have driven past once but never visited.
We parked up in the public house car park and once it stopped raining (!) we walked along the path from the pub car park, past the cricket ground on the right and under the little red brick bridge.
We came to a junction in the path and weren't sure which way to go. Directly ahead of us was a worn pathway and we were deliberating which way to go, when in front of me and towards the right in the trees, I saw a grey/white shape moving towards the left.
It was approx 3 ft from the ground. I did a double take, as you do, and it had gone. I said to my husband and our friends that I had just seen something in the trees, and my husband, who was slightly ahead of me said that he had seen something too, further to the left than my sighting, but moving towards the right.
We all walked over to the area that I had seen it and there was absolutely nothing in sight. At first I tried to convince myself that it was someone with a light coloured jacket on , having a walk, but there were no legs!!! No head either that I saw, just a shape. My husband described exactly the same thing and he is the biggest sceptic I know!
I would like to say that neither of us had any prior knowledge of the priory's reputation, our friends didnt tell us of the ghost stories other than the bus stop is allegedly haunted".(MC)
Around the same time Thringstone OnLine received the email from Mrs Cleall, an email was also received from Mr Tony Hart, a self-confessed sceptic, but who was intrigued by some photographs that he'd taken at the ruins on the evening of Saturday 12 August 2006, which appeared to show 'objects rising from the ground at speed'.(TH1)
Mr Hart had, in fact, captured orbs, typical of those to be seen on many photographs taken at the site. However, his interest aroused by this phenomena, he subsequently returned to the site with 'Simon', a clairvoyant, on Wednesday 16 August 2006 and gives an interesting account of thier visit: "I went back to Grace Dieu last night with a friend who is very sensitive to spirit activity, although I am not - I just look at it from a different perspective (I like to explain everything I see/find etc):
Arrived about 7.00pm and walked from the pub car park down the path to the red bridge. At the red bridge, Simon got some very uneasy feelings and we carried on down to standing stone. At the standing stone he could feel a distinctive rhythmic beat (I must admit I could feel it too). From there we went to the ruins.
We explored the ruins and he was continually drawn to the stream area, where I took some time exposure photos. One photo distinctly shows a round mist under an over hanging tree ! It wasn't anything to do with the sun light as the sun had gone down.
We explored the rest of the area; the areas most interesting to him were the chimney area and the chapter house. I took many photos but nothing appeared on the camera. At about 9.00 - 9.15 pm the atmosphere changed. Apart from it being darker and colder, my friend could sense things moving, so I photographed the area. Again, nothing appeared on the camera but when I went into the chapter house the pictures I took were full of orbs.
At about 9.30 - 10.00, I took many more pictures and I could not capture anything else. The strange thing is it was the same place and time I captured orbs on Saturday night! I can't explain why this should be as they only appeared in the pictures during this short time span.
We then walked back to the standing stone, I took pictures at different places on the way but nothing appeared in the camera.
At the standing stone you could see a misty hazy area over towards the hedge beyond the stone; I took a few pictures and then we went back home. The pictures I took at the stone did show a few orbs but not too many.
Another thing my friend said when we were at the ruins was he felt the presence of a dog as well as other presences.
It was quite an enjoyable evening, I would like to do some more research into the timing of the orbs - why they appeared at about the same time.
I have read many articles regarding orbs and cameras and how certain conditions can cause these. I understand that in total darkness the ccd chip in a digital camera can malfunction sometimes. But this does not explain the fact that I managed to capture orbs in the same place at the same time on two different nights and then afterwards, nothing. Surely if there was a problem with conditions and cameras the errors would appear more consistently during the period?
What I would like to do is a more detailed study of the site, plotting existing sightings together with photographic sightings, EMF readings and Moon cycles."(TH2)
Tony's appetite was so whetted, that he subsequently created a website in which to catalogue his experiences and findings at Gracedieu. This is well worth a visit and is located at "www.griffydam.co.uk". On October 24th 2006, during an investigation at the site, Tony captured a strange moving figure on an infrared camcorder, which occurred in the standing stone field. Like so many investigators before him, Tony found that his camera kept failing inexplicably. However, it was after sensing that someone was behind him, that Tony turned around to film the cycle path. This time his camera worked and he recorded a mist in the path, about four feet across by four feet high. It was only when he examined the footage later that he realised he had captured a mist passing by him, and then, just after the mist, a strange moving figure. This footage can be seen on Tony's site and is indeed very peculiar. (STPI Website)
Tony has sought a scienftific explanation for the image and concedes that the effect could possibly have been caused by his own exhalation of moisture. Water vapour shows up more densely in infrared, and Tony suggests that the strange effect may have been caused by water vapour moving away as he exhaled, and moving back as he inhaled. However, Tony says that he still remains unsure as to whether this offers a satisfactory explanation having re-run the footage repeatedly. I would invite the reader of this page to take a look at the file on Tony's website, and to read about the result of his ongoing investigation.
The video can also be seen on the Youtube website via this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIWh4Q-woWQ
On 22nd June 2007, The Loughborough Echo newspaper printed a photograph taken at the ruins during an overnight vigil by Ann Petty (aged 56) of Whitwick. The photograph appears to show a hooded figure in a long black robe standing next to what appears to be a small child. Ms Petty's intention was simply to capture a scenic image of the sun setting over the ruins whilst part of an overnight camp with the Tamworth Paranormal Society and is adamant that there was no-one around when she took the photograph. She said, "I am a sceptic but when I pulled the photo out of the printer I went cold... I was just there for the experience. I grew up near the priory and have done many ghost walks there but I have never seen or felt anything supernatural before. I've seen photos like this before and not believed it, but I just can't explain this." David Whitt, a director of the Gracedieu Priory Trust, said "I am not a believer but I have seen the photo and it is very weird." Ms Petty subsequently returned to the ruins to re-photograph the area to see if the image resembled any stoneworks or other surrounding objects but nothing similar re-appeared. (LE 22.06.07)
The same photograph also appeared in the Leicester Mercury (LM, 18.06.07) and prompted Rita Lorraine-Gould of Coalville, 'a paranormal investigator with more than 40 years' experience', to contact the newspaper. Rita said that she had investigated a story told by two policemen who claimed to have seen a figure at the site in the 1980s. Rita said: "The policemen had stopped at a set of traffic lights which were there for some temporary reason.
They told how everything went in slow-motion and they saw this white figure moving through the car. It turned towards them and it was not the White Lady, although that's what it would have looked like - it was a man! It started this speculation that in fact, the White Lady was a man who, for some reason in the past, had to disguise himself as a woman."
Rita continued, "It's always been a site of interest but this picture is bizarre and doesn't quite match the story of the White Lady. Although Ann Petty thought it looked like a monk standing over a child, it appears to me to be a big figure doing some dastardly deed to another person who is lying on the ground. We call these things 'time slips', where something from the past is caught on film." (LM 26.06.07)
Also on 22nd June 2007, Echo columnist John Rippin cited a letter that had recently been sent to him by the former Mayoress of Loughborough, Mrs Valerie Bradley of Bournemouth. The letter explained how her late husband John Bradley had experienced a ghostly encounter while passing the priory. Mr Bradley, a well known Shepshed businessman who gave long service on Charmwood Borough Council before becoming Mayor, saw the ghost of a monk/nun with head bowed and hands concealed. Mrs Bradley writes, "None of the cars passing stopped, so he thought that maybe they had not seen it." (LE 22.06.07)
In the following fortnight's edition of the Loughborough Echo, John Rippin mentioned my research into the Gracedieu phenomena and my belief that there may be a link between the apparitions and a major geological fault that runs beneath the priory (See section below - 'Earth Lights'). 'I am sure he is right', wrote Mr Rippin, 'because powerful streams of earth energy often coincide with fault lines. And paranormal experiences are frequently reported at such spots... With my interest aroused, I visited the priory for the first time in many years. And I confirmed, with the aid of a pendulum, that extremely strong currents of earth energy do indeed run beneath the site. As it was a sunny day I did not expect to encounter any apparitions. But on the "screen" inside my head I "saw" a group of nuns and monks sitting around a large wooden table in a spacious hall. They were enjoying a hearty meal, with wine, and seemed in a jolly mood. Is it possible that men and women in holy orders mingled at the priory? Surely not. It must all have been in my imagination.'(LE 06.07.07)
In the same article, Mr Rippin disclosed that another person had contacted him about a sighting at the priory. It is said to have taken place aound ten years previously (circa 1997), when a Shepshed woman was returning home after visiting Whitwick. She was in a car being driven by her husband and their daughter - who was then aged twenty seven - was also a passenger. When the car reached Gracedieu, the woman saw a female figure step into the road and screamed at her husband to stop, but before he could do so, the figure floated into a hedge and disappeared. The daughter also saw the apparition, though oddly, the father did not. This account was apparently relayed to Mr Rippin by the woman's employer.(LE 06.07.07)
The following week, another reader contacted Mr Rippin to say that one October night around seven years previously (circa 2000), he had been driving past the ruins when a monk appeared in front of his car. He was expecting a collision but nothing happened. 'I was in shock', said the eye-witness, 'I could not explain what had happened'. (LE 13.07.07)
On July 24 2007, The Leicester Mercury printed extracts from a letter sent in by Mr M Patrick of Ibstock, Leicestershire. Mr Patrick claimed that the ghost shown in Mrs Petty's photograph appeared to be the same as one that, over a number of years, has manifested in and around Osgathorpe, about a mile from the priory.
Mr Patrick explained that his daughter and her husband keep a farm in Breedon Lane, Osgathorpe and that the ghost has been seen around their farm for many years. Mr Patrick cited several occasions on which the ghost had appeared, including one particularly memorable and rather amusing occasion when a representative from a corn seed merchants called at the farm, leaving his car at the bottom of the drive. The representative spent some time discussing business at the farm and enjoyed a cup of tea before leaving at around tea time, by which time it was twylight. Mr Patrick explains that within about a minute and a half, the representative fled back into the farmhouse, exclaiming that there was a ghost at the bottom of the drive. The terrified man asked Mr Patrick's son-in-law, Alan, if he would accompany him to his car, which he did, but by this time the ghost had gone. On getting into his car, the businessman then left at speed, vowing never to return to the farm again.
Mr Patrick related another occasion, when his son-in-law was puzzled by the fact that there had been no delivery of meat at the farm by his reliable supplier, a butcher from Melbourne, who usually made deliveries twice a week. Several days later, he saw the butcher at a cattle market in Derby and asked him why there had been no delivery of meat as they did not owe him any money. The butcher explained that he would not deliver any more meat to the farm as he had been confronted by a ghost when walking up the drive and ran back to the delivery van, instructing his brother to drive away as fast as he could. Mr Patrick also mentioned other occasions when the ghost had been seen in the driveway by both his son-in-law and his granddaughter and her husband. (LM 24.07.07)
Recent archaeological research at Gracedieu has yielded possibly a vital clue to the White Lady mystery. The research suggests that a standing stone (SK 43401862) in a field to the west of the ruins may have been one of fourteen arranged elliptically in a pagan circle. (L.M: 21.10.99) This may well have influenced the specific choice of location for this medieval religious house, Christian foundations of this period quite often being built on ancient sacred sites. John Dickinson of the Gracedieu Archaeology Group points out that the finding of Mesolithic flint scrapers around the base of the standing stone may also indicate that this particular site has been used as a meeting place - possibly of a religious nature - since 8,000-4,000 B.C. (B&D, p.10)
Stone circle researchers claim that most such examples in Britain are located very close to geological faults, so it may also be very significant that Gracedieu lies close to the famous 'Thringstone Fault', which marks the eastern boundary of the Leicestershire coalfield. These circle sites also seem to have a common propensity for attracting paranormal activity.
It was not until delving into this subject further - in February 2005 - that I discovered just how astonishingly close the Gracedieu standing stone is in relation to the fault. Judging by the map below (which is taken from 'The Geology of the East Midlands' 1968), it would seem that the site of Gracedieu stands virtually on top of it.
The Leicestershire-born author, Paul Devereux mentions the Gracedieu stone in his book, 'Earth Lights: Towards an Explanation of the UFO Enigma' (1982) - a study of peculiar visual effects widely reported above certain spots in the earth. Mr Devereux's research presents evidence to suggest that unusual electromagnetic fields associated with fault areas interfere with the normal cycles of the atmosphere, sometimes generating phenomena referred to as 'earth lights'. Of Gracedieu, Mr Devereux writes:
"In the north-west of Leicestershire are the ruins of Grace Dieu Priory and in the field alongside stands the remains of a monolith. In our research on the county Andrew York and I learned of a legend which stated that a 'White Lady' ghost could be seen in this field on rare occasions. It was supposed to be the ghost of one of the nuns belonging to the former priory. To our surprise we discovered that this was not merely a legend, but it was also claimed that people nowadays had allegedly seen the spectre, even that a country bus which which runs along a road down one side of the haunted field had, at night, stopped for a white figure only to find it was the ghost. It was our good fortune to learn of an eyewitness account of the phenomenon. According to this witness, on the bus one evening when one of these incidents occurred, the 'White Lady' was simply a softly glowing, misty column of light, not a figure at all, that floated off across the field. In daylight, this type of event, or something very similar, seems to appear more as a dark column of gaseous or cloudy substance - a veritable vapour". (Devereux)"
For many, the research by Mr Devereux and others, which seeks to demonstrate a link between geological factors and photon-producing atmospheric phenomena, will be sufficient to explain Gracedieu's 'White Lady' enigma, firmly drawing a line under the idea that Gracedieu is the haunting ground of a disembodied prioress, in offering a superlative, natural explanation for those accounts of a luminous form occasionally seen to cross the A512 road, often described as having no face or feet.
For others - most especially the clairvoyants and paranormal investigators recently involved at the site - the 'earth lights' theory will come nowhere near to explaining the full range of happenings at Gracedieu and, in fairness, Mr Devereux states that he is 'not for one moment trying to explain away all types of ghost events'.
An interesting email on this subject was received on 11 January 2006 from an unidentified reader, stating: "I'm just writing to let you know that there has been a lot of 'earth light' activity in the woods these past few nights when there hasn't been a frost. The lights, clearly visible as I've walked my dog, have occurred in the usual places".
According to 'earth mysteries' author Bob Trubshaw, there are twenty-two prehistoric alignments or 'ley-lines' identified in Leicestershire and Rutland.
The site of Gracedieu Priory is located at one end of an alignment which then runs under the parish churches of Shepshed and Stanford on Soar in Nottinghamshire, Moat Hill (north of Stanford), a Saxon burial site at Wymeswold and the parish churches of Willoughby and Hose in Nottinghamshire, where the alignment would seem to terminate (Trubshaw, p25). Though the standing stone at Gracedieu appears to rest 100-200 yards north of this alignment, if, as geophysical research suggests, the stone was one of several forming a wider circle, the alignment may well have passed through this.
So many sightings and experiences over so many years cannot simply be dismissed as unworthy of serious consideration, and such accounts can only be attributable to one of three explanations. Either (a) the person who underwent the experience was deluded (i.e. there is a rational explanation for what happened); (b) the person is telling a downright lie or (c) the person really did undergo a preternatural experience.
If we are to go along with explanation c, then we must wonder whether we have a conscious and interactive spectral entity, or whether it is merely some form of atmospheric imprint, somehow replayed in the right conditions. In either case - active or passive - one must also wonder whether unusual electromagnetic properties generated by the tectonic faulting known to exist under Gracedieu have helped sustain an environment conducive to the survival of past human energies associated with the site.
The author does not wish to question the veracity of any of the reported sightings contained here, though several examples stand out as having a particular air of authenticity. The sightings of Hetty Wilson (1926), Nigel Beck (1981) and Renee Lea (1990) share a remarkable uniformity in terms of specific location and description, despite the fact that all three witnesses - recounting experiences separated by more than half a century - would almost certainly not have known of each other's accounts.
Though Hetty Wilson's experience involved several apparitions, all three sightings describe a white or grey image, robed, with no hands or feet, hovering or gliding above ground level - appearing on the opposite side of the road to the priory, in the vicinity of the bus stop.
I also have no doubt as to the genuineness of the people I have interviewed thus far in compiling this page. Relating to me his chilling roadside encounter of more than forty years ago, I felt I could almost perceive Denis Baker scratching his head at the other end of the 'phone, as this erudite Bachelor of Science and former lecturer in charge of General Studies at the Coalville Technical College tried to explain an experience which defied all the laws of science, when his car passed through an ostensibly solid human mass.
I found Denis to be open to the idea of Paul Devereux's 'earth lights' theory as a possible explanation for 'entity' sightings, though Mr Baker states that at the time of his experience, "I was firmly convinced in my own mind that what I saw was a woman".
Similarly, John Dickinson - another retired teacher (formerly a vice-principal at Ibstock Community College) - who had initially been extremely sceptical of Gracedieu's reputed haunting when I first met him several years ago, found he had to admit he was now anything but a cynic, having been among those present on the occasion of the Halloween ghost walk of 2003, when hoarding suspended to the scaffolding erected during restoration work at the priory began to clatter aggresively on a calm and windless night. (JD)
The emanation of the White Lady apparition at the junction of Belton Lane has led to a theory that the spirit is that of the foundress, Roesia de Verdun, whose remains were exhumed at the time of the dissolution and re-interred in the church of Saint John the Baptist, Belton, where her well-preserved alabaster effigy can be found in the north aisle(Above photograph courtesy of Tony Hart).
In 1839, the Earl of Shrewsbury and Mr Ambrose Lisle March Phillipps had the rector's permission to restore the relics to Gracedieu and the tomb was opened. However, before the bones could be removed the rector changed his mind and the remains still lie at Belton. (CT: 31.07.98) The suggestion is that through a violation, or at least a disturbance of her resting place, the spirit of Roesia de Verdun is not at peace and is indicating this through her manifestations at the bottom of Belton Lane, where we now see the Gracedieu bus shelter
In recent times, various publications and newspaper articles have referred to local legends about the priory, particularly those concerning its dissolution and the fate of the last prioress, Agnes Litherland. However, it is probable that such 'legends' are of twentieth century manufacture, since I am unaware of any documentary records supporting the existence such stories beyond that of the present generation. This is perhaps even more surprising given the romantic passion of the Victorians for compiling tomes of myth and folklore. Moreover, the 'legends' seem to have become increasingly fanciful - such as one mentioned in a Coalville Times feature of 1998, which says that the illegitimate child of Agnes Litherland was drowned in the lake behind the priory while its mother was left to die of starvation, walled up by the King's men as a punishment for fornication.
According to local writer, Janet Slattery, there is a legend that at the time of the Dissolution in the 1530s the prioress fled from the king's men, taking with her many valuable relics. After burying the treasure she then tried to escape by a secret tunnel to Ashby Castle. The prioress was discovered and killed when she refused to disclose the location of the treasure. Ever since, it is said, her ghost has haunted the ruins. (Slattery, 1990)
In fact, records show that the prioress, along with the sub-prioress Anne Gresley and fourteen other nuns, was turned out of the convent and sent back into the world, the prioress receiving a meagre compensation of sixty shillings. (Nichols)
Gracedieu's association with strange happenings would seem to go back at least as far as the sixteenth century.
Following the dissolution of the priory in 1538, the building and lands came into the possession of John Beaumont of Thringstone. He had a son who was a famous judge. The story is told of how one day in the grounds of the old priory, two men came before him for justice. One of the men vehemently protested his innocence and "...prayed the ground might open, and he might sink, if what he attested in his own cause was not true". To everybody's astonishment, the ground opened immediately! The Judge, however, evidently refused to allow that the incident had any legal significance and pointed his finger, ordering both men to go, whereupon the ground immediately closed again. Ever since, it is said, "that place will now sound, being struck on, as Robert Beaumont of Barrow on Trent affirmeth". (Nichols)
There is an old local legend that a secret underground passage ran between Gracedieu Priory and the Castle at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. This must surely be a myth however, owing to the sheer distance between the two (about six miles). Others have asserted that a tunnel linked the priory with the monastery of Mount Saint Bernard, near Whitwick, though, of course, this is doubly absurd since the monastery was not even founded until three hundred years after Gracedieu's dissolution. However, it is certain that some form of subterranean passage runs under the site, possibly for some considerable distance. What is it exactly and why is it there ?
The likelihood is that the tunnelling had once been used to culvert water as part of a mediaeval drainage system and is similar to the sewerage systems found in other monastic sites. The tunnel, which is three and a half feet high and two feet and two inches wide, is punctuated at intervals by overhead refuse chutes and is constructed of rough forest stone, capped by lintels, with a floor of flat stone slabs. Now completely dry due to several roof falls and the intersection of a nineteenth century railway embankment, the tunnel would probably have connected with several pools around the site, designed to either bring fresh water to, or refuse away from the buildings. (Miller)
No doubt the romantic legends about nuns' escape routes and buried treasure will persist !
If you have had a ghostly experience at Gracedieu or know of someone else who has, please consider emailing your account to the author of this webpage for inclusion - Thringstone OnLine. Thank you.
I should like to conclude this page by drawing the attention of anyone planning a night time excursion to the woodland around Gracedieu to the plight of Sharni Vernon and her boyfriend's stepfather, who narrowly escaped a tragedy at about three o' clock in the morning in August 2006. Sharni, then aged sixteen, of Ravenstone, Leicestershire, was among a small group of people who had gone to investigate tales of ghostly activity in the Thringstone woodland. Sharni lost consciousness after tumbling head over heels down a thirty foot ravine, which sparked a frantic search by the yougster's friends who feared that she could have been dead. During the panic, the thirty-five year old stepfather of Sharni's boyfriend also plummeted down the slope and passed out.
At length, Sharni was found by her boyfriend who dragged her from a swamp and the injured pair were eventually both hauled to safety by emergency crews using a rope pully in a two hour rescue operation. The stepfather was admitted to the Leicester Royal Infirmary with a broken bone in his back, while Sharni was lucky to escape serious injury. The incident made headlines in the Leicester Mercury newspaper and, needless to say, Sharni explained that she would not be taking part in any further late night ghost hunts!(LM: 29.08.06)
Key to References:
Click Here, For an Historical Account of Gracedieu Priory.