Bedfordshire’s rich history is full of intrigue – with plenty of ghostly tales to tell on cold winter nights.
The county’s spooky stories cover all sorts of sites, from the Bedford cinema haunted by ghostly monks to the house described as “one of the most haunted places in the country”.
Paranormal investigators are even at work locally – so we spoke to several of them to find out which are the eeriest locations they’ve ever visited.
Here are seven of the most spine-chilling stories they had to share.
Legend has it Cineworld in Aspects Leisure Park is one of the most haunted places in the county, with a ghostly monk among its many sinister occupants.
It stands on ground that was once Newnham Priory, a monastery built for worship in the 12th century which has reportedly left behind a haunted legacy.
Ghost hunter Paul Sharman, from the Three Counties Paranormal Society, investigated the building and found “strange” happenings including ghostly figures and a chilling laugh picked up on equipment.
Most of the sightings have reportedly come in Screen 4, where doors allegedly open violently of their own accord, there are cold spots and strange sounds have been heard, as well as a hooded monk seen wandering.
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Paul explained: “Every book about hauntings in Bedfordshire says the same thing, that there’s a figure in the front row and that a boy had died after hanging himself near the cinema.
“We used our kit to scan the cinema and we found a figure in the front row, moving between seats 8, 9 and 10.”
Seat 8 of the front row supposedly refuses to stay upright but doesn’t move back down while being watched and customers have complained of the feeling of hands brushing against their legs as they sit watching a film.
“We also found two figures sitting next to each other on the back row of the cinema,” Paul added.
“As one of the team went to sit down they both leaned away from the person who sat down, as if they were scared of her.”
Church of St Mary the Virgin, Clophill
The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Clophill, Bedfordshire, was abandoned for around 170 years after it fell into disuse in the 1840s.
During this time the church fell into ruin as it lost its roof and became a focal point for vandalism, anti-social behaviour, and according to ghost hunters, ‘black magic’.
Over the years many people have reported seeing strange things near the church, from mysterious hooded monks to tall dark figures.
The 14th-century church was reportedly used for satanic rituals in the 1960s, as rumour has it bones were dug up and arranged in satanic patterns.
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A local ghost hunter has theorised that the hauntings are what remain of ‘black magic’ rituals from many years ago.
He explained: “There’s definitely something strange going on at the church, and my personal view is that it’s down to black magic practices held there.
“I think it’s possible for a group of satanists to conjure up something and leave it behind. A sort of guardian or elemental.”
Other theories speculate that it is haunted because it is facing the wrong way. Churches traditionally face east, the direction from which the sun rises, which is associated with the location of heaven.
However, because St Mary the Virgin faces away from God, it is said to have opened its doors to Hell.
Wardown Park Museum, Luton
The Wardown Park Museum and Gallery, housed in a large Victorian mansion, is apparently home to many sinister spirits – including a housekeeper dressed all in black.
During the First World War Wardown Park house was used as a hospital, firstly by the Royal Army Medical Corps, and then the Voluntary Aid Detachments of the British Red Cross Society.
According to a former caretaker, many soldiers who died while in hospital were kept down in the cellar, which is now extremely haunted.
But the most famous spirit is known as ‘the housekeeper’ a woman dressed all in black.
Many other visitors have reportedly seen ‘the housekeeper’, including a group of workmen carrying out repairs on the house in the late 1970s.
A ghost hunter told us: “They were working down in the cellar when they saw a lady in a long black dress come down the stairs. They described her in the exact same way, dressed all in black and carrying a set of keys.
“The workmen looked at each other and when they looked back she was gone. They asked the caretaker who she was, and he explained that she’s the ghostly housekeeper.”
Houghton House, Ampthill
After hearing reports of “ghostly shadows” and apparitions “of a knight on horseback and the figure of a little girl” ghost hunters investigated Bedfordshire ruin Houghton House.
Paranormal investigators Totally Haunted visited the former hunting lodge of Mary Herbert, the Dowager Countess of Pembroke, in the early hours of a July morning in 2012.
Not long after arriving at the site in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, the investigators started filming and recording audio for evidence.
In their video they say: “Is there any spirit in this house with us? If you once lived here could you make sound for us? Could you use your voice to speak to us?
“We mean you no harm. If you can throw something for us – you can pick up a stone and throw it.”
As the camera pans away from one of the investigators a sound – possibly of a stone being thrown – is heard.
The investigators ask again for a sign and they hear an “unexplained sound followed by what sounds like someone saying ‘Get out'”.
Chicksands Estate, Shefford
Paranormal investigators have said Chicksands is not only one of the most haunted places in Bedfordshire, but in the entire country.
With a rich history dating back to the 11th century, if its walls could talk they would probably tell a story or two.
It was founded by monks and nuns of the Gilbertine Order almost 1,000 years ago, and it later became a United States Air Force base that was used to spy on the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Today, it belongs to the Ministry of Defence and its secrets are closely guarded, but a local team of paranormal investigators were allowed to search for ghosts in the priory back in 2005.
They told us: “Three different teams on three separate occasions all said the same thing, that they’d seen a monk.
“They couldn’t see its face but could see its hood, and it glided noiselessly through the priory, on one occasion floating through a wall.”
It is also reportedly haunted by a disgraced nun named Rosetta who became pregnant while at the priory.
It is said that she was tortured and killed for this crime, as was the man she slept with.
Rumour has it that on the seventeenth of every month the ghost of the nun walks about the priory searching for her lost lover.
A nun of the same name is commemorated by a plaque in the priory which reads “by virtues guarded and by manners graced, here alas is the fair Rosetta placed”.
Segenhoe Church, Ridgmont
Segenhoe Church is a stunning abandoned church with no roof and graceful windowless arches, however, it is also reportedly haunted.
The Three Counties Paranormal Society visited Segenhoe Church a few years ago late on a summer night.
Paul Sharman, one of the organisers of the society, said he’s seen a lot odd things in his time but he couldn’t begin to explain what happened that evening.
Paul remembers: “There were four of us there, three in the church and I was standing in the graveyard when I saw a figure walking around the graveyard, which was weird as it was close to midnight and the abandoned church is quite far from the village.
“Two of us went over and saw this young girl and asked her what she’s doing, she pointed in the direction of fields, nothing but fields for miles. So we asked what she’s doing up here and she said she always comes up here. We asked how old she was and she said 13.
“She then started walking down a footpath to the village and as she got to a tree there was a flash and she just disappeared. I can’t explain it, it was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen!”
He said she was dressed in modern clothes, but had a strange and distant look about her.
RAF Thurleigh, Thurleigh
RAF Thurleigh was built in 1941, and was used by the RAF before it was handed over to the United States Army Air Force in 1942.
Thurleigh became home for many American servicemen, and over three years the airfield played an important role in the war, with the Americans using it for heavy bomber operations against Nazi Germany.
The airfield also saw a number of tragedies, and many people claim it is now haunted.
The officer’s mess is reportedly haunted by an American airman.
The weird goings-on include light bulbs falling, doors opening and closing and footsteps echoing in empty corridors.
Robert Allen, a volunteer and curator of the Aviation Museum, told the BBC: “Odd things started straight away. There was always an atmosphere, you always felt like you were being watched and we’d be working away and you’d see somebody appear at the door like a black shadow and you’d turn around and it would vanish.
“In the old flight office buildings, two of our members were walking down the corridor on a winter’s evening to collect something and they didn’t bother to turn the lights on.
“As they were walking, a ball of blue light, about the size of a football, came shooting down the corridor and went into an open doorway.
“They said we wouldn’t believe what they’d just seen, but then we started hearing footsteps down the corridor even though the doors were locked, you’d wait to see someone and nobody would appear.”
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