The Kirklees Vampire
Exploring the suspect area at Kirklees Park Estate.
The Death of Robin Hood:
The story of Robin Hood being bled to death by his cousin, the prioress of Kirklees, is recorded in a Sloane manuscript. He is said to have died without the sanctity of holy unction and his body was supposedly interred 650 yards from the Kirklees priory gatehouse. Whether he is actually entombed in the Kirklees grave bearing a much later tombstone is a matter open to much speculation. The inscription reads: “Here underneath dis laitl stean Laz Robert earl of Huntingtun … etc.”
The apparition most frequently reported in the immediate area, however, is not that of a male, much less a medieval outlaw, but is the spectre of a darkly clad woman ~ sometimes described as a hag in the garb of a prioress from a past century.
The Kirklees grave alleged to contain Robin Hood.
A Local Woman’s Testimony:
Someone who founded a local historical society in the mid-1980s (based on the premise that Robin Hood originated in Yorkshire) is one of several people to have witnessed a ghastly apparition, as well as having suffered alleged supernatural activity at her nearby home. This is what she claimed in the Brighouse Echo, 12 November 1995:
"Like a bat she hung there for what seemed like an eternity, her black nun's robes flapping eerily while her eyes flashed red and venomous and her teeth bared sharp and white between snarling blood-red lips."
The spectre at Kirklees, therefore, seems to have less to do with the legendary figure of Robin Hood, who might or might not be interred in the tomb attributed to him, than it has to with the terrifying hag with razor canines, wearing a nun's habit, who has been witnessed by several people who have described the general area as containing an atmosphere of supernatural dread.
Hint of Mystery in a Green Oasis:
“It may have been because it was hot and sunny but when I turned into the long drive to Lady Armytage’s home it was hard to believe the green oasis was just minutes away from Huddersfield and the busy M62. The Armytage family had lived on the land since 1565. … The source of the controversy, the alleged grave of Robin Hood, is well hidden in the trees at the top of a hill. … An iron cage was placed around the gravestone in the early 19th century. … In 1989 Lady Armytage was asked to hold a service of blessings and nightly vigils at Robin’s graveside by the International Society for the Advancement of Irrefutable Vampirological and Lycanthropic Research [aka Vampire Research Society]. Her refusal culminated in rumours of a conspiracy and even an illegal visit to the site by a vampire [research] society.”
~ Helen Briggs, Spen Guardian, 15 May 1997
Bishop Seán Manchester on a nocturnal vigil at a place of suspected vampire contagion.
A Ghostly Apparition:
Sightings of eerie spectres in the vicinity of Kirklees go back centuries, but, when taking an autumnal stroll in 1963, a local Huddersfield man got more than he bargained for as a medieval figure “seemed to glide towards” where he was walking. “There was no sound of feet walking over the dry leaves and twigs,” he said. He saw the apparition again in 1972. Tales began to accumulate of a haunting, but when a number of finger-width holes were discovered in the ground above the tomb in the winter of 1987, along with animals drained of blood in the immediate vicinity, the Vampire Research Society opened a formal investigation.
The Armytage Connection:
“The Armytage family lived over the brow of the hill on a splendid site once occupied by Benedictine (Cistercian) nuns. It was called Kirklees. There was a mystery about it which local people only reluctantly tried to penetrate. The mystery was helped physically by the thick shroud of trees that surrounded the place, and was sustained by local tales of ghosts of prioresses and nuns and of the death of Robin Hood whose grave is so imperturbably marked as lying within Kirklees grounds in spite of any facts which might suggest to the contrary.”
~ Land of Lost Content, the Luddite Revolt (1812)
An Aborted Exhumation:
Sir Samuel Armytage, together with Robert Barr, attempted an exhumation of the grave in 1706. However, they had dug only a yard deep when they quit. Despite being the worse for drink, something had so disturbed them that they ran off into the night. Three and a half centuries of accrued leaf mould in a dense woodland would have raised the ground significantly by the time this aborted exhumation attempt was made in the early eighteenth century. It is unlikely, therefore, that Sir Samuel penetrated the soil.
Roger Williams’ Account of the Apparition:
“I have seen the apparition of a woman twice near Robin Hood’s grave. My first strange experience was in 1963 when I was fifteen years old. It was a bright sunny day in early September, and my encounter with the ghost occurred at around 2.00pm in the afternoon. This was the first time I had ever visited the outlaw’d grave. Myself and a friend (who does not want to be named) were walking in the area on our way to a field at the other side of the woods where we intended to do a bit of target shooting with our air rifles. My friend asked me if I wanted to see Robin Hood’s grave. I said ‘Yeah, if you want’ – a bit sceptical that Robin Hood would be buried in a place like this and so he took me up to see it.
“I was actually quire surprised at what I saw (back then the cage-like railings were still intact), it was much larger and a more impressive structure than I had expected; a monument rather than the simple gravestone I had imagined it would be. The large rhododendron bushes added to the atmosphere. My friend read the inscription aloud: ‘Here underneath did laitl stean …’ We stayed there a couple of minutes, then, having seen enough, we began to walk away.
“It was then that I noticed a figure through the trees to my left. The figure was coming towards us. I began to feel a little apprehensive, fearing that this might be a gamekeeper who would obviously take a dim view of two lads carrying air rifles. However, as the figure came nearer, I realised it was a woman. The peculiar thing was that she seemed to glide rather than walk, and moved very quickly at what seemed to be a fast walking pace; although strangely her legs did not seem to be moving at all. Also noticeable was an eerie lack of sound, this despite the fact that the ground was covered in twigs, dried leaves and bracken through which movement was impossible without making rustling and cracking noises.
“She came within five yards of us and stopped. We saw her very clearly. On this occasion I was too shocked to notice anything much about her physical appearance apart from the expression on her face, an expression of anger. The irises of her eyes appeared so dark as to be almost black. She had dark hair and was wearing a long off-white dress cut square at the neck. My friend and I both felt pure malevolence emanating from her. She then moved past us and went straight into the thicket of rhododendron bushes to my friend’s right. A real person could not possibly walk into them like that. She was gone. It was only at that point that we realised that she was not a flesh and blood person, but she seemed so solid that we had not been aware that this was a supernatural experience until afterwards.
“My second experience was in 1972, the last Saturday in August. I was now twenty-four and working as a musician. I had recently formed a new band, we had been very busy with rehearsals and were due to perform our first gig that same night. Phil Marsden, my bass guitarist, had heard about Kirklees Priory and the tales of Robin Hood, and knowing that I lived near it asked if I could show him Robin Hood’s grave. I agreed, so we set off.
“It was a bright, but chilly morning. Phil was chased halfway there by a herd of cows, much to my amusement, and we arrived at the grave just before noon. Phil was very excited to see the monument, hardly able to believe his eyes, asking me if it truly was the grave of Robin Hood. I replied that I wasn’t really sure, but that is what it was supposed to be. By 1972 the railings had been damaged, so Phil was able to climb inside and read the inscription aloud. The area seemed a little clearer overall; perhaps some of the rhododendron bushes had been removed. Having seen what we wanted to see, Phil and I began to walk away. I bent down to tie my shoelace, but then as I was busy fiddling with the laces Phil said ‘Hey, Roge, there’s a woman coming.’ When I looked up I froze. The experience of nine years earlier came back in a flash. Again, she glided silently towards us, very quickly, but this time she came so close to me that I could have reached out and touched the hem of her dress. I got a much clearer view of her.
“She was a slim woman, her pale face was surrounded by very dark hair, neat and tidy if a rather unusual style, shoulder length at the back, but cut to cheek length at the front, almost as if she had a grown-out fringe, but her hairs did seem to be deliberately cut like that. All the time her intense black irised eyes were fixed upon me, her lips were taut, her expression was even angrier than before. She appeared livid. We both felt the malevolence coming down from this apparition. Her nose was straight, the nostrils flared a little in anger, her eyebrows were dark and quite thick, cheekbones were high and well defined. If her face was not full of rage, she would have appeared quite an attractive woman.
“She was wearing the same off-white dress (it was a very light brown-grey, taupe, colour) but I noticed more detail. The neckline was square-cut, bordered by a pattern of swirling S shapes. The same pattern also appeared at the cuffs of her sleeves. The top half of the dress, that is the bodice and sleeves, were tight-fitting, the sleeves were slightly puffed at the shoulder but not much. There seemed to be a waist band of sorts, sewn into the design of the dress. The skirt was long and straight and hung right down to the floor, I could not see her feet. Around her neck she wore a choker, a dark band which seemed to be placed very high around her neck, not far below her chin. From this hung a metal amulet, oval in shape it appeared to have some design or inscription on it. Curiously, Phil thought it was a jewel but he was not as close to her as I was, so perhaps was mistaken. I noticed her hands were very slim with long fingers, the sleeve of her dress came down past the wrist.
“She stood for what seemed a long time, all the while we were frozen to the spot. Then she moved off to our right in the rough direction of The Three Nuns pub. She looked as if she was going to walk straight into the bushes but she stopped just before she reached them, shimmered and vanished. I looked across at Phil. He was white with shock, and I couldn’t have looked much better. Afterwards Phil said that the woman had her eyes fixed on him all the while, which was very strange because to me she appeared to be looking directly at me - (Phil was off to one side, at a different angle to her. It is not as if he was directly behind me, so this was rather odd).
“That night we were still so shook up that we were hardly able to play the gig. We got through it somehow, but that wasn’t the end of it. The next day Phil said he’d had a bad night. Thinking he meant the gig, I tried to reassure him, told him not to worry about it. He said he didn’t mean that, he meant the banging and knocking sounds he’d heard at his own house!
“So who was this woman? Although some people have suggested that she might be the prioress that killed Robin Hood she certainly did not look like a nun. What is more, not only was she not wearing a nun’s habit, but the style of dress does not even fit the time of Robin Hood. My sister-in-law, Sandra, recently drew a sketch of the apparition based on my description and checked it against illustrations in her mother’s collection of books on ladies costume through the ages, looking at the entire period from 1066 up to 1970. She found that this type of dress was very fashionable for one short period in history, the period was around the late 1400s to the early 1500s, during the reign of Henry Tudor (Henry VII). One book had illustrations of dresses that looked almost identical to the sketch. The only thing that seemed a little out of place was that women of those times wore headdresses, but other than that the dress appears to belong to that era. Who she might be remains a mystery.” (Roger Williams, June 2005).
Bishop Manchester’s Vigil:
In contrast to Roger Williams’ account where “wild horses would not drag [him] to that place again; [he] wouldn’t go up there for a million pounds,” is the vigil organised by Bishop Seán Manchester in response to tales from many similarly frightened locals. This led to his utterance of a spontaneous exorcism in the heat of the moment when things got out of hand. The bishop and his two assistants, however, had not planned for anything other than a vigil. The story is now taken up by Fate magazine’s associate editor, Craig Miller, in the July 1997 issue: “[Bishop] Manchester approached Lady Armytage ‘for permission to hold a vigil and carry out a number of experiments near the tomb. Unfortunately, this was not granted.’ Undaunted, Manchester snuck onto the grounds for an unofficial vampire hunt on the evening of 22 April 1990. ‘I was to be accompanied by two assistants,’ Manchester recounts in The Unexplained, a UK magazine of the paranormal, ‘but once we reached the edge of the wood, one of them became extremely agitated and returned to the vehicle. I continued with one helper. First we inspected the crumbling priory gatehouse ~ the sinister setting of that gruesome murder [of the tomb’s occupant who is believed to have been bled to death by the Prioress in 1248]. … We approached the grave, which has for centuries lain forgotten beneath a shroud of ivy and vineweed. Behind us, in the fields where our companion had retreated, lay the dismembered body of a goat, totally drained of blood.’ [Bishop] Manchester and his assistant had more unusual sights in store: ‘Then we came upon the great tomb. I unfastened my large bag of accoutrements and removed an armoury of crucifixes, holy water, garlic, candles and all known vampire repellents before continuing. Nothing happened for almost three hours. Then we heard it. First of all, it wafted faintly on the night air, like the discordant sound sometimes made by the wind in the trees. But then it grew louder ~ and closer ~ and we recognised it to be more akin to a dreadful wailing. Something was approaching. I quickly lit a candelabrum stuffed with five candles, grabbed the largest crucifix available, and stepped into the path of the unearthly groaning. Behold the Light! I shouted’.”
A FULL ACCOUNT OF THE KIRKLEES CASE COMPRISES A CHAPTER OF THE VAMPIRE HUNTER’S HANDBOOK WHEREIN MANY OTHER WITNESSED SIGHTINGS AND STRANGE EXPERIENCES ARE CHRONICLED BY THE AUTHOR WHO COMPLETES THE STORY RECOUNTED ABOVE IN EERIE DETAIL. (Click on above title for more).
“We found ourselves amid a jungle of gorse and bramble as we drew close to the site. Then we came upon it. The great tomb with its fallen pillars and twisted railings surrounding the 18th century stone which had replaced the original medieval slab with its decorative cross. No sign of a cross remained over this tomb anymore. My armoury of vampire repellents included crucifixes, holy water, garlic and a small container wherein the Host is kept.” ~ Seán Manchester, The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook
There have been no significant developments
beyond the continued disturbances which evince peculiarly to each individual
who experiences them. The landowner will nowadays permit access
to the suspected gravesite provided a proper arrangement is made. Bishop
Manchester has offered to bless and, if need be, exorcise the afflicted area.
No further comment on the matter is available.