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Hunting Britain's Ghosts

June 14, 1987|PAUL DEAN | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — There's a restless immortality for many of the famous, most of the infamous and at least 10,000 ordinary blokes of these sceptered and thoroughly haunted British Isles.

A retired teacher, Stella Horrocks of Bradford, claims that through her moving pen, many who have gone over but seem reluctant to stay there, still write--Charles Dickens, Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward and Charlotte Bronte.

Believers say the ghost of Lawrence of Arabia, keffiyeh streaming, still rides his motorcycle across Dorset. Henry VIII, long the reigning monarch of all spooks, has been seen bellowing and strutting and belching in a dozen spots. So have most of his wives, some fully restored, some with noggins tucked under their arms. All sobbing and screaming and demanding alimony.

You don't even have to be very long gone to come back.

Last month a Liverpudlian publican and two of his regulars swore on a stack of Watney's (and to Astrology & Psychic News) that Richard Burton stops by for a pint at their (and Burton's former) local.

The devil you say? Well, he's got a haunting staked out in St. Leonard's Forest in Sussex. Cardinal Wolsey establishes equal time for God and Catholicism by shuffling around Hampton Court. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, with true spectral ecumenism, moans the Protestant cause at Oxford. All of which poses the question: Is it fair for even departed men of the cloth to scare the living bejesus out of us?

"We're supposed to have 10,000 officially haunted sites in the British Isles," says Tom Perrott. "But each site could have up to a dozen hauntings by any number of people. Say, one headless horseman. Or two lovers who committed suicide.

"In the city of York there's the Treasurer's House, where a plumber says he saw an entire Roman legion and a half pass through the wall. He probably saw a half-dozen or so and presumed the rest."

Perrott, 65, is bald, avuncular and retired; he talks in chapel tones befitting the professional ghost-buster. He is chairman of the Ghost Club (Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were among its 1862 co-founders) and a broadcaster, lecturer and investigator for the British Society of Psychical Research.

Perrott also is a ghost guide for anyone interested in visiting not only England's cathedrals, abbeys and stately homes, but also the wisps and wails of their original occupants.

He works only with the best, a spiritual monarchy of dead kings and queens, plus the country's overflow population of unhappy heroes and restless villains. As befits such carriage trade, he has a Beverly Hills agent--Ruth Stevens-Freund of Global Guests Inc., 8501 Wilshire Blvd.

On July 21, Perrott and Stevens-Freund will team to take the brave and inquisitive on yet another of their Mystical and Mystery Tours, a two-week $2,320 visit (including hotels, meals and motor-coach transportation, but not air fare) to some of England's better haunts. To Westminster Abbey, where the entombed Unknown Warrior has started making himself known. To Canterbury Cathedral, where the Headless Bishop wanders.

And, of course, to Pluckley, where ghosts are doing for this Kentish village what cheese has done for the Somerset town of Cheddar.

Other Haunting Features

The Perrott-Stevens-Freund tour also includes one of those solve-it-yourself murder mystery weekends with the bonus fillip of an Agatha Christie setting, a costume ball and visits to the more benign sights of London, Stratford and the Lake District.

Yet another American search for British spiritualism arrived last week. This two-week tour is being led by Nonie Fagett of Metco Tours, Beverly Hills, who clearly is California's counterpart of Perrott. She's a psychic and an exorcist and was technical adviser to the movie "Ghostbusters." She also lives in the Benedict Canyon home where mystery writer Muriel Davidson was murdered in 1983.

"Our tour will spend one week in London and one week in the countryside," she explained. "I don't say: 'Come with me and you will see an apparition.' But every place I take people has a current apparition, one that shows itself.

"I know because I've seen most of them."

Perrott, on the other hand, has never seen a ghost. Oh, he has felt their chills. He accepts that the living, human presence creates energy and that a violent or dramatic end will excite that force. It might be possible, he says, for such energy to survive the death of the person and cling, swirling and boiling, to some final or familiar place.

Faith, Not Facts

Conversely, Perrott says, England is a country of dark superstitions, wild eccentricities and outlandish folklore: "In the dark, distant past, England was rich with isolated communities. During long winter nights people would regale themselves with stories. Most of those old stories had little basis in fact . . . but they came to be believed."

Therefore, there's a magnification, embellishment and elevation of the natural to the supernatural until allegations may have become the truths that begat a cottage industry.

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