Guildford ghosts & their stories

November 9, 2021| Past Issues, By Alex Rose

By Alex Rose

Although Halloween is behind us, the ghouls and ghosts of Guildford and its neighbouring towns still lurk. If you have a steady nerve, read on to hear their haunting stories.

For 20 years, ghost tours of Guildford have uncovered a darker side of the town centre to tourists and locals alike. In this article we’ll explore some of the most intriguing tales from our local area, including the chilling sightings of Guildford Castle, an unexplainable A3 apparition, the infamous legend of Silent Pool and more.

Nestled in the Surrey Hills – an area of outstanding beauty – lies Silent Pool near Shere, a well-known walker’s hotspot boasting a popular gin distillery company of the same name. The serene and mysterious Silent Pool is a spring-fed lake secluded by trees and shrouded in an eerie stillness said to be haunted by the presence of a woodcutter’s daughter. It was near here that Agatha Christie’s car was discovered whilst she was missing for eleven days before being discovered at a hotel in Harrogate with apparent memory loss, a mystery likened to her own novels. It was also here that the 19th century poet, Alfred Tennyson used to visit and muse over his poems.

A Victorian artist’s sketch of Silent Pool.

There are many variations of the legend of Silent Pool, but most begin with the woodcutter’s daughter, Emma – sometimes Alice – bathing in the tranquil water. It is generally believed that a nobleman on horseback approached her, and in an attempt to escape his advances, the girl swam to a deeper part of the lake and drowned. The nobleman, frightened, made his escape, leaving behind his hat which would be discovered by the woodcutter the next day, in search of his daughter. The hat bore the royal crest of Prince John, who later became Bad King John. The ghost of the woodcutter’s ill-fated daughter is said to be seen at midnight, dressed in virginal white, floating over the surface of the water and at times, the silence of the pool has reportedly been broken by Emma’s (or Alice’s) screams for mercy. However, the most common phenomena experienced at Silent Pool are strange noises and the feeling of being followed.

More recently, on December 11, 2002, Surrey police received a frenzy of calls reporting a car veering off the road near the A3 turn off to Burpham. This was no regular accident, and what unfolded afterwards has become local folklore.

In this article we’ll explore some of the most intriguing tales from our local area, including the chilling sightings of Guildford Castle, an unexplainable A3 apparition, the infamous legend of Silent Pool and more.

When the police went to investigate the incident, no trace of a crash was found, despite the numerous sightings. No tyre marks were on the road, nor any flattened foliage where the car was said to have crashed, and it took until the next morning, when dawn broke, for a car to be found. However, this car, a maroon Vauxhall Astra was covered in undergrowth, indicating that it had been there for much longer than one night. The wreckage was nose down in a ditch, invisible to the road above, and nearby lay the decomposed body of the driver who seemed to have survived the crash and managed to drag himself part way up the embankment in an attempt to get help, before dying. When he was discovered along with the car five months later, he was no more than a skeleton. The driver was eventually identified as Christopher Chandler, an alleged robber on the run from the police, who had been reported missing in July 2002 by his brother. But how could this be, when a multitude of witnesses saw the accident only the evening before? How could so many people have witnessed a crash five months after it occurred? Many believe that it must have been some sort of ghostly re-enactment of that fateful night.

One of Surrey’s most impressive ruins is the mighty Guildford Castle. Now known for its beautiful grounds, it was built shortly after the Norman conquest of 1066, and renovated around 2003. It seems to be these renovations that have stirred the slumbers of the castle’s oldest residents. In recent years, there have been a number of reports that visiting families have come running out of the castle’s ground floor carrying near hysterical children. These children have described witnessing an emaciated figure chained to the castle walls. Chillingly, the apparition was sighted in the part of the castle used as a prison for those incarcerated accused of serious crimes such as murder, and any prisoners would await their execution here, if found guilty. None of the children, of course, would have been aware of this.

Guildford Castle, site of a chilling apparition. Image of Guildford Castle above and in header of this article by Richard Nevell, London, United Kingdom

The highest point to be seen from Guildford town centre is The Mount, where, in the 18th century, executions would be carried out in view of the high street. Halfway up The Mount sits The Mount Cemetery, where Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland author, Lewis Carrol, is buried. The Mount happens to be the setting for one of the most convincing photographs of a ghost. The picture features an unidentifiable spectral figure looming in the centre of a path, surrounded by spindly trees, and half obscured by the heavy fog. These were taken by Mark Baker, and the Director of The Ghost Finder Paranormal Society, Barri Ghai said “I am stuck for words on this one – these images have caused quite a stir among my team. We are actually convincing ourselves that this could be genuine, a real ghost, but obviously for us to say that without a full investigation of the area is a tough one.”

Mark Baker’s photograph taken at the Mount Cemetery.

Guildford appears to be littered with paranormal attractions like The Angel Hotel and The King’s Head pub as well as the aforementioned locations and many more. Clearly, the town we live in boasts a rich and ghostly past of people who were once as alive as we are now, so what will our presence today create for the future?