Haunted Beds, Herts & Bucks
Hell Fire Caves
Hell Fire Caves - ghosthunters' heaven!
The Hell Fire Caves in West Wycombe are becoming well known for the amount of paranormal activity that is reported there.
There’s a system of caves in West Wycombe which were excavated in the mid-18th century by the infamous Sir Francis Dashwood, the founder of the notorious Hell Fire Club whose membership included some of Britatin's most senior aristocrats and statesmen.
What they actually did there, we don’t really know, although the club was generally known for its rather risqué behaviour.
A statue inside the Hell Fire Caves
But as well as the meetings of this club, the Hell Fire caves are becoming increasingly well known for the amount of paranormal activity that is reported there.
Julienne Barlow, the Assistant Manager of the caves revealed more about what has been seen.
“We do have quite a lot of paranormal interest in the caves as you often feel a presence when you’re down there on your own” she said.
“We have a lot of customers coming up that have taken pictures where they’ve seen light orbs and supposed sightings of Sukie, our resident ghost, a lady in a white dress.
“She was a local girl who used to work at the George and Dragon in the High Street in West Wycombe and was infatuated with a wealthy gentleman who she very much wanted to marry.
“When she received a note saying ‘meet me at the caves and we’ll elope together’, she came up here in her wedding dress to find that some of the local boys had done it as a practical joke.
“She threw a handful of stones at them and in retaliation they threw some back at her. One of them fatally knocked her on the back of the head and she very sadly died.
“She’s got a broken heart so she walks around the caves looking for her lost love” she explained.
And she also revealed that people often see Sukie, although none of the staff have yet.
“We’ve had people ask us if there’s been a wedding conducted in the Banqueting Hall, because they’ve seen a lady in a white dress and they’ve thought we were either hosting a wedding or we’ve got a fancy dress day or something like that” she said.
“None of us have ever seen her luckily, I don’t think we’d be going back into the caves too often if we did!”
The other well known figure that has been seen is the ghost of Paul Whitehead, the former steward of the Hell Fire Club, who bequeathed his heart to Sir Francis along with £50 for the purchase of the marble urn to put it in, as an indication of his attachment to the noble founder.
“It’s said that Paul Whitehead, because of his love for Sir Francis and his family, roams around the caves here and also over on the main West Wycombe Estate” said Julienne.
“He looks after the family for the original Sir Francis and he’s often been sighted in the caves here and around the area. We think that it’s possibly because of his heart.”
His heart was originally kept in the urn up at the Mausoleum. You can still see the urn, as it’s now housed in the caves, but the heart was stolen in the 1850s by a soldier they believe, and since that time Paul has been seen a little bit more .
Sukie and Paul are the most famous ghosts at the caves and it already sounds a bit crowded down there, but that’s not the end of it. Other phenomena are seen, but not actually discovered, until people get home and check their cameras, while specialised groups monitor the atmosphere and discover strange things.
“We’ve had quite a lot of people come down for paranormal evenings and use various equipment to see if they can monitor either the sound or the temperature that’s going on down there” said Julienne.
“And often there’s a variation in temperature going on between the different caves indicating that there might be some sort of paranormal activity.
“Light orbs have also been sighted an awful lot” she added, “and one theory is that they could be the spirits of children. A lot of people have taken pictures of a child and in the background there’s an orb behind it. They only actually see them in pictures, which is very strange, but often in the entrance tunnel here we’ve noticed that there have been lots and lots of these orbs floating about.”
I wondered if these could just be faulty cameras but Kerry Ann Williams, who works for Sir Edward Dashwood, explained more about the theory.
“The teams that are interested in such things do a lot of work to debunk scenarios that can be explained” she said.
“They do work very hard to make sure that what they’re presenting as something that’s unusual and can’t be explained, truly can’t be explained.
“But one of the ghost detecting team that we work with referred to it [a picture of orbs] as a cosmic sneeze, because there are that many orbs. You need to be rational about this and debunk theories like dust and other possible things that might change what’s going on with your camera. But you can only kick so much dust and the caves are very dank, there’s a lot of moisture down there so dust is not necessarily the most common feature. We see these anomalies so often that there must be something in it surely?”
And there’s more. As well as ghostly figures, shapes and mists, people have heard and even felt things as Julienne explained.
“Quite a few people feel in certain parts of the caves, especially round the Inner Temple area which is the furthest point, that there’s somebody whispering in their ear” she said.
“A couple of customers have been shushed before when they’ve been chatting together and also felt hands on their shoulders. Some women have been screamed at and a lot of people think that they’re being told to go away but whether or not that’s true, we’re not sure.
Inside the Hell Fire Caves
“A couple of people have recorded it and analysed it afterwards and it does sound very similar to ‘go away’ but quite why they’d want us to leave the caves we’re not sure. Unless it’s somebody from the Hell Fire Club who doesn’t want us to know all the secrets of the Inner Temple? But yes – there’s definitely somebody there we think!”
Whatever you believe, whether it’s atmospherics or true ghostly presences, people report things all the time, and it’s not just from the believers either, as Kerry Ann revealed:
“We have unusual reportings, and you would call them consistent” she revealed.
“Some of them are from those who are interested in the paranormal but we also get responses from some who don’t believe in the paranormal and that’s the thing that we find most interesting. It’s when the sceptics come out and tell you that something has affected them that’s really most interesting.”
As luck would have it, while I was at the caves, a former bona fide sceptic had come to the coffee shop. Dave Moss from High Wycombe didn’t believe in ghosts until about a month ago - he revealed what he saw:
“I just saw this white ghostly figure which went from the left hand side of the passageway across to the right hand side” he said.
“I swiftly got down to where I saw it but there was nobody else there, just deathly silence. I’m not a firm believer in ghosts but it frightened the life out of me. I’ve got a video of Ghostbusters and that’s just laughable compared to what I saw!”
The Hell Fire caves are certainly a very interesting place to visit, and whether you’re a ghost hunter, or you want to find out more about the infamous Hell Fire Club and their risque activities, why not give it a go – if you dare??!
last updated: 21/07/2009 at 17:33