Screaming Skulls

Bettiscombe Skull

One of the louder haunted heads is the infamous Bettiscombe Skull housed near Lyme Regis in Dorset, England. The tale began in the late 17th century after the death of a servant who had been brought to England from the West Indies.

There were rumors of bad blood between the servant and the owner of Bettiscombe Manor, Azariah Pinney. Gossip hinted that the two men had fought, resulting in the injury of the former. Begging from his deathbed to be returned to his homeland for burial, he threatened to curse the household if his final wishes were not carried out. Perhaps feeling a bit of remorse or simply not wanting to push his luck, Pinney agreed to the man’s wishes. After the servant’s death and not wanting the expense of shipping the body across the sea, Pinney had the servant buried in the local churchyard, not far from the house.  Shortly afterward, the small town was subjected to anguished moans and screams coming from the graveyard. Identifying the sounds as coming from the fresh plot, the locals demanded that the Manor take responsibility and remove the corpse to its own property. Digging the body up, they transported it back to the grounds and placed it high in a barn loft to slowly rot. The skeleton fell to pieces, even as the skull remained intact, after repeated attempts to rebury the body on the Manor grounds had met with the same high-pitched results. Before long, all that was left was the gruesome head of a very unhappy ghost.

The skull eventually found itself on a staircase leading to the roof of the Manor though tries to rid the house of the skull were often attempted. One resident, tired of the caterwauling, threw it into a nearby pond hoping it would sink to the bottom. That night, the Manor’s windows rocked with the skull’s screams. The next morning, they drug the pond to find the offensive head and brought it back into the house, resigned to their fate. Other times when removing the skull, the paranormal activity that accompanied the screaming in the house became so prevalent that it was unbearable and the skull returned within the walls. Perhaps the most disturbing legend is of the time the skull was dropped into a deep hole dug on the property: the next morning, the skull had tunneled itself out and was found by the grounds men, waiting to be brought inside the next morning.

Also associated with the Screaming Skull of Bettiscombe Manor is a phantom coach that leaves the house to rush along the road to the church where the body was once buried. The locals refer to this phenomenon as the “Funeral procession of the skull.”

Science always ruins a good story. In the 1960s, Professor Gilbert Causey of the Royal College of Surgeons examined the skull and believed it actually belonged to a woman in her early twenties from the nearby Iron Age settlement of Pilsdon Pen. Just as gruesome as the tale of the screaming skull, it is thought she may have been a victim sacrificed to bring prosperity to the region as severed heads thrown down a well were sometimes offered as tribute to water spirits.

The skull is now regarded as a good luck charm for the house; to keep it safe and cut down on sleepless nights, it’s reportedly kept in a box and locked away in a drawer.