Black Country Bugle
Have you seen the Spectre of Seven Springs?
CARRYING on from the previous article in Bugle 1510, August 4, in which we explored the strange incidences and phenomena on the A513 between Milford Common and the Wolseley Bridge, this article analyses further ‘sightings’ along the road – the ‘Paranormal Pyramid’ as it has become known (when including Castle Ring as the third point), arguably one of the weirdest of the numerous weird areas across Cannock Chase.
Firstly, we should explain the origins of the word ‘ghost’, which has its roots in the Old English word ‘gast’ meaning: 1. Breath, 2. Good or bad spirit, angel, demon.
Interestingly, the Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser
dated December 27, 1837, has an adjunct to this definition: 3. Gas – do any of our readers know what is the origin or derivation of the word ‘gas’?
The term ‘gas’ sprang from the same source as ‘ghaist’ or ‘ghost’, both being from a Teutonic word signifying spirit or supernatural being, and variously spelt ‘gast’, ‘ghais’, or otherwise, according to the different Teutonic dialects.
Now, some of the mineral springs in Germany exhale vapour which hangs above them in the semblance of a light thin cloud. This, being seen, was occasionally taken for ghais or ghost; but those who had a little more wit knew the thing to be neither more nor less than a vapour.
From this deceptive appearance, however, arose the custom of applying the term ghais to all vapours and aeriform bodies; and, being adopted by the continental chemists, the word soon became universal in this sense.
Crucially, the Old English definition shows a balance between good and evil, which is relevant in the following story.
Over a century after the above 1837 article defining ‘gas’, the Staffordshire Advertiser, dated December 24, 1949, ran an interesting story about the ‘Spectre of Seven Springs’, just off the main A513 trunk road. Significantly, for those who have an interest in these things, the apparition appeared opposite the Weetman Bridge, which crosses the River Trent – spirits apparently find it difficult to cross water. The vision has been seen near the bridge, but appeared ‘distressed’ as if unable to cross towards Little Haywood. Combine the watery obstacle, the river, with the belief that crossroads are focal points for spirits and other ‘paranormal’ occurrences, then this stretch of road has more than its fair share of strange sightings. The newspaper in 1949 ran an article under the headline ‘Elusive Ghost Of Seven Springs.’
The A513 is ‘just’ the main Stafford-lichfield trunk road. Or is it more? If local legend is to be believed it is also the haunting grounds of the beautiful lady ghost who
only walks on Wednesdays.
The reporter for the Staffordshire Advertiser took a bus ride to Milford and was taken back four hundred years to keep an appointment with the ‘Spectre of Severn Springs’…
He claimed that it was there that “lived the most inoffensive spook to have walked the face of this earth,” but, nevertheless, a ghost that caused local people to hurry past the 120 yards long drive with apprehensive backward glances.
Seven Springs is a wellknown Cannock Chase beauty spot. Many, many people have picnicked and walked their dogs there – by day. By night the scene is changed explained the reporter: “There is no warmth in the air; eerie shadows are thrown by the gauntlimbed trees. Just the atmosphere for a ghost in fact. A vicious, headless ghost perhaps, with rattling chains and bloodcurdling groans.”
Or simply air that ‘breaks like the wind’ through the trees?
The reporter continued: “But the ‘Spectre of Seven Springs’ is quite different. She is, according to two Stafford men who saw her on different occasions – very beautiful. Her hair falls in tresses about her shoulders, her eyes are clear, but seem filled with unhappiness.”
It was because of the stories two men had told the reporter that he resolved to make the journey to Seven Springs.
During his three-hour vigil in the moonlight, nothing but the rustling of branches and the sighing of the wind answered his chattering teeth. He was cold, not scared, and his thoughts turned to the spirits that flow from bottles in the nearby hostelry, the Wolseley Arms.
No illuminated figure glided through the trees towards him. The only out-of-this-world figure he did see was the dead body of a rabbit, its transfixed eyes staring unseeingly at the stars.
The newspaper reporter, frustrated by the ‘no show ghost’, included at this point his interview with a local councillor:
“No spectral vision came his way that night, as it did to Alderman George Owen, of Weep
ing Cross, when travelling in a car past Seven Springs one moonlit night recently. He saw a woman, bathed in an iridescent light apparently anxious for a ‘lift’ along the road. His chauffeur stopped the car, and leaned out to speak to the woman. She looked at him… and disappeared.
“‘There was no covering for her,’ a bemused Mr Owen claimed. ‘One minute she was standing near my car; the next she had disappeared. I hardly had time to see, but I thought at first she was on her way home from a dance. Her gown reached the ground, and she had a veil over her head. She looked into my car for about thirty seconds, but never said a word. I’ve looked for her ever since – but she has never returned,’ he said.”
The reporter next posed a question: “Who is she, this unhappy beauty who roams Cannock Chase, but has only recently allowed herself to be seen by human eyes? Village talk says she is the ghost of a woman who was killed by her husband when keeping a midnight tryst with a lover. Ever since, she has returned to the glade at night but whether to meet her lover or to get revenge on her husband is not known.”
He added that she had been seen on Weetman Bridge, across from the narrow lane to Seven Springs, but had purportedly never passed over it.
The reporter conveniently directed conversations, while imbibing ‘spiritual sustenance’ in the nearby Wolseley Arms that night in December 1949, towards the subject of ghosts. Robert Jullion, aged 75 years, declared: “I don’t believe in ’em. They be nothing but what you newspaper folk imagine.”
But the cynical Robert would not accept an invitation from the reporter to spend an hour or two in the haunted glade. Seemingly without irony, he explained that he would “catch his death.”
Back in Stafford the Advertiser’s reporter visited a second ‘witness’, Frederick Wiggin, who nursed a secret; he too, has seen the ghost. Cycling back from Rugeley, he neared Seven Springs, and there encountered “A tall figure, dressed in black, who stood watching me for two minutes. Her face was illuminated, as though she stood in the beam of a car headlamp. But there was no-one else near us,” said Mr Wiggin, “The woman just disappeared.”
Others have reported seeing a UFO ‘phenomenon’; Slender Man has been reported in the trees just beyond the car park – despite the fact the concept was made up, and became a film in 2018.
Bigfoot too has been allegedly roaming the area, doubtless trying his/ her/its luck farther afield from the vantage point that is Castle Ring.
More specifically what appears to be a lady in flowing garments along this ‘most haunted’ stretch of road has the strongest claim numerically; sometimes staring in the direction of Seven Springs, or directly across to Weetman’s Bridge, on other occasions looking
‘vacantly’ towards the Wolseley Bridge.
Or is there a simpler explanation? Is the water emanating from Seven Springs in fact mineral water? Does the ‘gas’ – or ‘ghost’ – like the Teutonic mineral vapours mentioned earlier, roll down from Seven Springs? Do the ‘vapour trails’, funnelled by the hedgerows, move like an entity or is it just mist?
The ideal conditions for a concentrated ‘spectre’ are created when cooler, damper air meets slightly warmer air – for example where the lane meets the road. Had this homogenization formed a meteorological ‘barrier’ at the entrance to the lane – resulting in an atmospheric aura – creating some kind of translucent, semi-viscous ‘form’?
And as for the sightings on Weetman Bridge, could it be that a reporter, told they needed an extra page for the final pre-christmas edition, pulled together a tale at a time when everyone loves a festive ghost story? Or can the explanation be warmer gases released from rotting vegetation, rising from the river bed? A vehicle crossing the bridge or travelling at speed along the road could have disturbed the atmosphere, and briefly created a swirling mist.
Whatever the explanation, perhaps, if you’re going by Seven Springs, especially on a Wednesday night, you might want to drive more carefully, particularly in winter, when mist can obscure black ice. Equally, you may experience something strange; if the vision takes on a human shape, treat her kindly, she is not apparently used to humans…