Previously: Sam The Sandown Clown.
Type: MO (Malevolent Object), with elements of SV (Spiritual Vessel).
Period/location of origin: Unknown, England. Reports regarding subject date back at least to the 17th century, although this era may or may not be subject’s actual period of origin.
Appearance: Subject appears to be a human skull known for its auditory and vocal properties — hence its colloquial name, “screaming skull.” Subject is not singular; many examples of subject have been documented across its country of origin.
Modus operandi: Subject’s precise modus operandi varies from example to example; however, most examples of subject have at least a few commonalities. Typically, subjects belong to departed individuals who, either implicitly or explicitly, have dictated that certain conditions must be met regarding their remains — usually that their heads are to remain at their former homes in perpetuity. When these conditions are not met, specific pieces of these remains — namely, the skulls — audible express their displeasure: The skulls scream, weep, and/or moan more or less continuously until the conditions previously specified are met. Activity resembling that of the variety witnessed in the presence of poltergeists may also be observed. When the conditions have been fulfilled, subject ceases its noise-making and other activity and rests contentedly — as long as it is left alone from then on.
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Containment: As long as subject’s conditions are met, there is no need for additional containment measures to be taken.
Additional notes: Reports of subject seem, somewhat curiously, to be restricted specifically to England; they are not to be found elsewhere, either globally or even within the UK. Within England, however, numerous notable examples of subject have been recorded. They include, but are not limited to:
The Screaming Skull Of Bettiscombe Manor
Located within the village in Dorset that bears its same name, Bettiscombe Manor was initially built in 1620 and extended in 1694. In 1872, High Court judge and folklore hobbyist John Symonds Udal wrote of subject in a letter published in the journal Notes and Queries, describing it publicly for — it is believed — the very first time. Per Udal, a skull, which had been present at the manor for “a period long antecedent to the present tenancy,” was required to remain within the house — for, it was said, if it was removed from it, “the house itself would rock to its foundations.” Furthermore, the person who had the temerity to remove the skull from its home would “certainly die within the year.”
Later, a story emerged stating that the skull belonged to a former slave who had been the manor’s retainer circa 1783. However, in 1963, a forensic analysis revealed the skull to have belonged to a 25-to-30-year-old white European woman, rather than an older Black man. It is not known how the skull was located, where it was found, or who initially unearthed it.
The Screaming Skull Of Theophilus Broome
Said to reside at Higher Farm in Chilton Cantelo in Somerset, this screaming skull allegedly dates back to 1670, when the man to whom it belonged — Theophilus Broome, or sometimes Brome — died. Reports note that Broome had stated his intention for his skull to be separated from the rest of his remains and to be returned to the farmhouse following his death. His instructions were followed the begin with; later, though, when a handful of villagers attempted to relocate the skull from the farmhouse, the skull began screaming, producing “horrid noises, portentive of sad displeasure.” The skull was subsequently returned to its rightful place, at which time the screaming ceased.
A further attempt to dig a grave for the skull resulted in the spade used to dig the hole splitting in two; again, the skull was returned to the farmhouse.
This report was documented by historian John Collinson in 1791, when it was published in History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset.
The Screaming Skull Of Wardley Hall
Wardley Hall, located in the Greater Manchester area, is home to the skull of St. Ambrose Barlow. One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, Barlow was executed in Lancaster in 1641 during the Reformation. He was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1929 and canonized as a saint in 1970. His skull was recovered in the 18th century and now sits displayed in a niche at the top of Wardley Hall’s grand staircase.
According to one report, the skull’s screaming properties were discovered upon its removal from the property at an unspecified time by an unnamed servant. The servant allegedly threw the skull into the moat, after which a terrible storm proceeded to batter the manor. The moat was subsequently drained and the skull returned to its place of honor, according to the report, at which point the activity ceased.
An alternative explanation behind the skull has been found to be false. This story claimed the skull belonged to 17th century royalist Roger Downs, who had lost his head during a fight on Tower Bridge in London. While his body was disposed of in the Thames, his head, it was said, was sent to Wardley Hall in a wooden box. However, Downs’ coffin was opened in 1779, at which point it was found that his skull had been interred with the rest of his remains: The skull at Wardley Hall could not be his.
The Screaming Skull Of Burton Agnes Hall
The Elizabethan manor at Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire was built by Sir Henry Griffith during the first decade of the 17th century. According to some reports, the skull of Griffith’s youngest daughter, Anne, is bricked up within the walls of the house to prevent it from every being removed from the property.
These reports state that Anne was attacked by robbers while still a young woman. She did not survive the attack; her final words, it’s said, were a request that her head stay with the manor always. However, this request was not granted — initially, at least — and her remains were secured within the family vault, head and all. Disembodied screams, moans, and wails subsequently plagued those still living at the manor, until the family returned to the vault, opened it, removed Anne’s head — now simply a skull — and returned it to the house. Several other attempts were made over the years to remove the skull from the home, and each time, it’s said, the noises began anew. Eventually, the skull was secured within one of the walls of the house to ensure that it would never again be removed. Presumably, it remains there still.
The Screaming Skull Of Tunstead Farm
In Derbyshire, Tunstead Farm reportedly houses a screaming skull, although precisely who it once belonged to is up for some debate. The skull is frequently called “Dickie,” “Dickey,” or “Dicky”; in this telling of the story, farm owner Ned Dickinson or Dixon went off to France in the 16th century to fight in the Huguenot Wars and returned home to find his farm now in the hands of his cousins. Unwilling to vacate the property, the cousins then beheaded Ned and buried his remains in the garden; Ned, however, had other ideas even in death, and his head returned to the farm to haunt his cousins. The skull has, it’s said, remained there ever since.
Other stories, however, suggest that the skull belonged to a woman who was murdered within the farmhouse, although few other details are available. Her spirit allegedly also remains in the home, however, with the skull acting as something like a protective charm for those who live there.
The skull reportedly lives on a windowsill at the farm. Attempts to remove it resulted in screaming, moaning, and wailing emerging from the skull itself, and poltergeist-like activity occurring around the farmhouse until such time as the skull was returned to its place on the windowsill. The skull is also blamed for a failed railway bridge project undertaken nearby in 1863; the project suffered numerous setbacks and was ultimately cancelled. A new site further was subsequently chosen for the bridge, where construction went off without a hitch.
Stories of this screaming skull circulated numerous publications throughout the 19th century. Despite its alleged age, there does not appear to be much documentation of this example of subject prior to this period.
Recommendation: Should you encounter an example of subject… leave it where it is.
Home sweet home, and all that.
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[Photo via Zezya/Pixabay]