New Stories and Pictures
Ghost Children and the Northwood House Tree
The sound of children at play is a common occurrence at Northwood Park, Cowes. Their excited screams, shouts and laughter are often heard there, especially at dusk - for these youngsters have no homes or warm beds to go to.....they are ghosts.
Several local people have encountered the noisy and boisterous little spirits. Some actually see and hear them, others just hear them or feel their touch. A couple who live in nearby Baring Road had a strange encounter with the ghost children one March night in 1993, as they walked home with their two dogs across the old park.
"Our daughter had gone away for a few days and we took our Alsatian, Sam, with us when we went to pick up her dog, Chadwick. As I entered the park, I noticed a misty grey shape moving in the bushes. Sam's hackles rose and all his hair stood on end. I thought it must be a peeping tom or something," said Jean.
As Brian had gone ahead, she hurried to catch him up. "Suddenly I heard the sound of children at play. It was so loud it was deafening. Incredibly there were only two of them, but they were screaming, shouting, and laughing at the top of their voices.
"They were playing on a huge old tree, swinging up and down on the branches. The lads must have been about eight or nine years old and they were both wearing some kind of school uniform; short trousers, little blazers and school caps. They looked about sixty years out of date and very old-fashioned. There was something so strange about them, but they looked solid and real."
Dusk was creeping towards full darkness by this time and Jean was worried about the boys being out so late. "I was rather frightened by the thing I had just seen in the hedge and I went up to the children to tell them to run along home. 'Go home. Only your mothers will cry', I told them. Why I said this I have no idea - the words just came out."
The boys however were completely oblivious to Jean's presence. "They didn't seem to be aware of me at all. They were swinging up and down on the tree so violently that the great branches were almost touching the ground; they were creaking and cracking. I could see the face of one of the boys. It looked grey and somehow too old for his body."
As Brian and Jean stood in the park that cold, still evening, the church clock struck seven. "I sensed something was very wrong. The children were taking no notice of Jean at all. I told her to come away at once," said Brian.
Still worried for the children's safety, Jean wanted to ring the police when she got home. "We had quite an argument about it," she admitted. "As it turned out I am glad we didn't because when Kimiko came round to collect Chadwick, I told her what had happened."
"'Are you sure they were real, Mum?' she asked, and then told me that she too had heard the children there several times but had never seen them. She had sensed their presence around her, and Chadwick had sat down and refused to move, giving every appearance of being stroked and petted by invisible hands.
Customers at Kimiko's hairdressing salon in Cowes also spoke of ghostly encounters in Northwood Park, and one local medium confirmed Jean's description of the ghost-boys. They often came up to her when she was sitting in the park, she said. Other customers were reluctant to walk there after dark. They, too, had encountered the boys.
Jean and Brian have returned to that same tree several times since March in the hope of seeing them again, with no success. They have also discovered that there was once a private school nearby, where in 1918, several children died during a virulent epidemic of Spanish Influenza which killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
"The park is always floodlit after dark, but that night there were no lights at all. This has set me wondering whether we were in some sort of timeslip and for a brief moment had stepped back into the past," mused Brian.
Northwood House was built in 1837 on the site of a former residence, called Belle Vue, by George Ward and was later given to the local council for the people of Cowes. Believed to have been designed by John Nash, it was the largest house in the town. Between 1902 and 1906, it was occupied by a community of Benedictine nuns, who later moved to Appley, and Jean now wonders if it was the ghost of one of one of these sisters that she saw flitting through the bushes that night. She added, "Northwood Park is lovely in daylight..... but at night it is a very different and disconcerting place."
Angela's photo, taken on a digital camera, without flash, in dry conditions in January 2011, shows the tree where the children play, and this 'energy ball' appeared on only this photograph, although Angela took several of the tree.