Dartmoor is known for its rugged beauty and rich history. It’s also a place that has inspired numerous ghost stories and legends over the years. These Dartmoor legends and folklore add depth and mystery to the moor’s already captivating landscape and history. Whether you’re a believer or a sceptic, exploring Dartmoor and learning about its rich traditions can be an enchanting experience.
Here are a few Dartmoor ghost stories and legends to know!
One of Dartmoor’s most famous ghost stories revolves around a stretch of road near Postbridge. Travellers on this road have reported experiencing a pair of ghostly, disembodied hairy hands that appear out of nowhere and try to force them off the road. Some accidents in the area have been attributed to these “hairy hands,” although no one knows for sure what they are or who they might belong to!
The story of Jay’s Grave centres around the grave of a young woman named Kitty Jay, who died by suicide in the 18th century. Her grave is located near the village of Manaton. Each day fresh flowers mysteriously appear on her grave, despite no one ever being spotted placing them there, leading to rumours of a restless spirit. Pixies have also been rumoured to be responsible.
Image Credit: Miles Wolstenholme under CC BY 2.0
Dartmoor is also known for its spectral hounds, often referred to as the “Wisht Hounds” or “Yeth Hounds.” These phantom dogs are said to roam the moors at night and are considered harbingers of doom. Hearing their howling or encountering them is believed to bring bad luck or even death.
Tales of Dartmoor’s Hounds is said to have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Bowerman’s Nose is a tall column of rock on Dartmoor that is said to be the form of a hunter called Bowerman who was turned into rock by witches. The witches on the moors did not like Bowerman, as he was not afraid of them like most people were.
One day Bowerman was out hunting on the moors with his hounds when one of the witches turned herself into a hare to lure the hunter. She cast a powerful spell that turned Bowerman and his hounds to stone where they stood. You can still see the stone figure and the scattered stone hounds around it.
Childe’s Tomb is a stone structure located on the fringe of Fox Tor Mire and is believed to mark the spot where the body of Childe the Hunter was found. Childe is said to have gone out hunting and got caught in a blizzard, preventing him from travelling.
Having to wait out the storm, in desperation, Childe slew his horse, disembowelled it and climbed inside, hoping the warmth would protect him. Unfortunately, weeks later, he was found frozen to death.
It’s rumoured that anyone who spends the night near the tomb now will experience strange and unsettling occurrences.
Image Credit: Herby (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Dartmoor is said to be home to a community of mischievous pixies. These tiny, supernatural creatures are known to play pranks on travellers, lead them astray, and sometimes even steal their belongings. Local lore suggests that showing respect to the pixies by leaving out offerings like bread and milk can keep their mischief at bay.
Vixen Tor is a striking rock formation on Dartmoor, and it is associated with a ghostly legend. Found between Princetown and Tavistock, Vixen Tor is the largest mass of granite on Dartmoor. It is said that Vixen Tor used to be the home of an evil witch called Vixana.
The legend goes that when she saw travellers approaching, she would cast down a mist that caused the travellers to get lost, and they would end up falling into a bog at the foot of the tor and die. However, one young man is said to have been gifted the power of clear sight by Pixies and was able to navigate the misty path with no trouble.
The witch was waiting to hear the man fall into the bog, and when that sound didn’t come, she leaned over to look and ended up falling into the bog and drowning. Other versions of the story suggest the young man may have even pushed her in!
Image Credit: Paul Englefield under CC BY 2.0
Buckfast Abbey, a historic monastery on the outskirts of Dartmoor, is rumoured to be haunted by phantom monks. Witnesses have reported seeing spectral figures dressed in monk’s robes walking the abbey’s corridors, praying, or engaging in other monastic activities. The abbey’s long history adds to its reputation as a paranormal hotspot.
Dartmoor has its own version of the infamous Bigfoot or Yeti. The Beast of Dartmoor is a legendary creature described as a large, black, panther-like cat that prowls the moors. Sightings of this fearsome feline have been reported for centuries, although there is no concrete evidence of its existence.
These are just a few of the many ghost stories and legends associated with Dartmoor. The moor’s misty landscapes, ancient ruins, and rich history make it a fertile ground for tales of the supernatural, and these stories continue to capture the imagination of those who visit the area. If you’re brave enough to face these legends, why not come and stay with us at our hotel in Dartmoor and see if you encounter any spooky sightings?!