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Bettiscombe Manor

A screaming skull resides at Bettiscombe Manor, which in legend cannot be removed from the house. To do so is said to cause great havoc.

One tenant is supposed to have thrown the skull into a pond to be rid of the grisly item. All through the night the manor house shook on its foundations, and screams echoed down the corridors until the owner was compelled to return the skull to its pride of place.

Bettiscombe Manor: by Tim BirchBettiscombe Manor: by Tim BirchLegend suggests that the skull once belonged to an African slave whose dying wish was to be taken to his native land to be buried, instead of which he was interred locally. After this screams issued forth from the grave, and the house was subject to poltergeist activity. Finally the body was disinterred and placed in the house. Several attempts at reburial resulted in the same ghostly manifestation and over the years the skeleton became reduced to a skull.

When actually dated the skull was found to be over 2000 years old, it is thought to have came from Pilsdon Pen, an Iron Age hillfort not far from Bettiscombe Manor. The reason why the object ended up at the house is anyones' guess.

There are several screaming skull legends in Britain and they all follow a similar theme, basically if they are removed from the house for any reason, they cause paranormal manifestations until they are replaced. It is not known whether this has been tested in recent times with any of the skulls, but stories relating to the manifestations abound.

Additonal Information:
Bettiscombe Manor is not open to the public and now forms a private home.

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Tim Birch
Daniel Parkinson

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Bettiscombe Manor

I WAS WONDERING IF ONE OF THE CURRENT OWNERS is  NAMED  Helen? I do believe we met once in Massachusetts at your sisters  ( Lucy's home  in Granby , MA)  

Your parents  ( Mr & Mrs McGiven ) were visiting  at the  same time  & I used to take your Mum to Bingo on the US Base.I do believe we all had our picture taken together at Lucy's & Bob's.

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Neil Boothman
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Hope this helps

Mysterious Britain & Ireland are not in any way connected with Bettiscombe Manor; therefore we are not in a position to provide any information regarding the current owners.

I know it has been possible to visit the gardens of Bettiscombe Manor under The National Gardens Scheme in the past. Perhaps also Bridport Tourist Information Centre may be able to assist with enquiries regarding the manor.

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Ian Topham
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Re: Bettiscombe Manor

In 1897 the case appeared in The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain by John Ingram.

There is a certain old farmstead known as Bettiscombe, or Bettiscombe House, in a parish of the same name, about six miles from Bridport, in Dorsetshire. This ancient dwelling, which is still inhabited, is celebrated for the so-called "Screaming Skull' that it contains.

There are various versions of the cause and consequences of the malign influence exercised by this relic of humanity. Mr. William Andrews, in his essay on Skull Superstitions, states that the peculiar superstition attachiug to the Bettiscombe skull is," that if it be brought out of the house, the house itself would rock to its foundations, while the perpetrator of such an act of desecration would certainly die within the year.

"Various changes of tenancy and furniture have been made" in the old homestead, says Mr. Andrews, "but the skull holds its place. It is not known when the * ghastly tenant ' first took up its abode in the place, but it has been there for a considerable period. The skull has been stated to be that of a negro ; and the legend was that it belonged to a faithful black servant of an early possessor of the property a Pinney, who, having lived abroad for some time, brought home this memento of his humble follower."

The tradition related by Mr. Andrews, however, is far too simple and conventional to satisfy the cravings of the hunter after hauntings; his premises are not tragic enough to account for such fearsome results; it is, therefore, comforting to learn that local legends impart a more gruesome aspect to the affair. It is needless to enter too closely into an investigation of the origin of the story : for most readers the following interesting account of a visit paid to the " screaming skull," will supply all that can be desired on the subject. In the August of 1883, Dr. Richard Garnett, of the British Museum, his daughter, and a friend, whilst staying at Charmouth, about seven or eight miles from Bettiscombe, hearing reports about the skull and its strange performances, determined to pay it a visit. The result of their expedition is thus told by Miss Garnett :

"One fine afternoon a party of three adventurous spirits started off, hoping to discover the skull and investigate its history. This much we knew, that the skull would only scream when it was buried, and so we hoped to get leave to inter it in the churchyard.

"The village of Bettiscombe was at length reached, pr^i we found our way to the old farm-house, which stuud at the end of the village by itself. It had evidently been a manor-house, and a very handsome one too. We were admitted into a fine paved hall, and attempted ' to break the ice ' by asking for milk ; we then endeavoured to draw the good woman of the house into conversation by admiring the place and asking, in a guarded manner, respecting the famous skull. On this subject she was most reserved; she had only lately taken the Farmhouse, and had been obliged to take possession of the skull also; but she did not wish us to suppose that she knew much about it, it was a veritable ' skeleton in the closet' to her. After exercising great diplomacy we persuaded her to allow us a sight of it. We tramped up the fine old oak staircase till we reached the top of the house, when, opening a cupboard door, she showed us a steep winding staircase leading to the roof, and from one of the steps the skull sat grinning at us. We took it in our hands and examined it carefully ; it was very old and weather-beaten, and certainly human. The lower jaw was missing; the forehead very low and badly proportioned. One of our party, who was a medical student, examined it long and gravely, and then, after first telling the good woman that he was a doctor, pronounced it to be, in his opinion the skull of a negro. After this oracular utterance she resolved to make a clean breast of all she knew, which, however, did not amount to much. The skull, we were informed, was that of a negro servant, who had lived in the service of a Roman Catholic priest ; some difference arose between them, but whether the priest murdered the servant in order to conceal some crimes known to the negro ; or whether the negro, in a fit of passion, killed his master, did not clearly appear. However, the negro had declared before his death that his spirit would not rest unless his body was taken to his native land and buried there. This was not done, he being buried in the churchyard at Bettiscombe. Then the haunting began : fearful screams proceeded from the grave ; the doors and windows of the house rattled and creaked ; strange sounds were heard all over the house ; in short, there was no rest for the inmates until the body was dug up. At different periods attempts were made to bury the body, but similar disturbances always recurred. In process of time the skeleton disappeared, all save the skull which we now saw before us.

"We were naturally extremely anxious to bury the skull, and remain in the house that night to see what would happen; but this request was indignantly refused, and we were promptly shown off the premises."

Therefore the reputation of "the Screaming Skull of Bettiscombe House remains unimpaired.



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