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Chanctonbury Ring is a hill on the Sussex Downs some 700 feet above sea level and, until the hurricane, which swept across Southern England, was crowned with beech trees. Excavations at the site showed that the ramparts dated from 300 BC. Remains of several Roman buildings were found during the early digs, along with various items and fragments of pottery.
As with other lonely wooded spots there are many stories and legends concerning ghosts and the devil. Legend has it that the devil had a hand in the formation of Chanctonbury Ring. When he discovered that the inhabitants of Sussex were being converted from previous pagan religions to Christianity he decided to drown them.
He began digging a trench down to the sea from Poynings, sending large quantities of earth in every direction, one of which became Chanctonbury. He was not to complete his work however. An old lady living nearby placed a sieve in front of a lighted candle on her window ledge. This disturbed a cockerel perched on a fence. The devil heard the cockerel and, looking over his shoulder, saw what he thought was the sun rising and so fled before completing his task.
You can, it is said, raise the devil at Chanctonbury Ring by running around the clump of trees seven times in an anti-clockwise direction. When he appears he will offer you a bowl of soup in exchange for your soul. In modern times the Ring has gained something of a reputation in connection with witchcraft, UFO's, ghosts and strange forces. In 1967 a group of university students, who had planned to spend the night there 'making tape recordings and photographing images', were frightened away.
At 9.30 pm on Saturday 15th June 1968 the Sussex Sky Watchers began an all night vigil at Chanctonbury. Most of the night passed without incident. However in the early hours of Sunday morning one member of the group, who was walking among the trees, suddenly lost the use of his arms and legs and fell to the ground screaming for help. Other members of the group, running to his aid, were soon suffering similar affects. This lasted about five minutes after which they all recovered with no apparent after effects.
For six years after that very little attention was paid to Chanctonbury as far as detailed investigations are concerned. Reports continued to be made of UFO's seen over the hill and ghostly images winding their way in and out of the trees though. In 1974 the Ghost and Psychic Investigation Group was formed and their main interest at that time was Chanctonbury Ring.
On the 24th August 1974 four members of the group, myself included, settled down for a night under the stars. At approximately 11 pm, whilst walking through the centre of the Ring, one member of the group was lifted several feet off the ground. Mr. Lincoln remained suspended in mid air for several seconds, although at the time it seemed like hours. During this he was crying out 'No More! No More!' and was obviously in some considerable pain. He then dropped to the ground landing heavily on his back. He was very shaken by his experience, as we all were, but unlike the rest of us Mr. Lincoln refused to visit the site for further studies. [A recording of this event is available for interested researchers please contact Charles Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Over the past forty years or so there have been an almost uncountable number of UFO sightings reported. The list is far too numerous to cover in any detail here. In most cases the sightings are nothing more than unidentified lights in the sky. However an interesting sighting occurred on 31st October 1972. At 10.45 pm Mr. Simpson of Worthing, West Sussex was out walking with two friends. As they walked along a muddy track towards Chanctonbury they saw what they thought were flames from a bonfire flickering among the trees on top of the hill. As they drew closer however the light faded out. They continued their walk and thought no more of it.
Whilst walking up towards the clump of trees a short while later they saw what Mr. Simpson described as 'The strangest thing we have ever seen'
They all made their way along the last few yards of the track and up the ramparts to the shelter of the large beech trees. For a few minutes they stood there in total silence. They could not believe what was happening. Suddenly the silence was broken by a loud noise above them and, looking up they saw a dull red glow emanating from a large object.
'It sounded as though something was brushing across the top of the trees', Mr. Simpson said. 'We were all three frozen to the spot and we could not believe what we could clearly see with our own eyes. The object was making no sound what so ever, apart from when it brushed treetops. We did not attempt to move from the cover of the trees, as we felt safer under them. As the object moved further away we could see it more clearly. The top was illuminated by a blue light and there were four small square what looked like windows in the side of the object'.
When the UFO reached the outskirts of the trees it hovered for a very short time and the shot up in to the sky and was lost from sight within a very short time, leaving Mr. Simpson and his friends in a state of confusion for some time. It was many weeks before they reported their experience and despite their obvious nervous state as they recounted their experience found it very difficult to find someone who would at least listen to them.
For many years there have been stories of occult activity at Chanctonbury Ring and from the early 1960's I, together with a few other interested parties, have been involved in the investigation of this site. Quite frequently we have come across small pieces of evidence, which would indicate that an occult group has used the site. However in 1979 the discovery of a nine-foot circle constructed of flint provided positive proof. In the center of the circle was a five-pointed star, also constructed of flint, and part of a fallen tree trunk had been used as an altar. Nothing of this nature has been found since but small pieces of evidence continue to be found.
As with Clapham Wood, Sussex and The West Kennet Long Barrow in Wiltshire, I continue to monitor Chanctonbury Ring. A new study of the site began last year after reports of 'strange feelings' on the hill. The discovery of a large cross (6ft high) bedded in concrete on the hill also renewed interest. The cross, which was lying on the ground in some undergrowth, was quite heavy and must have taken some time to move from where it was obtained. They may be a reasonable explanation for this being there but I can't think of one at this moment.
Pagans and wiccans I have spoken to all feel that Chanctonbury Ring is a 'powerful site' but most will not consider using it for any type of ritual or worship because of its bad reputation. It was thought that the damage caused by the hurricane would have made it less attractive but this does not seem to have been the case.
All text and images Copyright Charles Walker