Friday, December 15, 2006

Beware the Black Beast

The black beast stalking the hills of Neath Port Talbot appears to have reared its head once again - this time close to Neath town centre.

The creature - similar to a big cat - was seen near Fairyland by a frightened resident.

David Rees, of Llantwit Road, who spotted the creature said: 'I have a garage in Idwal Street and was heading down there at about 6.30pm on Monday night.

'It was a dark night but I had a good flash light with me. All of a sudden I turned round and the creature was in front of me.

'It was like a fox but was jet black and had eyes as big as saucers.

'It frightened the life out of me and I froze at first. Then I shuffled my feet and luckily it ran off.

'I reported it to both the police and the environment agency.'

The sighting of the beast in Idwal Street comes a year after a spate of reports of a big cat roaming the borough.

An academic who has carried out research on big cat sightings, Alarick Smith, said it may have been a fox as there is a black species.

Although he said he always maintained an open mind and wouldn't disregard any sightings. 'People see what they see', Mr Smith said.

He confirmed that his research revealed evidence of big cats in the South Wales area but said he was unable to give exact locations for ethical reasons.

Mr Smith said: 'The evidence does come from South Wales, but nowhere near where we are talking about. They would probably be more along the coast.'

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Beware: Big cat is on the prowl

POLICE have warned walkers to be on their guard in hills above a Welsh village after several sightings of a "big cat".

Dyfed-Powys Police said seven people had reported seeing a large cat-like animal in the Talybont area, near Aberystwyth. They confirmed they had received photographs of the animal.

Wales is fourth on the list of big cat "hotspots" in the society's UK survey, according to recent figures by the British Big Cat Society (BBCS).

Danny Bamping, of the BBCS, said, "Big cats have been reported around that area before. There have been quite a few sightings across Wales and big cats are in the country without a doubt. I have not been chasing ghosts."

BBC programme-maker Aled Jones collated more than 100 sightings in North and Mid Wales over an 18-month period.

While the South West proved a hot-spot for sightings, with Devon, Cornwall and Somerset all featuring in the top 10 big cat locations. Scotland came in third, seeing almost a 50% drop in sightings reported, and was replaced at the top by Devon. Wales was fourth on the list with 123 reported sightings and incidents.

Almost 60% of all the sightings reported were of black cats and 32% were of brown or sandy-coloured ones, which the BBCS believes to be pumas. Another 6% were lynx-type cats.

There were 17 reports of a big cat with cubs - an increasing trend which suggests the animals may be breeding, according to the society.

In Wales, big cat sightings are investigated by the Welsh Assembly Government, in the form of the wildlife management unit based at Aberystwyth.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chart-toppers' chiller - Daily Post North Wales

Chart-toppers' chiller - Daily Post North Wales

A CHART-TOPPING girl band were left petrified after going ghost busting for a TV show at a haunted North Wales manor house.

The singers from Girls Aloud got the fright of their lives when they spent the night at Plas Teg near Mold.

Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh, Sarah Harding and Nicola Roberts joined spook hunter Yvette Fielding for a TV special at the infamous Jacobean mansion. It’s due to be screened on ITV2 next month.

The other band member, Nadine Coyle, refused to go inside at all.

The 400-year-old hall is said to be home to a horde of ghosts and has featured in numerous documentaries and articles.

Resident spooks are believed to include the home’s former owner, John Trevor, his wife Elizabeth and a mystery young girl.

The notorious Judge Jeffreys is also connected to the hall, supposedly sentencing men, women and children to death by hanging in the dining room.

At first the four stars, whose recent hit Something Kinda Oooh stormed up the charts, were keen to take up the challenge of touring the property.

But no sooner had they set foot inside, Plas Teg’s spirits gave them rather too much to "ooh" about.

Within minutes Yvette hears knocking in the dining room.

Sarah starts to get emotional and claims she feels like she is standing in somebody’s grave.

The girls scream after huddling together with Yvette who asks if there is anybody there to be met with three apparent knocks

In the Regency Room all appears quiet.

But the supposedly haunted Panelled Room leaves Cheryl, married to England Chelsea soccer star Ashley Cole, in tears.

She gets hysterical, claiming somebody is prodding her, leaving the other girls in tears.

"This is not funny," she said: "This is really freaking me out. Why does he want to do that?"

Nicola decides she has overstayed her welcome and leaves.

But the others decide to go ahead with a planned seance.

A huge bang is heard behind them. Sarah is in floods of tears.

And then the table supposedly moves, leaving the girls admitting they do believe in ghosts.

Sarah said: "I was up for doing this, I still am but I don’t like the vibes in that."

Ghosthunting with Girls Aloud will be broadcast on ITV2 on December 12 at 9pm.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Police issue big cat alert

POLICE are warning people to be on their guard after receiving several reports and photographs of a big cat in the Mid Wales hills.

Dyfed-Powys cops said seven different villagers had described seeing a large cat-like animal in recent weeks in the Talybont area, near Aberystwyth.

Pc Pat Jalloal said the pictures of the big cat were inconclusive, but he urged caution.

"From the police's point of view, we have had a huge jump in reported cases in the past few weeks and we want people in the area to be aware of this," said Pc Jalloal. "Images received by the police look very similar to a big cat so we are asking people to stay vigilant."

Sightings are investigated by the Welsh Assembly Government, in the form of the wildlife management unit based at Aberystwyth.

Wales is fourth on the list of big cat 'hotspots' according to the British Big Cat Society.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Simon makes a go of ghost-hunting - Daily Post North Wales

Simon makes a go of ghost-hunting - Daily Post North Wales

PEOPLE with a taste for the paranormal are being recruited to help sniff out the ghosts of North Wales.

Spooks Paranormal Ltd investigates hauntings across South Wales and is looking to expand northwards.

The company, which also holds ghost hunts for the public, is now looking forward to tapping into the region’s rich mine of haunted houses.

Spooks, based in Bridgend, was set up three years ago by former retail manager Simon Curwood after he had a psychic experience.

Mr Curwood, 34, said: "I was in a church in Italy for a wedding and had a very strange experience.

"I saw this haunting figure and, quite frankly, I was gobsmacked. It then felt as if I was being hanged, and afterwards the whites of my eyes had turned bloodshot.

"Only later I learnt people had been hanged around there. It was like someone trying to tell me ‘right you’ve got this skill, what are you going to do with it?’. So I quit my job, £26,000 down the pan, to do this."
The company conducts investigations into the paranormal across Britain, with 170 probes carried out in three years.

One investigation in Somerset last week centred on a woman being thrown around her room by an invisible presence at night, with another in Essex helping out a man who regularly woke at night to find coins in his mouth.

Mr Curwood said his most shocking investigation was into a 6ft 2ins, 22-stone man thrown around a room in Bridgend.

Mr Curwood said: "A bit of our work is entertainment, in that we take in groups and take them on tours at haunted locations. But a lot of it is extremely serious.

"We are more and more keen to move into north and mid Wales too. Wales is very, very rich in haunted locations, just through the history of the place.

"Mid Wales can be a little sparse, but North Wales is very good with a lot of places of interest. We want people to let us know the places they feel are worth investigating."

The company now employs 27 staff, mostly part-time, and Mr Curwood is looking to recruit 23 more staff for north and mid Wales. Mr Curwood is looking to recruit five area managers, five mediums, three technical staff and 10 senior investigators in north and mid Wales, most for part time work.

Anyone interested can contact Mr Curwood on

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

'I have never been so glad to see the back of a pub!' - icWales

'I have never been so glad to see the back of a pub!' - icWales

Echo reporter braves ghosts of old inn's haunted cellar With Halloween looming, we sent reporter Gareth Rogers reports on his experiences in a haunted hostelry… Ghosts have always been something that happen to other people.

But just stepping through the creaky door of the Maltsters Arms in Pontypridd, I knew it was time to finally confront my ignorance.

The spooky building, built in the early 1800s, shows its age and has all the features of a great ghostly den.

I was encouraged to visit the Maltsters by Clare White of the South Wales Paranormal Research team.

She told me: 'That place is spooky. We spent a whole night in the cellar because we had heard that a white lady paces around there at night.'

Manager Sarah Gleeve was very eager to introduce me to her cellar-dwelling lodger.

She said: 'I have never seen the ghost, but I have heard all about it and a lot of staff have been scared to go down the cellar on their own in the past.

'The previous managers had the pub for 30 years and the wife would never go down there alone.'

Slightly concerned that this mystical being was lurking in a dark corner of the pub's cellar, I sought re-assurance from some of the locals.

Kim Jenkins, 21, used to work in the pub and is still a regular.

She said: 'I have heard that the pub used to be a hotel and the cellar is actually where the maid's chamber used to be.

'Many people believe that the white lady might be a maid from the hotel.

'While I was working here, I remember seeing something that creeped me out.

'I could feel something following me down the stairs and I looked back and saw a hand on the rail.

'It faded away but it was very scary.'

As I was about to run back out of the door, Sarah grabbed me and marched me down the creaky staircase to the cellar.

Stood in near darkness, I shook every time a passing car caused the rickety window to vibrate.

Sarah pointed to the fire escape and said: 'That is where she goes, she walks across the floor from left to right.'

Intrigued, I watched each flicker of light shine through the window for as long as I could - until I can honestly say I was too spooked to stay there.

I could smell the damp in the ancient brick and feel a cold draught running through the middle of the bar.

Every time the pub's main doors closed, the vibration reverberated through the whole building.

As I took refuge upstairs, every door slamming and floorboard creaking reminded me that something - or someone - could be watching me.

I finally started to doubt my own scepticism when the barman crept up behind me to take my glass, sending a shiver through my spine.

And before you ask, that was not a fear of having to buy another round.

If there was a real ghoul, she did not make herself known to me - but I've never been quite so glad to leave after an evening in the pub.

Monday, October 30, 2006

De Niro latest film in Brecon Beacons

THERE may not have been any Raging Bulls, but there were plenty of sheep to watch Oscar- winning legend Robert De Niro filming his brand new movie in the Brecon Beacons.

The Taxi Driver star is said to have swapped the Hollywood hills for the high peaks of mid-Wales for his role as swashbuckling 'sky pirate' Captain Shakespeare in a major new fantasy blockbuster called Stardust.

Adapted from Neil Gaiman's best-selling fantasy novel, the flick also features a glittering cast of Tinseltown royalty like Peter O'Toole and Michelle Pfeiffer, not to mention the first foray into moviedom by The Office funnyman Ricky Gervais.

Despite production details being kept tightly under wraps, we can reveal Stardust tells the tale of a young man who promises his beloved that he'll retrieve a fallen star by venturing into a magical realm where he encounters Pfeiffer's evil witch and De Niro's pirate.

Meanwhile, Gervais - who admits spending the duration of his main scene in the movie trying to make his hero De Niro laugh - has described his character of Ferdy The Fence as a "kind of Never Never Land Arthur Daley".

The cast and crew spent a week during this summer on location shooting around Llyn Y Fan Fach, a 20,000-year-old glacial lake near Ystradfellte in the breathtaking National Park.

The stretch of water - whose name translates to 'small lake of the peaks' - was chosen due to it's mythical connections, shrouded as it is in Celtic legend and purported to be the location where the lady of the lake handed the sword Excalibur to King Arthur.

The movie's director and producer Matthew Vaughan, who worked with Guy Ritchie on Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and is married to supermodel Claudia Schiffer, was full of praise for the National Park's stunning scenery.

He said: "The Brecon Beacons is a hidden gem and just a fantastic location for us to film Stardust. Its dramatic landscape and sweeping views were just perfect for us and made it a pleasure to shoot there."

Stardust, produced by Paramount Pictures, will hit British cinemas next summer.

A spokeswoman for the film giant said: "The stars of Stardust did descend on Wales for filming during the summer.

"As well as shooting in Wales, we also shot all over the UK. The stars loved Wales."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Is there a ghost of a chance that spooks really DO exist? - icWales

Is there a ghost of a chance that spooks really DO exist? - icWales

Most people think of ghosts as phantom beings who rise from the ground to scare the living.

But a scientific search for an explanation has challenged the traditional image of ghouls as apparitions of dead people or white spirits.

Opinions of what really lurks behind ghosts, however, remains divided.

University of Glamorgan psychology lecturer Janet Pitman said science dismisses the traditional theory that ghosts are people who have moved into the afterlife.

'This is all based on a cultural opinion of what people expect to see,' she said. 'Whenever people have visions of ghosts they are always fully clothed. I would be surprised if their clothes had an afterlife too.'

Although Andy Mercer, of the Institute of Paranormal Research, says paranormal experts general accept it as a possibility.

'This theory says ghosts are souls who have lived and died on this earth,' he said.

'It says that their intelligence, personalities and emotions on earth have survived the death process.'

However, the study of the paranormal has come up with other theories to explain ghost sightings.

One such theory is called the stone tape theory, which claims the magnetic pull of old buildings can trap sounds of past events.

Andy said: 'There is a possibility that buildings, rocks or earth are able to absorb energy from living beings who inhabit them.

'Later, under certain conditions, that energy or signal can be replayed, rather like a video tape.

'Most typical hauntings have a very emotion-laden scene, like a murder.

'It is this scene that has somehow become imprinted or recorded in the environment.'

A third theory is that the human concept of time is not as stable as people believe it to be, with past events becoming stuck in time and replay themselves in the afterlife.

'When people cross over to the other side they have a life review that follows everything they did,' Andy said.

'Their spirits travel along a smooth timeline until they hit a pothole.

'They become stuck in that pothole until they are removed by someone on earth.'

But from a scientific point of view, there is only one theory with any evidence - the idea that ghosts are just figments of a person's imagination, however real they might seem.

'We prefer to look at what experiences people have and how it affects their mind,' Janet said.

'Things like hallucination and illusion tend to explain most sightings.'

Saturday, October 28, 2006

An exciting time for Romany Lee

Psychic Lee Petulengro is looking forward to the witch and pagan new year which comes on Halloween.

The 28-year-old Romany gypsy, who is based in Cardiff Market, says the run-up to Halloween is one of the busiest times of his year because it is the pagan and witch new year. The medium, who also practices witchcraft, is gearing up for the celebrations of pagans and witches and trying to get in touch with departed friends.

He said: 'The last few weeks have been very busy and a lot of people have been coming to me for readings, but the weekend before Halloween will be mad.

'The veil between the human and spirit world is at its thinnest at this time of year because it is the end of the summer.

'There will be a lot of spirit activity and a lot people will be asking me to get in touch with people who they know.

'It is an exciting time for me and I look forward to it every year. That is what I do it for.'

Ghost-busting reverend is still a bit of a sceptic - icWales

Ghost-busting reverend is still a bit of a sceptic - icWales

A priest-turned-psychology buff who spends his spare time working as a real-life ghost-buster says he is still a sceptic.

Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe, 72, first took an interest in the paranormal while he was doing guest lectures on unexplained phenomenon at Cambridge University.

Mr Fanthorpe, of Roath, Cardiff, says he loved the idea of unexplained mysteries and it spurred him on to write several books and radio programmes about catching ghosts.

He said: 'I find it very interesting how there are so many different beliefs and ideas on what ghosts are.

'I have not discounted the idea of hauntings being caused by departed human spirits who are lost in the after-life, but I have never seen any proof personally.

'But I have found that after most of my exorcisms the ghostly presence has moved on.'

Mr Fanthorpe says that he normally conducts exorcisms with a medium who can see the ghost and speak to them.

He said: 'Usually I will ask the family where the spirits have been seen and I will put down some salt and holy water.

'Then I will say one of two prayers.

'Either I will ask troubled spirit to move on to a place where they can be at peace, or I will command them to move on in the name of God if they continue to cause the family a problem.

'But they normally go at the first time of asking, especially if the medium can tell them they will come to no harm.'

But Mr Fanthorpe always takes time out to have a laugh while removing evil spirits.

He said: 'One day I walked down a street in Splott to carry out an exorcism.

'It seemed all of the neighbours of the affected house knew that there was something going on.

'Everyone on the street was stood outside their houses asking me if I had come to bust a ghost.

'It turned out to be a harmless entity of a Victorian woman. She caused no problems but the young mother wanted me to move her on, so I did.

'As a scientist, I always try to be as objective as I can, and am a bit of a sceptic. But if reputable people come up with evidence of seeing ghosts, who am I to discount them? And if I can help them with the power of God, I will.'

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Letters Oct 25 2006 Western Mail

Iranian knights
SIR - With all the animosities that exist today in some Western countries towards Iran (formerly known as the vast Persian Empire), I thought it would be of importance to bring to your attention what the ancient Iranian people did for the Romano-Britons including Celts.

Sarmatians were a confederation of Iranian- speaking nomadic tribes who originated from the North-East of Persia and eventually in 200 BC settled around the areas between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in what was known as the Parthian Persian Empire, and subsequently Sassanian Persian Empire, until 642 AD.

Sarmatians' war tactics and bravery in battles, such as the battles of Carrhae and Nisbis, contributed to the many Parthian and Sassanian victories over the Roman armies. The famous phrase 'Parthian shot' originates from this era.

Eventually the Roman emperors, realising the potential of the Sarmatian warriors, offered the Sarmatian migrants large amounts of money and incentives to join their legions. As a result 8000 Sarmatian warriors joined up and around 5,500 of them were sent to Roman Britain to serve in the auxiliary legion.

The commander of this legion was called Lucius Artorius Castus, who was of Romano-Celtic blood.

Originally the main task of this auxiliary legion was to protect the areas around the Hadrian Wall and to deter any invasion by the Saxons.

However, it has been suggested by some authors that the legendary Celtic King Arthur was in fact Lucius Artorius Castus and his knights were the Sarmatian chief warriors.

There are 12 major battles listed in which Arthur and his Sarmatian knights fought alongside Celts and Romans to stop the Saxon expansion in Britain, of which the battles of the legion around today's Caerleon and Baden Hill near the city of Bath were the most successful.

It is also important to mention that the battle flag of Arthur and the Sarmatians was a red dragon copied from the Parthian Empire national flag called 'Derafsh-e-Azhdeha', meaning in Persian, The Flag of Dragon.

This is what later became the red dragon of Wales and the official flag of Wales from 1952.

It is refreshing to notice that the story of King Arthur and his Sarmatian knights is now documented in a 2004 film of the same name, starring Clive Owen as Arthur and Keira Knightly as Guinevere.

Clos Derwen, Roath Park, Cardiff

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Would you spend the night in our haunted castles? - icWales

Would you spend the night in our haunted castles? - icWales

A team of ghost hunters are determined to prove that South Wales is riddled with dark spirits.

The nine investigators from the South Wales Paranormal Research Society spend most of their time at Llancaiach Fawr, near Nelson, looking for cast-iron proof that ghosts exist.

The manor house, which was constructed for the Prichard family in the late 1500s, was last owned by the Williams family until the former Rhymney Valley council restored it and opened it as a museum in 1979.

It is believed the buildings are haunted by a young child, who fell from a top floor window, a maid, a tall man in a black hat and cloak and former owner Colonel Pritchard.

Ghost Tour guide Clare White is part of the SWPR and has worked at the house for 10 years but is still desperate to find conclusive evidence of ghosts' existence.

She said: 'I am a frustrated sceptic. As a group we are always trying to find more about how to scientifically prove there is ghost activity.

'Sometimes I can feel, see, smell or hear things happening, but until we can prove it beyond any doubt, it will be difficult to convince people or even convince ourselves.'

They spend most of their spare time researching at Llancaiach Fawr and believe that there are ghouls wandering around the old house every day.

Supply teacher Clare said: 'South Wales is known as an area of great activity and we think Llancaiach Fawr is one of the most haunted.

'It may be because we spend so much time here, but things seem to be constantly happening. Members of staff are always having spooky experiences.

'One morning, two cleaners were working in different rooms of the house and they could hear the harp playing.

'They both assumed the other was playing it, but when they discussed it later, it turned out neither of them had been near it.

'In another room two women have walked in and gone straight back out saying they were threatened by a spirit.'

The group also travel to old buildings like cottages and pubs to check out any suspicious paranormal behaviour.

Clare said: 'There are so many theories about whether ghosts or spirits exist it makes it very complicated.

'Some of us are believers and some of us are not but it would be great to know for sure.

'It is a shame that we can't go into many of the old castles because their heritage is protected by Cadw. Some of the stories of those are really interesting and I am sure we would find something.'

Creepy castles

THE second Marquess of Bute John Crichton-Stuart, is believed to haunt Cardiff Castle.

He is said to appear by walking through the library fireplace of the castle, the original of which was built in 1091. He normally leaves the room by passing through a six-foot-thick wall, a corridor, and the wall of the chapel, into the room in which he died.

The heavy doors are believed to open and shut by themselves every morning and the lights flash on and off in the castle's main dining hall.

CASTELL Coch is said to be haunted by Dame Griffiths, whose son fell into a bottomless pool of water in the grounds and was never seen again.

The Dame is said to have died from her grief, but wanders about the castle, which was built in 1894 for the third Marquess of Bute John Patrick Crichton-Stuart.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Protesters target spiritualists

Outraged church representatives have staged a protest against spiritualism at the Dugout in Ebbw Vale.

A group of church members handed out leaflets to people attending an evening of clairvoyance at the Ex-Servicemen's Club. The evening was being held in aid of the Ebbw Vale Golden Lighting Appeal.

Reverend Geoff Waggett, vicar of Christ Church in Ebbw Vale, one of the protestors, said: 'It is extremely sad that those seeking to light up our town at Christmas - when you celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ - should seek to raise money in such an un-Christian way.'

Among those joining him were Rev Martin Gillard, vicar at Zion Baptist Church in Ebbw Vale, Rev Jackie Carter, vicar at St Davids in Beaufort, and Terry Edwards, verger at Christ Church.
Rev Waggett said: 'Jesus Himself warned us about messing about with the Devil.

'In the Old Testament God described such activities as detestable.

'Spiritualism, clairvoyancy and witchcraft are all evil activities.

'Clairvoyancy allows someone else to mess with your mind.

'It is not a bit of fun, it is dangerous.'

Next year, Rev Waggett promises to provide an alternative concert at Christ Church to raise money for the campaign. Joyce Davies is a member of the committee for the Golden Lighting Appeal, and responded to Rev Waggett's outburst.

She said: 'We held the evening to raise money for the children of Ebbw Vale to enjoy the Christmas lights in the town.

'There have been other clairvoyance evenings at the Dugout, and there has never been a protest before, so why are they picking on us?

'Everybody must have their own faith - no matter what religion they have, I respect them.'

One of the mediums present on the evening was Damieon Cunningham.

He explained the evening had gone very well.

Mr Cunningham, who is an ordained minister and runs a multi-faith church in Pontypool, said: 'Spiritualism is still a Christian faith.

'Some people just don't understand it.

'We don't talk to the dead, the dead go into the ground, it is the soul that lives on.

'We talk to the angels who come to help people in need.'

He has experienced similar resistance in the past and claims police have moved protestors on as people have a right to religious freedom.

He also pointed out that during the services, there are prayers to God.

'As far as I am concerned you can believe what you want to believe.

'You can believe the moon is made of cheese if you want, as long as you are not harming anybody or forcing your beliefs on others.'

Thursday, October 5, 2006

BBC NEWS | Wales | North East Wales | Town's Da Vinci Code tourism hope

BBC NEWS | Wales | North East Wales | Town's Da Vinci Code tourism hope

10 May 2006

Business leaders in Llangollen are hoping for a tourism spin-off from the literary blockbuster turned film, The Da Vinci Code.

The big screen version of Dan Brown's best-selling novel is expected to follow it as a global success.

One local legend suggests Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail to nearby Dinas Brân Castle for safe-keeping in the First Century.

Llangollen Enterprise said such legends can have positive tourism benefits.

Brown's controversial story claims that Jesus Christ had a child with Mary Magdalene and that a conspiracy surrounded the Holy Grail mythology.

It follows the adventures of American Robert Langdon and his quest to solve the mystery of the Holy Grail.

Some towns and cities have seized upon the chance to capitalise on the explosion of interest expected to be generated by the movie's release in the UK on 19 May.

Tours of 15th Century Rosslyn Chapel - where some filming took place near Edinburgh - have even been offered by holiday companies.

Although Llangollen has no mention in the book, or link to the film, one local author is convinced the Denbighshire town is connected to the Grail.

Author Dan Brown and cover of book
Dan Brown's book has sold an estimated 40 million copies

Steve Blake, author of the Arthurian book The Keys to Avalon says there is evidence from modern Grail myths that Joseph of Arimathea was in north Wales.

He said: "These Grail romances actually state that Joseph of Arimathea landed in Nor Gales, which is North Wales, and was captured by the King of the region Crudel.

"On being rescued by Avalwch, after whom Avalon is reputedly named after, he travelled to Castle Corbenic where the Holy Grail was kept for safe keeping.

"Corbenic is French for crow or raven which, when translated back into Welsh becomes Castell Dinas Brân, the spectacular ruins which overlooks the town of Llangollen."

'Enduring story'

Mr Blake also claims there are strong links between the Knights Templar - the men sworn to protect the secret of the Grail - and Llangollen.

He claims there are Templar Knights buried in the royal enclosure with Prince Madog of Dinas Bran Castle, whose own grave apparently bears very strong Templar symbolism.

He added: "Some of these Templar grave slabs even found there way into the structure of Llangollen Bridge and were visible until major alterations to the structure were undertaken in the late Middle Ages."

Judith Dodd, chair of Llangollen Enterprise, is keen to promote the legends, which she hopes will bring tourists to the town.

She said: "These local legends can have a very far reaching effect on the future tourism marketing of the town, of this there is no doubt, and the release of the Da Vinci Code movie can only be a positive thing.

"Interest in Dinas Bran Castle is already high following some Arthurian marketing undertaken a few years ago and it is now up to the business community to take advantage of what will be even more increased fascination with this enduring story."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Robin Hood was Welsh and never went to Nottingham, claims book | the Daily Mail

Robin Hood was Welsh and never went to Nottingham, claims book | the Daily Mail
24th September 2006

Robin Hood was really a Welsh freedom fighter who never even set foot in Nottingham let alone Sherwood Forest, a historian has claimed.

The medieval outlaw - said to have robbed from the rich to give to the poor - never once met Maid Marian nor the Sheriff of Nottingham, according to Stephen Lawhead.

The American blows apart the widely accepted version of the legend in his new book, Hood, arguing that Robin Hood was really a hardened Guerrilla based in the Valleys.

But tourism chiefs in Nottingham have rubbished the theory, warning: "Hands off our Robin!"

Lawhead, 56, believes the folk hero and his band of merry men would have carried out their thieving in the Marsh, a primeval forest in Wales in the 11th century, more than a hundred years before the English Robin Hood.

He claims Robin would not have been able to hide out in Sherwood Forest because it would have been too small and well chartered.

Robin would, he said, be able to remain undetected in the vast and unknown forests of the March.

The sheltered woodlands would have provided him with the perfect base to launch lightening attacks on invading Norman armies. In his book, Lawhead, still tells of a wronged nobleman turned heroic outlaw but names him as Bran ap Brychan instead of the more recognised Robin of Loxley.

Bran is a spoiled and selfish prince who becomes the rightful heir to the kingdom of Elfael after his father is killed by the Normans.

He quickly becomes a marked man and makes plans to escape his kingdom and his people, until he is almost killed by the forces of Count Falkes de Braose, who took possession of the kingdom.

Just like the classic version of Robin Hood, Lawhead's re-telling involves a strong and beautiful maiden, a wine-loving priest and plenty of heartless kings and aristocrats.

But the American historian and author has Bran fleeing to the woods of the March rather than Sherwood, where he meets Angharad, a mysterious healer and singing storyteller.

Angharad's faith in Bran's potential as a heroic king eventually inspires his notion to steal from the rich in order to raise the money needed to buy back his kingdom and free his people, forced into slavery by their new ruler.

Lawhead said: "Several small but telling clues locate the legend of Robin Hood in Wales.

"Every single Welshman was ready for battle at a moment's notice. A Welsh location is also suggested by its nature and landscape.

"While the forests of England had long since become well managed business property at the time, Wales still had enormous stretches of virgin Wood.

"It would have been exceedingly difficult for Robin to hide in England's ever dwindling Sherwood.

"But he could have lived for years in the forests of the March and never been seen nor heard.

"I realise, though, that we could have some trouble with Nottingham. They are pretty heavily invested in the Nottingham Robin Hood version and with good reason."

In fact the only similarity Lawhead's Robin has with the more accepted one is that they were both lethal with a bow and arrow.

He added: "My Robin would have won in a fight for sure!

"He would have been really good with a bow and there are a lot of documents about how devastating a weapon that was.

"But Nottingham would have been too far for the Welsh Robin Hood to visit, Maid Marian was total fiction and he would have never met the Sheriff of Nottingham."

Unsurprisingly Lawhead's version of the legend has not been greeted with enthusiasm in Robin's spiritual home.

Stephen Richeux, from Nottingham City Council, said: "We laugh at this suggestion.

"We imagine this author is trying to make a name for himself with the outrageous suggestion that Wales is the home of our beloved Robin Hood.

"He is known to have spent a lot of time in Sherwood Forest so I don't know where Wales gets a look in.

"Maybe this author is being paid by the Welsh tourist board? Hands off our Robin!"

The English Robin Hood is first mentioned by name in the official documents for Yorkshire of 1230, where he is described as Robertus Hood fugitivis who has failed to appear in court.

Many believe him to be nobleman, the Earl of Loxley, who was deprived of his lands by greedy churchmen.

Ancient stories tell how he even helped Richard the Lionheart reclaim the throne of England after his return from the Crusades.

Since then Kevin Costner and Errol Flynn have both portrayed the legend on the big screen.

The first ever Robin Hood movie was made in 1912 and starred Robert Frazer as the loveable thief.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Haunted Caves

A ghostly night in show caves - icWales

PARANORMAL experts convinced the National Showcaves of Wales are haunted by the ghost of a woman spent the night there last night.

Members of South Wales Paranormal Research spent 24 hours underground at the caves at Dan-yr-Ogof in the Upper Swansea Valley.

Their initial investigations managed to confirm "a presence" within the showcaves with a female voice being heard clearly as well as knocking sounds.

The group's chairman, Steve Cluer, said, "We know that no one has managed to spend a night in the showcave section first discovered by the Morgan brothers in 1912. Many people have tried but they have all come out during the night and we want to find out why they felt so uneasy and decided to leave."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

icNorthWales - Drought unearths treasure trove of ancient monuments

icNorthWales - Drought unearths treasure trove of ancient monuments: "

Aug 8 2006

By David Greenwood, Daily Post

THE summer drought has unearthed a treasure trove of finds for historians taking a birds eye view of Wales.

Heatwave conditions, which have parched the Welsh countryside, proved ideal for aerial archaeologists.

Last night they were described as the best for at least adecade with a host of buried sites revealed from the air.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales made major discoveries using light aircraft to survey the Welsh landscape.

'It has been absolutely astounding. Discoveries have been made across Wales visible both as cropmarks in ripening crops and scorched grassland,' said a spokesman.

They include two early Neolithic causewayed enclosures, built in Wales 6,000 years ago, of which only three were previously known.

One was spotted in Radnorshire and the other in the Vale of Glamorgan Other significant discoveries include Roman forts, a lost medieval church in the Conwy valley, abronze age ritual enclosure, near Aberystwyth, lines of Roman roads and scores of prehistoric hillforts across the entire country.

Project Manager for the Aerial Survey programme at the Royal Commission Dr Toby Driver said the results were significant.

"Cropmarks first began appearing from the air during June, in Gwynedd, Montgomeryshire, and the Vale of Glam-organ.

"But into July and August we have seen stunning results from all parts of Wales. "As the hot weather has progressed some remarkable sites have been discovered.

"From the bronze age we have scores of round barrows, once used for burial, visible as plough-levelled circles in fields. Sometimes the central grave pits are still visible.

"At Goginan, near Aberystwyth, a great circular enclosure was discovered with a barrow close by, likely to be a bronze age temple which may once have contained a circle of upright timber posts."

He added: "Previously unknown hill-forts and prehistoric farms have been found in considerable numbers across the southern Lly^n peninsula, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Montgomeryshire, telling us where pre-Roman Iron Age communities lived and farmed.

"Our knowledge of the Roman army in Wales has also expanded as a result of this summer's discoveries.

"Two previously unknown Roman fortlets have been discovered guarding strategic passes on the Roman road system near Llanerfyl, in northern Powys, and near Bala in Gwynedd.

"Buried lines of Roman roads have also been seen marching through the Welsh countryside near Builth Wells, in central Wales, at Corwen, in the north-east, and near Lampeter, in west Wales."

Dr Driver said: "It has been a hugely successful year for aerial archaeology in Wales and we may not see another like it for a decade.

"I know I have some months of work ahead of me to work through the discoveries, notifying local archaeologists and ensuring some of the most remarkable are visited on the ground and further studied."


Sunday, June 25, 2006

New Seven Wonders of Wales

Revealed ... the new Seven Wonders of Wales

TODAY the Western Mail reveals the definitive list of Wales' Seven Modern Wonders as voted for by you, the readers....

Wales is the most haunted - icWales

WALES has some of the most haunted and active paranormal sites in the UK, according to Most Haunted presenter Yvette Fielding.

The 37-year-old will set up camp in Llanelli from today as part of the show's live programme as they search for paranormal activity for three days.

The former Blue Peter presenter claims the show always gets good results in Wales and believes it could be down to ley lines believed by some to be electromagnetic paths which convey psychic energy.

The programme, which is shown on LivingTV, will visit three secret sites in Llanelli, which have had recent reports of strange activity. The mother-of-two said that to appear on the programme the site has to have a current history of unexplained things happening.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

UFO sightings of 30 years ago explained - icWales

UFO sightings of 30 years ago explained - icWales

A SPATE of mysterious UFO and alien sightings which gripped a Welsh community 30 years ago may have finally been explained.

A former US Navy sailor claims the furore gripping the Broad Haven area of Pembrokeshire in the late 1970s was caused by an officer in a special fireproof uniform, and new RAF jets.

The sailor, who served in the area shortly after most of the sightings, says a fellow officer admitted he had been responsible.

The clamour around the possibility of little green men visiting Pembrokeshire in the late 1970s led to numerous tabloid reports, including one of an entire class of schoolchildren claiming to have seen a UFO landing.

Many others reported being petrified by a strange silver alien.

It all happened in what became known as the Broad Haven Triangle, and canny tourist operators even started running UFO sighting weekends.

However behind the hype, Government officials took some of the tales seriously, and it was revealed last year by UFO expert Dr David Clarke that a secret MoD investigation had been carried out.

Now, following publicity about the investigation, James Carlson from Albuquerque, New Mexico, has written to the Fortean Times - a magazine about the supernatural - with what he believes are answers to West Wales' paranormal riddle.

He was stationed at the US Naval Facility in Brawdy in the 1980s.

In his letter Carlson tells how one of his supervisors, who is identified only by the name Steve, saw him reading a book about paranormal incidents around Brawdy, which was also an RAF base.

The book quotes an RAF officer, who states the descriptions of "alien" suits were in no way similar to military uniforms at the time.

However Carlson was told by Steve that the description was identical to firefighting gear used by American personnel.

He said, "Steve told me that while serving on the fire team of his division, he would often don the asbestos suit and oxygen breathing apparatus provided.

"Fire preparation drills, even those conducted at night, would require members of the fire team to search the areas around the base, and Steve claimed that during these drills he became res-ponsible for two of the alien sightings."

He added that a contemporary report of a UFO sighting in Pembrokeshire, which suggested the craft could not be man-made because of its gentle swaying and hovering motion, exactly fitted a description of the Harrier Vertical Take-off and Landing jet, which had been used in the UK since 1969.

Dr David Clarke, who teaches folklore at Sheffield Hallam University, is the man who last year uncovered the MoD's secret 1970s investigation into Welsh UFOs, and this year discovered a more recent Government investigation, which concluded UFOs are probably caused by atmospheric phenomenon.

He said of the letter in this month's edition, "It adds to certain testimonies and makes sense.

"A few people have already admitted a hoax, and one has even said he had to jump into a hedge when a lady aimed a gun at him in his suit."

Dr Clarke, who is a correspondent for Fortean Times, added, "There will never be absolute proof either way, but Wales has always had a history of these sorts of sightings - it's a real hotspot for them, whether they're just atmos-pheric phenomenon or not.

"It used to be perceived as fairies and little folk, but now we're in the space age and everybody's seen Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars, everything is aliens and space ships."

Page 2: Aliens in West Wales...

Friday, May 19, 2006

CCTV bid to solve the mystery of 'big cat'

The hunt is on to find the 'Beast of Bedlinog' - which has left Valleys residents terrified.

The cat-like creature has been spotted roaming around the Merthyr Tydfil area.

And staff at a store where it was seen are now checking CCTV to try to get to the bottom of the mystery.

There have been numerous sightings of the 'beast' during the last week, with Karen Smart, of Cwrt Nant Llwynog, Bedlinog, saying: 'I thought it was a black cat, but then I quickly realised it was too big.

'I've heard stories about people seeing it, but it's not until now that I believe it.'

Karen's husband Bob said he found paw prints which were 'way too big to be those of a domestic cat'.

Last weekend, a security guard at HyperValue Holdings on the Pengarnddu Industrial Estate at Dowlais Top, just outside Merthyr, said he spotted a creature strolling into the grounds. 'I'm 5ft 9in and it was easily as high as my waist - it was quite frightening,' said Craig Russell, 21, of Gellideg. 'It was easily too big to be a normal cat.'

The store is currently running through its CCTV footage to see if the 'beast' has been caught on camera.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ancients clocked around rock 'to tell the seasons'

THE proof that an imposing 35-tonne boulder known as Arthur's Stone is actually one of the world's first clocks is about to be revealed.

Visitors to Cefn Bryn in the middle of Gower have been perplexed by the giant stone, and what purpose it served.

But 63-year-old consultant engineer Roger Davies of Three Crosses, Gower, decided to do something about it.

He has spent years examining a theory that the landmark could have been a clock.

Academics and geologists have had to consider whether the stone could have been left in its spot high up on Cefn Bryn by accident, possibly propelled there by a long gone glacier.

But there have also been theories the stone could have been placed there deliberately by ancient inhabitants of Gower establishing a Stonehenge-style method of determining the seasons using shadows thrown by the sun.

Mr Davies, who has taken countless photographs from dozens of different angles and taken hundreds of measurements is firmly in the "clock" camp.

Mr Davies plans to write an illustrated book explaining his theory and said yesterday, "I believe that Arthur's Stone itself was shaped and placed in its position by our forefathers.

"And I also believe that various landmarks around the stone are part of a giant clock or calendar, with Arthur's Stone as the hub of the whole thing."

Mr Davies first saw Arthur's Stone as a teenager while on a geology field trip from Gowerton Grammar School.

He said, "Like a lot of people I was transfixed and had to find out if it was part of something placed deliberately on Gower.

"It just did not seem possible it could have ended up like that by accident."

If it is eventually found the huge boulder was moved by hand to be used as a giant clock, it will finally disprove one of the oldest legends surrounding the object, that it was the original stone from which King Arthur withdrew his sword to prove his right to be king.

Another legend is that King Arthur threw a stone from his shoe from Carmarthen to Burry Port and it eventually bounced on to Gower, growing in size "with pride" because it was touched by the king's hand.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Beware the Welsh Teggie, witches and more - icWales

Beware the Welsh Teggie, witches and more - icWales

WALES' legendary monsters will be in the spotlight this week, in a new television programme.

Beasts like "Teggie" - the nation's answer to the Loch Ness Monster, and ghoulish phenomena such as "corpse candles" will feature in a new ITV1 Wales programme Celtic Monsters.

But series producer Neville Hughes said the production was blighted by some mysterious happenings that challenged his own opinion of the unknown.

Among the unexplained events were those that occurred while working on the story of the Pontrhydfendigaid witch, Mari Berllan Biter.

"While I was editing the programme, a massive hornet appeared from nowhere and attacked me," recalled Mr Hughes. "It disappeared and I went to look for it thinking that it was very strange for the insect to be out during the winter, but it was nowhere to be seen."

A sound technician had a similar experience.

"He could hear the buzzing of the hornet behind his head," added Mr Hughes, "But when he turned round there was nothing there.

"They say witches can transform themselves into all kinds of shapes and forms - so who knows what happened?

"I've certainly changed my views on the supernatural. Before I started working on this series I didn't believe in the paranormal - now I'm not that sure."

He was also forced to think twice following a holy man's warning while shooting scenes across the Irish Sea.

"While we were filming in Ireland, a former Irish priest warned us not to meddle and to respect creatures of the unknown," he said. "Soon after that, strange things started to happen to us."

The footage the crew shot of an Irish woman telling the story of the horned witches of Sliabh na Mban, was found to be distorted. There was no technical reason for it, but they couldn't use the interview.

The series, which starts on Sunday, is presented by bard and singer Twm Morys. It aims to echo the ancient tradition of the storyteller with contributors from Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Brittany. Welsh storytellers include bards T James Jones and Ifor ap Glyn and singer Si n James.

People with first-hand experiences of mysterious happenings will also be sharing their stories.

These include Blodwen Griffiths from the Ystwyth Valley who saw the "corpse candle" - a premonition of death - and Dewi Bowen from Bala who claims to have seen Wales' own Nessie - the Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) monster.

But despite the interest in Welsh myth and legend, we don't market this aspect of our heritage the way the Scots promote Nessie.

A spokesman for the Wales Tourist Board said they did use our legends in promotional literature targeted at Belgians, Germans and French people.

"We use it discreetly or in careful measure in those markets," he said.

Lionel Fanthorpe, Cardiff author, broadcaster, church minister, and an expert in paranormal phenomena, had his own view.

He said, "We have a wealth of Welsh castles, Eisteddfodau, music, art and drama and the brilliance of guys like Dylan Thomas and among these things the monster is pretty low on our school of attractions to bring tourists and visitors into Wales. When you've got Snowdon and the Brecon Beacons, who needs them?"

He added, "I believe they may exist but would like to see evidence first - maybe a piece of fin or a tail lying on the beach at Barry Island."

Celtic Monsters starts on Sunday on ITV1Wales at 6pm

Celtic Monsters starts on Sunday on ITV1Wales at 6pm

Page 2 - Some of the Welsh myths and monsters featuring in the series

Friday, February 3, 2006

BBC history team solves riddle of Llywelyn

Daily Telegraph
Last Updated: 1:26am GMT 31/01/2006

One of the last great mysteries of the history of the independent Welsh nation was apparently solved yesterday by a group of English historians working for the BBC.

For centuries, people living in and around the chicken farm called Pen y Bryn on top of a hill overlooking the Menai Straits in Caernarvonshire have been convinced that it is a royal place.

More than that, they all firmly believed that the 36-acre farm was the last remnant of the palace of Llywelyn, the first and last prince of a "free" Wales, who died in 1282.

But Cadw, the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage, says it has found traces of a medieval house about 400 yards away, near to a Norman motte, or defensive mound, that is the real site of the palace.

Today, even the current prince has become intrigued in developments after Kathryn Gibson, the owner of Pen y Bryn, tried to convince him to accept that he is the 22nd, not the 21st Prince of Wales.

"We had all the local tradition that this was the palace site, but what we were lacking was the last documentary proof that this was the case," Mrs Gibson said yesterday after the broadcast of the programme on BBC2's History Mysteries series. "But thanks to Nick Barratt and his colleagues, we now have that."

Mr Barratt, who is The Daily Telegraph's "Family Detective" found the crucial evidence in archives at Bangor, a few miles from the site. A document dating to 1284 stated clearly that there was a "Ty Hir" or long house, at the centre of the manor of Aber, previously known as Aber Garth Celyn.

It was from there that Llywelyn was known to have written his last letter of defiance to the English. But the site near the motte was not a long house, but an H-shaped dwelling which the historians believe was an administrative centre for the infant Welsh court, but not the prince's home.

Investigations showed that the chicken farm, which has a tower attached to it tentatively, is built on the ruins of a long house. On another document, dating from the 1730s, the manor house at the centre of the lands of Aber is clearly identified as Pen y Bryn.

Mr Barratt said: "It shows that Llywelyn had two separate buildings, one domestic, one business, and that the Welsh court was much more sophisticated than English historians have portrayed it to be."

Mrs Gibson is hoping that the programme will be seeen by Prince Charles, whom she met a few years ago. "I told him that he ought to acknowledge that Edward I's son was not the first Prince of Wales and that he is the 22nd, not the 21st person to hold that title."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Is Wales the resting place of the Holy Grail? - icWales

Is Wales the resting place of the Holy Grail? - icWales

Jan 17 2006 Molly Watson, Western Mail

THE Da Vinci Code might name Scotland as the home of the Holy Grail, but according to a Welsh academic, Wales' claim to the relic is much stronger.

Since Dan Brown's bestseller was published in 2003, hundreds of thousands of visitors have flocked to Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh, which the book claims is the Grail's final resting place.

But, Grail expert Dr Juliette Wood of Cardiff University said theories linking the Grail to Scotland were relatively new compared to the claims which Wales has on the ancient relic, which stretch back to the 14th century.

The Holy Grail is believed to be the cup which Christ drank from at the Last Supper and is thought to have magical powers, but its location, and whether it ever actually existed, has captured the imagination of adventurers throughout history, from the Knights of the Round Table to the imaginary Indiana Jones.

Stories suggesting the existence of a Grail first appeared in the 12th century and according to Dr Wood, who specialises in Welsh folklore and Celtic literature, evidence of the relic having travelled to Wales can be traced back to the 1300s.

In contrast, the theory which Brown's novel relies on, that the Grail was discovered by the Knights Templar who buried it beneath one of the pillars of Rosslyn chapel, did not develop until the 1960s.

The evidence shows Wales has just as much right to such a prized position on the Grail seekers trail as Rosslyn, which has experienced a 100% rise in visitor numbers since the publication of Brown's novel.

Dr Wood said, "The story of Rosslyn Chapel is only about 20 years old.

"Wales' link is much stronger. Wales has Arthurian romances which refer to the Grail, but Scotland doesn't have that. There are a number of Holy Grail romances written in Scotland but currently there hasn't been anything found in Gaelic."

First reference to the Grail having travelled to Wales can be found in the story of Peredur the Son of Evrawc, which appears in the Mabinogion book of Celtic stories. In the story a knight, Peredur of Wales, sets out on a quest to find the Grail, although when he does it appears not as a shining beacon, but in the form of his cousin's head, floating on a platter in a pool of blood.

Other theories which link the Grail to Wales include:

An ancient Celtic myth called the Nanteos Cup, about a sacred life-giving cauldron. It is thought to have been the basis for many of the later Grail stories, and was found near Aberystwyth. It is believed to have healing powers;

More recently a theory put forward by former Western Mail journalist and bard, Owen Morgan, who claimed the Grail was not an object but the landscape of Wales.

Dr Wood admits that she doesn't believe the Grail ever existed but she said the legends and myths which have grown up surrounding it are an important part of Welsh cultural history.

She said, "I don't think there are any academics who would argue the Holy Grail actually existed. It's a medieval fiction that developed in the context of Christianity.

"But there are a lot of things, although nothing concrete, which link it back to Wales. It's a very interesting part of Welsh heritage."

A film adaptation of the Da Vinci Code, due out in May, is expected to renew interest in the search for this holiest of relics.

As to why such a search for a cup should have captured the imagination of so many generations, Dr Wood said, "We like mystery and the Grail is so very compelling because there is just not enough information to tie it down and that's what we like about it."

Dr Juliette Wood will be giving a lecture, The Holy Grail in Wales, on January 25 at Cardiff University's Centre for Lifelong Learning at 7.15pm