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."