"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Golden Ghost of Goblin Hill

Tales of ghosts haunting the site of buried treasure is a common theme in folklore, but it is rare that one comes across an instance where such a story has roots in historical fact. For that reason, it is my great pleasure to welcome through the gates of Strange Company HQ the Golden Ghost of Goblin Hill.

Goblin Hill--or, to give its proper Welsh name, Bryn yr Ellyllon--was a prominence near the town of Mold. For many, many years, locals talked of how the area was haunted by a spirit they named "Brenin yr Allt" (King of the Hillside.) It was described as the figure of a giant man, "glittering and shining in gold." Legend had it that around 1810, a woman was leading her drunken husband home through the "Goblyn field," when they encountered the Golden Ghost towering menacingly over a large stone mound known as the Tomen. The mammoth apparition was "clothed in a raiment of gold which shone like the sun." It crossed the road before her, rested momentarily on the Tomen, and then disappeared. The sight "scared the woman into fits and the man into sobriety." In 1828, a dressmaker had an even more fateful encounter with the ghost. The experience left her "crazed."

The most detailed and well-attested sighting of the Ghost dates from 1830. We are told that one summer evening, "a respectable woman" was riding home from the marketplace at nearby Mold. When she approached the Tomen, she saw that some of the trees on the opposite side of the road were weirdly illuminated. As she gazed at this oddity, she was confronted by "an apparition of unusual size, and clothed with a suit of golden armour." The spirit emerged from the wood, crossed the road, and disappeared into the mound. The woman was so stunned by the extraordinary vision, she immediately returned to Mold and related her experience to the vicar, C.B. Clough. Clough wrote down what she told him, and got "three other respectable persons" to witness it.

The origins and possible meaning behind the Ghost remained a mystery until October 11, 1833. On that date, one John Langford, who was renting the land where the Tomen was located, directed that the mound be destroyed, in order to level the field for ploughing. Underneath the mound, four or five feet from the surface, workers discovered a large stone grave. Inside that grave were a few long-crumbled bones, some amber beads, decayed scraps of cloth, and the Welsh equivalent of King Tut's riches. It held the largest piece of prehistoric goldwork ever uncovered in all Europe.

The Bronze Age goldwork, now commonly known as the "Mold Cape," is an elaborately decorated breastplate designed to rest upon the shoulders of some ancient chieftain or priest. Unfortunately, this amazing artifact's value was not immediately recognized, and it was thrown aside like so much rubble. Worse still, when workers identified it as gold, the laborers tore large chunks off the cape, leaving this priceless item badly disfigured. (It now resides in the British Museum.)

"Wide World" magazine, 1908

From "Journal of the Architectural, Archaeological, and Historic Society for the County and the City of Chester and North Wales," Volume 1 (1849-1855)


Locals were delighted to learn that their neighborhood phantom had been archaeologically vindicated. Soon after the excavation, a man who had personally witnessed the discovery wrote, "I certainly heard it rumoured a year or two before 1833 that Bryn yr Ellyllon and Cae'r Yspryd (Field of the Ghost) were haunted as well as the adjacent main road by an apparition--'A Headless Warrior riding a grey horse.' You may imagine the excitement which arose when something was found."

He added, "The great lesson I learned from that discovery was that through a labyrinth of old ghost stories, miracles, poetry, and legend there is more real history than we have yet comprehended."

It is a great lesson for us all.

7 comments:

  1. But what was the ghost doing during the centuries betwixt his death and 1828? And what is he doing now?

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  2. My sympathies in this story are definitely with the ghost. Bad enough to dig up a grave to plant some potatoes. Worse to smash the grave-goods.

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    Replies
    1. I disagree - who doesn't love potatoes?

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    2. Cape of ancient gold, or a plate full of french fries? It'd be a tough call for me.

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  3. I'd be willing to be scared by a lot of ghosts if it ends with me finding a cape of gold.

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  4. A cape of ancient gold might come in handy but those fries will stay with you for the rest of your life. Malt vinegar, catsup or salt?

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    Replies
    1. Mustard! And throw in a few onion rings, while you're at it.

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