I think we were about 14 at the time. It was me, Justin, Ryan and Aaron. I had a two man dome tent which all four of us were going to sleep in. We were going to get a few beers and camp in the woods.
Tehidy woods is a strange place. There are a lot of ghost stories based there. It is next to the north cliffs, so you have the stories relating to smuggling and shipwrecks on the coast road with the woods on one side and the cliffs on the other. And you have all the stories about the woods themselves. Firstly, there is more then one story about people having hanged themselves there. Secondly, there was a derelict hospital there where I am told old or terminally ill people were sent to die, although I’m not sure what that hospital was actually for. There’s also a small lake with stories about people having drowned in it.
We set the tent up in early evening, in a clearing where my dad used to take me for picnics, and went walking in the woods. While were walking we heard loud noises in the woods. It sounded like people shouting. We thought there must be a bunch of lads up from Portreath or Illogan, pissed up or something, so we ran back to the tent in case they nicked all our stuff. But we couldn’t see anyone and the noise died down so we thought they must have been passing through and we had missed them.
We sat down in the clearing drank a couple of beers and eventually, after it got dark, we crashed out in the tent. I think it must have been about two or three o’clock in the morning, we were woken by the same noise we had heard earlier. It sounded like a lot of people, shouting and talking. We could also hear dogs and what sounded like a hunting horn. When I opened my eyes there were shadows on the tent of what looked like men with axes. Six of them – two on either side and one at the front, one at the back.
We all woke up at the same time and we all saw and heard the same things – all four of us. The noise grew louder and there was also the sound of horses’ hooves and dogs and at one point I heard a carriage go past. Ryan was the hard one out of the four of us, he was never afraid of anything or anyone. He decided there were people outside and he was going to go and kick off. But I knew they were not living people, I could feel it. I think Justin and Aaron could as well because they, like me, were too scared to leave their sleeping bags. Ryan was gone for a few minutes. When he came back he was very pale. He looked terrified and said there was nothing there, just darkness, even though we could still see and hear it all from inside the tent.
We just hid in our sleeping bags. I’m not sure how long it went on for but we must have eventually fallen asleep. The next morning we discussed it and we all had the same memories of the night before. When we told everyone in school, they all wanted to camp there. We went along with them but were too scared to stay the night. As we were walking out past the old hospital in the dark, a night warden/security type bloke was doing his patrol on his bike. He looked frightened. He said, “You’re not staying in the woods, are you? There’s something in those woods and I don’t know what it is. Don’t stay in there at night.” I don’t know if he was winding us up or just saying it to scare us off but I thought he looked genuinely scared.
I’ve always found Tehidy Woods to be a very special place during the daylight hours. Perhaps it is because I have a lot of good memories there from my childhood – running around with my dog and picnics with my parents and my brothers – but it has a tranquil, spiritual feel. This probably sounds silly but at night it seems to take on a more sinister presonality.
You can say what you like about the stories about Tehidy Woods, the North Cliffs and the old hospital. You can say it is all nonsense, places like that breed silly stories. It is true that Cornwall is a place with a lot folklore and many of the stories are clearly ridiculous. It is a tradition I suppose.
But what we saw and heard was real. We weren’t on any hallucinogenics, we weren’t smoking anything, all we had a was couple of beers, and we all saw exactly the same thing. I can’t really explain it, but it happened. The memory is still clear in my mind. I was crapping myself at the time but it has inspired a lot of my writing. There are supernatural elements in The Best Weapon and Sorrow which I’m not sure I would have written if it hadn’t been for that night, and I feel that when I write anything dark and eery, I am writing from first hand experience, not just from horror films or books.
The Woods is my most recent short story, posted on this blog and on the 900 Club. The Peace of Elias is a supernatural fantasy tale also inspired by that strange night in the woods, and is free this Saturday and Sunday on Amazon, so please check it out if you haven’t already.
I would appreciate your thoughts on this post. Do you believe in ghosts? The afterlife? Have you ever experienced anything similar?