Saturday, February 25, 2023

Charfield: Conjuring up the ghosts of children who never were

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On 13 October 1928 the night mail from Leeds to Bristol ran through a danger signal at Charfield in Gloucestershire. It collided with a goods train that was being shunted out of its way and then another that had halted on the neighbouring tracks. 

The night mail's passenger coaches were lit by gas, and this caught fire after the collision so that the wreckage burned fiercely for hours.

If you read the official report on the accident it says there were 16 fatalities, though modern accounts seem to agree on a total of 15.

There us a mass grave of victims of the accident in the churchyard at Charfield, which names ten people and 'two unknown'.

A story grew up that these were the bodies of two children whom no one had claimed after the accident. And people told of a woman dressed entirely in black who visited the monument regularly and left flowers there.

But it proved difficult to identify anyone who had seen here themselves, and in any case her visits are said to have ended in the early 1960s.

It seems accepted now that these unidentified children never were. The reality is is that 10 identifiable bodies were buried in the mass grave, along with two small boxes containing human remains that could not be identified.

This is the story favoured by Punt PI episode The Woman in Black (a good introduction to the affair), but that has not stopped the legend growing.

I have recently come across two web articles - Mystical Times and The Line Up - which suggests the ghosts of two children have been seen standing hand in hand at the site of the accident.

The accounts are sketchy - more floating the possibility of the children's ghosts being seen that reporting sightings - but I have no doubt that if the story spreads these ghosts of children who never were will be sighted.

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