Within the US and the UK, there are longstanding traditions of sightings of so-called “wild men.” No, we’re not talking about Bigfoot or the Yeti, but something more along the lines of primitive humans. And many of the cases seem to have distinct paranormal overtones to them, too.
The respected authority on prehistory, R.C.C. Clay, had just such an encounter while driving at Bottlebush Down, Dorset, England - an area strewn with old earthworks - during the winter of 1924.
The story, however, did not surface until 1956, when Clay shared the details with an authority on all things ghostly and spectral, James Wentworth Day, who penned such titles as Here are Ghosts and Witches, A Ghost Hunter’s Game Book, In Search of Ghosts and They Walk the Wild Places.
The location of the extraordinary event that Clay related to a captivated and enthralled Day was the A3081 road, between the Dorset villages of Cranborne and Sixpenny Handley, on farmland known locally as Bottlebush Down.
It was while Clay was driving home, after spending a day excavating in the area, and as the daylight was giving way to the magical, twilight hours, that he encountered something extraordinary. Maybe even beyond extraordinary.
At a point where the new road crossed with an old Roman road, a horseman, riding wildly and at high speed on the back of a huge and muscular stallion, seemingly appeared out of nowhere. But there was something wrong about this man, something terribly wrong.
In Clay’s very own words to a captivated Wentworth Day: “I could see that he was no ordinary horseman, for he had bare legs, and wore a long loose cloak. His horse had a long mane and tail, but I could see neither bridle nor stirrup. His face was turned towards me, but I could not see his features. He seemed to be threatening me with some implement, which he waved in his right hand above his head.”
It is deeply fortunate that the witness in this case was Clay – a man with an expert and profound knowledge of English history, folklore, and times and people long gone. There was no doubt in Clay’s mind that, having kept the rider in careful sight for around three hundred feet, his clothing and weapon firmly identified him as nothing less than a denizen of the Bronze Age
Incredibly, this would have placed his origins at some point between 2100 and 750 B.C. Not surprisingly, with darkness falling fast, Clay floored the accelerator and headed for home, somewhat shakily but decidedly excited, too.
His interest most certainly piqued, Clay began to make careful and somewhat wary inquiries – of a somewhat understandably tentative and tactful nature - in the area, to determine if anyone else had ever seen the ancient hunter of the Downs. As it so transpired, they actually had.
An old shepherd, who had worked in the fields his whole life, and answering Clay’s questions, said: “Do you mean the man on the horse who comes out of the opening in the pinewood?”
When an amazed and excited Clay replied “Yes!” and asked further questions, it became clear to him that he was not the only person to have seen the enigmatic old rider of the land.
And, a couple of years later, while still investigating the strange affair, he learned of yet another encounter with the ghostly man and horse. In this case, the witnesses were two girls, cycling from Sixpenny Handley to a Friday night dance at Cranborne, who were plunged into a state of fear by the presence of what sounded like the very same character encountered by Clay back in 1924.
As Clay told Wentworth Day in 1956, he knew of no more recent encounters with the horseman. Clay theorized, however, that what he had been fortunate enough to see was undoubtedly the spirit form of a Bronze Age hunter and his horse, both of who had probably died under violent circumstances on the Downs, and who – for a while, at least - roamed the very same old hunting grounds that they had called home during their clearly turbulent, physical lives.
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