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Haunted Hodcomb(e)

Beachy Head
East Dean
United Kingdom

Hodcomb(e) is delightfully situated on top of the East Sussex Downs at Beachy Head. Today it is a traditional residence with good sized grounds surrounded by a protected landscape owned by Eastbourne local authority. In the past however it has been a farm and the area today is still used for the grazing of cattle and sheep.

Hodcombe was built circa 1820-30. The present owners Liz and Roger Charlwood (June 2008) have been there about 40 years and have carried out extensive renovations and alterations during their occupancy. John and Caroline Osborn were in residence 1850-54 before "disappearing" in 1855. Hodcombe was their first home after their marriage and was where they had their three children. Caroline's parents were at the forge at East Dean a short distance away and the newly weds no doubt had great ambitions of becoming successful farmers in this delightful location. January 1855 saw John described as a retired farmer, Caroline's youngest daughter had died under circumstances that prompted a Coroner's inquest and Caroline was accused of neglect in the Coroner's findings. To say that things were not well was an understatement.

It is little wonder therefore that Hodcombe has a ghost who can reasonably be assumed to be Caroline. This ghost like lady of average height appears in a grey bonnet and full length skirt that goes to the ground. She appears particularly when major alterations are being carried out to the house and has been seen by several people including Liz and Roger who have been aware of her on several occasions. She has no malevolent qualities and her dress identifies her as mid 19th century. It would appear that Caroline continues to frequent the house of her hopes and dreams long after the disastrous events of the winter of 1854/5 and subsequent; especially their departure from Hodcombe Farm and the death of her daughter, which in modern days would probably be taken as a cot death.

Such a supposition is supported by a strange, witnessed psychic reading dated 17 May 2008 at Sutton Spiritualist Church. By chance Bruce Osborne was accompanying a friend who had recently lost her husband, but the medium unexpectedly addressed Bruce. In the reading John Souter Osborn who was visioned as a farmer with a cow on a rope, his son John William Osborn visioned as a part time Fireman whose picture as such had been discovered earlier that very day and John Souter's wife Caroline made their presence known, the latter described as a small lady who was standing back. Central to the reading was Bruce's books and research, which it was urged should be continued. Although none of the visioned people had directly known or met this author, they urged the continuance of the research and "they" would be with this author in this endeavour. This was taken that there was unfinished business to be unearthed relating to the circumstances that took place in the mid 19th century and perhaps an injustice to put right.

It seems to be a sad story and it was not until 2011 that the full scale of the tragedy came to light. As for the appearances of the spirit when alterations are being done on the building, this is a common factor for calling spirit back to where they were tied in life, due to the vibrations of the building being disturbed, think of it as a bell sounding in the fog. It calls out to those who are affected by the present circumstances, according to modern ideas on paranormal activity.

It was not until July 2011 that a breakthrough in researching John and Caroline came. The tragic findings are described on John's web page.(click 'website' below)

Beachy Head however has other claims to fame as well as being one of the most spectacular cliff landscapes in England. Smuggling was notorious in the region in the 18th and 19th centuries and one suspects that the Osborns and Hills were involved. John Banks in "Smugglers and Smuggling" (1871) records an incident near Birling Gap (p.47-50.1966 ed.). The smugglers were involved in derricking goods over the cliffs. Unfortunately the cargo was landed before the last sentinel had quitted the beach due to the incoming tide. Coming across the hoist basket loaded, the sentinel pulled the rope. Sensing the signal above, those on the cliff top horse hauled the goods and the frantic watchman to the cliff top 300 feet above. The writer when interviewing the "captor" concluded that Hastings people were involved in this derricking business at Beachy Head.

Was this an incident in the mid 19th century that John Souter was involved in? The timing of the interview would suggest it was contemporary. Click for Beachy Head Smuggling IncidentsIf so it reinforces the suspicion of contrivance between those at Beachy Head and those in Hastings, from where John's wife was living when she first left home and where John and Caroline married in grand style. Other recollections suggest that the smugglers disguised themselves as shepherds going about the business of seabird egg collecting on the cliffs. In reality cargoes were being hauled up in stages via an intermediate platform cut into the cliff face that acted as a temporary hiding place. Click the picture right to read the detailed stories of Beachy Head Smuggling incidents.

Dr Bruce E Osborne, October 2008. updated 2011.

Click Website below to discover John Souter Osborn and the full details of what occurred after 1855.

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