For thousands of years across many different cultures across the world people have believed that the head or skull has held the soul. Some tribes would preserve the skulls of their fallen enemies and the celts would decorate their shrines with skulls.
In Britain we have a strange folklore of skulls that scream if taken from the location that they are held.
At Wardley Hall in Lancashire the skull of 16th century Catholic martyr Father Ambrose Barlow is on view at the head of the staircase with the legend that if anybody removes it the skull will emit a blood-curdling scream! Burton Agnes Hall in Yorkshire has another screaming skull legend, this one belonging to Anne Griffiths. After being attacked and beaten by robbers, Anne in her dying breaths expressed the wish that her head should be buried in the home that she so much loved. Nevertheless her family buried her in the village churchyard.
After the funeral, terrifying groans and poltergeist activity such as doors slamming and crashes were heard around the house. The dead girlís body was exhumed and her skull was exhumed and bricked up in a wall off the staircase. Although in recent times the skull has been on display without any side effects.
Bettiscombe Manor in Dorset probably has the most famous screaming skull legend in Britain. In the 18th Century, a member of the Pinney family returned from living in the West Indies and returned with a black slave. Shortly after returning the slave died after making his master swear that he would be buried in his homeland. The Squire broke his promise and the slave was buried in the local churchyard.
Similar to that of the Burton Agnes Skull, the skull of the slave began to make agonising screams that so much disturbed passers by that they asked the Squire to make amense. Since then the skull has remained on show at Bettiscombe Manor.
As with many legends the truth is often very different from the legend. Analysis during the 1960ís confirmed that the skull was in fact 2000 years old and was that of a girl. The legend remains intact that if the skull is ever removed from the manor the person who moves it will die within a year.
Colonel Buck's Tombstone.
In a cemetery on Bucksport's main thoroughfare, clearly visible just inside a wrought-iron fence, is the gray tombstone of Col. Jonathan Buck. Appearing on one side of the tomb is the dark image of a woman's stocking foot, a reminder of an 18th-century curse. During the Salem witch trials, all New England was caught up in the fever to exterminate witches. Colonel Buck, an influential resident and a member of the family from which the town took its name, decided that Bucksport should purge itself of witches also.
He found a perfect candidate in an old, feeble woman, whom he had tried, convicted, and executed. With her last breath, she cursed the colonel and declared that when he died his tomb would bear the print of her foot as evidence that he had murdered an innocent woman.
Colonel Buck, not one to tempt fate, cautioned his heirs to choose a tombstone unblemished in any way. Soon after his death, however, the shape of a woman's foot gradually began to appear on the marker. Dutiful heirs made many efforts to have it removed, but to no avail. Finally they replaced the stone with a new one. Within a few months, another footlike shape appeared. Like the first footprint, it could not be removed. When a third stone was put in place and yet another footprint appeared, the heirs gave up. Today the third stone and footprint remain for all the world to see.