Urban Legend: Screaming Skulls o'Doom

It sounds like a bad horror flick but England’s screaming skulls have been making a nuisance out of themselves since the 16th Century. The origins of how the skulls got here is a little fuzzy and stranger still is how some of these bad boys are regarded as good luck charms for the families.

Usually tucked away on a bookshelf, on the mantelpiece, or stuffed in a box, the legend is that the skull would start a ruckus if removed from its comfy resting place until returned. Aside from the aforementioned screaming, it was reported that poltergeist-like activity would kick up and storms may envelope the surrounding area.

Bettiscombe Manor

How annoying is this? Azariah Pinney in 1685 traveled to the West Indies, bringing home a servant as a souvenir who later became sick and died. His last wish was to have his body returned to his homeland for burial. Not getting the hint, Pinney instead had him buried in the local churchyard. Unfortunately for those living close by, the grave produced moans and screams that echoed through the night while Betticombe Manor’s windows swung open wide only to slam shut, rattling more than the glass it took a toll on the nerves of the family as well.

Digging up the servant’s body, they brought it back to the Manor house where it decomposed in a barn until only the skull remained, the rest of the bones scattered by animals. The skull was returned to the house for safekeeping and all was quiet until years later a new owner of Betticombe Manor was completely creeped out and he threw the skull into a pond on the property. The wailing and screaming cried out drove him mad until he retrieved it from the pond and brought it back to its box.

Another owner decided he’d had enough of the infamous skull and buried it in a deep hole, glad to be finally rid of it. In the morning, he arose to find the skull had somehow dug itself out of the Earth and returned to the house on its own.

Challenging the legend was an archaeologist in 1963 who had the skull examined. He determined that it was not a male from the West Indies at all but the skull of an Iron Age woman most likely found at a nearby settlement called Pilsdon Pen though why she’s screaming is anyone’s guess.

Burton Agnes Hall

Sure, the lovely Elizabethan manor house, Burton Agnes Hall, is serene and peaceful now but its tale weaves murder and anguish within the stone walls. Early in the seventeenth century, Sir Henry Griffith built the grand home for his three daughters, the youngest of which was Anne. Anne was a bit of a wanderer and during one of her walks was attacked by vagabonds who robbed the girl and left her for dead after a severe beating. After being found and brought back to the Hall, Anne fell into a fever, making her sisters promise to return her head back to her beloved home while the rest of her lay buried in the churchyard. Most likely squicked out at the thought of this, they agreed though later buried Anne’s body with its head firmly attached.

It wasn’t long before the family began hearing terrible screaming echoing through the house, filled with panic and horror. Returning to the churchyard, they dug up the body of their sister and found that the head was already separated from its spine and devoid of flesh. Bringing the head back as Anne had requested before her death, the screams quieted until a maid who discovered the head in a cupboard and threw it out the window. Really, who leaves a skull in a cupboard?

Anne yelled her head off until the skull was found and brought back into the Hall where it remained until future owners of Burton Agnes Hall tried to once again get rid of it by burying it in the garden only to be met by more screaming. Well, they had been warned. To guard against any further attempts to remove the skull from the house, it’s rumored the family had it placed within a secret spot within the walls and covered over so no one would be tempted to once again toss poor Anne from her home.