Ley lines, also known as "leys" and "dragon lines" are phenomena most people have heard of but few really understand. Indeed it would be fair to say that no-one understands them fully, as they remain largely unexplained.
Are there ley lines in Gloucestershire? If so, do they really 'pass through' allegedly haunted places?
From what we do know, a ley line seems to be a straight line that carries an altered form of the earth's magnetic field, however it is proving difficult to define that power even to this day.
It has been claimed that birds, fish and animals use them as 'compasses', helping them find direction back to breeding grounds and to warmer climates during winter months. They have also been said to be vast prehistoric trade routes.
An article in New Scientist magazine, published in 1987, suggested that species as diverse as pigeons, whales, bees and even bacteria can navigate using the earth's magnetic field.
It is thought that a tissue containing a substance called magnetite is responsible for this.
Magnetite enables living creatures to sense magnetic changes and has been found in human tissue linked to the ethmoid bone in the front of the skull.
So what defines a ley line?
Ley/Li/Lei : "The supposed straight line of a prehistoric track usually between hilltops" (Concise Oxford Dictionary)
This is the general and most widely accepted description of a ley line, but what, then, do they have to do with allegedly haunted places?
"[Ley lines are] alignments and patterns of powerful, invisible earth energy said to connect various sacred sites, such as churches, temples, stone circles, megaliths, holy wells, burial sites, and other locations of spiritual or magical importance". (Harper's Encyclopaedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience)
The scientific belief, as previously explained, is that these lines are areas of altered magnetic fields.
The more spiritual and romantic belief is that they ooze back the energy from all the people who have trodden these mystical, religious paths since time began.
So why are hauntings reported in places ley lines are alleged to pass through?
For the believer it could be said that these areas are likely to have more spirit activity as they are historically of a religious, political and even mystical nature.
It is even believed that UFOs are drawn to these ley lines, making them attractive to investigators of that particular phenomenon.
It is true that more 'paranormal' activity is evidenced in these areas however whether this is of the spirit type or paranormal in its true sense ('unexplained') is still a topic of much debate.
For the follower of the more scientific approach, other explanations for the seemingly increased incidents of paranormal activity are possible.
Generally it is believed that electro-magnetic fields can affect the body and mind. Again this to some extent must be true if magnetic fields affect the magnetite in the human brain.
But other effects of this type of energy are said to be similar to those of static electricity: feelings of 'tingling' on the skin and hairs standing on end.
The energy is thought to produce vibrations on a low frequency which, although inaudible to the human ear, can alter perception and create sensations of dizziness and unbalance. In extreme cases it is thought to be able to cause nausea and headaches.
These symptoms mirror those often described by people who feel the presence of spirits.
A phenomenon often reported during investigations is that of technical equipment behaving erratically. This is certainly very common at the Ram in Wotton under Edge.
Again, we have to ask ourselves: is this spirit-based or could it be the effect of electro-magnetic fields on the equipment we use?
Could energy from the earth itself be tampering with our audio/visual devices causing interference in some way?
This may account for incidents of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) on audio recordings, by changing the frequency of the evidence.
The weather can also influence investigations, for example 'hauntings' are often reported during thunder storms.
Maybe this is due to psychological reasons, the result of horror films where there is always a storm as the evil spirit grows stronger. Or perhaps it is because there is in fact more 'paranormal' activity during a storm.
Again this, to the believer, could be a spirit getting energy from the power around it.
To the scientist it could be the electricity linked with the storm causing natural phenomena that makes us feel something other than the 'norm' is happening, or the electrical power around us affecting our senses and perceptions.
How are ley lines found?
Geomancy is considered to play a strong part in the location of Leys.
The science of geomancy demands that structures be placed within the landscape according to certain magical formulas that included the laws of mathematics and music and used in such a way as to provide a harmonic setting for the monument.
The general belief is that prehistoric man was aware of these cosmic lines under the earth and sought to build his sacred structures along them in order to tap into their magical properties.
Major prehistoric structures of higher importance can frequently be found to occupy locations where two or more leys intersect with each other.
The priests or shamans of prehistoric man would have been expected to find these leys and work out their connection with other existing monuments accordingly. It is also believed that many ancient groves, worshipped by the Druids, sit upon leys.
Local spiritualists report a ley line running North-North East through the county of Gloucestershire, and that several ley lines converge in Wotton-under-Edge.
I know of no 'maps' of UK leylines, or even Gloucestershire ley lines so if anyone has any please let me know.
Such methods are questionable in their accuracy, so the alleged placing of ley lines should be treated with some scepticism.
Ley lines and haunted places.
This first ley line would seem to pass through:
1. The Ram Inn: The Ram claims to be the most haunted building in the country. Investigators of the Ram occasionally report alleged violent poltergeist activity. Read PSI's investigation report here.
2. Woodchester Mansion: This gothic-style Victorian mansion. Several murders are said to have taken place at the mansion, and it boasts a number of reported hauntings. Paranormal Site Investigators have arranged to conduct an investigation at Woodchester Mansion soon.
3. Prestbury: This village on the outskirts of Cheltenham is allegedly the most haunted in England. Prestbury's streets are said to be haunted by the Black Abbott and other spirits.
4. North-north east of Prestbury lies the villages of Stanton and Condicote, believe to be important convergence points for ley lines.
Another ley line is said to converge on the Ram Inn, Wotton under Edge, from the east. On this alleged ley line sits Chavenage House. This Elizabeth mansion has reported many famous hauntings over the centuries.
The Long Stone in the Forest of Dean is also said to be the central point of all ley lines. I cannot see any real evidence for this and no one has offered any real scientific evidence however leys seem to be rife in folk law over here.