84 Bettiscombe Manor located in a village of the same name, near
Lyme Regis in Dorset, England is the home of the very famous legend of the screaming skull. There are a few stories around
that involve screaming skulls but this would be the most famous.
The original story tells of Azariah Pinney who was banished to the West Indies in 1685 for supporting the Duke of Monmouth.
He soon became a very successfull businessman and returned back to his home of England with one of his black slaves.
The slave, often thought to have been a West Indian native but could also have been African, as most slaves were in those
days, became ill and upon his death bed made one last request, that his body be buried back in his native home. Here we find
some variation in the story - he also was said to have demanded that his body be returned to native ground or a terrible curse
would befall Bettiscombe.
Azariah promised him that he would fulfill that last request and the slave passed away soon after.
The promise was never kept and Azariah buried him in the local churchyard located a short distance from the house.
As soon as the body was buried people began hearing roars, moans and screams coming from where the body was buried. The
locals didn't take too kindly to the noisy corpse who both terrified and annoyed their peaceful country village and Azariah
was forced to removed the body at once.
The slave was then removed and placed up in a loft back at Bettiscombe Manor where it slowly perished and somehow only
the skull remained (some versions of this story tell of the body being shipped back to it's home in West Indies/Africa and
the skull remaining behind).
Over the years many attempts to get rid of the skull have been made only to find soon after it's removal that screams and
other strange phenomena would soon follow it's removal and not cease until it was placed back inside the manor.
One instance the skull was thrown into the depths of a nearby pond, by a resident of the manor - he was said to be so appaled
by the appearance of the skull that he immediately ran outside and threw it into the local pond. The resident was trouble
by screams and moans all night long and the next day quickly retrieved the skull and replaced it back inside the manor where
it resided for a while nice and quietly.
It is said that on one particular night of the year a ghostly coach hurtles up the road from Bettiscombe Manor to the local
Churchyard, the locals call this incident "the funeral procession of the skull".
A writer by the name of Eric Marple spent a night in the manor with the skull in the 1960's and claimed to of not heard
any screaming but was apparently plagued by nightmares. He declined an offer to stay a second night and hastily left the manor.
The owners of Bettiscombe manor are now never bothered by the skull - they of course never remove it from it's home in
a box in a bureau drawer.
The skull has plenty of mystery surrounding it - no one is sure if any of the stories are true.In 1963 an archaeologist
named Michael Pinney owned Bettiscombe manor and had the skull examined by a pathologist, who determined the skull did not
belong to a Negro man at all. Rather it belonged to a European woman who died 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. The fossilised skull
is believed to have been submerged in the well near the manor house, at the foot of Pilsdon Pen, a hill that covers an Iron
Age ritual plot. The skull may have come from the hill itself, and the shiny surface of the skull may be the result of its
immersion in the well and the minerals contained therein.
Skulls or severed heads were often used as offerings to water spirits in ancient times - they were placed in wells and
ponds and believed to hold spirits who would protect and guard the homestead as long as they were treated with respect. The
sacred heads were feared so much that many would not even speak of where the heads lay for fear of bad luck. Stone heads were
also used for guardian and luck purposes and can still be seen to this day around England and the UK.
To add further to the confusion about the skulls origins another popular story is that Azariah and the slave originally
had a fight to the death, the skull being the only thing that remained of the looser, only nobody knows which one lost!.
In 1874, Judge J.S. Udal recorded that the skull had been preserved on the premises 'for a time long antecedent to the
present tenancy' and 'the peculiar superstition attaching to it is that if it be brought out of the house, the house itself
would rock to its foundation, while the person by whom such an act of desecration was committed would certainly die within