Welcome to Dark Dorset
Welcome to the Dark Dorset website - Dorset's premier website devoted to local folklore, customs, mysteries and the unexplained.
Based on the publication Dark Dorset: Tales of Mystery, Wonder and Terror by Robert. J. Newland and Mark. J. North. and Dark Dorset Calendar Customs by Robert. J. Newland. This site is an online compendium of information relating to local folklore and mysteries that can be discovered in the county of Dorset.
Click on the menu on the left of your screen to explore the wonderful world of Dark Dorset.
The site is regularly updated, so I do hope that you come back soon!
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The Merry Month of May
- May Day Morris
Every May Day morning at dawn, The Wessex Morris Men climb up to the top of Giant Hill, above the famous chalk figure and fertility symbol 'The Cerne Abbas Giant', to welcome in the coming of Summer with a set of traditional morris dances. This is also the one time of year when the horned Dorset Ooser is brought out from the Dorset County Museum to make its annual appearance. The magical Dorset Ooser is a representation of a bull or Wild Man which by tradition was believed to be a potent source of fertility.
The Wessex Morris Men will perform their annual ritual dance at the Trendle or Giant's Enclosure, above the Cerne Abbas Giant. At sunrise (approx 5.15am) on the site of an ancient maypole high on the hill above the village. They will then process into the village to dance in the square outside the Red Lion at around 7.30pm.
The most well known symbol of May Day is the maypole. The custom of dancing around the maypole is an ancient fertility rite, which is still performed today on village greens and at spring fetes throughout the month May. (Click Here to find out more about this Dorset Custom)
- The Shaftesbury Byzant
Rogation Monday, Shaftesbury would hold their annual Byzant Ceremony. An annual manorial custom by which the inhabitants of the town perpetuated their right to draw water from wells in the neighbouring hamlet of Enmore Green. (Click Here to find out more about this Dorset Custom)
Held on 13 May each year, the Abbotsbury Garland Day celebrations have taken place in the Dorset village of Abbotsbury since about the early 19th century. (Click Here to find out more about this Dorset Custom)
- Lawrence of Arabia's Ghost
Probably the most famous of all Dorset's road ghosts is that of Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, alias Lawrence of Arabia, who was involved in fatal motorcycle accident on 13 May 1935. Since his death, it is said that local farmers and people have often heard the haunting roar of his Brough Superior motorcycle just before sunrise. However, reports say the noise abruptly ceases before anything is seen.
- Well Dressing
Ascension Day, or Holy Thursday, is the traditional day on which Jesus ascended to Heaven. It is also the single most important day of the year for customs related to water worship like the tradition of the Well Dressing at Upwey, (Click Here to find out more about this Dorset Custom).
- Beating the Bounds
Ascension Day is also a day for physical reminder of the extent and importantance of the parish by the ritual of Beating the Bounds. (Click Here to find out more about this Dorset Custom).
- Oak Apple Day
From the late seventeenth century until the mid-nineteenth century one of the most important holidays of the year was ‘Oak Apple Day’, ‘Royal Oak Day’ or 'Arbour Day' which fell on 29th May. The day commemorated the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 and was so called ‘Oak Apple Day’ due to his memorable escape from capture by the Roundheads after the battle of Worcester, by hiding up in an oak tree at Boscobel in Staffordshire on 6th September 1651.
- Folklore, Customs and Ghost Stories in Sherborne - Elisabeth Bletsoe of Sherborne Museum explores the folklore, customs and hauntings of this ancient Dorset market town.
- Well Dressing and Sacred Water - Dorset Archaeologist Chris Tripp, looks at the folk customs and traditions associated with water and how these ancient rituals still remain with us to this day.
- Folklore of William Barnes - We revisit an early article from the 1920s written by local Folklorist and Historian, John Symonds Udal. He discusses folklore of the county and how it influenced the writings and poetry of Dorset dialectologist Rev. William Barnes.
- Cerne Abbas - A brief history of the village with local Legends and Customs.
- Sea Dragons, Fairy Loaves & Serpents of Stone - Dr. Karl Shuker explores the folklore and proto-scientific beliefs attached to Lyme Regis's most famous fossils.
- Daisy Wheels and a Ritual Landscape in Dorset - Ric Kemp examines the strange, centuries-old religious symbols and carvings which can be found in churches in and around Dorset.
Drawing on historical and contemporary sources, 'Haunted Weymouth' by local ghost tour guide Alex Woodward, is sure to send a shiver down the spine of anyone daring to learn more about the haunted history of the area. Including many previously unpublished stories, this book will appeal to both serious ghost hunters and those who simply want to discover what frights lurk beneath the surface of this once royal seaside resort.
The Recollections of Rifleman Harris Audio CD is abridged from an 1848 first edition of this famous historical memoir of a Rifleman Benjamin Randell Harris, from the 95th Rifles, in the Napoleonic Wars. This CD production by Explore Multimedia is read by Jason Salkey, who played the character of ‘Rifleman Harris’ in the Sharpe TV Series and provides a brilliant complement to his Harris diaries DVD series. Sound FX are provided by The 95th Rifles Re-enactment Society. A musical score by Adam Wakeman adds to this excellent production.
The tale of the Black Dog of Bungay and the infamous attack on the church of St. Marys in 1577, has inspired and fascinated residents and visitors to the town for centuries along with tales of Black Shuck the Ghostly Dog of Norfolk.
To this day, sightings of the Black Dog are common through the region and form an integral part of local folklore and myth. At the same time, the history of the legend itself tells its own tale of the town of Bungay and how the community has responded to crisis through local folklore and myth.
This book, a collaborative effort between local historian Christopher Reeve and historian and anthropologist Dr. David Waldron, traces the rise of this story from its origins in the trauma of the English Reformation to the contemporary era where it has become a central part of Bungay’s communal and civic identity and a colourful and intriguing aspect of local folklore.
If you are looking for something different this year, then ghost tours can provide some great entertainment, especially if they're ghost tours after dark. With Dorset having a lot of ghosts, it stands that there will be quite a number of ghost tours and haunted walks to be enjoyed.
We have gathered a collection of haunted walks, some permanent, some seasonal, which you can investigate.
PLEASE NOTE - Most of these guided ghost tours will require booking - and because of the nature of these ghost tours you should always at least contact the organisers (as they are NOT organised by Dark Dorset) to ensure there have been no changes to the plans as changes can occur at any time for many reasons.