THEY say old soldiers never die, but merely fade away.
Ghosts of soldiers are 'dead' already, but, like their living comrades it seems, they can hang around this earthly realm for an awful long time.
In South Cheshire there is an area called Piper's Hollow, which sounds innocent enough, except that the land contains the remains of hundreds of Scottish soldiers.
These fallen warriors were massacred by the townsfolk of Sandbach after the infamous Battle of Worcester in 1651.
The tale is a tragic one. The Scots' troops were tired and hungry.
On the long march home they stopped at a field near to what is now known as Piper's Hollow to rest, unaware that the local populace was aware of their approach and ready for them.
At a pre-arranged signal, they descended upon the Scots with pikes, cudgels and axes, massacring every single one of
Even their horses were mutilated and killed.
Finally, the bodies of the dead were taken in carts to Piper's Hollow itself for a crude burial.
On the first anniversary of the tragedy, the strains of a doleful lament were heard echoing around the depression.
It was, the locals believed, the eerie echo of a lone piper paying tribute to his fallen comrades.
Every year after that the sound would be heard, eventually leading to the place being renamed Piper's Hollow.
On many occasions witnesses even claimed to have seen the piper walking along to a military step while playing the pipes.
The piper was seen in 1969 by two walkers – again on the anniversary of the massacre – but I haven't been able to substantiate any more recent sightings.
If there have been any, I'd like to know about them.
There is something intensely sad about this story, and if ever there was a ghost tale that I wanted to believe in, then this is it.
It reminds me of the account of a spectral Roman legionnaire who has been seen in the cellar of a pub on the Lawe Top at South Shields.
According to witnesses he simply stands there, staring into space as if still guarding an edifice that has long since crumbled into the dust.
Ghost stories that chill the blood – whether or not they are actually true – are nonetheless good entertainment.
However, tales like that of the spectre of Piper's Hollow serve a higher purpose; they make us ponder about life, death and the hereafter.
More than this, they precipitate powerful feelings that even after we shake off this mortal coil there is something beyond; another world, if you like, where we can still enjoy a form of conscious existence.
The late paranormal researcher Maurice Grosse became convinced that there was an afterlife after years of careful study and contemplation.
When he finally passed away in 2006, he did so in the firm belief that this life was not all there
This is a conclusion with which I wholeheartedly agree, despite the denials of sceptics.
The truth is that no one truly knows what lies 'beyond the veil', as they say. Perhaps it doesn't matter.
What really counts is the belief that there is something, and that in all probability it’s worth journeying to.
To some, the ghost of Piper’s Hollow is nothing more than an oddity.
To others, his presence counts for much, much more.
In the 1960s, Piper’s Hollow was filled in with thousands of tons of earth.
Somehow I doubt that changing the landscape will remove the ever-faithful presence of a spectral soldier standing watch over his fallen comrades.
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