1945


22
YEARS

THE ILLUMINATED CROSS

“Reginald Hine, a solicitor…

[and] historian … of Hertfordshire

...was a familiar sight at Dent’s…”

“...while his

Confessions of an Un-Common Attorney

was in production…”

Underwood (left) at work with a colleague (right) at Dents, with Reginald Hine (behind, right).

“The book contains a reference to

the haunted ruins of Minsden Chapel…”

“…the fourteeenth-century chapel

that was leased to Hine for his lifetime…”

“I had also heard about this reputed haunting from

Elliott O’Donnell,

 a leading ghost-hunter of the day…”

“…he told me he twice visited the ruins alone…”

“…and once he heard sounds

of sweet and plaintive music…”

“…and thought, just for a second,

that he saw a figure in white

standing in one of the archways...”

“But he added, in the phrase so often used

by serious ghost-hunters and psychical researchers...”

‘It was gone almost at once

and may have been a trick of the moonlight…’

Minsden Chapel is located not for from

Letchworth in Hertfordshire

in the village of Hitchin.

“I talked with Reginald Hine about Minsden…

and he told me there were several legends

and vague stories of a murdered nun…”

“...and a phantom monk

who walk through the ruins at midnight

on All Hallows’ Eve…”

“…the ghost monk mounts steps ‘no longer visible’

…[and] disappears to the sound of

sweet and plaintive music’...”

“I visited Minsden accompanied by my brother

and by Tom Brown…"

Underwood (right) with his brother John (left)

“On reaching the secluded site…

we eyed the fragmentary ruins

and separated…”

“…as I turned towards the east end of the ruins…”

“…I heard faint but distinct music…”

“...as I stopped to listen,

it ceased…”

“Tom Brown...hastened towards me

and reported hearing identical sounds…”

“…my brother,

only a couple of steps behind me,

heard nothing…”

After his visit, Underwood makes plans to return... 

...to experience Minsden

at night

on Halloween...

“On the first All Hallows’ Eve that I spent at Minsden…”

“…in the company of Tom Brown and Derek Clark…

we all saw…”

“…at 1.45 a.m...”

“…a white cross

which seemed to glow with an unnatural brightness for a few seconds before fading…”

“It continued fading and reappearing for some minutes.”

Tom Brown (left) and Underwood (right) at the ruins of Minsden Chapel.

“I suppose it could possibly have been

a trick of the moonlight,

as a full moon was shining down…at the time…”

The cross had appeared near where

the ghost of a monk was once photographed.

Underwood points to where the luminous cross appeared upon part of the ruins of Minsden Chapel.

Thomas William Latchmore
Minsden Ghost
(1907)

Reginald Hine had included the photograph

- taken by his friend Thomas Latchmore -

in his earlier book The History of Hitchin (1929).

However Latchmore later confessed during

an interview with Elliott O’Donnell

that it was a hoax.

Many believe the ‘ghostly monk’ in the photograph

is none other than Reginald Hine himself

- with a hat and cloak.

“Hine…was greatly interested in the cross…[we] had seen;

and his one encounter with a ghost...

remained a vivid memory…”

“It happened at Stanegarth…”

“…a crumbling Elizabehan manor-house…”

“…[with] no less than three ghosts…”

“The third apparition is the one Hine saw…”

“...a mild-mannered woman

who always seemed to appear

to new occupants of the house…”

“He found himself suddenly wide awake…

…and he saw a tall, fragile-looking woman

...coming towards him…”

“Her face,

fixed and remote,

reminded him of a sleepwalker…”

“...but the eyes were wide open

and in his words

‘shone like the stars…’

“…she stretched out her right hand to touch him

and Hine shrieked…”

“Help came,

and the figure

disappeared..."

“Hine committed suicide a few years later,

in 1949, while chatting to friends

at Hitchin railway station...”

“As a train approached he casually said,

Wait a minute…

and walked on to the line in its path…”

“Meticulous to the end,

he left a note

addressed to the local coroner...”

“…he told me that it was his intention

that his ashes should be scattered

in [Minsden Chapel]…”

“…so he gave a warning

to trespassers and sacrilegious persons...

'after my death…I will endeavour, in all ghostly ways,

to protect and haunt its hallowed walls…’ ” 

No Common Task
pp.51-53

Hine’s memorial at Minsden Chapel