bring out your dead
On Saturday 5th January 2013, a small team of Twilight Shadows Paranormal conducted an investigation around the area of a plague pit in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Originating from Salisbury, I had experienced a few strange occurrences in the area of the plague pit as a child. My most vivid memory was of an apparition of a grotesque black figure, which was reaching towards me. I was terrified and I thought that it was perhaps some kind of monster but upon reflection, it may have been a victim of the plague.
The plague hit Salisbury in 1563, 1604 and 1627. The bubonic plague was the most common. Victims of this terrible disease typically suffered from headaches, nausea, fever, vomiting and painfully swollen lymph nodes. The pneumonic plague was the second most common of the disease and attacked the lungs. As the disease took hold, the sputum became free flowing and bright red in colour. The rarest form of the plague was the septicemic plague. In this strain of the disease, Yersinia pestis bacteria multiplied in the victim’s bloodstream. The symptoms included high fever, vomiting and internal bleeding caused the skin to turn to dark shades of purple. The term Black Death was used to describe the illness and with so many people dying, the problem of how to dispose of the bodies during the epidemic was a major problem.
“Tis certain they died by heaps and were buried by heaps; that is to say without account.”
The responsible authorities were faced with a huge problem and it seems that the usual standard of burying the dead and funerary etiquette suffered a complete breakdown. Carts travelled through the streets with the cry of ‘Bring out your dead.’ The dead were unceremoniously heaped on top of the cart, piled one on top of another and taken to the plague pits, where they were thrown into the pit with no shroud or coffin. The larger plague pits claimed approximately two hundred bodies a day. When later excavated, bodies were stacked five to six deep. The use of plague pits were not only due to the difficulty of finding space in the already overcrowded burial grounds but there was a need to bury corpses as quickly as possible in order to reduce the risk of infection. Visitors were banned from the area, to minimise the risk of infection and also because people in their desperation and despair would sometimes throw themselves in on top of the corpses.
Surely, the site of such terror and confusion would hold on to the past and leave an imprint. Twilight Shadows Paranormal decided to take a look.
We walked around the area. I have always found it spooky even in daylight. Although you can hear noise from the nearby city centre, there is a stillness to this area that feels misplaced. We stood on top of one of the pits. I tried to connect with the victims beneath and both of my feet started to tingle. Jacky said that her feet were tingling too. Dave and Andrew said that they felt that they were swaying slightly. We ‘called out’ but we did not receive a response. The atmosphere felt dark but no different to how it does usually.
We carried on walking through the area and near to the spot where executions were carried out but there seemed to be no link at all with the paranormal world. We did not hear or sense anything as a result of our requests. At this point we decided to leave this investigation and head towards one of Salisbury’s haunted hostelries for spirits of a different kind.
Written by: Maria Williams