On Sunday 13th March 2011, Twilight Shadows Paranormal set out to search the area of the legend of ‘The Vampire Doggett.’ Our search led us to the vicinity of Blandford in Dorset, first to St. Mary’s Church in Tarrant Gunville and then to Eastbury House.
William Doggett has been described as a ‘corrupt manservant’ who stole a large sum of money from his employer.
In 1709, George Doddingdon purchased the site of an old farm and commenced building Eastbury House. As George died in 1720, he did not see the building completed. His nephew George Bubb (the son of an apothecary from Weymouth) inherited his estate and saw the house finished in 1738. George took on his Uncle’s name and was subsequently known as George Bubb Doddington. It is said that George tried to gain a reputable social position but was described as an ‘overweight dandy,’ who dressed in a decorative fashion. George was a member of the infamous Hell Fire Club and did not live a life of sobriety.
George was awarded the title of Baron Melcombe of Melcombe Regis by George III but died shortly after receiving this honour in 1762. Richard, Earl Temple inherited the house upon Baron Melcombe’s death. He found the cost of running the house extremely costly. When he died, George, 2nd Earl Temple inherited the house and he too, struggled to financially maintain it.
The 2nd Earl Temple moved to Italy and in 1795, he instructed his steward William Doggett to dismantle the wings of Eastbury House. This gave William the idea to make some money for himself and he arranged to have the main house also dismantled, along with the South Wing. He thought that his crime would go undetected and he sold the building materials which were utilised in the construction of the rectory at Tarrant Gunville, Ashmore Manor and Bryanston House. After stealing the money from the dismantled house, William was shocked to find that the 2nd Earl Temple was returning to England and would only find the North Wing and the stables remaining.
Instead of facing up to the consequences, William Doggett committed suicide by shooting himself through his jaw with the bullet going up through his head on 23rd June 1786.
William Doggett was buried in the cemetery at St. Mary’s Church at Tarrant Gunville. Stories soon began to circulate about William and it is thought that he started to haunt the area. It is said that a bloodstain was left on the marble floor in the room where William shot himself, taking his own life. The stain remained, no matter how much it was cleaned. Tales of doors opening by unseen hands were reported and it is alleged that William Doggett’s ghost appeared, with his face just a mass of blood.
The stories continue with the exhumation of William Doggett’s corpse in 1845 from the graveyard. When the coffin was opened, it was noted that the body was not decomposed at all. The course of the bullet could be seen on Doggett’s face and scarily his face had a rosy complexion. Also, Doggett’s legs were tied together with broad, yellow ribbon and the ribbon looked as new as it had been when William was buried. William was then thought of as a vampire and his body was ‘dealt with in the accepted way’ for the undead.
This is where the stories conflict. One story claims that there were no further sightings of William Doggett’s ghost. Another story says that at the stroke of midnight a coach with a headless coachman drives along and picks Doggett up. The voice of the coachman is heard coming from his neck when he asks “Where to Sir?” Doggett’s ghost replies “Home” whereupon he climbs into the coach, the horses are whipped and they gallop back to the house. It is alleged that Doggett then enters the house and goes into the panelled room where he shot himself over a century and a half ago and re-enacts the scene, shooting himself again.
Whether we believe this story or not, or merely put it down to an account of semi modern folklore (also noting that the publication of Bram Stokers Dracula was published in 1897, the same year), Twilight Shadows Paranormal thought that it was worth investigating this area to see if we would experience anything at all.
We drove to the village of Tarrant Gunville and found the two locations associated with the Vampire William Doggett. We waited for nightfall and started off our investigation at the churchyard of St. Mary’s Church. The churchyard has been fenced off with the graves inside this perimeter. We explored this area initially and then wandered around the grassed area outside of the boundary of the churchyard. I wondered if William Dogget’s body would have been buried outside the consecrated area because he was a suicide victim. Those who took their own lives were thought to be condemned to remain on the earth for eternity, emerging from their graves at the witching hour in the form of a phantom or vampire, in search of humans, in order to drink their blood and devour their flesh. We chatted about the site of Dogget’s initial burial, whether it was likely to be away from the main cemetery or maybe it was quite near to the church, seeing as Doggett’s incorruptible corpse was exhumed in 1845 by workmen who were rebuilding part of St. Mary’s church.
We decided to stand quietly for a while. Matt, Melody and Emma said that they kept seeing flashes. We tried to work out their origin but couldn’t. Teresa said that she kept seeing things and when I questioned her and looked over to where she pointed, I saw movement near the hedgerow. Although one would presume that this would be movement from animals, the shapes of the object really did look too tall. We were quiet for a moment and we all heard footsteps. This, of course could be contributed to animals although they sounded like the footsteps of a human.
Matt said that he had seen a tall figure at the top of the cemetery. We investigated and there was nobody about. I heard footsteps again and I asked if anyone else had heard them. We listened for a while and then I ‘called out,’ requesting that if the footsteps were of a spiritual origin, could they walk closer to us. I really wanted the footsteps to run towards me.
Matt said that when he had been standing alone under a tree in the shadows earlier, we were all facing the other way and he saw a head peek out quickly and look at us. He thought it was a priest. I said that if it was a priest, he would have asked us what we were doing in the churchyard in the dark. Matt said “Yes Maria, if he were a living priest!”
We then discussed the fact that people say that ghosts do not haunt graveyards. Matt said that if there were ghosts there, he felt that they would be priests/holy men.
I had done some research into the Vampire William Doggett prior to our visit and all I had told the team members that night was that we were going to investigate the legend of a vampire grave in the Blandford area. I did not inform them of anything else. I was therefore surprised when both Emma and Melody both started to complain of a pain radiating from the bottom of their jaw, up into their head. This could be completely coincidental but when I then told Emma and Melody that William Doggett committed suicide by shooting himself through his jaw and up through his head, the girls and the rest of us were quite taken aback.
I called directly to William Doggett, asking him to come forward and make contact with us. I thought I saw movement nearby as I was calling him. I carried on talking to William. We heard a horse whinnying nearby and although we all thought that it was probably a live horse rather than a ghostly horse, I said “You can bring your horses, carriage and headless horseman if you like, we would like to see all of this.”
I walked towards the top of the field on my own with the Camcorder, asking William Doggett to join me. I eventually rejoined the group and stood still for a while. Teresa and I heard a big breath nearby which did not come from the group members. Sharon said that she felt foreboding chills all over her body and Matt said that he saw a shadow.
We decided that we would move onto Eastbury House to the gates, where the coach is supposed to pick up Doggett in order for him to return to the house to replay his own suicide. We gathered just inside the gates of Eastbury House. It was quite a strange feeling, a completely different atmosphere from that of the churchyard.
We stood quietly to see if we could hear anything unusual. Eventually, I ‘called out’ asking if the horse, carriage and its coachman would appear to pick up Doggett. There was nobody else around apart from us but some of us could hear talking, although as in most cases on paranormal investigations, the chattering could not be interpreted and we could not work out the gender of these voices. It was quiet for a while and then some of us heard a cough. It sounded like the cough of a man although there were some sheep in a field nearby and we wondered if one of the sheep had coughed.
We stood around quietly chatting and then we saw a light in the distance and some of us thought that it was bobbing about, although it did not appear to be a torch. We stood quietly watching the light and although it was probably fanciful, we thought that it looked like a candle inside a lamp and with wishful thinking and a lot of imagination we wondered if it could be a lantern on the side of a carriage being pulled by horses. The light eventually disappeared and as all was quiet at this location thereafter, we decided to end our investigation.
Although we did not really feel we had learned anymore about the Vampire William Doggett, we really enjoyed our experience.
Written by: Maria Williams