Jay's Grave

Investigated on May 25th, 2008.

Jay's Grave is probably Dartmoors most interesting legend. It has it all - an unfortunate story, a tragic death and a legend of haunting. Following the extremely positive experience of a past investigation there by a friend of the group, Chris and Mike decided to venture up there on their next endeavour to see if anything similar would occur...

The story begins in the late 18th century when an orphaned girl was brought into the Newton Abbot Poor House. This girl was to be named Jay to keep in with custom with new arrivals being named after the letter progressed to. Unfortunately Jay was, at the time, a slang word for a prostitute and so was given the Christian name of Mary.

After her upbringing in the Poor House she was sent to work at Canna farm in Manaton. It was here that it's said that she received her nickname of Kitty. Mary soon became the focus of the farmers son, and fell for his charms. The farmers son soon had his way with her and Mary became pregnant. In those days it was a huge scandal for a baby to be born out of wedlock and, after the farmer and his wife accused her of 'throwing herself at their son' she was kicked out destitute, pregnant and branded a 'slut'.

She had nowhere to go, a victim of a town's shun. All conceivable avenues had been closed and her two remaining options was to live on the streets or return in disgrace to the poor house. Unfortunately it appeared suicide was the better option and she was found hanging in a barn at Canna farm.

As was custom back then people who committed suicide were refused burial in consecrated ground. People feared that, once buried, a suicide victim would return to haunt those who had driven them to take their own life and so Mary Jay was buried at a crossroads; the reason being was so that her spirit would be confused and not be able to find its way back to the town.

Sometime in the mid to late 18th century a farmer said to have been called James Bryant discovered what were later revealed to be the human bones of a young female at the crossroads. James had the bones placed in a box and re-interred into the spot. He then created the mound and gravestone as we see it today.

Today the site has become a pilgrimage of the moor, with many visitors stopping by to place their own little offerings onto the grave.

A full history about 'Kitty' Mary Jay including her upbringing, scandal and suicide can be found here: http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/kitty_Jay.htm


The most famous story is that every day fresh flowers are said to appear on the grave. It is 'unknown' as to who are placing them there and several reports in the past have said that a figure in a heavy, black cloak stands at the grave at night to watch over it. Some reports say that the ghost has no feet. It has been suggested that this may be the spirit of the farmers son, forced to spend an eternity watching over the grave to see what his actions had resulted in.
  The reports by Into the Night regarding their personal experiences at Jay's Grave can be found on their site: http://www.intothenight.org.uk/

Equipment We Used
Because of the outdoor nature, not many pieces of equipment was used. Mike had taken up with him his camcorder, digital camera and film stills camera.


By Chris

Walking along this ancient pathway is truely uplifting for it has more that its fair share of energy. The amount of energy that is there is an indicator of the age of this trackway. My first encounter was with a man who was on the left hand side of me. He appeared to be quite tall but I am not sure whether I was sensing him from the trackway or from the higher level of the mound that runs along it. He seemed to have a lot to say and was telling me about a female that he seemed to be quite upset about. All the time I could sense him he seemed to be looking across the trackway into the wooded area on the right hand side. He did not like it and most certainly did not like the spirit which could be felt quite strong there.This other spirit appeared to be that of a woman. I felt that she was an older woman and that something had happened to her which was very traumatic. I later sensed that she was connected to a hanging that took place in an area near the grave.

After continuing along the trackway I sensed two brothers walking along. They were dressed similiarly in grey with grey hats on which were similiar to flat caps but fuller. They walked side by side up the trackway towards us and then the link was lost.

I had a sensation of something firm pulled across my throat which made me feel like I was being suffocated and also a very sharp, searing pain in my right temple as though I had been struck by something very firm this stayed with me for a little way and then subsided.

As we walked further I sensed a very large chestnut horse with cream hair over the front of its hooves. It appeared so suddenly that I almost asked the others to move out of the way to let it through. It was pulling something made of wood at the back of it which at first I felt was like the stretchers that Indians used to use to pull a person along. It had a very solem feel about it and moved slowly along and I was not sure at the time what it symbolised.

My attention was then drawn to a young girl of around 10/11 years of age in the wooded area to my right. She looked like she was playing hide and seek and there was a dog which had long legs and wire hair which was stood near to her. I felt that there was another spirit with her but was not sure what it was.

There was the sound of a woman crying, sobing, and as I could hear it I wanted to curl up. I did not feel that I could stand up straight and was crouched over. This woman was in a small building which stood on its own. I also heard a female call out as if trying to attract attention.

At one point my head and neck became very sore and I physically had to move my head from side to side. I then had the sensation that my head was not connected to my body. Jen noticed me doing this and asked me to tell her what I was experiencing. I told her and she said that she had experienced the same thing earlier that evening.

I also experienced a metallic taste and felt as that I had a 'bit' in my mouth which was holding my tongue down in the same way that a horse's bridle does. It tasted horrible and I also felt as though whatever it was was connected to some sort of harness or restraint. Jen asked if I felt as if I was connected to female or male or animal. I could not connect to human and thought it may have been animal connection but have to say that I am not sure what or who I was (if you know what I mean!!)

I was also given the name of Martha Skelern and the christian name of Jacob.

In here I felt very strongly the presence of a woman hanging from a tall tree. I looked up and could see her legs kicking. She had what looked like thick woollen looking socks which were long, no shoe's and a long skirt/dress with a type of underskirt, but definately not modern clothes. More like late 1700's atire. She was really kicking and struggling and it looked like she had a small sack tied over her head. Her spirit was very angry. Both Jen and myself felt that this woman may have been decapitated at some point during her death.

In the gateaway to the wooded area I saw a young girl. She was stood looking at us when we were stood by the van. When I asked out for her name I was given the name Amy. Jen also was given the same name. I was also given the surname of Dawes or Dawkins. I am sure that this was the girl I saw playing in the woods earlier that evening with the dog.

In this area there is the presence of Old Magic. I felt that this was resided over by a female but not a female from our earth-plane. I also feel that she was fey and was quite an energy to be reckoned with but not willingly. Fey are not governed by the same civilised pleasantries that we humans are. They are both good and bad. They favour none and you have to be very careful how you deal with them. She was there in the wooded area most of the evening just watching us and I think that we were lucky that she didnt intervene in our activities. If she had the night might have turned out very differently but at this point I am not sure which way it would have gone. I dont think she meant us any harm as we didnt overstep the mark, but as with nature itself she is not something that you can control at will. I feel very intrigued by her and will think about approaching her when I return.

As I was thnking about the woman who was hanging I was given an image of her small house. It had earthen floors and walls. There was no colour involved just earth with some sort of whiter colour on the earthen walls. There was a fire place which spanned almost the whole of the end wall with a wood and woven chair at the side of it, a wooden table centrally in the room. It had a very small window and there didnt appear to be any other rooms. There was a very pungent smell and whatever was burning on the fire was giving off smokey fumes which made your eyes sting. It was as though the chimney was getting blocked and some of the smoke floated into the room. I felt very anxious and dizzy and held onto Brians arm to keep steady. I was feeling what the woman was feeling. I had chest tightness/pain and felt quite unsettled and scared. There was a dog who wandered into the room and then went out of the door. As it walked away its form changed and it became something else. I think that this was the womans guardian. She had connections with the wicca/pagan ways, perhaps a hedgewitch of some kind. I didnt feel that she was easily scared but at this moment in time she was terrified. Men were coming. I saw a sack like the one that I spoke of earlier and they pulled it over her head.

Here I felt very strongly the presence of a man who seemed to respond to the name given by Jen of William Bryant. We were stood in circle and I turned to look at the side of me and was startled by a man stood there, very close. Unfortunately I think I started Brian at the same time. I just didnt expect him to be there. We also made contact with a spirit that was given the name of William Nosworthy by Jen. He seemed to be very distraught and inconsolable and would not enter the circle. I then got a sharp pain in my left wrist which caused me to squeeze Jens hand painfully tight. My hand was in spasm with the pain. It felt like a nail was being pushed through my wrist. I am sure that this was William Bryants work (one of the brothers who I saw on the Bridle path earlier). Jen put more gatekeepers in place and asked William to stop which he eventually did. (thank God!!) A group of spirits then came forward forming a circle around us and William was gone.

When I spoke to Dennis about this today he asked if it was my left hand that had been painful and I said that it was. He said that when he was in bed the night of our vigil he had a really bad pain in his left hand and actually mentioned it to Betty. A strange co-incidence.


By Mike.

Click on any photo for an enlargement.

Friend of the group Sharkey had previously spent two nights up at Jay's Grave with his friend Jenny and, on both occasions, had reported unexplainable phenomena. Hopefully this would in some way repeat itself for both me and Chris when we joined them for their third investigation at the site.

We arrived around about 7.45pm and introduced ourselves before setting off down the Bridleway path. During our walk down there Chris stopped a few times to say what she was picking up on, pretty much all of which Jenny, a member of the group we were with, had spoken before during their previous visits to the place. This was encouraging and Sharkey did show surprise with each hit - mainly because he had already heard Jenny say it before and knew there had been no cross-talk before then. Unfortunately for me I had to take this at face-value since I was not there to hear the earlier information.

One unusual thing did happen whilst we were down the Bridleway path, and that's when we were stood looking into an adjoining area to the path. As we stood there I suddenly heard a rustle in the trees and a footstep as if someone had just moved from behind a tree to walk off. This occured as we were stood still asking out for a spirit that was apparently being sensed nearby. Unfortunately, since this was an outdoor location it is impossible to rule out the possibility that these sounds may have been caused by an animal, especially since in neighbouring fields sheep were grazing.

The evening weatherwise had started very nicely with a clear blue sky and a respectible temperature. However, as we were starting to slowly make our way back up the Bridlepath to the grave I noticed on the horizon a thick mist rolling in over the hills. We arrived back to the grave and I took some generic photos of it (see above) before we set off to try and see if we could venture into this neighbouring area but sadly with no luck. By the time we had come back from there the mist was almost upon us and I took the last mist-free photo of the night (see left).

And then it hit. It was a thick, eerie mist and along with it came a plummeting temperature and a big increase in wind. It cast a shadow over the area and I was unable to see more than about 6-10 meters away in any direction.

I know it sounds cliché, the typical "It was a dark and stormy night..." introduction to a good ghost story... Listening to such a story is good fun. Encountering it is not. It was bitter with the cold wind blowing right through you. My hands were cold and spent most of the night watching the grave from within Jenny's van whilst the others spent time down at the gate to the Bridleway path. During the whole time I had my gaze fixed on the grave, anxious to see if the 'heavy-cloaked figure' stories about the place were actually true. Unfortunately, if they did make an appearance on the night the heavy mist obscured him from my view.


As I watched the grave, both inside the van and outside, I frequently looked around to make sense of my surroundings. I contemplated what it must have felt like to be lost on the moor in these conditions - something that is very easy to do. At midnight I decided to take some 35mm film photographs of the grave. The wind before then had been constant but slight but when I went to shout out to say I was about to take a photo the wind suddenly howled up loudly and stalled me for about 10 seconds. This, I figure, was just the result of unfortunate timing but did add to the eerieness slightly.

Unfortunately nothing untoward happened on the night despite the efforts of the others. The cold did get to me somewhat but I always believe that during investigations that all bases should be covered. As the others were focusing on the Bridleway path I kept my attention onto the grave itself in case the heavy-cloaked figure decided to make an appearance. Sadly however, the figure decided to have a night off.

I would like to try and offer potential alternative explanations as to the recorded phenomena that has been recorded there in the past. The flowers are by far the most known legend regarding the grave. In the past this had been connected to a prolific Dartmoor writer named Beatrice Chase who lived nearby. However, after she died in 1955 the flowers continued. So who could be doing it? Well, any visitor to the grave today will see that it has become something like a shrine. When we were there dozens of wooden crosses had been placed over the grave as can be seen in the photo on the left. It would be logical that since the grave is visited innumerably every day by the curious who's to say that it isn't some of these people deciding to leave a small flower on the grave before departing? As for the stories of figures appearing by the grave at night, I'm sure the people in the cars who drove by and saw us all standing around the area will now be reporting similar phenomena. Because the site is seen in such high regards to paranormal investigators there is every possibility that these figures that have been spotted through the years are just interested individuals who're spending the night there to see if they'll encounter anything spooky. It's pretty ironic when you think about it.

All in all it was an interesting night and one I'm sure hundreds of people would have given their left leg to do. If the weather hadn't have turned so badly against us I'm sure it would have been much more enjoyable and perhaps something may have happened. It's definitely an adventure that's best done in a clear, moonlit night in the middle of Summer. With the weather as it was nothing photographic could have been captured because of the possibility that any anomalies photographed were just being created by the mist.

Currently the 35mm film photographs are yet to be developed, but when they are anything interesting will be added to this page.