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The Miller

Pluckley Uncovered
We will now attempt to explore the legends surrounding the haunting of the site of Pluckley’s now destroyed and removed windmill.

In order to achieve this we must first break down the varying versions of the accounts, and legends attached to the site, before then exploring the factual history that we can link to them.

 
The Story

As with many ghost sightings this apparition is said to be a black silhouette, on this the differing variations of the story agree. It is said that it haunts a ruined windmill near a house called The Pinnocks, and that the ghost appears before the arrival of a thunderstorm.

The black ghost like shape is apparently seen regularly and it is believed to be the apparition of the miller.

One version of the story, that may be earlier in origin, states that the black figure was “sighted by the last Resident of the Mill, Dicky Buss, before the Mill burnt down after a storm”, while another source identifies the ghost as Dicky Buss!

A variation on the story goes so far on to add further details, stating that it is “a very old ghost of a miller who hung himself from a beam inside the mill and legend has it that whenever something horrible is going to happen in the village, the ghost will also make its appearance, hanging from one of the beams inside the mill”.

Another also states the old mill is haunted by the ghost of a miller, who is said to be in constant search of his lost love during the nocturnal hours.

The Sightings


The only actual sighting by a witness that we have been able to pin down is the aforementioned sighting by Richard ‘Dicky’ Buss.

Although many of the stories state the apparition is seen regularly, apparently nobody will admit to seeing it.

However it should be noted that some of the stories haven’t yet caught up to the fact there hasn’t been any trace of the mill in over 50 years, so their factual basis is somewhat questionable, including the unverifiable statement that Dicky was a witness.

Exploring the Possibilties

Dicky is unfortunately unavailable for comment, due to his death. He was born in June 1845, and married in 1873.

His son Charles, although recorded as a 25 year old ‘boarder’ in Folkestone in the 1901 census, was said to be helping his father run the mill by 1914, when he was called to war. His father, now aged 69, was unable to run the mill in his absence and milling ceased in 1916. It appears he officially ceased being Miller in 1919, aged 74.

The mill itself was a tall lapped wood construction with louvered sails, which was already in a dilapidated state by 1916, having lost two of it’s sails in 1912, and fallen into a general state of disrepair. It appears to have become ruinous by 1932, and was struck by lightening in the April of 1939.

A photograph from 1940 reveals the whole structure to have burnt to the ground, and the brick base to be well on it’s way to being completely removed. No trace remains on the site now. See Below

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Stories of the haunting may have spread whilst the mill was in disuse, and could possibly be related to a rumour that Dicky's son used to set bird traps in there with long white sheets attached. Local historian Jacky Grebby was able to verify this for us.


The stories would appear to have taken hold by 1955, when Frederick Sanders dismissed them in his book Pluckley was my Playground, although whether this was one of the stories created by Desmond Carrington earlier in the decade in a TV Times article is unknown.


As for what is seen, we can quickly dismiss stories revolving around the ruins of the mill, or indeed those that seem totally oblivious to the fact there is no longer a mill in existence, such as the apparition hanging from a beam.

We have no way of verifying these stories, and they do not suggest ‘before the mill burnt down’ in their context.

So what could a ‘black silhouette’ be? Well the obvious answer is shadows, however the site of the mill is in the open and away from anything that could cause misleading shadows. Animals are unlikely to be mistaken for a silhouette in the open as well. The fact that it is said to precede a thunderstorm is interesting, but there are no known atmospheric phenomena that could be mistaken for a black figure.

This area is far from the main road, however it is a convenient shortcut through the village for those on foot, so the opportunity for sightings is there.

The site today.

 

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Mill House is very close indeed to the site of the mill, and it is much closer than The Pinnocks, which is some distance away and not on a direct route. Strange then that this is mentioned in relation to the mill rather than Mill House, surely not something a local is likely to mistake?

Conclusions

There are not really any credible alternatives to put forwards as potential causes for the ‘Black Silhouette’ sightings, and as such we have to conclude that this is credible as a story.

However it also seems exceedingly likely that this is all it is, a story. We can see clear evidence of fabrication in many of the documented accounts, and no witnesses are produced. It is also easy to see how an area could gain a ‘reputation’ locally, with Charles Buss’ trap having made an impression on the memories of those in the village. The factual and historical inaccuracies in virtually all of the stories mean that it is difficult to take them seriously.

With no living witnesses to this we have to conclude that, although credible, this is another story made up to boost the number of stories surrounding Pluckley.

Source

Pluckley Mill Postcard - http://www.super-gigants.xf.cz/The%20Ghosts%20of%20Pluckley.htm
Runied Mill - http://www.kent.ac.uk/library/specialcollections/mills/r.php/27840/show.html
Mill Site today - Dave Godden Copyright Feb 2012

     
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