Clapham Wood Mystery
The Clapham Wood Mystery is the name given to a collection of unusual events which are associated with Clapham Wood, West Sussex, England, resulting in the area developing its own lore in popular culture. Events have included reports of people making unusual sightings or experiencing unusual phenomena, and of family pets disappearing or sickening. There have also been several human deaths associated with the location.
Since the 1960s the area has experienced a rash of UFO sightings, reports of people experiencing nausea or the sensation of being pushed by unseen forces, or of witnessing patches of strange grey mist developing suddenly on pathways through the woods. Some people have also reported a strong sense of being followed. Studies with a Geiger counter have revealed slightly elevated levels of background radiation in the area, which is surprising since the area is situated on chalk which is normally low in radiation due to a lower level of potassium-40. Early photographs of the area appear to show a large crater or depression within the woods, although the area is now more heavily forested and difficult to search. A journalist and writer claimed that the hideouts that the cult used were so well camouflaged that you wouldn't know one was there even if you were standing two feet from it.
In 1975, several reports, including some in the national press, were made of pets going missing in the area. Initially, two dogs were said to have disappeared without a trace, a third to have vanished but later reappeared suffering from an unidentified illness for which it had to be euthanised. After news of these three cases became public, other dog owners came forward claiming that their pets had experienced agitation in the woods. Although a lot of the cases about the illness of the canines was due to the toxin being released from the chalk under the ground.
Four deaths have occurred either in or close to the woods and have since become part of the lore surrounding it.
The first such case was that of Police Constable Peter Goldsmith in 1972. Goldsmith, 46, was a former Royal Marine Commando and an experienced rambler who was in excellent physical condition. He was last seen in June that year, walking across the Downs and carrying a large holdall. His body was found six months later, hidden in a patch of thick bramble.
In August 1975, pensioner Leon Foster was found in the woods, by a couple searching for a lost horse, three weeks after his wife had reported him missing. And then the Reverend Harry Neil Snelling – the retired vicar of Clapham Parish – disappeared on All Hallow’s Eve in 1978 while returning home across the Downs from a dental appointment in Goring; his body was eventually found three years later by a Canadian tourist, who only informed the police of his discovery after he had left the country.
The murdered woman was Miss Jillian Matthews – a 37-year-old divorcee and a homeless schizophrenic, who went missing in September 1981. Her body was discovered six weeks later in a state of partial undress, having been raped and strangled. No one was ever charged with her murder.
It wasn’t until 1987, however, that anyone offered an explanation that attempted to tie these disparate events together. In their book The Demonic Connection, Toyne Newton, Charles Walker and Alan Brown alleged that the woods were being used for rituals by a Satanic cult calling itself the ‘Friends of Hecate’. Hecate is the Ancient Greek Goddess of crossroads, entrance-ways, fire, light, the Moon, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, necromancy, and sorcery. 
In their 1987 book The Demonic Connection Toyne Newton, Charles Walker and Alan Brown claimed that Clapham Wood had been used by a cult called the Friends of Hecate (FoH). Part of the book dealt with an incident in 1978 when Charles Walker is said to have been contacted by an initiate of the group, who claimed that it was responsible for the sacrificial slaughter of dogs and other animals. The man said that the FoH planned to use the wood for at least another decade before finding other locations, and he claimed that people in high places were involved, and would tolerate no interference in the group's activities. Walker claimed that the cult was later forced to leave the area due to a combination of press attention and a storm, known as the Great Storm of 1987, which damaged large tracts of the wood the year that the book was published. Journalist Will Storr investigated cult activity in his book Will Storr Vs The Supernatural, but did not find any conclusive evidence beyond testament of odd campfires objects and unfriendly locals.
- Robins, Danny "Danny Robins Investigates: Episode 2 - The Mystery Of Clapham Wood", Channel 4 Radio, Channel 4
- Brownlow, Nick (2005) "Fortean Traveller: Clapham Wood", Fortean Times