A mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people. A monument without the interment is a cenotaph. A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb, or the tomb may be considered to be within the mausoleum.
The Mausoleum I knew in the very early 70's is quite different from the restored one of today. Back then It had no doors and was open and unfenced, and the surrounding area was had more trees and bushes and had not been cleared. It was a ruin, but had not suffered from damage or graffiti.
During the 80's / 90's it appears it became a target for vandals, graffiti painted on the walls, fires, and stolen dumped cars.
This video shows the Mausoleum before the restoration, the one I once knew but with the unwanted and disgusting damage.
Read the story below and see for yourself.
During the early 70's I lived in Strood just outside Rochester, we were the first to move on to a new build of houses that ran adjacent to the new Motorway, purchasing the 'Show House'. The area was mostly farmland, woods and old quarries and the building site around us. With not much else around the woods were our playground, we knew them inside out and had camps scattered through them all, tree camps and base camps, some covered and some open, some hidden so well that you would never know they were there, Robin Hood would of been proud of us! Abandoned car seats were carried miles through the woods to make our retreats comfy.
There were two tunnels that led under the motorway, one beside the old Quarry near to where we lived, the other behind the shops, they were for farmers to move equipment or animals and for access to Cobham Woods in case of fire. Once through this tunnel we used to follow the path forward until an old rotten tree, then veer off to the right and follow one of many criss-crossing paths through the trees and bramble until we found the big 'Old Oak', I'm not really sure it was actually an oak tree, but we all knew it as that. The 'Old Oak' tree, towered above the rest, it was easy to climb especially with all the practice we had, even to the thin swaying branches at the tip.
This was our biggest camp, and hidden in the undergrowth surrounding it's base were our dome like shelters, each time conumingly hollowed out of thick bramble with our trusty pen knives, almost thatched with the bramble and other dead branches and very nearly waterproof too, bad weather never stopped us and we would be there all year round, even after dusk when time was misjudged.
Even though trip wires with collection of rattling cans gave us early warning of 'Invaders', a lookout was always posted high in the tree watching out for other approaching gangs, you could see way across the woods, and to just where the woods ended to the west, and the greyish white tip of the old Darnley Mausoleum.
As you came to the edge of the woods and the thick trees gave way to lighter foliage and clumps of smaller trees and brambles, you would see the top part of the old building. As you got closer still there was an area of flat open ground in front and to the side, with a dry moat like trench running around it. The derelict old building was an eerie place to be at the best of times, but the lower level crypt made a good hiding place, square stone tubes designed for the bodies led deep into the outer walls , those brave enough to squeeze into them had the ideal hiding place in the murky dusty interior. There were no doors back then, no railings either, just ruins!
We were tough resourceful kids in that respect, not afraid of the dark and back then with no worries about 'strangers' that the kids seem to have today. Although we had 'Gangs', three or four kids made a gang, there was none of the violence that we now hear so much of, yes our gangs clashed at times, even chased each other around, but we never actually fought, and there would be no thought of using guns or knives as a weopen even though we all had pen knives or sheath knives. Instead of fighting we would 'Dare' the others into doing something, or race each other back to the tunnel to prove who was the best gang.
And this is how this night began, with a 'Dare'!
Of course we were, we didn't all have watches and we had often been there around dusk, then realising it was later than we thought running flat out through the dark dense woods and home for dinner.
The Mausoleum at night.
The Dare Grew !
Now as a youngster in your early teens that can be a very hard thing to arrange, but we couldn't back down, bravado and the good name of the gang made that totally unthinkable !
We came up with a plan, myself and Gary would say we were staying around at my friend Neil's, he in turn would say he was staying at Gary's, Neil was often on his own as his parents worked very late so it would be less likely that we would get caught out. Ok I hear everyone saying now how stupid this was, but back then we were safe, well normally we were safe!
The night set, and two of the boys from the other gang had done similar, determined to watch us crumble and back out so they could head home for their nice warm beds and tell everyone the next day how scared we were. A few pop bottles filled with orange juice and some hastily put together jam sandwiches at Neil's, we set off just before it started to get dark, heading straight for the 'Old Oak' camp, we got there just as the light was fading away. The moon not high enough yet to give much light, we sat outside around the base of the tree, not wanting to reveal our shelters to the opposing gang members, we laid on the old hessian potato sacks that we had again refilled with dry leaves a few weeks before, and the time went by so slow!
Was it 10pm or was it 4am, we had no idea, but one of the other gang members said it was almost midnight, how he knew I'll never know, I do not think we owned a watch between the five of us. Leaving our water bottles at the camp we set off towards the edge of the woods with just the moonlight to see by, you always knew when you were getting close because the noise of the motorway traffic could be heard in the distance, the open spaces letting the sound travel across. But this time it sounded different, the noises sounded more like moans than traffic, there was also a strange light ahead of us, the barely visible spire of the old building seemed to flash and flicker, and that alone was enough to spook the two members of the other gang, they turned tail and ran, taking Neil with them, straight down the wider main pathway that lead the length of the woods and then linked with the smaller path back to the tunnel by the shops. I remember Gary or myself saying 'We have won', or maybe 'Yes were the greatest', before we even thought anymore about what we had just heard or the strange light we had seen. We were about to follow the others but Inquisitiveness started to creep in.
Tree hopping and keeping low along the brambles we edged nearer to the open space that led across to the old Mausoleum, we could see shapes and hear voices, and creeping closer still we could make out a group of maybe twenty people all standing in a large circle around a box like shape in the centre just in front of an open fire. They looked as if wearing gowns or something resembling a Monk's Habit, if they were grey or white it was it was too dark to tell for certain, and the flickering red from the fire coloured much around, some just had hoods others maybe some form of large head dress. They seemed to be singing, but not words it was more like the chanting you hear in a church. We could occasionally see clearer as the drifting smoke moved or changed direction, make out them holding hands and moving around, one man, we think it was a man, stood in the middle moving faster than the rest almost as if dancing. Straining our eyes to try to make out more of these faceless shapes and to see what was in the middle, it was moving, whatever was on that box or table was alive. Animal, child or even a small woman we couldn't see but from the way it moved it appeared to be tied down.
This is when sense starts to creep in,
and you begin to realise you are in a place you would rather not be!
Images of tribal ceremonies seen on the television in programs such as Tarzan seemed to flow through my mind. At that age we were innocently unaware of black magic, satanic sacrificial rituals and voodoo ceremonies, all we had ever really seen was cannibals. But we knew enough to realise we were in danger and needed to get away fast. We turned to head back but instantly we were spotted, immediately several started running towards us and the fear for our lives kicked in and we ran, ran faster than I think I have ever ran through those woods even in daylight.
They kept coming, as we ran down the wide path the beams of their flashlights criss-crossed our uneven path almost making us trip over them, the deep ruts and loose twigs doing their best to slow us down and make us fall. I was slightly ahead of Gary but I could hear him panting rapidly close behind me, it seemed as if they were catching us, and if we had stayed on the main path I think they would have soon caught up.
I think I shouted 'Old Oak' whatever I shouted was enough for Gary to understand and as a break in the trees came up we veered off left into the dense trees and undergrowth. Gaining distance from them due to us knowing the paths we came across the Old Oak suddenly, almost running headlong into it in the darkness. Now our dilemma was whether we stopped at the camp and hid in the shelter, climbed the tree itself, or continued running through the woods home.
Shaking with fear and gasping for breath we slid under the brambles into the biggest of our covered shelters, laying as close to the ground as we could and trying not to breathe. Through the thin gaps we could see the occasional flicker of torchlight's and hear muffled voices, and at one point they stood not more than two feet from us and we were sure we were going to be caught.
The area around camp was quite dense and appeared totally impenetrable, unless of course you knew how, they must have thought we had circled back to the main path as the voices gradually faded away and lights disappeared from our view. How long we sat there staring intently into the darkness I have no idea, it seemed like hours, afraid to talk in case heard, afraid to move in case a snapping twig gave away our hiding place, hearts beating like bass drums, and our throats as dry as sandpaper we became glad we had left our bottles of squash behind. Gingerly we emerged from the tunnel like entrance under the brambles, and quietly followed our normal twisty route back towards home. As we approached the 'T' where it met the path to the tunnel we stopped, listening intently in case they had beaten us back to the tunnel and were waiting for us, no movement and all seemed clear, so slowly we moved out from the undergrowth and headed back to the tunnel. Each step inside the concrete tunnel echoed loudly as did our heavy breathing, scaring ourselves with the belief a hand would grab us from behind at anytime.
We emerged from the tunnel and just ran, passing the white wooden fencing that kept us off the embankment to the motorway and turned right around the corner into the road where Neil lived, as we approached his gate we could see him looking out of the bedroom window and we headed around the back of the house. He opened the back door and signalled for us to be quiet as we slipped inside, with us making sure he had definitely bolted the door behind us so nobody could follow. His Dad was in his armchair in the front room, snoring loudly as he always did and we crept past and shot up the stairs to Neil's room. In rapid and I am sure very garbled voices we told Neil what happened after they ran off, our eyes peering through the curtains watching out for those who chased us.
Although Heroes within our group for seeing it through, and well respected from the other gang who shortly afterwards merged into ours, we couldn't tell anyone about what had happened. If we were to tell the Police would we be believed? if we told our parent's it was a guaranteed clip round the ear and grounding for weeks. Yet it played on our minds for a very long time after, just what was going on there, and what was happening to the person or animal that appeared to be the central point of their ceremony?.
That might sound silly now, but at the time we were children, innocent to what went on
One of the lads bragged about it in school and was overheard by a teacher a few days afterwards, we were taken aside by the teacher and questioned and he did tell us he was going to tell the Police, a man visited the school later that day asked us a few questions, although he never said I take it he was a Police man or detective, but that was the last we ever heard of it at that time.
It was a long long time to us before we went back to the Mausoleum, or even to the Old Oak camp, however I doubt it was more than a few weeks in reality. When we did go back the ground in front of the Mausoleum was patchy as if a fire had been made on the grass but there was no other evidence of what went on that night. No blood patches or bones!
Not long after this I moved back to London and it wasn't until after I left school at 15 that I went back to see Gary and Neil in Strood. Gary told me that he had told his parents about it and they went to the Police with him to report it after I had moved, whether they went to look or just shelved the report as a child's misunderstanding or even a prank I don't know.
Obviously as I grew up and read more, especially the Dennis Wheatley novels about black magic, it made me look at the whole event in a totally different light. Satanic rituals and even sacrifices may sound like something you just read about in a novel, yet they do happen.
Of course it may have been something innocent, just a group of New Age Travellers or a Pagan group celebrating whatever solstice it might have been, but if so then why chase us and be so intent on catching us? and what would have happened if they had?
They certainly wasn't going to pat us on the back!
Would my soul have been presented to the devil?
or would they just have eaten me?
Human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, devil worship, I can not honestly say for certain it was, yet from what I saw and what I know now, I certainly believe it could have been any or all of those. Maybe there are people out there who can explain it, maybe those who was even there at the same time, but I know for one, that I am not going to go and find them to ask !
Only when looking for pictures of Darnley Mausoleum on the internet did I become aware that there are many of these scattered around, not just the Kent countryside, nor just in England, but they are located worldwide.
I also became aware of another which eerily looks so similar to the Darnley Mausoleum, and strangely enough also has reports of Devil worship. Maybe these places do attract devil worshippers ?
Maybe what I thought we saw was right after all?The picture on the left is of a Mausoleum in Cachoera in Brazil.