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The Earl of Shrewsbury

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Names have been changed to protect identities.

There is a place in the countryside of Staffordshire that harbors a famous tourist attraction, Alton Towers. On the face of it, it just seems like your ordinary theme park, with rides, food stalls and guests. However, there is a much darker and much more sinister place, behind the façade.

There is a story attached to the old, windowless castle, of the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury. He was coming home, to Alton Towers in the early 1800's, but no actual date is known. Suddenly, an old woman appeared in the road, in a ragged cloak, and supporting herself with a gnarled walking staff. She begged the Earl for a farthing, but the arrogant Earl cast the old woman aside, and told his driver to carry on. As the woman looked at the departing carriage, she screamed out a curse. "For every branch on the Old Oak Tree that falls, a member of your family will die." The Earl looked back at her with disbelief, and disgust on his face.

That night, a vicious storm wailed on the grounds of Alton Towers, and with one mighty bolt of lightning, a single branch from the Old Oak Tree fell. True to the old woman's curse, a member of the Earl's family suddenly, and mysteriously died.

To prevent more misfortune from being bestowed upon his family, Charles Talbot ordered his servants to chain up every last remaining branch of the tree. When his servants were gone, Charles dragged the branch back to the mansion, and locked himself away in a secret room, and began conducting experiments on the branch. Science vs the supernatural.

The story is now an urban legend, in Staffordshire's history. It has become a ride, built into the castle, with tellings of the story as you line up for the ride. But the story doesn't end here.

I was out on an end-of-year college trip, and I was queuing up for the ride with my friends. I knew of the legend etc, as I grew up in the county, but nothing prepared me for what was going to happen to me. I felt a tugging on my hoodie, it was more of a yank than a tug, and it would've knocked me onto the floor if the metal bar, queue separators weren't there. I thought nothing of it at first, thinking Kathy was playing a prank on me. Truth be told, she was in front of me, and so was Tracy. It was then I felt, and heard a breathing in my ear. It sounded like a man. I froze in place, scared beyond measure, as this was my very first paranormal experience. I then heard a male's voice whisper, Get out, witch! That was it, I screamed and ran out of the castle, refusing to back inside. Kathy and Tracy followed, and I told them what happened. We went back to the mini buses and went home.

A few days later, Kathy contacted me on Facebook, telling me that a college friend of ours went to visit the Chained Oak, and disappeared. We have not seen him since. Some believe that if you hear the Earl speak in your ear, he will take a close friend or relative from you, to try and make up for his unfortunate loss that stormy night, in the nineteenth century. Others say people have just been known to simply get lost in the woods, and turn up a few days later. Matthew hasn't been found since that day, in 2012.

Word of caution if you are sensitive to ghosts. Do not enter the Alton Towers castle, if you do not want a friend or loved one to be taken from you, and do not visit the Chained Oak.

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