See caption
Shot from the 1958 film The Screaming Skull
Wikimedia Commons

Most stories of screaming skulls, said to scream or to generate psychic phenomena if removed from their dwelling places, are of English origin.[1][2] Typically the skull, which may have been handed down through the generations, is of an ancestor or an executed murderer. If anyone moves it, even to give it a decent burial, the following night will be rent by blood-curdling screams, and the skull will be back in its original resting place by dawn.[1]

The most famous of the screaming skulls is to be found at Bettiscombe Manor in Dorset.[2] The Bettiscombe screaming skull is attested at least as early as 1897 in The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain. The book tells of an alleged visit to Bettiscombe in 1883 to investigate a skull which, according to legend, was of an African slave once owned by the owner of the house. The slave had supposedly died determined to be buried in his homeland, and any attempt to bury him elsewhere caused the skull to scream.[3] However, an examination of the artefact carried out in 1963 suggested that the skull was that of a European female, and could be at least 2000 years old, which has led to some speculation that it may originally have been venerated at a Celtic shrine.[2]



Allen, Judy. Fantasy Encyclopedia. Kingfisher Books, 2005.
Ingram, John H. The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain. Gibbings & Co., 1897,
Staff writer. “Screaming Skulls.” Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained, edited by Una McGovern, Online, Chambers Harrap, 2007.