The Hellfire Club Part II (England)
A chalk mine of ancient origin was located just North of West Wycombe for centuries. In the late 1740’s Sir Francis Dashwood began to use the mines to build a road in hope to fight poverty, linking a few towns together for easier travels. He commissioned local farmers whose farms suffered from drought and failed crops to dig out the mines by hand, and instructed them to build a banquette hall and several chambers within the caves that are located as deep as a quarter of a mile underground. The chalk from the mines was used to build houses in Wycombe as well as the Wycombe Mausoleum and the St. Lawrence Church that stands on top of the hill over the caves.
Sir Francis Dashwood soon found another purpose for the caves and built a massive entrance that feels like a sacred gateway into what would later be a meeting place for his secret society of noblemen, known scholars, and politicians. They called themselves the Hellfire Club. They had almost settled on other names such as The Brotherhood of St. Francis, The Order of Knights of West Wycombe and they also considered The Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe. They selected the name Hellfire Club due to their practice of black magic and satanic rituals.
The secret society would often have wild drinking parties that involved orgies. The members would arrive after nightfall dressed in costumes that purposely mocked the Catholic church. Like the Hellfire Club in Ireland, the club in England was also known for their violent acts during their gatherings, and are rumored to have sacrificed humans as an offering to the devil. One of the chambers in the cave was named after Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States of America.
Sir Francis Dashwood and Benjamin Franklin were close friends and Franklin would often visit the caves to attend the parties of the night. It’s unknown whether or not Franklin participated in sacrificial offerings or dark rituals but it’s no secret that even here in America, he liked the company of prostitutes. In fact, we have Ben Franklin to thank for daylight savings time because he didn’t want people to see him coming home during the early hours of the morning after drinking all night and being with ladies of the night.
There are a few apparitions that people claim to have seen in the caves; one such spirit is believed to be Paul Whitehead whom died in 1774. Paul had left directions to have his heart cut out of his corpse, and have it placed in his urn with his ashes. For a while his urn was held within the walls of the mausoleum, until members of the club decided to place it in one of the chambers for safe keeping. They would often pass the urn around for people to see and one night a soldier decided to take Paul’s heart with him when he left. Now when visitors happen to cross paths with the spirit of Paul Whitehead, they all say that he appears to be looking for something. As expected, it’s believed that he’s in search of his heart.
There is another spirit often seen lurking around the dark tunnels at night: A young barmaid by the name of Suki was fond of one of the older members of the club. One night, as a prank, three young men had arranged for a fake letter to be delivered to her, pretending it was written by the man she liked. The letter told her to come to the caves in the middle of the night, and curiously she did as she was asked to do. The three giggling young men waited for her in the caves and when they heard her calling out the gentleman’s name they couldn’t help but to burst out into laughter as they began to tease and mock her. Furious that they played such a cruel and heartless joke on her, she threw a handful of stones at them. Using much larger rocks, the three young men angrily flung stones back at her; one stone cracked open her head and she fell dead to the ground, where they left her. People believe they’ve seen her wondering around lost, unaware that she’s dead, and unable to leave the confines of the Hellfire caves.
Many people have seen mysterious black masses in the caves as well as random mists. Disembodied voices and cries of women and children are heard at random. Some people believe the voices are of people who were sacrificed as an offering to the devil. They fear that many of these spirits are trapped and might be held against their will by some dark entity or demonic presence. As you walk deeper into the tunnels you pass the banquette hall where many parties were thrown, then you arrive at a strange triangle area that takes you to the same path no matter if you go right or left, and then it leads you past the Miner’s Cave and over a subterranean river called the River Styx.
Many people believe that spirits cannot cross over the river or running water so it only makes sense that the River Styx may separate our mortal world from Hades; and that just on the other side of the River Styx you will find the final chamber. At times people who work as tour guides and tourists have heard a deep growl as they approach this chamber, which is known as the Inner Temple. It is there, at the Inner Temple, that people believe the real black magic and the gathering of club members who were trying to communicate with the devil would have taken place. Once you cross the threshold of the Inner Temple you may feel a sickness come over you like a bad case of vertigo. This dark chamber was purposely built past the running water of the River Styx, and 300ft directly below the St. Lawrence Church to represent that Heaven is above the ground and the Inner Temple is the temple of Satan, a possible conduit to Hell found in the underground.
Fuckin’ spooky, right?
If you enjoyed this article and wish to know more about the Hellfire Club, I recommend reading more about the Hellfire Club of Ireland and the bizarre history behind their locations.
Until next time…
WIlliam C. Raustler