Naked dancing, candles and tale of 'eerie' night in the woods
IF YOU go down to the woods today.... you're sure to find history, intrigue and tales of witchcraft and occult activity.
Hopwas Woods has been the centre of tales of naked witches, occult artefact discoveries and spooky goings-on for decades.
Above, the occultists hit out at being branded as witches in a front page article on June 29, 1984.
Far left, front page of the Tamworth Herald from June 22, 1984 when 16 men and women were arrested after a naked midsummer ritual in Hopwas Woods. Left, the occultists hit out at being branded as witches in a front page article on June 29, 1984.
Left, the copper artefact dug up at Hopwas Woods, inscribed with magical symbols, believed to have been used in witchcraft rituals.
Above, an Egyptian statue of god Anubis, the protector of the dead, which was dug up in Hopwas Woods last year.
The ancient woods have revealed some of their secrets – more recently after a copper plate with magical symbols and an Egyptian statuette were discovered.
And in 1984, in the pages of the Tamworth Herald, an occult group spoke out – following a police raid in which 16 men and women were arrested during a naked ritual in the woods. They revealed they had been practising magical rituals among the trees for years, and said the land was "sacred ground".
Now more than 25 years later a retired policeman, who wishes only to be known as Oscar One Three, has revealed his memories – and spending one "eerie" night in the woods as part of police investigations.
Oscar One Three said he was on night duty with the force in the weeks before the arrests and was responding to a call from a local resident about late-night activities in Hopwas Woods.
"As I recall, a member of the public, whom I believe lived in Hopwas, reported some kind of party going on in the woods," he said.
"The area was pointed out to the police, and I visited the area. I did find an area of ground which could be described as a clearing.
"At that time there were no persons present. It was well trodden down and appeared to have been well used."
It was then when the presence of occult activity became apparent.
Oscar One Three continued: "In the centre of the area was a fairly large tree, on the branches of which were a number of red wax candles, which had obviously been placed there by human hand. They had mostly burnt down, none were burning, but trails of wax had dripped over the lower branches of the tree."
He continued: "I remained in the wood until early light when the area was further examined.
"It was quite an eerie experience, believe me!
"There were signs of a burnt out fire, and a number of small bones, which, at the time, were thought to have possibly been sacrificial and later identified as bird bones, possibly chicken bones.
"There were also signs of a roughly drawn out pentagram scratched on the ground nearby. A number of items were taken for later forensic examination if required."
He said the area was visited regularly by police for several weeks before arrests were made – and the group admitted possessing cannabis.
"Eventually it transpired on one such visit that a number of people, both male and female, were discovered in a naked state dancing around a fire in a clearing.
"A small chalice and sword were recovered. The people present were detained and later interviewed at Tamworth police station."
Oscar One Three added: "I cannot go into any detail regarding the people detained as I recall some of them lived locally, and some were visitors from as far afield as Devon.
"I recall they were quite open with the police in that they said they were there to celebrate the Summer Solstice and some were members of a group known as the Order of the Silver Star.
"They claimed to have been visiting the woods for a number of years and were not practising witchcraft, but were 'connecting with the stars and planets'."
He said several addresses were visited in connection with the enquiries and some substances were seized on suspicion of them containing cannabis.
News of the police arrests was revealed in an exclusive front page report in the Tamworth Herald on Friday, June 22, 1984.
Headlined "Police swoop on naked 'witches' in the woods' the story revealed that naked men and women, aged between their early 20s to late 40s, had to abruptly end their secret midnight ritual.
They had been dancing and chanting around a fire but spent the rest of the night in police cells. Police reinforcements were sent to guard the site through the night.
The police had commenced proceedings under the Drugs Act.
But the following week four of the people arrested spoke to the Herald and said that they were not "witches" but in fact "occultists" who had been carrying out a ritual to avert a major disaster, believed to be happening in October or November that year.
They confirmed they were members of the Order of the Silver Star, international occultists and astronomers, with their own philosophy on the meaning of life.
The 16 men and women were, later that year, fined £2,000 after admitting using drugs. Seven of them lived in Tamworth and admitted possessing cannabis.
Even in court they said they were involved in the study of astrology linked with ancient magical rites and that they had come to Hopwas Woods for a specific purpose.
But they said the area had been desecrated and that they would not be using the land again.
But over the years the rumours of witchcraft in the woods have continued.
Oscar One Three said: "Since retiring from the police I have, from time to time, heard rumours of similar activity taking place in the woods, but I have not been inclined to go and investigate myself.
"I am getting too old for all the excitement."