Reader Submission: The Lenham Killing Pole

“Telephones are not the same anymore. No longer do we get crossed lines, mysterious strange noises, nor do we have to ask an operator to be connected to our number of choice. Indeed, we mostly carry our telephones with us, easily available for instant use, and usable in many different ways. Overhead telephone lines are also fast disappearing, as the conversion to underground cables and fiber optic connections continues at a constant pace. The ugly telegraph poles will not be missed though, especially the one near the medieval village of Lenham, locally known as The Killing Pole.

The story first appeared in the 1930s when the main road to Dover was put through Kent UK, from Maidstone to Ashford, and with a line of new telegraph poles marking the route and taking the telephone to villages along the way for the first time. The skilled and tough linesmen who made the connections to individual farms and houses often worked alone, traveling the route on a motorcycle, a sidecar holding their ladder and tools.

One such engineer was dispatched late one winter afternoon to attend to a badly loose connection close to the Lenham junction. It was cold and windy with the threat of snow in the air. After parking his motorcycle safely off of the road, the engineer set up his ladder, put a tool satchel on his shoulder, and climbed the ladder to its full height. Using the fixed steps screwed onto the pole itself, he left the ladder and continued on to the top.

No one knows what happened next, but it’s surmised that the ladder blew away from the pole and toppled back over the hedge into the field. The worker was marooned at the top of the pole, but he continued to work on the fault and connected his test receiver to the line and called the Maidstone depot for help. The call was received at Maidstone and logged, but the depot foreman couldn’t hear the message due to the poor quality of the line and the howling wind.

When the call failed, it seems the engineer may have tried to hail a passing vehicle to alert the driver to his situation. In doing so, he slipped from the icy steps and fell, the strap of his satchel tangling in the electric cables and squeezing tightly around his neck. That night, the snow fell hard and deep, the road becoming impassable to cars and buses, and the hanging linesman slowly froze to death. Icicles formed on his body, and he was slowly overcome by the snow until his snow-shrouded body resembled an icy sack hanging from the post, turning grotesquely in the breeze.

The next morning, a man reported the body. He had spent the night at the spot after being caught in the snow. At first light, he had trudged his way through the deep snow to the village. Although cold and soaking wet, the man did not stay to accompany anyone back to the scene of the tragedy. He apparently disappeared into the snowscape and was never seen again. As soon as was possible, the local police constable, accompanied by several members of the village fire brigade, made his way to the pole and cut the gruesome body down.

Legend has it that even today on dark, freezing, snowy evenings, people see a faint glow slowly climbing the post. The glow stops for a while at the top before suddenly plunging downwards to a sharp stop then wavering and turning slowly in the wind. Weird noises can also be heard from the wires above as they seemingly whisper the word ‘I’m dying, dying, dying’ in a wavering high tremolo as the wind whistles through.

This is certainly not a place to stop or to break down. A traveler in the 1980s had his car suddenly stall at the very spot as he passed the pole, and he could not get it started. It was snowing at the time and his only recourse was to stay inside and sleep in the car. He did not record in detail what he experienced that night, but the effect on him was so severe that he vowed never to drive the road again, either at night or in daylight. He almost froze to death that night. The next morning, an AA patrol man found the traveler and drove him back to Lenham for a hot drink, food, and warm clothes. As the car had no fault that could be traced to anything mechanical, it was assumed to have suffered a sudden, complete electrical failure of some kind.

Since those days, others have had similar breakdowns at the same spot, and even more frightening, several serious accidents have taken place there. Over the years, many people have reported seeing a misty figure in foggy winter conditions, one that seemed to direct them off the road towards the pole, as though willing them to crash at that spot. It is now surmised that the man who reported the lineman’s body was actually the shade of the dead man, eager to get help to cut himself down and alert his family of his death. The question the local people ask is this: does the evil energy surrounding that tragic night still linger within the whistling wires, trying to bring more unhappiness to the evil spot and serve its lust for death? And worst of all, who will be next?”

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