The Horrifying Humber Stone
A mangled block of stone lies in a small field in Leicester, between a branch of KFC and a housing estate. People walk past it everyday, oblivious to its identity...what is it, and why is it there?
The Humber Stone is a massive rock that sits with most of its mass under the earth, like a stone iceberg. According to early antiquarians it was used by some of the ancient inhabitants of the area as a sacrificial altar. The stone has gone by other names – Hell Stone, Holy Stone, all tenuously suggesting that some kind of ritual may have gone on here. The nearby area of Humberstone is definitely linked as it appears in the Domesday book as “Humerstan”, probably meaning “Humba's or Humma's Stone”.
The whole of the Humberstone used to be on display but various attempts have been made through history to bury and even break it. Probably because of the “Hell Stone” name it once went by, a vicar had the entire stone covered with earth to create a mound then performed the rite of exorcism over it. On his way home he was thrown from his carriage, breaking his hip. It is said that a local landowner then attempted to break parts of the stone off to flatten it so a plough could pass over. His fortunes went into an immediate downward spiral, ending eventually in bankruptcy with the man ending his days in the workhouse.
After hearing of “groans” emanating from the stone at night, a man from Barkby named Pochin decided to “investigate” the Humberstone, armed with a revolver. Whatever happened that night is not fully known, but he managed to shoot two of his own fingers off in his panic, blasting away at something in the dark.
In 1925 a farmer built a haystack, complete with corn dollies, over the now half-buried Humberstone which spontaneously combusted, causing the fire brigade to come out twice to quell the flames. The stack re-ignited a third and fourth time, forcing the brigade to run four hoses from Humberstone village to finally quell the flames.
When work began on a new road near the stone a family living in a street next to the Humberstone were disturbed by their 10 year old son being menaced by a “horned figure”, which he drew for teachers at his school. He said he didn't know what it was but referred to it as “the thing that I see at the end of my bed”. So unsettling was this phenomena that the family moved out but a few years later their parents moved in to the council property, whereupon the boy's grandmother claimed she had been throttled “by a ghost”.
Finally, in 1985 a man taking a driving lesson was making his way carefully past the Humberstone when both he and his instructor claimed to have seen a UFO in the form of a small silver disc – hovering in the sky above the stone!
Whatever the truth of any of these tales, today the Humberstone now lies half buried in a lonely little field next to the main road, hidden by hedges. The deep gashes made by the many attempts to break it up are still clearly visible but with its main mass underground it is difficult to get an impression of how great this monument once was. If you intend on seeing it for yourself by car then I would recommend parking at the KFC and crossing the road by foot into its little field. An ignominious fate for such a grand old stone but while building developments rise and fall...it's still here.
I take a close look at the Humberstone and some other strange places around Leicestershire in my book The Mystery Of Mercia II – available at the link in the comments.