West Wycombe Caves (also known as the Hell-Fire Caves) are a network of man-made chalk and flint caverns which extend a quarter of a mile (400 metres) underground. They are situated above The Village of West Wycombe, at the southern edge of the Chiltern Hills near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, Southeast England. They were excavated between 1748 and 1752 for the infamous Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer (2nd Baronet), founder of the Dilettanti Society and co-founder of the notorious Hellfire Club, whose meetings were held in the caves. They have been operating as a tourist attraction since 1951 and have attracted over 2 million visitors since their reopening.
There has been much paranormal interest and many ghost stories about the West Wycombe caves. The two most common of these are as follows:
Paul Whitehead :
Paul Whitehead, a close friend of Sir Francis Dashwood, had been the Secretary and Steward to the Hellfire Club. When he died in 1774, as his will requested, his heart was placed in an elegant marble urn (costing £50) in the Mausoleum at West Wycombe by Sir Francis Dashwood. It was sometimes taken out to display to visitors, but was allegedly stolen in 1829 by an Australian soldier. Legend holds that the ghost of Whitehead haunts West Wycombe Caves and Hill, searching for his heart. Numerous visitors and staff have reported seeing a man in old-fashioned clothing wandering the passageways. When faced he is said to vanish into thin air.
The White Lady :
Another well-attested local legend is the tale of Sukie, the White Lady: Sukie (short for Susan) was a 16 year old maid at the local George and Dragon Inn in the late 18th or early 19th century. She was apparently by far the most appealing of the serving staff, and many local men vied for the girl's affections. But Sukie had ambitions to marry into society, and rejected the advances of all her local admirers. She began dating a local aristocrat, and one day she got a message, apparently from her lover, asking her to meet him in the caves one night wearing her best white dress as a wedding gown.
She arrived in candlelight and in her white dress, but it was a hoax by three village boys. She threw stones in fury at her laughing tormentors, but when one of the boys threw one back, she was knocked unconscious. Shocked at what they had done, the boys carried her back to her bed in the inn, but she died during the night. The caves and inn are reputed to be haunted by her ghost, and many staff and visitors have reported sighting a girl in a wedding dress wandering the passageways.