The Petrifying Well That Turns Objects Into Stone

In the town of Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, England, you will find the strange phenomenon of a petrifying well, which over the centuries has turned objects into stone.

This rather curious attraction welcomes millions of visitors every year.

Mick C CC BY 2.0

The very first found reference of the well can be found in 1538 when John Leyland antiquary to King Henry Vlll noted that the well was said by locals to have magical properties and healing powers.

This marked the beginning of legends that would surround the petrifying well for a long time.

You can find the well inside a cave which is well known as Mother Shipton’s Cave. The name of the cave comes from a local woman believed to be a witch, Ursula Southeil, whom the locals referred to as Mother Shipton.

Mother Shipton’s Cave. Photo by Chris 論 CC BY 3.0

Legend says that Mother Shipton is the daughter of a prostitute and the devil was born in the cave. The story says that she was hideous due to who her father was and that is also why she had the ability to tell tales of the future.

She gained fame as a prophetess and is said to have predicted the great fire of London of 1666, the Spanish armada defeat in 1588, and even predicted the invention of mobile phones.

Mother Shipton in Knaresborough. Photo by Immanuel Giel CC BY 3.0

Whilst the stories of the petrifying well held a terrifying reputation, it was also known to locals for its healing properties.

According to Oddity Central, a physician examined the petrifying well in the early 1600s. The results of his findings led him to conclude that the waters running through the well were a miracle cure for any type of sickness. With this kind of reputation, the petrifying well became an ever-growing popular attraction.

The most intriguing aspect of the cave is its ability to transform anything left at the well to stone.

The petrification of an object in this well happens because of high levels of mineral content in the water. Through a process of evaporation and deposition over time, objects appear to turn into stone, as they are covered by solidified minerals.

For a time before science gave the reason for this occurrence, people believed this was magic performed by Mother Shipton because of her reputation of being a witch.

The terrifying aspect of the well is reinforced by the fact that when viewed from the side, the cave looks like a giant skull.

Knaresborough, England – July 16, 2016: Everyday objects have been hung in the water of the Petrifying Well, slowly being covered by minerals. The Petrifying Well is the oldest tourist site in the UK.

Locals and visitors told and retold these frightening legends, but the stories only increased people’s curiosity.

When the Royal Forest was sold by King Charles I to Sir Charles Slingsby in 1630, the cave was well known, with many people wanting to witness this strange petrifying process for themselves.

The new owner decided to profit from it by selling guided tours to the visitors coming onto his land. By doing so, Slingsby had just created England’s first-ever tourist attraction.

Today, the well is still a major tourist attraction and is visited by millions of tourists yearly because of its capacity to apparently petrify objects.

The magic properties attributed to the petrifying well of Knaresborough may have been proven wrong, but this curious location still holds a strong ability to attract visitors.