Archive for the ‘Witchcraft’ Category

The village of Hayfield was found first in the Doomsday Book under the name Hedfeld and was a natural clearing in the forest at the foot of the highest point in the Peak District, and the southern-most point of the Pennine Chain. It was a mill village from the 17th Century onward and the village is a popular place for walkers, and visitors to the Peak District. There are a couple of interesting little legends about the area which is why I have picked them for the blog.

There are two churches in the area, St Matthew and St John’s Methodist Church (the third was de-consecrated and currently in use as a library) and St Matthew has existed there since 1386. It was previously at Kirksteads and was not completed until 1405, it was then largely rebuilt in 1817/18 and the remnants of the building are visible in the church crypt. The St John’s Methodist Church dates from around 1782 and claims to be the 13th to have been built, and although the building has been added too, the four main walls are entirely original.

31st August 1745 Dr James Clegg, the minister of a Presbyterian Church at nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith, wrote to the Glossopdale Chronicle (local newspaper) reporting that “hundreds of bodies rose out of the grave in the open air” from the graveyard of St Matthews Church. They then proceeded to disappear leaving Dr Clegg to remark something that sounds rather Lovecraftian or Poe in nature “… what is become of them or in what distant region of this vast system they have since fixed their residence no mortal can tell.”

The village also had its very own witch; in 1760 Susannah Huggin sold wooden weaving pins and bewitching charms. An old sailor brought one of the charms and then shortly afterwards he disappeared, she was then discovered to be back in possession of the charm. The villagers blamed her for his disappearance; she was dragged in front of the George Pub and pelted with rotten fruit and stones, to the point at which she was almost killed. Later on somebody from the Tom Hey’s Farm then took the little charm but after a series of disasters, including milk not churning and animals refusing to eat, the charm was then exorcised by a reluctant Reverend Baddeley.

Hayfield Church 0158.JPG
By Clem Rutter, Rochester, Kent. – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7349638

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Duncan is best known for being the last person to be imprisoned under the British Witchcraft Act, 1735. She was born November 25th, 1897 and died December 6th, 1956. At school she was known to have alarmed fellow pupils with prophecies of doom and displaying hysterical behaviour.

She married Henry Duncan in 1916 who supported her talents and in 1926 she went from clairvoyant to medium, offering séances to summon recently deceased spirits via emitting ectoplasm. She worked part time in a bleach factory and was a mother of six, a pretty busy lady.

In 1928 photography showed her tricks via dolls and old sheets as drapes. In 1931 the ectoplasm was supposedly cheesecloth, paper mixed with egg-white and toilet paper. In 1933 a trick to summon ‘Peggy’ a spirit was investigated and she was fined £10 for fraud, Harry Price concluded it was all fake and so why am I reporting on her? Well… here goes.

November 1941, WWII, she held a seance in Portsmouth and laid down the claim that a sailor spirit told her the HMS Barham had been sunk. An official announcement for the sinking came months later in February 1942. Due to this the Navy took interest in her claims. There was scepticism about her claims of the spirit telling her this because close family members of the victims had been informed about it. It was summarised that she might has known as around 861 families at the time could have been discussing it with the links they had, and she may well have over heard the news.

Duncan’s claims were taken seriously enough that they arrested her on a minor other issue, but then found the clause of witchcraft. She had a mock-up of an old HMS Barham hat band but after 1939 they hadn’t been worn. There seemed to be concerns that she would leak more confidential information, whatever her source, and that she was exploiting the recently bereaved. Seances did not come cheap, incidentally they don’t these days either…

She was found guilty on one count, and she was imprisoned for nine months. Winston Churchill seemed unimpressed by what seemed to be a waste of time and resources on “obsolete tomfoolery”. In 1945 she was released and promised to stop, which clearly wasn’t the case as she was arrested again in 1956. There was no sign of anything odd about her death after though, she had been suffering ill-health from around 1944 and was an obese woman who would move slowly due to heart trouble.

All too often when the media talks about these events it is with a very sceptical approach. Replications of their so-called trickery has been given as the reason not to trust mediums etc. Helen Duncan was unfortunate in the media enough times I’d question why folks even continued to see her, but the grief of a lost one is hard and people may well have given her more benefit over doubt due to this.

In the case of HMS Barnham, she was in Portsmouth, a naval town in a time where it was already considered a badly kept secret. Sailors of the living variety may have been talking and she overheard it. Perhaps she truly was told by a spirit but I hate to admit full poo-poo on the situation however I would say the only S involved here was media speculation and sensation.

Helen-duncan-cheesecloth

‘The Trip’ is an Inn  in Nottingham, England located on the side of its castle. The In n lays in the sandstone below the castle, the sign outside indicates the presence of the inn as of 1189 at the very least. It was the year that Richard the Lionheart began the third crusade. Legend would have us believe that the knights would meet at the Inn before journeying to Jerusalem.

In ‘The Trip’ you can see the Haunted Galleon, a model of a ship that has been cursed. If anyone tries to clean the ship it brings death to that person. So it’s currently encased in glss and covered in dust to avoid anyone befalling the curse.

The most famous landlord of the Inn was George Henry Ward, nicknamed ‘Yorky’, he was the licensee from 1894 until his death in 1914. It’s now said his ghost haunted the cellar where he likes to play tricks on the staff and move things around.

This is one choice for the writer as a local pub, good food and creepy tales to go with it? If you are in Nottingham it’s a good place to go.

ye-olde-trip-to-jerusalem

Yes there is such a place, Helltown (not actually called that in reality) is in the Boston Township, Summit County in Ohio. It’s got a vast legend of activity that I will try and go over in this post. Always good to know that there’s a nice cheery name to visit if you are in the area right? Do not get this place confused with Helltown, Richland County.

Boston Village was founded in 1806 and seemingly was quite a prosperous place until the 70’s. A bill was signed to allow the National Park to be made there and they brought several houses with an aim to demolish them, the houses were boarded up for a fair time before being demolished and of course the rumours started.

It was said that the houses were boarded up to conceal a chemical spill, tourists who were unaware of the of the purchase would see nothing but a ghost town. There are still some homes left standing but there were some destroyed in 2008. It is possible that the rumours for the chemical spill came about from a hiker that got ill in 1985, they got ill after touching some rusted drums at nearby Krejci Dump that was abandoned too.

Stanford Road – another road nicknamed ‘The Highway to Hell’, features in the town’s legends. It’s said that a steep hill and sharp drop off on the road lead to a barricade, this is known as The End of the World.

The Boston Cemetery is another local spot for a good old fashioned rumour or two. It is said to be haunted and there have been sightings of a ghostly man, a moving tree and grave robbers! (I’d love to hear more about that last bit if anyone has information.) The locals have had floodlights installed and they do tend to keep a good eye on the place, from all accounts it’s just a cemetery and doesn’t even have rest benches.

Another one is that there was an old school bus abandoned at the Stanford Road near the drop off, it is supposedly another haunted spot but the bus has since been removed. At night there was supposed to be a ghostly figure in the school bus smoking a cigarette. Okay so one of the other tales from this appears to be that the last trip on the bus was made with the kids and some crazy killer who butchered them. More mundanely (Ghosts of Ohio source) it seems that it was just a bus that was outside someone’s house that they lived in until the house was done up. The bus was towed away once it was done.

Suffice to say there’s also rumours of Satanists which were involved with animal sacrifice at a Presbyterian Church – Mother of Sorrows, decorative fascia boards on the church had upside-down crosses carved into them – this is more to do with it as an art feature of gothic revival than actually being satan worship. Again the boards were removed sometime around the 2000’s, and it’s said that there were reports of black hooded figures trying to stop people going through the village at night, blocking their cars in the road. More recently there has said to have been an escaped mental patient roaming the woods looking for victims, seems to be there’s plenty of scope for some new dodgy films!

Mutants? So with the rumours of the chemical spill there is a wonderful rumour of a large mutant python! There has never been a chemical plant in the area, and this particular myth seems to date back to the 1940’s. Not too sure that there is anything more to this one.

This is also known as All Saints’ Eve and Samhain, the celebration is observed around the world on October 31st. It is on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows but some scholars believe that this is part of the older festivals of the dead such as the Celtic Samhain, some say it developed independently.

Samhain itself is mentioned in Irish mythology as it marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or ‘darker half’ of the year. The stock-taking and preparing for the winter ahead, cattle were brought in from the pasture and the livestock slaughtered. In the Gaelic world they would light bonfires and enjoy the rituals involving them, the rituals hint that they might once indicated human sacrifice.

It was considered to be the door to the “otherworld” and opened enough for the souls of the dead to come into the home world. The souls of the dead were said to revisit their old homes, and feasts were held with places of honour for the dead. It is also thought that the idea of wearing a costume came from the idea of of disguising themselves amongst the spirits and fairies. It might also be an extension to the Ireland custom from the 19th Century whewre a man dressed as a white man would lead youths door to door to collect food; by giving them the food the household could expect the good fortune from the Muck Olla.

There are lots of customs and rituals, historical citations about Halloween but this festival also migrated over to North America where it has become a national celebration with some very large parties and the tradition of trick or treat.

There are games and movies galore that incorporate or centralise on the Halloween theme, for instance Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas which was brought into the games series of Kingdom Hearts and saw the hero of the games fighting various troubles there. Halloween the film was an original blockbuster horror that has seen a revival and remake thanks to Rob Zombie. There are so many that I could mention but I could spend an age on it when really right now it’s time to go and stuff myself sick with candy, look at zombie nurses and drink a couple of Bloody Mary’s!

Enjoy your festive season all.