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Friday, 11 December 2015

DRACULA`S GUEST









This is not one of my usual posts and of course it has nothing to do with Lincolnshire...However, I always wanted to record an audio version of a classic Victorian ghost story. So just because its Christmas here is my rendition,( with added sound effects) of  "Dracula's`s Guest" by Bram Stoker


Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Figure in the Underpass



Well folks, another Halloween is here and it is time for my latest post... However, this is not one of my usual tales about ghosts and phantoms from the distant past. Instead I will tell of a very odd experience that happened to me several years ago... 

It began simply enough, on a cold rainy night in the winter of 2013. In those days I lived in the Cincil Bank area of Lincoln, a run down industrial part of the city. Its only saving grace was the near by South Common, where I took my dog Alfie for his nightly walks.

I usually walked Alfie around 10pm. However, on this particular night it was later, close to mid-night. It started to rain heavily, so we sheltered under the near by Pelham Bridge, a concrete flyover for the busy A15.

This  is an area best avoided at night, as it is often frequented by drunks and all round dubious characters. However, the bridge provided at least some shelter from the storm and I reasoned that Alfie, a Bear Coat Shar pei, ( a breed used in ancient China as hunting/fighting dogs) would deter any would be trouble maker.

As Alfie sniffed around one of the concrete pillars of the bridge I heard heavy footsteps behind me.

I turned to see a figure running purposely towards us. Fearing the worst, I fashioned the set of keys in my pocket into a crude knuckle duster and stood my ground. But when the figure got to within some fifty feet of me it came to an abrupt halt and stood completely motionless... That is when I noticed something very odd.



By the light of the street lamps and at such close distance, I should have been able to see the persons face and clothing etc. But what I saw was a black featureless shape that looked one dimensional. Like a cardboard cut out...Strangely Alfie, who is always wary when any one approached us appeared not to have noticed the figure...He continued sniffing happily around the concrete pillars.

Unsure of what to do next. I started walking away at a deliberately slow pace, pretending to ignore who ever (or whatever) it was.
I turned my head for just a second and when I looked again the figure had gone!!!

There was no way any one could have vanished so quickly. 
I reasoned that the figure had stepped behind one of the concrete pillars at the base of the bridge.

At the thought of being stalked, a surge of anger rose within me and I decided to confront this joker face to face... I walked briskly to where I had last seen the figure and checked behind every concrete pillar, but still nothing... It was puzzling...It was as if it had literally vanished into thin air.

Well that is my odd experience...I can only add that in recent years several bodies have been found in the vicinity of the bridge, and I have always sensed a foreboding atmosphere about the place...As for the mysterious figure?...A person? a trick of the light? an apparition?..Who knows...?
   


Pelham Bridge, Lincoln.. The scene of my strange encounter



Monday, 31 August 2015

The Werewolf of Dogdyke




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The folklore of Lincolnshire abounds with many stories of ghosts, Devil's, and Hobgoblins. But one of strangest tales has to be the following from Langrick Fen, near Dogdyke.

 The story concerns a young archaeologist who while digging in the peat made a grisly discovery. He unearthed a skeleton that at first appeared to be human, until a closer inspection revealed the skull attached to the remains resembled that of a very large dog, or wolf. Puzzled, he took the skeleton back to his cottage where he placed it on the kitchen table. After a careful examination, the archaeologist concluded that the bizarre basilisk was nothing more than a prop, possibly lost or discarded by some travelling freak show. 

That night, as he slept he was awakened by the sound of something scratching at the front door of the cottage. Cautiously, he crept downstairs to investigate and on entering the kitchen, he was horrified to see a hideous face half-wolf, half-human starring in at him through the kitchen window. With an angry snarl, the creature smashed the widow and a hideous clawed hand reached in towards him. With a scream of terror, the young man fled to another room and wasted no time in barricading every stick of furniture against the door.

There he spent a terrifying vigil, listening to the creature padding around the kitchen, smashing everything in its path. At last with the first light of dawn all fell silent. But several hours elapsed before he dared to unbar the door and hesitantly venture into the kitchen. There was no sign of his nocturnal visitor. However, on the carpet of smashed crockery and broken furniture lay the bones of the skeleton scattered all over the floor. He wasted no time in collecting the cursed remains and hastily reburied them where he had found them.... Never again was he troubled by his supernatural visitor. 

The story of the werewolf of Dogdyke was first recounted as far as I am aware, in 1922 by Christopher Marlow in "Legends Of The Fenland People" It is remarkably similar to the welsh legend "The Werewolf of Merioneth" 

Which story is the original?... Hard to say... The folklore of old like the modern urban myth can be transposed to other places with subtle alteration for local colour.   






Friday, 7 August 2015

The Shaking Grave

In Laughton Forest, near Gainsborough, is the grave of one Dicky Rainforth. Rainforth was a local fellmonger, who in the late 18th century, made his living on Scotton Common (now part of Laughton Forest) by killing diseased livestock and selling their skins. When trade was bad, Dicky was not averse to poisoning the cattle of local farmers to increase his yield. Eventually his scheme was rumbled and he found himself pursued by a lynch mob. He fled to a barn in near by East Ferry and there in a panic he hanged himself from one of the oak beams.

Having committed the crime of  felo de se (suicide), Dicky could not be buried in consecrated ground. Instead he was taken to Laughton Forest and buried beneath a slab between two fir trees.

Now, if by chance you find yourself walking in Laughton Forest, be very careful  where you tread. It is said that if you stand on Dickey`s grave, the ground beneath your feet will start to shake and his ghost will rise up to greet you.   


Incidentally, the owner of the barn kept the rope with which Dicky hanged himself as a gruesome souvenir until his daughter, who considered keeping it to be in bad taste, threw it away.

Until as recently as the early part of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for revellers to pause at Laughton crossroads to drink the health of Dicky Rainforth. 




Sunday, 26 July 2015

Legends and Folklore of the Wolds



The chalk uplands of the Lincolnshire Wolds is an area comprised of low hills and steep valleys, stretching forty-five miles from north to south and some fifteen miles in width. Its picturesque landscape has been declared a designated area of natural beauty, and the tiny hamlets nestling in its vales and hollows are steeped in legend and folklore.


Above: The brooding Sky's of the Lincolnshire Wolds


A prime example is the hamlet of Maidenwell situated some 6 miles (10 km) south from the market town of Louth. Legend has it that the hamlet got its name when a Roundhead solider threw an unfortunate girl down a well. Although this sounds darkly amusing it is unlikely to be true as there are references to the name dating back to the 13th century. 

Maidenwell Hall, an impressively large country house, was once said to have been a hiding place for Charles Edward Stuart, commonly known as the young pretender, or Bonnie Prince Charlie. The story goes that in 1747, after landing at Theddlethorpe, the fugitive Prince was taken by a fisherman named Grimes to Maidenwell Hall, then owned by a family who were supporters of the Jacobite cause. However, the prince insisted on travelling to Lincoln to attend a masked ball despite the concerns of his hosts that he would be recognised. It is thought that those attending the ball guessed his true identity when he refused to remove his mask, but no one reported him to the authorities. However, fearing capture, the prince made haste to Saltfleet where he set sail for the continent. On arriving safely in France he told his confederates of his near capture in Lincoln, but he was not believed, until he mentioned that a chandelier at the ball had been broken. Later correspondence with persons who had attended the ball confirmed this to be true.



 Bonnie Prince Charlie, the young pretender to the thrones of Britain, Scotland and France. 


On a visit to Maidenwell Hall some 17 years ago, I made the acquaintance of the then owner, Mrs Clarke, a grand lady in her 90s who had lived in the house for most of her life.  She told me the following amusing story that concerned two local farm workers who encountered a terrified boy on the road one evening. The boy told them to stay clear of a nearby ford, on account of a headless phantom he had just seen walking its misty banks. The men laughed at the boy’s ridicules’ claim, but seeing that he had been genuinely terrified, by something, they decided to investigate. The swift dusk of autumn closed in as the group descended the narrow track leading to the ford. What they saw there killed their laughter stone dead: An ill-defined figure was making its way through the mist towards them. It was the shape of a man, or most of one, for the friends could not discern that most crucial part of the anatomy-the head: The dreadful apparition acknowledged their presence with a wave of its hand and moved purposely towards the men, who in their panic slipped on the muddy bank and fell into the water in an attempt to escape the clutches of the fiend. Imagine the surprise of the less than intrepid ghost hunters when the phantom gave an all too human laugh and said “Orl right boys, you look like you sin a ghoast”  The figure emerged from the gloom revelling itself to be a local farmer.  Years earlier the man had met with a near fatal accident. While pitching hay from the top of a cart he had lost his footing and fell headlong to the ground breaking his neck. Obviously he survived the ordeal but as a consequence his neck had been horribly twisted, causing his head to rest on his shoulders at an unnatural angle. The man`s unfortunate deformity coupled with the mist and fading light had from a distance created the illusion that he was headless. The two men of course were the butt of many a joke after that. 

Mrs Clarke went on to mention the hamlets resident ghost-a spectral coach and four driven by a coachman whose head rests on a box besides his spectral body.  She knew of only one person who had claimed to have seen it. However, the person in question was known to imbibe regularly and was often seen wandering the lanes rather worse for wear.



Ostlers Lane, Maidenwell. Said to be haunted by a headless coachman



The nearby hamlet of Ruckland has one of Lincolnshire`s smallest churches, dedicated to St Olave (Olaf) who was credited as being the first Christian king of Norway. Legend has it that Deepdale Furze, a mile north-east from the village, is haunted by a ghost called the “shag boy” or “hog boy” This is undoubtedly a corruption of the Norse "haugh bui" the tenant of the haugh, how, or tomb-that is a ghost, or goblin. A similar story is attached to “Orgarth Hill” a few miles south of Louth. Here a cloaked figure on a shaggy horse would appear without warning to other riders and so terrify their horses that they would bolt down the hill.

Above: The ghostly rider of Orgarth Hill


The tiny church of St Olave, Ruckland


In the late 1920`s, Farforth House in the parish of Maidenwell, was the scene of a mysterious haunting. It was here that the then occupants, a Mrs Johnson and her daughter saw on a number of occasions a lady dressed in grey “with a big white collar, like that of a Quaker, gliding past the east window and then round past two larger south-facing windows and enter through the front door.” The daughter was once brave enough to follow the ghost into the cellar of the house where she saw it disappear, but she was not frightened by the apparition and felt only sympathy for it, not fear.

The bedroom above the east window where the ghost was seen had a large stain on the floor “as of blood” that no amount of scrubbing could remove. This may have been connected to a former owner who after the death of his wife in 1855, became deeply depressed and shut himself away in one of the rooms where he drank excessively.

One night, whilst heavily intoxicated he dreamt that he was in Hell, where he saw his wife sitting in a strange looking arm chair, next to a group of devils who were busy fashioning another one just like it. The devils told him that the chair was for him and when it was finished they would come back for him. He was so unnerved by this dreadful vision that he gave up strong drink and left the house vowing never to return, He died in London soon afterwards and his body was brought back to Farforth in a carriage pulled by six black horse for burial. When I last visited Farforth House, I spoke to the present owners who were previously unaware of their home`s strange history. They assured me that they had experienced nothing untoward in the house during their time there.  

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Elusive Spring-Heeled-Jack




Of all the colourful villains of the Victorian era, none is stranger than the entity known as Spring-Heeled-Jack. The first reported sightings of this sinister figure came in 1837 when three people were viciously attacked in separate incidents on the fogbound commons and lonely lanes of suburban London.

Victims described their attackers as having "blazing red eyes" "talon-like claws"," a mouth spitting blue flames" wearing "a long flowing cloak and a tight-fitting white costume like oil skin, with the ability to vault high walls and rooftops with a superhuman leap. Some suggested he achieved his prodigious leaps by wearing springs on his boots, thus giving rise to the name Spring-Heeled Jack.

Jack`s notoriety captured the imaginations of Victorian Londoners and the fear he inspired equalled that of another Jack, who would later terrorise the Whitechapel district of the capital. As sightings increased, the antics of the elusive attacker became the subject of Penny Dreadfuls, booklets of a lurid fiction aimed at a newly literate readership, and melodramas performed in many fleapit theatres found at that time. It would not  be long however, before jack`s reign of terror spread to other parts of the country including Lincolnshire where his arrival in the city prompted the following news paper report in November 1877:

"For some time now Newport, near Lincoln, has been disturbed by a man dressed in a sheepskin or something of the kind. The man has springs on his boots and can jump a height of fifteen feet. The other night he jumped on a college, got into a window by the roof and so frightened the ladies that one has not yet recovered."


(Above) A dramatic illustration of Jack jumping on Newport Arch  Lincoln.



(Above/Below) The Newport district of Lincoln



In the market town of Boston, there were reports of Jack being seen leaping over the Bargate Drain, and in Scunthorpe a man of similar description was said to vault over backyard walls to steal from clothes lines. However, Jack`s most memorable appearance in the county was in the market town of Caistor where according to a report from the Lincolnshire Times, Christmas 1877:

"A strange being appeared in the neighbourhood of the town and created little short of a panic by jumping on the roof of a cottage and running over house-tops. Crowds assembled as news of the appearance got about, and the people watched him jump from the ground onto a roof of an old Roman building. Here he was fired at by a gun. But with superhuman activity he bounded from one part of the town to the other, some of his leaps being the height of twenty feet and more. As he ran along the walls of the new barracks, he was again fired at but as before, without any apparent effect. All attempts to corner him and prove if he were spirit or human failed."

Jack`s brief but memorable visit to the county inspired a young musician from Lincoln called Jon Cooke to compose the "Spring Heeled-Jack Gallop" described in the Lincolnshire Chronicle as "an effective and well-marked gallop, very easy to play and pleasant to trip to on the light fantastic toe."

So who or what was Spring-Heeled Jack? Explanations as to his identity have been numerous and bizarre. The most popular theory is that he was the Marquis of Waterford, a nobleman renowned for his cruelty and elaborate practical jokes. Of course this did not explain the many sightings of Spring-Heeled Jack continuing countrywide years after the Marquis` death. Some have suggested that jack was an insane circus acrobat, a space alien, or even an escaped kangaroo. However, I suspect the truth to be far less fanciful.

The phrase Spring-Heeled Jack was a generic term used in the nineteenth century to describe any agile criminal or prankster. There are news paper reports from the time describing known petty thieves as Spring- Heeled Jack because of their ability to outwit the law. No doubt the original 1837 prankster sparked sporadic outbreaks of copycat attacks across the country resulting in not one, but many Spring-Heeled Jacks.


(Above, below) Illustrations of Spring Heeled Jack, from Victorian Penny Dreadfuls





(Above) The Marquis of Waterford. Some have suggested that he was behind the original Spring Heeled Jack outbreaks due to his wild reputation and love of elaborate pranks. For example in 1837 the Marquis and his friends after a wild night drinking in Melton Mowbray, painted several houses and statues in the town bright red. Those who tried to intervene also got a dowsing in red paint. It is likely that the incident gave rise to the well known phrase "paint the town red" still used today to describe a wild night out.






Friday, 2 January 2015

The Phantom Rider and Other Ghosts of Cadeby Hall




Cadeby Hall is situated some eight miles north-west of the market town of Louth and lies in a valley between the old Roman road known as Barton Street and the foot of the Wolds. Built from Ancaster stone, parts of its structure are said to date back to Tudor times and have been added to over the centuries. Not too long ago, this magnificent old building stood derelict and neglected. Fortunately in recent years it has been restored to its former glory. Like many old and historical buildings, Cadeby Hall is said to have its fair share of ghosts.

One of the apparitions associated with the hall takes the form of a spectral coach and four that drives up to the house on a night when a relative of the owner is about to die. The phenomenon was witnessed most notably in the early part of the last century when the then owner of the hall, was woken in the early hours by the sound of coach wheels crunching on the gravel drive. In the early dawn light he saw “a coach that was very old. Probably one of the earliest coaches made, and of bare wood, unpainted, with a black-clad coachman sitting on the box in front.” The apparition then faded into the misty dawn and the owner, who was familiar with the legend, was not surprised to learn the next day that a relative of his had died.

 Another reportedly strange occurrence is that all the doors in the house, no matter how well secured the night before were almost always found open the next morning. There are secret passages under the house said to be the relics of a monastery built on the site during the reign of King Stephen, in which strange sounds and the rattling of chains have been heard. A more tangible reminder of these ancient times is the appearance of a ghostly hooded monk that haunts a terrace appropriately known as “Monks Walk”


Another story tells how a bereaved mother put a curse on the house when her seven-year old son went missing in the grounds. Despite an extensive search the boy was never found. However, Years later workmen discovered his skeleton in a hollow tree, and the mothers curse said none of the owners eldest son`s would inherit cadeby Hall.




You may think that Cadeby Hall has its fair share of ghosts, more than enough in fact, but as you will see Cadeby Hall is a supernatural glutton for punishment.



It had rained without remission throughout the night and in the small hours of that November morning in 1980; there was no indication that the new day was to be any different. The foul weather and early hours had conspired to keep the roads empty of all but essential traffic. An example of this was the lorry conveying twenty tons of wetmix towards Louth. The man behind its wheel yawned and switched on the radio. He had flicked through every station and the late night cocktail of bland music and banal chat had almost sent him into torpor. He was almost pleased to exchange it for the perpetual hiss of rain and the comforting sound of the windscreen wipers as they swept away torrents of water and occasional leaves. A driver of some experience, he was undaunted by the climate and unsociable hours. This was a run he had made countless times before.

 The B1431 Laceby to Louth road was an unremarkable even boring road he thought as he half noticed the North Thoresby turn off. Not long after this, he had negotiated a familiar bend in the road and was straightening the lorry again when something appeared in his headlights. In panic he braked abruptly but the vehicle went into a skid. He could only watch helplessly the imminent collision of his lorry with what appeared to be a horse bearing a clocked figure. In the frozen eternity before horse and lorry connected, the hapless driver could only close his eyes and brace himself for the sickening impact. The lorry ground to a halt and he opened his eyes again. Horse and rider appeared to have vanished beneath the cab of his vehicle. The horrified driver leapt out expecting a scene of carnage to greet his eyes. He raced to the front of the cab to see… Nothing! The twin beams of the headlights revealed an empty road swept by slamming rain. Fearing the worst, he fumbled for the torch he kept in his cab, fetched it, turned it on and looked under the lorry and searched the grass verge. Finding nothing he was about to check the other side of the road when the torch light fell upon what appeared to be a gravestone. It was inscribed; he crouched down to read the following:

“This stone marks the spot where George Nelson of Cadeby Hall was killed January 16th, 1885 aged 16 yrs.”

The man was back in his cab and on his way even before the curse he involuntary uttered was dying on his lips. He has not been the only motorist to have observed the ghostly re-enactment of a tragedy over the years and even pedestrians walking the road have reported hearing the drumming of horse’s hooves in the vicinity of the memorial stone. Local history maintains that George Nelson did indeed die on that very spot when he was thrown from his horse. So a word of warning to those of an equestrian nature who might find themselves riding their horse along this stretch of road in the small hours. If the animal should bolt and throw you, then don`t be surprised not to receive any help from passing motorists.