Ghosts In Worcestershire.
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Your readers will be surprised, more or less, according to their experience in such matters, to be informed that I have detected the following ghost-stories as still lingering in this county, in which, no doubt, they have been long current :—At Beoley, about half a century ago, the ghost of a reputed murderer managed to keep undisputed possession of a certain house, until a conclave of the clergy chained him to the bed of the Red Sea for fifty years. When that term was expired, the ghost reappeared, two or three years ago, and more than ever frightened the natives of the said house, slamming the doors, and racing through the ceilings. The inmates, however, took heart, and chased him, by stamping on the floor, from one room to another, under the impression that, could they once drive him to a trap-door opening into the cheese-room (for which, if the ghost happens to be a rat, he has a very natural penchant), he would disappear for a season. The beadle of the parish, who also combined with that office the scarcely less important one of pig-sticker, declared to the writer that he dared not go by the house now in the morning till the sun was up. (It was an ancient superstition that evil spirits flew away at cock-crowing.)
The Droitwich Canal, in passing through Saiwarpe, is said to have cut off a slice of a large old half-timbered structure, supposed to have been formerly a mansion-house; and in revenge for this act of mutilation, the ghost of a former occupier revisits his old haunts, affrights the domestics, and may be seen on dark nights, with deprecatory aspect, to glide down the embankment, and suicidally commit him-self to the waters below.
The Little Shelsey people will have it that the court-house in that parish is haunted, and that a Lady Lightfoot, who was said to have been imprisoned and murdered in the house, comes at night and drives a carriage and four fiery horses round some old rooms that are unoccupied, and that her ladyship's screams are sometimes heard over the whole court. She has likewise been seen to drive her team into the moat, when the whole disappeared, the water smoking like a furnace.
At Leigh a spectre known as " Old Coles " formerly appeared ; and at dead of night, with vis insana, would drive a coach and four down a part of the road, dash over the great barn at Leigh Court, and then cool the fiery nostrils of his steeds in the waters of the Term. Mr. Jabez Allies also records that this perturbed spirit was at length laid in a neighbouring pool by twelve parsons, at twelve at night, by the light of an inch of candle; and as he was not to rise again until the candle was quite burnt out, it was therefore thrown into the pool, and to make all sure, the pool was filled up ;
"And peaceful ever after slept
Many of the old manor-houses of Worcestershire have similar superstitions. At Huddington there is an avenue of trees called "Lady Winter's Walk," where the lady of Thomas Winter, who was obliged to conceal himself on account of the share he had in the Gunpowder Plot, was in the habit of awaiting her husband's further visits ; and here the headless spectre of her ladyship is still seen occasionally pacing up and down beneath the sombre shade of these aged trees. A headless female also appears at Crowle Brook, by which it would seem that the poor heart-broken lady sometimes ex-tended her visits.
At Astwood Court, once the seat of the Culpepers, was an old oak table removed from the side of the wainscot in 1816, respecting which tradition declares that it bore the impress of the fingers of a lady ghost, who, probably tired of appearing to no purpose, at last struck the table in a rage, and vanished for ever. But the ghost was also in the habit of walking from the house to " the cloven pear-tree."
At Holt Castle it was not long ago believed by the servants that a mysterious lady in black occasionally walked at dead of night in a certain passage near to the attics ; and likewise that the cellar had been occupied by an ill-favoured bird like a raven, which would some-times pounce upon any person who ventured to approach a cask for drink, and having extinguished the candle with a horrid flapping of wings, would leave its victim prostrated with fright. A solution has been given to this legend, however, which would imply a little cunning selfishness on the part of the domestics who had the care of the ale and cider depôt.
[There are other narratives of apparitions and ghosts, but none of them appear worth reprinting. In the volume for 1752, pp. 173, 174, is an account of a voice being heard which foretold a death. In 1762, pp. 43, 81, is related the Cock-Lane Ghost and its exposure ; the same year, p. 64, quotes one of Dr. Plot's narratives from his History of Oxfordshire; and p. 114 gives an account of an apparition in Kent. In 1768, p. 503, is a list of some prophecies from Sir Thomas Brown's Miscellaneous Tracts. In 1795, part i., p. 370, is a letter on " Modern Prophecies." In 1801, part ii., p. 1 01, some particulars are given of Naylor's Ghost (see ante, pp. i85 190). In 1812, part ii., p. r r, an account is given of an apparition of huntsmen to a Mr. Barlow.]