Ghostlore: The Troubled Farmhouse of Longdendale

The valley of Longdendale in the Peak District of England is one of those places where ghostly encounters, haunted houses and supernatural forces are never far away. The following is a retelling of a legend collected by Thomas Middleton, which he called “The Haunted Farm,” and included in his book “Legends of Longdendale.”

The Haunted Farm

Once, an ancient farmhouse stood on the edge of Godley Green in Godley. It was a pleasant location near the turnpike road along a country lane. From its windows looking east, there were good views of beautiful farmlands and beyond to the bleak hills where the ancient church of Mottram stood dark against the sky. At first appearance, especially from a distance, it looked charming, quaint, and homely. For centuries it had been the ancestral home of a family of farmers. Each generation had added to the building resulting in the interior having many rooms of varying sizes, giving it a curiously haphazard, though charming appearance from the outside.

Yet, as this charming house was approached, the quaintness shifted to an “oddness.” Something about it was out of place, or at least in the wrong place, and the dwelling did not seem comfortable in the landscape. Those of a sensitive nature perceived a cold, threatening air that clung around it, giving a vague sense of unhomeliness that was difficult to define, and a feeling of being watched. It was as if the house was a living sentient being with a brooding malign intent. Indeed, that was the sinister and unnerving reputation it had acquired over the long centuries from the superstitious local people.

According to local tradition, long before the arrival of Saint Augustine and the Christian church, before the first building of the farmhouse, the land was a site of pagan worship. The ancient people conducted unholy rituals and practices invoking the old gods to ensure the fertility of the land and people. The old religion had eventually been replaced by the new, resulting in the Christian version of life and death, this world and the next, becoming securely enchained into the minds of the local people.

The Old Dame

Numerous disturbing, unexplained incidents have been seen over the years in the farmhouse. These often involve the unquiet spirit of an old dame who was attributed to possessing all the typical physical characteristics of a witch. These included a hooked nose, a bent back, and a repulsive face. Now, folk can be very unkind towards someone who looks different from what is considered normal, allowing their own superstition and fear to influence their perception of the uniqueness of someone else.

Furthermore, to make matters worse, in the case of the old dame, she was also accused of displaying unusual behaviour, and to add spice to the pot, it was rumoured that hidden in the farmhouse or secretly buried somewhere on the farm was a horde of treasure. This treasure was rumoured to be the cause of her unquiet spirit. After she died, her ghost was seen roaming around the farmhouse and adjoining farmland, appearing to be searching for something. Some say she was looking for the treasure but could never find it. Others say she was the guardian of the treasure, and in her wanderings was checking the rooms, and patrolling the farm to guard against treasure hunters.

A Feeling of Being Watched

Over the centuries, the farmhouse had grown to a considerable size. The additions and extensions to its structure each generation had given it an irregular geometry that formed no standard plan. Inside it was a warren of rooms of varied sizes on four floors connected by creaking stairs, shadowy corridors, and cold passageways with dark corners.

There were probably several family members, servants, and farm hands in residence, and it was regularly visited by friends, neighbours, and people in the farming business. New visitors unfamiliar with the house’s history were often deceived into admiring its charm, warmth, and quaint interior and furnishings, especially from the outside looking in. However, on stepping inside, visitors were disturbed to sense an unhomely atmosphere that permeated certain parts of the house and an unsettling feeling of being watched by invisible eyes. At this realisation, the charm turned to repulsion, the warmth to chill, and a quick exit sought.

Uncanny Incidents

Over the generations, multiple sinister and unexplained events had been reported, and the farmhouse acquired a growing reputation for paranormal activity. Despite this, no one had ever been known to have been harmed other than receiving a terrible fright. Therefore, most of the family ignored such incidents, having grown accustomed to them over the years.

Even so, visitors unused to such incidents often took a less philosophical attitude. Hence, over the decades, an extensive collection of ghastly, sinister, and uncanny events experienced by non-family members continued to grow. These people were of good reputation, sound judgement and calm temperament and the reports were considered reliable.

For example, doors, even locked doors, groaned open as if an invisible being had passed through. In bedrooms, floorboards creaked under unseen feet in the dead hours of the night. People complained, while passing along the stone-flagged passageways of the ground floor, of experiencing a feeling of being watched and followed. Suddenly a voice behind utters their name as a cold hand is lain upon their shoulder. Then, turning fearfully around, they find no one there but are, gripped by an icy coldness and a feeling of blind panic.

Further incidents include doors opening and closing on their own and the sound of someone trudging up the stairs. Sleepers awake by an icy breath blowing upon their faces or someone breathing and whispering close to where they lay their head while asleep. Additionally, others tell how the bed begins to slowly rock, and their coverings are suddenly snatched away. Cold, unseen hands grasp their feet and wrench them from the bed onto the floor. At these times, the pale, ghastly figure of an old woman silently floating through walls or closed doors was often seen.

On occasions in ground floor rooms, furniture mysteriously moved around, and ornaments and portraits changed position. In the kitchen, pots and pans had been seen sliding across the kitchen table, tumbling, and crashing onto the floor on their own accord. Others fly across the kitchen as if thrown by some petulant, invisible hand. Sometimes a peculiar noise was heard, like someone sweeping the stone floor with a stiff brush. All these unusual and unexplained events were blamed upon the old dame.

An Eerie Poltergeist

Another poltergeist incident involved a daughter in the family who was passionately courting a local lad with a reputation for being a philanderer. One evening, to her delight and his great anticipation, he paid her a visit. The two sat before the kitchen fire, wrapped in each other’s arms, whispering sweet nothings, and dreaming of a rosy future together.

Outside, all was calm and quiet; no wind stirred in the branches of the trees or whistled through cracks in doors and windows. The same relaxed state surrounded the two lovers in the kitchen by the fire. But as their passion grew, unexpectedly, a powerful gust of air burst across the kitchen out of nowhere.

An almighty clattering of pots, pans and breaking crockery was heard as they flew from one end of the kitchen to the other. Around the house, the gust sped, knocking books, ornaments and vases from shelves, tables, and ledges, dumping them unceremoniously upon the stone floor with a resounding crash. At that same instant, every door and window in the house flew wide open and crashed back into place.

Shocked out of his amour, the young man jumped to his feet, crying, “For the love of God, what is happening!”

His sweetheart replied, calmly with a smile, “Why it is nothing but the old dame on her wanderings about the house, take no notice. Let us continue where we left off!”

But her panic-stricken lover grabbed his hat and ran out the door, which opened on its own accord, and slammed shut as he bolted through. Without a backward glance, he ran hell for leather over the fields back to his own home. With him gone, the atmosphere in the house reverted to its earlier relaxed state, but the lad never returned. In time she fell in love and married a young man who made a loving husband, and the two were very happy together. Maybe the old dame did her a favour!

A Mother’s Warning

There are also reports of cases where a strange incident at the farm resulted in the righting of a wrong that occurred somewhere else. For example, one month after this incident, the farmer employed a new farmhand who lived on the other side of the village of Charlesworth. As it was a considerable distance to walk every day, the farmer agreed to provide him with lodging in the farmhouse.

The new farmhand worked his first day, impressing his employer with his attitude and industry. Then, after supper, he went to bed, looking forward to a good night’s sleep. The following morning at daybreak, he came down to the kitchen for breakfast, his eyes wide and bloodshot, his face as white as a sheet. The farmer and his wife were shocked at his appearance and asked if he was ill.

He replied,

“I have spent every minute of last night awake, shaking in fear. I have seen a boggart – an apparition – the ghost of an old woman. It was the spirit of my mother who came to visit me. On her deathbed, I had promised to place a stone upon her grave carved with her name.

I am ashamed to admit I have failed to keep that promise. I have been too selfish and greedy to spare the money for her stone. Then, last night, she came to remind me of my promise.

I am sorry for my disrespectful and selfish behaviour. Therefore, I vow I will not rest until I have saved the money to buy a stone for my mother carved with her name and placed on her grave as should have already been done!”

He kept his promise this time, although he had to work hard. He refused to stay in the farmhouse and instead chose to live back in his old home on the other side of Charlesworth.

He needed the money, so he needed his job at the farm. So, every morning, he walked the long journey to his workplace. Then, after a hard day of work, he returned on foot to his home in the evening. To give him credit, he worked hard, and he saved the money, and although it took a long time, he saved enough for a handsome stone with his mother’s name carved upon it, which he had placed upon her grave. So, whether through fear of the supernatural or old-fashioned guilt, something good came from a paranormal incident at the farm.

Exorcism

After this incident, supernatural and unexplained happenings increased. Other farmhands and servants also reported frightening experiences while staying in the farmhouse and left their employment and the farm. This affected the farm business badly as word spread of the sinister incidents in the farmhouse, and the farmer could not get staff for love or money.

At last, in desperation, he sought advice from Reverend James Brooks, pastor of Hyde Chapel, Gee Cross, who was experienced in laying to rest the disturbed spirits of the dead. The Reverend Brookes gathered the help of several devout Christians from around the locality. Under his direction, they spent several nights in the haunted rooms and passages of the farmhouse. With their help, he performed special services and rituals designed to drive out evil or lay unquiet spirits to rest.

Initially, his efforts seemed successful as for over twelve months, no other supernatural phenomenon was reported. However, inexplicable, and alarming events eventually resumed, but these were far fewer for shorter durations, but gradually increased so the exorcism was considered to have failed.

The following reports are from a period beginning in 1880 and reported over the next decade.

The Rocking Chair Incident

One day in the mid-afternoon, the farmer’s wife, with her young son and daughter, remained in the house while her family and staff were working the farm. She had just washed a tub of clothes and taken them out in the yard to hang on the washing line. As she was busy outside pegging out the washing, her children, as children so often do, saw their chance for making mischief. So, with their mother busy outside, they snuck off to open the pantry door, where they knew they would find tasty homemade jam, cakes, and biscuits to feast upon. As they greedily ate the delicacies, getting jam all over their fingers and faces, a sudden almighty crash from the room directly above made them jump in fear and guilt.

Terrified and believing there must be intruders, they dashed out into the yard for the protection of their mother and to warn her of their fears. Seeing the sticky red jam on their face and fingers, their mother realised they had raided the pantry. But seeing the fear in their eyes and having also heard the crash decided to investigate. Being a rustic, no-nonsense woman, she seized the yard broom as a weapon and marched into the house and up the stairs to the room above the pantry, her children following.

Entering the room, she was stunned to see an old rocking chair pitching violently back and forth. It was as if some invisible person in great agitation was sitting in it. She grew even more alarmed as the chair’s motion continued unabated, and although she tried, she could not stop it. So, she sent her children to find help, and they alerted one of the farm labourers. He laughed at their tale but told them to wait outside while he investigated.

Entering the room, he found the farmer’s wife bewildered and at a loss at what to do as the chair rocked violently up and down. Although he was as fit and strong as any local man and no coward, he was highly superstitious. Seeing the pitching of the rocking chair with no one appearing to be seated in it, he was paralysed with fear, too terrified to do anything. At last, unable to think of anything better, the farmer’s wife sat in the rocking chair, finally stopping its motion.

According to local tradition, the rocking chair belonged to the old dame who had been very fond of it. She was rumoured to have died while rocking in the chair in that room, and it was claimed that her unquiet spirit had set the chair in motion.

An Uncanny Garden Plot

Although the inside of the farmhouse had an eerie reputation, strange things also happened outside. The garden was fertile and highly productive except for a mysterious patch of brown soil, which seemed as good as the rest. Strangely, no plant ever grew in this patch, and an uncanny and eerie feeling emanated from it. In the hottest summer, anyone standing on that patch experienced coldness seeping into their feet that crept into their mind. Yet, inexplicably, in winter, it never froze over or turned white with frost or snow.

Earlier owners had tried to cultivate this spot but to no avail. Despite everything they tried, not a single blade of grass, weed or flower would grow. Yet, take the soil and place it in a pot away from that patch of ground, and plants thrived. Primroses, tulips, daffodils, and all the garden flowers were planted but failed to grow in that sterile plot. Vegetables and fruits were also tried but were also unsuccessful. The best gardeners using the best fertilisers and tending this patch with all skill and care did not get a solitary shoot from that soil in that location. But place the earth in a pot away from the patch, and plants thrived. It was most mysterious!

Eventually, one gardener dug down deeper than the others and, to his shock and horror, unearthed numerous bones that proved to be of human origin. This led to a theory that it was not the fertility of the soil that was the problem. Instead, by the presence of the bones, it was guessed that some act of evil had contaminated the patch and emanated up through the ground, counteracting the soil’s natural fertility. Furthermore, the bones belonged to a victim who had been wickedly murdered and buried under the plot. Alternatively, the bones had belonged to a person who had been filled with wickedness while alive. That wickedness possessed the patch and accounted for the coldness and unnatural attributes of the plot.

The Black Cat

Another strange report tells how the wife of one of the farmers received an uncanny omen of the death of one of her family. Her brother worked on the farm and had fallen ill, and she had taken it on herself to nurse him.

One day she had been forced to leave him unattended while she walked to Gee Cross on urgent farm business. Worrying about her brother, she walked quickly to Gee Cross, completed the farm business, and set off for home. While on her way, she was startled when a black cat walked across her path. It sat down, gazing at her for a few seconds with a knowing look, then jumped up and ran off. Around the locality where she lived black cats were seen as omens of misfortune. Nevertheless, she was more concerned with her brother’s health than black cats and pushed the incident from her mind and hurried on.

To her alarm, what looked like the same black cat again crossed her path, sat, looked at her, and ran off. Thinking it very coincidental, she continued to hurry back to her brother. She had not gone far when to her disbelief, the black cat reappeared, repeating the same behaviour. She tried but could not catch it, so putting all thoughts about black cats aside, she resumed her journey home.

On reaching the narrow lane that ran to her home, she found her mother had walked up from the farmhouse to meet her. It was a lovely summer evening, warm and still, yet comfortable. There was no murmur or movement in the air, and no sound of bird, animal, or anything else could be heard near or far. The mother and daughter walked along in silence, pleasantly lost in their thoughts, enjoying the evening.

The lane was bounded here and there by hawthorn hedges. As they walked, bushes to their right-hand side suddenly began to rustle and shake violently and inexplicably. Then, as they stared in shock, they saw a figure dressed all in white flowing robes leave the farmhouse door and glide along the other side of the hedge.

Realising something had happened at the farmhouse, they hurried home. On entering, the farmer’s wife ran upstairs to the sickbed of her brother only to find to her sorrow, that he had just expired.

Laid To Rest

The incidents mentioned here are just a small selection of those that have been claimed to have witnessed at the farmhouse during its long history.  It would be comforting to think that the unquiet soul of the old dame had at lasd found peace or whatever restless spirits or disturbed presence that had lurked in its confines had passed back to where it belonged.

©16/11/2022 zteve t evans


References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright zteve t evans November16th, 2022


Faustian Pacts: The Devil and the Doctor

The People of Longdendale

According to tradition there has always been a high interest in the magic arts among the dwellers of Longdendale. There is an old saying referring to the people of Longendale as being too bad for Heaven and too clever for Hell. The following is a retelling of a folktale from Legends of Longdendale, a collection of folktales from the area, by Thomas C. Middleton, that allegedly explains its origin. 

A Conjuror of High Degree

A rhyme by an unknown author tells a little of one such dweller,

“Long years ago, so runs the tale,

A doctor dwelt in Longdendale;”

“Well versed in mystic lore was he—

A conjuror of high degree;

He read the stars that deck the sky,

And told their rede of mystery.” (1)

From the verse we see that the dweller was a doctor who was skilled in magic, mysticism and astrology.  He was able to predict and understand the mysteries of the movements of the stars and how they would affect us here on Earth.  In his day he was someone who possessed great knowledge and power and these attributes are great gifts if used wisely and for the benefit of humanity.  

To be fair he did use his skills to the benefit of humankind. However,  power corrupts and even those with great knowledge and wisdom there can arise the desire to increase their blessings.  This is exactly what happened to our good doctor.  He began to yearn for more power and deeper knowledge of the secrets of the universe to enable him to do more good in the world.  

Power Corrupts

To begin with he put  aside this desire realizing that there are some things that are best left unknown.  However, once the tiniest yearning for power manifests in a person without the utmost care it can grow silently inside until it takes over the reason.  Again, this is exactly what happened to our good doctor and it drove him to take a daring chance and make a deal with the Devil.

He had delved into  books of ancient lore in search of the secret of increasing his abilities.  After many years of long, lonely study and dark and dangerous research he came to the conclusion there was but one way he could achieve his dream. He knew others had tried it and each one failed and  forced to suffer the most appalling consequences.   Nevertheless, he was hooked and  could not put  aside the temptation and at last he decided he must take the terrible chance. 

The Ultimate Test 

Therefore, he prepared himself for the ultimate test of his power and knowledge which would be to raise the Devil.   He had thought long and hard about it and put it off time and time again but it was the only way.  No one else could give him the power and knowledge he craved.  He knew the price Satan would demand but did not want to pay it.  Nevertheless, the craving for power made him think he could reach a more amicable agreement with the devil and he decided it was worth a try.Therefore he set about making  his preparations. He learnt the right spell.  Collected all the materials he required and readied his equipment in preparation.  

The Midnight Hour

With everything prepared and the approach of the midnight hour the doctor entered his chamber of magical experimentation.  After making special signs and uttering a brief incantation he set  up a lamp  upon the table and over a flame he hung a small cauldron.  Into the cauldron he poured certain liquids of dark properties and dropped various powders and items of dubious qualities.  Some of these items were too gruesome to name.  The powders and liquids were of undoubtedly odious origin possibly even human but he alone knew the true source of these materials.

Raising the Devil

With his brew bubbling he then uttered further incantations.  He continued to repeat the spell over and over while beseeching the powers of darkness for their attention.   He continued like this for over an hour with no sign any dark power or spirit had heard.  However, he persisted and at last his persistence was rewarded. 

The flame beneath the cauldron sprang and flared red then extinguished but the mixture within the cauldron continued to bubble.  Soon a vile vapor rose thick and fast and spread rapidly throughout the chamber.  In the center of the chamber there hovered a thick and unwholesome fog which was darker and denser than the rest.

The Devil’s Answer

Inside the fog the vapors were whirling and twisting forming a dark terrifying figure.  From that form there came a terrible voice that spoke in whispers that cut through the fabric of reality shaking and terrifying the doctor. “Who dares summon Satan from Hell? Step forward and speak. Tell me thy heart’s desire!”

The doctor was almost overcome with fear and awe but managing to master himself stepped boldly forward and said, “It is I that has summoned you for, I would have certain powers that you and only you, can endow.”

The Devil looked into his eyes and knew immediately what powers he yearned for.  

The Price

“Indeed, I can  bestow thee with these powers but you know there is a price to be paid.  Are you willing to pay it?” sneered the Devil.

The doctor faltered and quailed for a moment but quickly mastered himself and asked,  “Name your price and we shall see!”

“Ha! You know the price!” whispered the Devil, “There is only one price and the terms are not negotiable.  Agree that price and I will grant you the powers of your heart’s desire.  Be warned I shall return seven years from today and call upon you to deliver up your very soul to me.  Do you agree?”

The Contract

“Surely that is too high a price,” replied the doctor.

“It is the only price and the terms are not negotiable.  What do you say?” demanded the Devil.

The doctor hesitated realizing trying to bargain with him was hopeless  and said, “Then I must pay that price. I agree to the contract and the price!”

The Devil produced two sheets of paper.  With his long, sharp fingernail, he slit the wrist of the doctor causing blood to seep forth. Dipping his quill into the oozing wound he wrote the contract out on both pages using the doctor’s blood for ink.  With that same quill and ink the doctor signed.  With a look of extreme satisfaction, Satan placed the contract in his cloak and declared,  “Thy wish is granted, enjoy to the full what time you have left it will not be long enough.  Be sure seven years from now I shall return for my fee!”

There was a peal of thunder and a flash of lightning and the Devil was gone.  All that was left behind was the doctor’s copy of the  contract written and signed  in his own blood and the mocking echo of the Devil’s laughter.

Repentance

The Devil was true to his word and from the beginning of the agreement the doctor received all the powers he had yearned for.  He used them to further his own knowledge and skills but instead  of using them to benefit humankind he used it for his own pleasure and leisure.  His life was everything he wanted it to be with power, knowledge, riches and great acclaim.

However, time passed and after a couple of years he still thought he had a long time to enjoy his powers.  Three years passed and then four and he realized that time was passing too quickly.  Five years passed and then six and he was now getting nervous.  Despite his power and knowledge he knew he could not hold or alter time.   Therefore he began to repent his contract with the Devil realizing he had been foolish and selfish and searched for ways of avoiding paying the price.  Seven years passed and he knew he had to come up with something quick but could not think what.   

A Crazy Chance

At last he came up with something, it was but a glimmer of a crazy chance yet it was a crazy chance that might just work.  He consulted his books on astrology and charted the movement of the stars and came to the conclusion it could work.  That afternoon he purchased the fastest and best horse in Longdendale. That evening, as he knew would, Satan appeared before him in his chamber of magic. Satan duly arrived with his usual theatrics but the doctor remained calm as he faced him.

“Are you ready to fulfill the contract,” demanded the Devil.

“Indeed I am, but I am wondering if you are not open to a little wager first?” he asked nonchalantly knowing the Devil loved to gamble.

“Hmm, now just what have you in mind?” asked the Devil his interest aroused.

“I thought maybe a race on horseback to the crossroads. It is one mile to the crossroads and the first to pass the center wins.  If you win you take my soul.  If I win I keep it and you leave me in peace.  But … perhaps, you are not up to such a gamble and I have the fastest horse in Longdendale,” taunted the doctor gently.

Indeed, Satan had a fine black horse that was faster and stronger than any ordinary horse. He loved to race it and he loved to gamble, though it never really was a gamble because he would always win.  He would lay any odds on his horse winning against any challenger.

“A race it is, be outside on horseback in 30 minutes and the race will begin!”  cried the devil excited at the prospect.

The Challenge

The doctor saddled his new horse and waited on the road. Thirty minutes later the Devil appeared by his side mounted on a magnificent black stallion the like never before had been seen on earth. 

“Ah! A truly magnificent steed, but surely you are breaking the spirit of our race by riding an unearthly steed.  No earthly horse could surely match one born and bred in your realm, the challenge cannot go ahead.  You best take my soul here and now!” said the doctor.

The Devil had been looking forward to the race and was disappointed.  He could rightly have taken the doctor’s soul there and then but believed he would have it after the race anyway.  He so loved to race and gamble but rarely got the chance and his face dropped.

The doctor, seeing the look of disappointment on his adversary’s face said,  “Tell you what! How about if you give me a half mile start?”

To begin with  the Devil was not having it.  After some very subtle provocation and a play to his vanity from the doctor he accepted.

“You realize, it is not my normal practice to allow the terms of the contract to be changed, especially when I can rightfully claim payment?  Never before have I given a single minute’s grace when collecting my payment, let alone listen to further proposals to extend the period in the hope of saving their souls.  I have never before accepted any change in terms or payment.  Still, today I fancy some sport and will make an exception in this case.  Therefore, I accept. Let the race begin as soon as you are ready.  The signal shall be a thunderbolt!” said the Devil.

Race With the Devil

So while the Devil remained at the start line the doctor trotted a half mile ahead.  As soon as the Devil saw the doctor had reached the half mile he let fly a thunderbolt that flashed and crashed mightily and the race began.

The Devil spurred his mount forward using all speed while the doctor, determined not to be complacent by the half mile start, spurred his own horse on.  This was just as well for the Devil set off at unbelievable speed and was fast gaining on the doctor.  He reached the half mile point with the doctor not quite making the three quarter of a mile point.  

The Devil was now excited and enjoying himself. Uttering wild shouts and cries he spurred his horse forward, second by second gaining on the doctor.  His opponent, his face grim and set and ever looking over his shoulder encouraged his own steed forward.

With less than a quarter of a mile to go the Devil was but a few yards behind and whooping wildly while the doctor, casting anxious glances back, continued to press his own steed. He desperately wanted to beat the Devil to the ford where a fast flowing stream of water flowed over the road but the chances of this were now slim. 

As the Devil came up fast behind the doctor’s mount he reached forward laughing with glee and grabbed the tail of the doctor’s horse giving it a viscous twist.  The terrified horse cried out in shock and pain and  surged forward.  

Running Water

The Devil kept a grip on the poor beast’s tail trying with all his might to hold it back.  They were approaching the ford where a stream of running water flowed over the road.  Had he seen this, things might have turned out different, but the Devil, being intent on holding on to his challenger’s horse’s tail did not see it.  The terrified beast surged forward again and its tail broke and the horse free from the Devil’s grip took one mighty leap clear over the running steam of water.

The Laws of Magic

The Devil was forced to pull up abruptly.  By the laws of magic and sorcery which even the Devil is obliged to adhere to he could not cross running water in pursuit of a victim.   This law applies to all witches, evil spirits and the like and it must be obeyed.  The doctor raced on to the crossroads to win the race and keep his soul.

In mockery of the Devil the doctor turned and waved joyously at his adversary who was fuming with rage. He now saw how the doctor had tricked and goaded him into the race with this outcome in mind.  He howled with rage at his own gullibility and the doctor’s cleverness.

Too Bad For Heaven, Too Clever For Hell!

Nevertheless, despite his anger there was nothing he could do except ride off on the wings of a storm back to Hell in disgust.  He swore an oath that no mortal from Longdendale would ever again be allowed inside his domain for they were too bad for Heaven and too clever  for Hell! 

© 17/12/2020 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright December 17th, zteve t evans

English Folklore: The Werewolf of Longdendale

Werewolf – Copyright 28/20/2020 zteve t evans

Longdendale

Presented here is a retelling of an old folktale collected by Thomas C. Middleton and published in his book “Legends of Longdendale.”  The story centers around Longdendale, a long valley in the Peak District, Derbyshire and is set in the time of King Henry II, after he had bestowed the monks of Basingwerke Abbey in Wales the nearby town of Glossop.  Longendale is situated just north of Glossop.  In earlier times it was part of the Royal Forest of the Peak and home to wolves, boar, deer and smaller animals.

The Abbots Chair

The tale begins at a place called the Abbot’s Chair, which originally was a large stone cross situated on a highway known as the Monk’s Road.  All that can be seen today is the stone socket which held the cross.  According to this tale the Abbot of Basingwerke Abbey held court and received the rents and tithes of his tenants in the area while sitting on the stone.  He also heard the petitions and grievances of the people of his estates and other such administration.

A Tale of Woe

On one such occasion there came to him an old widow full of misery and woe shedding bitter tears. Tearfully, she told the Abbot that she lived in fear of a very powerful witch who was skilled in the black arts and sorcery.  This evil witch had caused the death of her husband and all of her children and was now seeking to murder her.  The widow told him she was all alone in the world and had no one she could go to for help  and shelter.  Furthermore, her enemy was a cunning shape-shifter who could change her physical appearance into that of any animal or bird to commit crimes and escape capture and punishment.  She could also change herself to resemble any man, woman or child she desired that may suit her own evil purposes.

The Abbot’s Curse

The Abbot being a good and kindly man was outraged at the plight of the old widow and very angry with the witch.  He distributed bread and alms to her to ease her poverty and then laid a terrible curse upon the wicked old witch who persecuted her, 

“The eye of God that sees all shall see this wicked woman in whatever form she may be wearing here and now.  From this moment on she will remain in that form never being able to revert to human or other form until the time justice is done and she has paid for her sins!”

He declared that he foresaw the wrath of heaven falling upon the old witch and foretold she would face a cruel death shortly.

The Royal Hunt

On that very morning at that exact time the witch had transformed into a werewolf and was out in the forest seeking victims.   Moreover, King Henry II was visiting the Baron of Ashton-under-Lyne accompanied by his son, Prince Henry.  These three along with the Baron of Aston, the Lord of Longdendale and other nobles and dignitaries were out hunting in the Royal Forest. 

It was the practice of the Royal hunting party to hunt every corner and every nook and cranny of the forest.  Beaters were sent into the densest parts of the forest to drive the game into the paths of the hunters.  They were unaware of the alleged crimes of the witch and were not seeking her  but this practice increased the chances of her being driven before them.

Her shape-shifting abilities had allowed her in the past to simply transform into human form and send pursuers on a wild goose chase looking for her. Other times she would transform into a bird and fly away. 

And so as the Abbot was uttering his curse the Royal Hunt was out in the forest.  The star of the day was the Lord of Longdendale who slew an exceedingly large and ferocious wild boar after it had given a fierce battle.

Werewolf Attack

The young Prince Henry desperately wanted to match the feat of the Lord of Longdendale to prove his own valor.  He went off alone and sought out the wildest and remotest part of the forest hoping to find some worthy test of his courage and skill.  As he was roaming through the forest he was suddenly attacked by the werewolf and was almost killed.  Fortunately his trusty steed sensed the impending attack and veered sharply to the right as the werewolf sprang.  This allowed Prince Henry to push away the attacker and with his spear deliver a wound in its side.  He thrust hard, blood spurted and the beast wailed a savage but almost human cry.  In its desperation it managed to seize the spear and bite the weapon in two with its great jaws.  The prince quickly drew his long hunting knife to defend himself as best he could.

With the beast uttering unearthly but almost human-like cries it grasped his legs trying to pull him from his horse.  Quickly Henry stabbed the beast in its shoulder but in its frenzy it succeeded in dragging him to the ground.  

With his knife stuck in his foe’s shoulder Henry managed to grasp the beast around the throat.  Although he fought hard and bravely he could feel his own strength ebbing as he wrestled cheek to jowl with the attacker.  

He thought it was his end but as he was slipping into death the Baron of Ashton, who had heard the commotion arrived.  Seeing the dire peril of the king’s son he immediately sprang to his aid and engaged the werewolf in a deadly fight that was long and vicious. Finally, he managed to deliver a killing blow to its skull.  

The Baron of Ashton received great praise and honor not just from Henry but from the king and the rest of the Royal hunting party when they caught up. The body of the slain beast was given as a trophy to the baron who returned with it to his castle.  As the beast was being prepared for exhibition it was cut open and the heads of three babies that it had eaten earlier were found in its stomach.

This again caused much talk about the ferocity and evil nature of the beast.  Prince Henry emphasized again and again it’s savagery and the wild human-like cries it had uttered as it had attacked him.  

The Forester’s Testimony

On hearing the news of the slaying of this savage beast a forester stepped forward to give a most strange testimony to the lord’s and ladies saying, 

“If it may please my lords I have something to say that may be of interest to you concerning this strange and wild beast.As one of his Royal Foresters it was my duty to seek out and put a stop to those who dare to poach my king’s game.Having concealed myself in thick bushes I lay quietly in wait  hoping to catch a certain poacher in the act.  As I lay waiting I was startled by strange and ghoulish wailing.  On creeping through the forest to its source I was astounded to see a werewolf tearing and clawing at its very own skin.  It was as if it desired to shed it quickly such as a person would undress themselves.It’s cries were both hideous and pitiful and I thought it sounded like a twisted version of an old woman’s voice.  Human or other, it was a cracked and hideous cry that it uttered. I am afraid that on seeing and hearing this my courage failed.  I fled as fast and as far as I could from the frightful thing before its attention should fall upon myself.”

Then one by one other witnesses appeared who bore similar testimony concerning the beast.

The Abbot

That same evening a banquet was held in the hall of the Baron with the king, prince and the rest of the Royal hunting party in attendance.  Also invited was the good Abbot of Basingwerke Abbey  who was informed of the strange events of the day and inspected the body of the slain beast.   The Abbot had absolute faith that the werewolf was the wicked witch he had cursed earlier and evidence was brought that showed this to be true and she was never seen again.   The good Abbot took the old widow under his protection and from then on she lived the rest of her life in safety and comfort.

© 28/10/2020 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright 28, October, 2020 zteve t evans