As you know, I’ve been reading out ghost stories from viewers of the Anne Boleyn Files and YouTube Channel in the lead up to Halloween and you can enjoy these in the playlist below:
I was also sent some longer ones by Lorna, which I just couldn’t read out due to their length and my health issues (pinched nerve and sitting still don’t go together!), so I thought I’d publish them here for your enjoyment….
Halloween is a time for trick and treating and telling stories of ghosts, goblins and witches and all manner of things that go bump in the night.
Some of these stories may indeed be local legends retold over and over again through the generations, each person adding their own little twist to it every year.
Every town and city all over the world has their own little myth or legend and although most of them make a good story to tell to help pass the time on a long cold winter evening over a cosy log fire.
However some of these myths and legends may sometimes have a grain of truth hidden within them.
The medieval chronicler William of Malmesbury mentioned once such local legend in his writing dated around 1120. It was called the “Witch of Berkeley” in Gloucestershire.
This is my bonfire story about William’s story of 1065.
The night sky lit up with a flash of lightening followed by the answering roar of thunder. The rain rattled on the leads in the window frames.
The wind buffeted against the wall and howled down the chimney sending little puffs of smoke and spurts of flame into the room.
“Tis a foul night to be a dying, Father,” said Harding.
“Tis so, my son,” said Eadnoth.
Isolda Marchel lay on a fur covered bed, she knew death was coming for her for her pet Jackdaw Malachi had told her that morning she would be dead within in seven days and it was then she took to her bed.
Malachi had perched on her bedstead and watched with his beady eyes as her life was draining away knowing too that his life would end with her own.
Isolda called out as another roar of thunder tore through the sky and once or twice she thought she had heard her name being whispered on the wind.
Isolda heard the door open and looked up and saw the last of her beloved children had come to her. Of the seven children borne to her just three remained. She remembered the joy she felt as her children were born into this world and equally the sorrow she felt as they were taken from her.
Her last child, a daughter, had been taken from the world mere moments after entering it. Long enough for the midwife to baptise her but she had gone to her grave nameless.
She saw her dutiful daughters Adela and Edith praying silently at the foot of the bed with tears streaming down their faces.
Just then a blast of chill wind blew open the windows and Malachi squawked loudly. She once again heard her name been called much louder this time, Harding and Eadnoth rushed to shut the windows and fasten the shutters.
Isolda cried out as she felt as if there were fingers digging into her flesh and trying to pull her from her bed.
Adela rushed to the bedside and said, “Hush, Mother, it’s just the wind.”
Isolda shook her head and said, “No, it isn’t just wind! They are coming for me I know it.”
Harding and Eadnoth finally got the last of the shutters fastened although the wind was fierce outside and the shutters groaned as the wind blew against them. Lightening flashed through the sky and the thunder shook the house, sending logs from the fire skittering onto the cold stone floor. Harding quickly returned the logs to the fire and they flared up. For a brief moment she thought she saw a pair of fiery hands reaching for her and she shivered with fright.
Eadnoth said, “This be a Devil’s storm, my son, for none but the Devil could conjure and send such a storm as this.”
Harding nodded and said, “It would seem so, Father.”
Isolda’s breathing became ragged and Eadnoth sent Harding out into the black of night to fetch a priest.
Adela said “Mother, don’t leave us”
Isolda smiled and whispered “My time has come, nothing can change that Adela,” and drifted off into sleep.
When she awoke she saw that Harding had returned bringing with him the Berkeley family priest.
She smiled weakly as he said, “It’s time to confess your sins, my child, and ask for mercy through Christ.”
Isolda laughed and started coughing, Adela quickly poured some wine and held it to her mother’s lips.
Isolda drank deeply from the cup and said, “God turned his back on me when I was child. Only the Devil could grant me what I wanted.”
The priest said, “God will forgive your sins no matter how great.”
Isolda laughed and said “Nay, he will not, for my soul belongs to the Devil.”
“What nonsense is this, child? Said the Priest.
Isolda replied “Even now his hellions are calling me to join them,” and laughed.
“Mother, you need to rest” said Adela and led the priest over to the fire and adde,d “She’s delirious; she doesn’t know what she is saying.”
“Hmm, so it would seem.” Said the priest.
Once again Isolda’s eyes began to close and saw herself as a child alone in the ruins of her home, her mother and father had been cut down by Viking raiders. Her mother had hidden her away when the Viking raiders stormed through the village raping and pillaging everything they could. She had put her hands over her ears as she heard the screams of her mother and bitten her lips till they bled to stop herself from crying out. She didn’t know how many days or nights had passed until hunger drove her out of her hiding place. She would never forget seeing her mother laying in a pool of blood or the look on her mother’s chalk white face, contorted in to a look of horror and pain. Tears flowed down her face as she grabbed a woollen shawl and covered her mother’s mutilated body.
She looked around for something to eat, there was little to nothing left in the house as the Viking warriors had stolen everything of value including food, but she did find a small loaf of stale bread and some ale. She ate very little of the bread and drank even less of the ale for it tasted sour.
Finally she ventured outside and what gasped in horror at the sight that met her. Amongst the smoking ruins of the village she saw dead animals and headless bodies everywhere. Her beloved father had been cut limb from limb, and his head, like the other men of the village, had been stuck on a pole. All the woman had been stripped of their dignity, violated and had been hung upside down and their throats cut. Their hair now stiff with blood seemingly swept the floor as the breeze moved their bodies to and fro. The children had been put in wicker cages and burned alive, their blackened bones still gave out wisps of smoke and the stench of death was overpowering the thought entered her head, “Did the men of her village witness the horror that was inflicted on their wives and children before they were killed?”
The only sign of life within the village were the hungry crows and flies that were gorging themselves on the bodies of her friends and family
She knew that there was nothing for her here now and taking only what would be of use to her, she walked away from the village she had called home for the last eight winters. She wandered aimlessly through the countryside and saw that many villages had suffered the same fate as her own.
She foraged for food often finding nothing but a few berries to help relive the hunger she felt. She cried bitterly every night, remembering the fate of her mother and her friends. She was forced to sleep under a hedge or in a ditch waking at the slightest noise thinking the Vikings were coming for her. She was utterly alone there was there no-one left now who would care for her and give her a place to call home once again.
After one cold night where she had spent the night shivering under a hedge she was awoken by the raucous cries of a coal black raven. She saw in his beak he carried a mouse and felt annoyance as it at least would eat that day. She hadn’t eaten since the night before and that had only been a few blackberries.
The raven took flight as she got up and Isolda began yet another exodus towards an uncertain fate.
As the sun began to set she remembered that her mother had always told her that she should have faith in God, and that He would guide her path. But Isolda but felt that even God had forsaken her.
It was at that moment just as the sun disappeared beyond the horizon, she felt nothing but despair and lost all faith in humanity. Finally footsore and heartbroken she curled up at the base of mighty oak tree and waited for death to claim her.
When Isolda opened her eyes, she saw that she was in a fur covered bed with a blazing fire in the hearth.
By the fire, a white haired woman sat dozing in a chair and perched on the crossbeam on the roof she saw a coal black raven staring at her with his shiny black eyes. He squawked loudly waking the old woman who turned and saw that Isolda was awake and smiled.
She rose and came over to the bed; Isolda said weakly “Where am I?”
The old woman smiled and said, “You are safe child, safe.”
She quickly made a posset for Isolda to drink and Isolda watched as the old woman ladled some pottage into a bowl for her. Her stomach growled and she ate greedily. The last thing she had, had to eat was a few berries before curling up under the oak tree.
After she had eaten she said, “How did I get here?”
The old woman said “I found you close to death under the sacred oak and brought you to my cottage on my sledge. You have Arian to thank for saving your life, as he told me where you were. I have been looking for you for many days child since Arian told me what happened in your village.” And reached up and stroke the chest of the raven who was now perched on her shoulder.
Isolda looked at the old woman with a puzzled expression on her face and the old woman laughed, “Arian tells me many things, you must rest girl we will talk more tomorrow,” she said.
When Isolda eyes opened she saw a different part of her life come into view, she was now a young woman of Eighteen winters. The old woman who Isolda called Mother Esma had over the years taught her the ways of a witch and between them they had scratched a living selling cures and simples to the village folk who had come to them at their humble little cottage on the edge of woods.
But this idyll was not to last as Mother Esma began to sicken and despite Isolda’s best efforts Mother Esma got weaker and weaker Arian kept a vigil over his mistress.
Isolda remembered Mother Esma last words to her.
“My child, the time has come for Arian and I to die, for just as my life ebbing away so is his. I ask just one thing of you. Arian and I are to be laid to rest in by the sacred oak on the night of the full moon two days hence.
On that night you must offer your soul to the Devil so that I may live again in the next life. You will know if my master the Devil has granted my wish as He, will send forth a familiar from the flames of the fire and He will grant your every desire.”
Shortly after, Mother Esma died and Arian let out a squawk and fell lifeless to the floor. Isolda buried Mother Esma with Arian by her side just as she had asked.
How well she remembered the night of the full moon and her promise to the Devil that in return for her soul all she asked was great wealth. As dawn approached a sleek black jackdaw flew out of the embers of the dying bonfire calling her name and she knew that the Devil had accepted her pledge.
Malachi had served her loyally just as Arian had Mother Esma, and Isolda became very wealthy. Many people asked her for love potions or a spell to cure barren women or for a good harvest.
She had met Eadnold one summer afternoon whilst she had been walking by the river looking for Mandrake. This was no chance encounter as Malachi had told her a few days before she was to meet a man who would become her husband and with passing of seven moons they would marry. Eadnoth was the constable of Berkeley Manor and she saw the young and handsome Eadnoth once more. She smiled when he turned and began walking towards her, but the smile died on her lips as she saw the once handsome Eadnoth transform into the Devil and started to scream in fear.
Isolda woke up with a scream and everyone scrambled to their feet. Harding reached the bed and said, “What is it, Mother?”
Isolda watched as Edith opened the shutters and pushed open the windows allowing the cool air to clear the room of the stale smoke, Isolda was sure she could smell brimstone and sulphur in the air and said, “He has come for me”.
Isolda clutched her son and said “I want you to do something for me, death is close at hand and I shall be dead before nightfall.”
Harding nodded and said, “I shall do anything you ask, mother.”
Isolda smiled weakly and said, “When I am dead wrap my body in the skin of a freshly killed deer. Let my body lie with Malachi for even now his life will end with mine and he has served me loyally, within a stone coffin about which fasten three stout chains and locks. You and your sisters must keep vigil around my coffin for three days and nights. If my coffin remains intact then you can bury me within the churchyard, and my body shall at least be free from the curse of hellfire.”
Harding looked puzzled at his mother and she added, “Promise me, Harding, for it is the only way my body shall rest in peace”
Harding nodded and whispered “I promise, Mother, I promise.”
The Priest approached the bed and said “My child, you must seek for mercy through Christ, for your soul’s sake.
Isolda laughed weakly and said, “It’s too late for my soul, for it belongs to the Devil. Let God find mercy in my body.”
“I shall pray for you, my child” said the priest.
Isolda looked around the room one last time she had done well for she had indeed been given great wealth just as she had asked. Eadnoth and her children would never know the poverty she had suffered as a child. Her home was comfortable and Eadnoth had gained much wealth and property from his time as constable of Berkeley manor. Her only regret was that she would never see her children married and have children of their own. But she was sure Eadnoth would in time find good matches for them.
Her breathing became more and more ragged and Harding knew that time was short.
Isolda smiled and said weakly, “Remember your promise, Harding.” And gripping the hand of her beloved son just one last time she breathed her last. As Isolda’s eyes closed, Malachi let out a great screech and he too fell lifeless to the floor, just as Arian had all those years before.
Harding kept his promise to his mother and she was wrapped in a deer hide with Malachi by her side inside a stone coffin. Three chains were wrapped around the coffin and secured by three stout padlocks.
For two nights her children watched and saw and heard the creatures from hell asking their mother to follow them and rip the chains from her coffin. However they failed to rip the third chain for it was forged from gold and cooled in holy water.
On the third night a mighty storm blew up, Harding and his sisters were frightened as the lightening flashed and the thunder roared. All around them they saw creatures from hell trying to break the third chain but as they touched it fire seemed to burn them and they screamed in terror.
Suddenly they heard the sound of hoof beats, faintly at first but growing louder and also heard the sound of moans coming from within their mother’s coffin. Sounds of demonic laughter came from all around them and still the sound of hoof beats became louder and louder.
Suddenly they saw a black horse surrounded by flames with glowing red eyes and covered in spikes jump over the churchyard wall and stop in front of them.
The Devil with a flaming cloak looked at them with flashing eyes and laughed and called out “Come, woman, for you belong to me.”
They heard their mother voice reply “I cannot, Lord, for I am bound.”
The Devil laughed again and said, “Then I shall take you to hell myself,” and he reached down and tore the third chain from the coffin. Isolda’s children heard their mother scream as the Devil threw aside the lid of the coffin.
They watched in horror as the Devil reached inside and picked up the living body of their mother and threw her onto the spikes of the horse and ride off into the night. They heard a blood curdling screech and saw Malachi rise up into the air and follow the Devil’s hellfire horse into the black of night.
The creatures of hell slowly disappeared leaving Isolda’s children shivering in fear and staring at their mother’s empty coffin which glowed as if it was on fire. The storm which had been so fierce slowly faded away but Harding heard his mother’s screams on the air until dawn’s light chased away the dark terror of night.
Here is another legend from Lorna which is based very close to where she used to live:
The legend of the Raggedstone Hill.
It concerns a Monk of the Little Malvern Priory; he was guilty of having an affair with a woman in the nearby village of Welland.
The head abbot punished the monk by making him crawl up the side of Raggedstone Hill every morning. This, the monk did day after day until one morning he went mad, perhaps from knowing that the punishment given was very unjust, considering that the head Abbot was guilty of the same crime.
One morning as the monk completed his punishment he stood up, stretched forth his arms and said, “Let all those who fall within the shadow of the Raggedstone, die as untimely as I do,” and fell down dead.
This curse has allegedly claimed the lives of Anne Boleyn, as it’s believed she stayed in the manor house by the River Severn in Hanley Castle. (It was called Castle Hanley in Anne Boleyn’s time). Thomas Becket was another supposed victim of this curse, as were, George, Duke of Clarence, and his brother Richard (Richard III) as well as their nephew Edward V.
Oliver Cromwell was also said to fall under this curse as he and his men were encamped in nearby Upton upon Severn during the Civil War.
The Head abbot was not spared from this curse however as it’s believed the death of this monk laid heavily on his conscious and in the end he went mad himself.
There are a few variations to this story but they all end with the curse laid on the Raggedstone.
It’s also believed that on cold clear mornings at dawn the hapless monk is seen crawling up the hill still doing his penance.
A little closer to where I lived as a child and a road I have walked many times there is monk (or as some believe a druid) who wanders down the road and then stops for a few moments before turning and floats of down a flight of stairs and glides down the footpath and into the garden of a house at the bottom of the stairs. He then is seen to spin slowly around before disappearing. The woman who lived in the house had seen him on many occasions and could set her clock by him as he would walk past her kitchen window at 6pm every evening and disappeared just before he got to her shed.
I will say that the footpath is very eerie by day as well as night and strangely there didn’t seem to be any sound, such as cars going by or birdsong and I didn’t hang about whenever I used it. I never saw him but my mother did frequently.
A coach and four horses is also seen mainly on moonlit nights riding hell for leather, as the saying goes, along the bridle path before seemingly disappearing into the side of the hill.
It’s believed that the coach crashed into a car and everyone on board including the horses and those in the car were killed.
The tower, or folly as it should be rightly called, was built in the 18th century and sits within a deer park and nature reserve. It is sometimes referred to as the jewel of the Cotswolds. From the top of the tower you can see over 16 counties.
The legend here concerns two builders who were called to make repairs on the tower, both of them got talking about local history and one builder mentioned that in the days of yore the land was frequented by worshippers of Pan who was the Pagan God of all things wild, shepherds and their flocks and of the mountains. And as such many people didn’t travel anywhere near the hill or surrounding woodland, as there would have been back then, at night though fear of meeting Pan and stealing their soul.
As it goes I did know a few people who refused to travel anywhere near Fish Hill at night for just that same reason.
Anyway the second builder laughed at his story and said that there was no such thing as Pan etc.
They carried on working but as the morning rolled into afternoon a storm blew up and they decided to call it a day as it wouldn’t be safe working in such inclement weather.
The first builder left the second builder to clear up and lock up and would see him in the morning at 8.30 am as usual.
As he drove away, the storm seemed to gather force and the first builder was glad to be going home.
The next morning the first builder arrived back to the tower and saw the second builders van in exactly the same spot as it was the evening before, due to the fact that underneath the van was dry.
Thinking it a little strange, he got his tools out of the back of his van and made his way to the tower. As he approached, he saw a bundle of what he thought were rags on the ground, but it soon became clear that it wasn’t as he saw a white arm lying by the side of them. He ran over and found the body of the second builder lying face up with a look of sheer terror frozen on his face.
The first builder ran for help (this happened prior to the days of mobile phones) and soon the tower was awash with the police and other emergency services.
The cause of death was a very strange one as the second builder’s injuries could only been consistent with someone being 30ft and being thrown 30ft away from the tower.
Did Pan wreak revenge?
Well the first builder seemed to think so as he refused to work there again and someone else was employed to finish the repairs.
I believe the official cause of death was put down as being struck by lightning, but would a person who had been hit by lightning, have such a look of horror on his face?
It’s believed by some, that on stormy nights the death of the second builder is replayed over and over again.
Lorna asks, does anyone else have any local legends about where they live now or where they lived as a child?
Perhaps you heard your grandparents tell you some local legends or told you a story which has been handed down through the family for generations?
Would you like to share them here?
Thank you to Lorna for these spooky stories!