Monster Monday: Vampire of Croglin Grange

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Vampire of Croglin Grange.

Illustration from Varney the Vampire (1847)
Illustration from Varney the Vampire (1847)

The Vampire of Croglin Grange is a legend from Cumberland, England. The events supposedly took place in the 1870s. Croglin Grange was an estate near a churchyard. The family that owned it moved into a bigger home and rented it to two brothers and a sister–Edward, Michael, and Amelia Cranswell.

One summer evening, Amelia was alone in her room when she saw a figure at her window and was so terrified she couldn’t scream. The creature had glowing demonic eyes and long talon-like fingers it used to pick out the lead between the panes of glass in the window. When it was able to remove a pane, it reached through and unlatched the window and came into the room. The creature grabbed Amelia and bit her on the neck. She was then able to scream and alert her brothers.

They came rushing into the room after breaking down the door and chased the creature off, saving their sister, who nonetheless lost a great deal of blood. After some time spent in Switzerland helping Amelia recover, the three siblings returned, vowing to take revenge on the creature.

One evening shortly after their return, the creature again picked the lead from between the window panes and entered Amelia’s room, but the brothers were hiding in wait. They both shot at the creature, which howled in pain and fled back through the window.

The next they they followed the trail of blood to the churchyard. In the crypt, they discovered a number of upturned coffins. The only one intact contained a corpse wrapped in a moldering shroud with a fresh bullet wound in its leg. They dragged the body out of the crypt into the daylight and burned it. After that the creature never returned.

Monster Monday: Vampire of Alnwick Castle

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Vampire of Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle by J.M.W. Turner (1829)
Alnwick Castle by J.M.W. Turner (1829)

Alnwick Castle is a castle in England in Northumberland. It was built in 1096 by the Baron of Alnwick, Yves de Vescy. It is currently the home of the Duke of Northumberland. The castle has been used for the setting of The Black Adder films as well as standing in for parts of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

However, in the thirteenth century, the English historian William of Newburgh wrote about an incident that took place early in the castle’s history. A retainer of the lord of the manor, who was a wicked man but protected from punishment because he had the lord’s favor, suspected his wife of infidelity. One night he hid on the roof above his bedchamber and found his wife with another man. Enraged, he fell and was fatally wounded. When the priest arrived, the man refused to confess his sins and died cursing his wife.

He was buried, but shortly thereafter people reported seeing him walking around the castle and the neighboring village at night. Several people were murdered, found with slashed throats. At the same time, a plague spread across the countryside, and people began to sicken and die. The revenant’s reign of terror continued until a priest led a group of people on Palm Sunday to he man’s grave. They dug up the body and discovered it was so engorged with blood that the blood oozed out. They took the body out of the village and burned it. After that there were no more unexplained deaths, and the plague subsided.

 

 

Monster Monday: Herne the Hunter

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about Herne the Hunter.

Herne the Hunter by George Cruikshank (1843)
Herne the Hunter by George Cruikshank (1843)

Herne the Hunter is a ghost that haunts Windsor Forest in the County of Berkshire in England. He is described as a man dressed in black with antlers on his head who glows with an eerie light. He usually appears in the winter at midnight riding a horse through the forest, carrying a horn and accompanied by demonic dogs and a horned owl. Sometimes he also appears under a special oak tree.

People report hearing strange cries and howls coming from the forest at night. Herne the Hunter can cause livestock in the area to go barren and cows’ and sheep’s milk to dry up. It is said he collects the souls of those who get lost in the woods or who are hanged for poaching.

Some people associate him with the pre-Christian “Horned God” and the tradition of the Wild Hunt. Others consider him a local figure. William Shakespeare mentions him in the Merry Wives of Windsor as the keeper of the forest during the reign of Richard II who disgraced himself in some way and hanged himself from an oak tree. As punishment, he haunts the forest. Others say he is a hunter from the reign of Henry VIII who was caught poaching in the forest.

 

 

Monster Monday: Hexham Heads

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Hexham Heads.

Drawings of the Hexham Heads by Mary Hurrell
Drawings of the Hexham Heads by Mary Hurrell

The Hexham Heads are a set of allegedly Celtic artifacts found in 1971 by two brothers in the garden of their home in Hexham, a town in Northumberland in England. Immediately, the family reported strange phenomena, including glass bottles being thrown by an unseen force, the heads moving location seemingly on their own, and sightings of a strange half-man, half-animal creature in the house.

The heads were turned over to an expert in Celtic artifacts, who reported the same strange phenomena, including sightings of the half-animal creature, as well as cold drafts in her house and doors opening and closing on their own. Once the heads where removed, the paranormal activity stopped.

There is evidence that the Hexham Heads were a hoax and that their creation was much more recent, but there is no way to verify their age because they were lost and their current whereabouts are unknown.

 

 

Monster Monday: Hairy Hands

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Hairy Hands.

The Beardown Man monolith and the often bleak landscape of Dartmoor
The Beardown Man monolith and the bleak landscape of Dartmoor

The legend of the Hairy Hands began in the early part of the twentieth century on a lonely stretch of road in Dartmoor, England. After an unusual number of motor vehicle accidents in the area, a story emerged of a pair of ghostly hands that grabbed the handlebars of motorcycles or the steering wheels of cars and jerked violently so that vehicles ran off the road. These incidents usually occurred at night.

In another incident, a woman camping on the moor woke up to find a hairy hand trying to gain access to her camper. It retreated after she made the sign of the Cross.

There is no known origin of the legend, though some attribute it to the ghost of an unknown man who died in an automobile accident on the road. Others say it is the ghost of an escaped prisoner from Dartmoor Prison who died on the moor, because the first victim was a doctor who worked at the prison. Of course, the locals say that it’s simply people who are unfamiliar with the narrow country road at night where there are no lights on the moor.

Monster Monday: Brownie

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Brownie.

Brownies Reading a Book by Palmer Cox (1905)
Brownies Reading a Book by Palmer Cox (1905)

A brownie is a fairy spirit in folklore from Scotland and northern England. Brownies live in houses or barns and help with household chores, usually for small gifts of food left out for them before the household goes to bed. Sometimes, they play tricks like rearranging furniture, but generally they are seen as benign. They are especially fond of honey and porridge. Other popular gifts are milk, cream, corn, or even small amounts of beer.

They will leave a house if they do not receive any gifts or if they’re mistreated or insulted. A house the brownies have abandoned is regarded as unlucky for its residents, even residents who move in after the brownies have left and had nothing to do with driving them away,

Brownies do most of their work at night and don’t like to be seen by humans, though they can sometimes be heard. During the day they will stay in unused parts of the house. Since they don’t like to appear to humans, there is some disagreement on what they look like, but some say that they appear as short, plump old men. Though the don’t associate with humans, they are sociable among their own kind and often gather together.

One part of the legend is that if a brownie is presented with new clothes, he will disappear and never come back. In this regard folklore about brownies served as the basis for the house elves in the Harry Potter series.

Monster Monday: Knockers and Bluecaps

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about Knockers and Bluecaps.

An Old Mine Entrance, 1887
An Old Mine Entrance, 1887

Knockers and bluecaps are both spirits that haunt mines. Knockers are from Cornish and Welsh folklore. Bluecaps are from English and Scottish folklore, especially the Borderlands area. Both types of spirits are known for the knocking sounds they make on the mine walls.

In some instances, they are malevolent, the knocking being the sound of them weakening mineshaft walls or supports to create cave-ins. Most of the time, however, they are seen as benevolent spirits, if somewhat mischievous. They are known to steal unattended tools, but they also knock to warn miners of cave-ins so that they have time to get out. The also sometimes knock to indicate the presence of veins of valuable ores and metals. The more intense the knocking, the richer the vein. Cornish miners had a tradition of leaving the last crumb of their characteristic pasties for the knockers.

When Welsh and Cornish miners immigrated to the United States, they brought the stories of the knockers with them. In the United States, the term “tommyknockers” became popular.

Monster Monday: Redcap

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Redcap.

Hermitage Castle in 1814
Hermitage Castle in 1814

A redcap is a bloodthirsty goblin or faerie from the folklore of the border region between Scotland and England. The redcap resides and ruined castles. He captures and murders wayward travelers and catches their blood in his cap, dying it red, hence the name. According to the legend, if the blood ever dries out, the redcap will die, and therefore it must keep killing.

A redcap looks like  a small old man with a long white beard, large red eyes, a mouth full of sharp teeth, and long fingers that end in sharp claws. He wears iron boots and caries an iron pike.

In some legends, the redcap kills his victims by throwing boulders off the castle tower. In others, he kills with his teeth and claws or with his pike. He moves incredibly fast, and no one can outrun him. The only hope of escaping a redcap is to recite a Bible verse, which will cause him to shriek and disappear.

A famous redcap reportedly tormented the countryside around Hermitage Castle in Roxburghshire, Scotland.

 

Monster Monday: Black Dog

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about Black Dogs.

Hound of the Baskervilles
Illustration of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sidney Paget

Black dogs are common apparitions in the folklore of the British Isles.  Almost always they are malevolent. They are often associated with the Devil or with the death of a particularly bad person. Though there are hundreds of different legends, some of the more well-known ones include:

The Barghest is a giant ghostly black dog seen in around Yorkshire that preys on lonesome travelers. The Barghest is said to appear at the death of a prominent person. In other legends, it foretells a person’s death by laying across the threshold of the person’s house.

Black Shuck is a spectral dog with large eyes and teeth that haunts East Anglia, particularly graveyards and crossroads. It is said that a person who sees the Black Shuck will die within a year.

The Yeth Hound inhabits Devonshire and is said to be a giant headless dog that roams the woods.

On the Isle of Man the Moddy Dhoo (“black dog” in Manx) haunts the area around Peel Castle. It is said that anyone who sees the dog will die soon after.

Though the origins of these legends are unclear, dogs have long been associated with death in European folklore. The legends also may be related to stories about mythological dogs such as the Cŵn Annwn from Welsh mythology, who were said to guard the underworld and were portents of death.

A famous examples of a black dog in literature is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was inspired by the legends. Another example comes from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. When the ship Demeter runs aground in a storm near the English coastal town of Whitby, Dracula leaps ashore in the form of a giant black dog.

Vampire Panics: The Highgate Vampire

English: A picture of Highgate Cemetery - East
A picture of Highgate Cemetery – East (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the course of my research for The Brides, I’ve collected quite a few stories of real-life vampire panics. I thought I’d share a few of them, starting with one that’s quite recent, the Highgate Vampire.

 Highgate Cemetery is located in northern London. Established in the early nineteenth century, it is the final resting place of several prominent Victorian-era individuals, including Karl Marx. By the late 1960s, though, it had fallen victim to neglect. Most of the graves were overgrown, and many had been vandalized. In some cases, the graves actually lay open, exposing the bodies inside. Apparently the local young people routinely snuck into the cemetery at night and, on a lark, photographed themselves dancing with the remains.

I am not making this up.

One night in 1969 a group of young people including a man named David Farrant, spent the night in the cemetery. Farrant later wrote a letter to a local paper, the Hampstead and Highgate Express, reporting that he saw a  “grey figure” while he was there, which he thought was something supernatural.

Others jumped on the report, claiming to have seen things in the cemetery, too. The sightings included a tall man in a hat, a spectral cyclist, a lady in white, a leering face, voices, and church bells.

Notice how none of this has anything to do with a vampire?

Highgate Cemetery, London, England
Highgate Cemetery, London, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enter a man named Sean Manchester. The Express, always the paragon of journalistic integrity, reported him as stating a “King Vampire of the Undead” rested in Highgate Cemetery, a Wallachian nobleman who had been brought to England in a coffin. Manchester even stated a sleepwalking woman had led him to the vampire’s lair. At this point it is important to note that Manchester basically cribbed the plot of Dracula.

Despite the fact that he had absolutely no evidence for anything he said Manchester’s story gained notoriety, and both he and Farrant were interviewed on television, where they both took the opportunity to up the ante, stating that they had each found dead animals in the cemetery and that the “vampiric” activity was stirred up by Satan worshipers performing rituals among the graves.

Let’s sum up the “vampiric” activity to date. People saw things. At night. In an area that was not well-lit.

On Friday, March 13, 1970, the two men, by now arch-rivals, announced a great “vampire hunt” that saw dozens of “vampire hunters” swarm the cemetery. The local authorities proved ineffectual in stopping them.  Shockingly enough, no one actually found any vampires. Manchester did claim he uncovered a mysterious vault somewhere, but it was empty, so he tossed around some garlic and holy water and left. Some years later he claimed he found a vampire corpse in a house somewhere and destroyed it.

Not to be outdone Farrant was arrested a few years later for desecrating graves in the cemetery, though he denied it. He claimed he and his girlfriend were “performing an exorcism.”

As it turns out some good did come from all this. People were outraged at the neglected state of Highgate Cemetery, and eventually a trust was set up to restore and maintain the cemetery, though a few two-stepping teenagers were probably disappointed.