; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Esoterica: The Pendle Witch Trial, Morrow Road Legend and Real Haunted Houses

The Witch Trial That Made Legal History

In recent years children as young as three have given evidence in court cases, but in the past children under 14 were seen as unreliable witnesses. A notorious 17th Century witch trial changed that.

Nine-year-old Jennet Device was an illegitimate beggar and would have been lost to history but for her role in one of the most disturbing trials on record.

Jennet's evidence in the 1612 Pendle witch trial in Lancashire led to the execution of 10 people, including all of her own family.

In England at that time paranoia was endemic. James l was on the throne, living in fear of a Catholic rebellion in the aftermath of Guy Fawkes' gun powder plot. The king had a reputation as an avid witch-hunter and wrote a book called Demonology.

"It was a mandate for the British to fight witches," explains Prof Ronald Hutton from the University of Bristol.

At the time Lancashire had a reputation for being full of trouble-makers and subversives. Jennet lived with her mother Elizabeth, her grandmother Demdike, older sister Alizon and brother James in the shadow of the Pendle hill. Villagers dubbed Demdike a "cunning woman".

In March 1612, Alizon cursed a pedlar who would not give her any pins. The pedlar collapsed and his son reported it to an ambitious local magistrate, Roger Nowell.

He interviewed Alizon, who confessed to bewitching the pedlar but also accused their neighbours, who the family were having a feud with, of bewitching and killing four people.

The neighbours pointed the finger straight back at Demdike, accusing her of witchcraft.

"Nowell was extremely zealous," says Prof Malcolm Gaskill from the University of East Anglia.

"He sees his route to success in his career is to identify non-conformists, that could be Catholics or witches, and bring them to justice."

He arrested Alizon, granny Demdike, as well as their neighbours Anne Whittle (also known as Chattox) and her daughter Anne Redferne.

Jennet's mother then hosted a party on Good Friday, when all "good citizens" should have been in church. A local constable heard rumours of a meeting of witches, so arrested everyone present. The family also implicated others and all were accused of trying to plot to kill a man using witchcraft.

Alice Nutter, from a respectable land-owning family, her sister-in-law, nephew and friend were among those arrested.

"At that time they were a strong Catholic family. I think [Nowell] thought he would curry favour with the King and the powers that be if he was catching Catholics as well," says Colin Nutter, a descendant of Alice who still lives near the Pendle hill.

"She was used as a pawn for his own ends really."

In his book Demonology, James l wrote: "Children, women and liars can be witnesses over high treason against God." This influenced the justice system and led to Nowell using Jennet as his key witness.

The clerk of the court, Thomas Potts, wrote a book of all the notes he made of the trial, which became a bestseller and spread the story far and wide.

In The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, Potts recounted how Jennet's mother Elizabeth screamed out when her daughter entered the court. Jennet demanded her mother be removed and then climbed on a table and calmly denounced her as a witch.

Her convincing evidence was believed by the jury and after a two-day trial all her family and most of her neighbours were found guilty of causing death or harm by witchcraft.

The day after they were hanged at Gallows Hill.

But Jennet's influence went far beyond Lancashire. Thomas Potts' writings and Jennet's evidence were included in a reference handbook for magistrates, The Country Justice.

The book was used by all magistrates, including those in the colonies in America, and led them to seek the testimony of children in trials of witchcraft.

So at the notorious Salem witch trials in 1692, most of the evidence was given by children. Nineteen people were hanged.

There had been earlier cases of children being witnesses in witch trials, but the law stated those under 14 were not credible witnesses because they could not be sworn under oath. Jennet's testimony changed all that.

Today children of any age can be called to give evidence as their competence depends upon their understanding not their age.

Ultimately though, Jennet fell victim to the very precedent she set herself in 1633.

Twenty years after the trial she too was accused of witchcraft along with 16 others by 10-year-old Edmund Robinson.

They were found guilty by a jury but the judges were not happy and it was referred to the Privy Council. England had become more sceptical over time and physical evidence was demanded.

Edmund eventually admitted lying because of the stories he had heard about the Pendle witch trial.

The last known record of Jennet Device was in 1636.

Despite having been acquitted she was not allowed to leave Lancaster Castle until she had paid for her board for the time she had spent there on trial. For someone like Jennet, that could have been impossible. - BBC


A Haunting These Houses Go

“... Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding the darkness within... walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” - Shirley Jackson, “The Haunting of Hill House”

I rather feel like Johnny Carson’s predecessor, Jack Parr, when he returned after an unscheduled time away from “The Tonight Show.” His first words when he returned were: “Now, as I was saying...”

Late summer and into the fall is a ripe time for haunted houses. What follows are accounts of real haunted houses, and a house that is apparently doing the haunting itself. That is, the house doesn’t have a ghost, the house is the ghost. See if you agree...

The first haunting is, without being too specific, way past the Dover gravel pit. (I don’t want to bother the current residents... if there are any.)

An older couple was living there at the time I write of, as I learned from my source, a local figure in the retail world, now retired.

The couple had been in the house for a while with nothing unusual happening but for whatever reason, they had not had cause to go down into the basement. One day, with nothing better to do while her husband was off fishing, the woman decided to finally explore the basement.

A light switch to the right of the stairs brought two dusty, barely adequate bulbs to life. Carefully negotiating the unfamiliar wooden stairs, the woman surveyed the basement and its concrete, slab floor. Ceiling high shelves of some vintage lined two of the walls. Several small crates and large, heavy cardboard boxes stood off to the left. A metal work table dominated the center of the basement. A metal storage cabinet stood to the right at the end of the shelves.

Seeing nothing of particular interest, though her husband might appreciate the tools she saw on the shelves, she turned to go back up when something near the metal cabinet caught her eye. She saw what appeared to be fresh, human footprints in the dust, those of a child of maybe ten or so. They led from the cabinet about six feet or so to the outer wall and stopped, as if whoever made them had walked through the wall.

Later, when her husband returned home, the woman told him of what she had been doing and about the footprints. He responded that no one had been down there since they had moved in, let alone a kid.

Going down to see for himself, however, he soon called back up to his wife at the top of the stairs. She went down and over to the cabinet, where he pointed at the floor. “This the place?” he asked. She nodded and looked down. Just dusty cement, no footprints.

The next day the man went down to do an inventory of the tools and glanced over to where his wife had thought she had seen footprints... and there they were; small, bare footprints of a child that disappeared at the outer cement wall.

Not computing for a long moment, the man, for some reason, reached over to the wall where an old broom stood and swept the footprints away.

As it turned out, a lot of the tools on the shelves were old, maybe from the end of the 19th or early 20th century; an antique dealer would pay a lot for them.

The prints reappeared once more as the man made several trips to gather the tools and again, he swept them away. He then locked the door to the basement and never went down there again. There was no reason to.

Perhaps even now, behind a locked door, small footprints march across a dusty floor and through the wall.

Our next little tale took place in Kootenai, not that long ago. A young couple with a two-year-old son moved into an older house, (naturally) and wondered at the odd attitude of the landlord. He seemed hesitant, even apologetic, without actually ever coming out and saying he was sorry about something.

The rent was great. The young man’s wages were not stellar, to say the least, and $550 a month for a four bedroom, two bath house was a dream.

The house was World War I era. Renovated in the 70s, there were nine rooms total and everything seemed great. Until the first day the young father went to work and his young wife began hearing... things. Just “noises” she would tell him when he came home from work. Like... she just didn’t know. Maybe whispering, coming from the walls and attic.

At first, he told her it was just nerves. She was likely imagining things because she was home alone all day with the responsibilities of a new mother. She needed to take the baby out, go to the library or to the newly opened Wal-Mart. Make some friends, whatever.

The young woman loved her man to pieces, but he was full of the old crapola.

A few nights later, the young father got up in the middle of the night for a drink of water; his sinuses had always bothered him. (Snoring dried them out.) And he heard... it, them, whispering in the walls. Voices like they were being screened through a mesh of wires and cheesecloth. He was unable to make out words, but they were human voices all the same.

The young family found a two bedroom apartment in Sandpoint the following month and the landlord of the old house became apologetic once more to another family.

You aren’t required to tell tenants or a buyer if a house is haunted, you see; you must only share whether someone died or was killed in the building.

The one time I went hunting with my friend, “Alex,” was like going hunting with comic Bill Engval. He is fun, and so was Alex.

But the next time Alex headed out, he was all alone. It was late October and he was a few miles west of town when he saw a modest-sized buck through the trees about a couple hundred yards away.

It was a crisp, forty-five degrees. Tree branches—a few birch supporting a few dry leaves that rustled in the wind—framed an increasingly dramatic October sky.

Following an old trail, Alex lost sight of his quarry, but something caught his attention.

Down to his right, in a valley of long shadows, barely visible in the waning light, was a house. “What the F---?” Dark gray, Alex could just make out the shutters of what was apparently the upper floors of a house. But out here, in the middle of the woods? Again, he thought to himself, “What the F---?”

Alex searched briefly for a way down, but there was no trail through the brush and trees. On top of that, the sky was becoming even more dramatic as heavier, dark clouds had begun to move in. Retreating the way he had come, Alex got back to his rig just before a cold, heavy rain started.

A mountain biker, (of which I proudly am one), told me several years ago that in late August a couple years earlier he had seen what looked to be an old Victorian-style house down in a hollow, but when he was on the same trail a few weeks later, he saw nothing but trees. From the description of the location, it sounded like the same trail that Alex had trod. I’ve also heard, second-hand, that two horseback riders saw something similar.

If you want neat, tidy explanations to end a story, rent a movie because this isn’t Hollywood! - by Lawrence Fury - riverjournal.com


The Legend of Morrow Road

Morrow Road in Clay Township, Michigan has been known for it's horrifying legend and hauntings for over a century.

In 1893, during a snowstorm, a woman went out in the middle of the night searching for her toddler that had somehow wandered from the house. She was unable to find it and froze to death. It is said that the bodies were never found. But it is a fact that their spirits still haunt the road to this day. The area is also said to be ancient burial ground of the Indians.

The legend is if you drive out there at midnight, park on the old bridge, and honk three times, the woman will appear to see if you have her baby. She is described as wearing a bloody white gown and has a very distorted face with no eyes. If you try to flee from her, she will chase your car down the road and may even kill you.

Other eyewitness accounts have reported seeing glowing orbs in the woods, and the sounds of a crying infant near the bridge.

Skeptical of this whole legend, I got together with some friends and we drove out there one night in 1992. A night I will never forget. It was around 12:30 and pitch black. We got to the bridge and the hair on the back of my neck was standing. I felt like something was there watching us from the woods. We shut off the car and sat there for a minute. At the time, this was just a small one-lane dirt road with woods on both sides. There were no houses around. My friend honked the horn a few times and right away we heard the baby crying. It was coming from underneath the bridge. We got out of the car and I leaned over the guard rail. I could hear it crying, but couldn't see anything. Somewhere out of the darkness we heard a woman shout, "Where is my baby!!!"

That was it for me. I got in the car and my friends stayed out there goofing around. I saw a bright light come out of the woods and it came down the road toward the car. As it got closer, it winked out. My friends were getting spooked, so they got back in the car. They said they heard a woman screaming. We started the car, and before we could even take off, a silhouette of a woman came running out of the woods up to the car. My blood ran cold and I watched her fly right up to the driver's side window, I couldn't see her face, but saw her long hair.

My friend stepped on it and she pounded on the window as we sped off. We were going about 60 mph and one of my friends screamed. I looked back and the woman was right there looking through the back window. It seemed like forever, but we finally got off the road and the woman was gone by then. I will never go down that road again.

The road is now paved and the bridge was torn down. Houses are even being built.


Pub ghost or trick of the light?

This picture apparently shows a ghost lurking in the doorway of The Wortley Arms, in Thurgoland.

It was taken by amateur photographer Paul Cocker who was shooting the 18th century building as part of his hobby.

He says it was only when he downloaded the photo he realised he appeared to have captured a supernatural being.

“I’m a rational bloke - I think a lot of this ghost stuff is claptrap,” the 41-year-old of Manchester Road, Deepcar, says. “But I have no answer as to what on earth this is.”

Trick of the light, per chance? Touch of photoshopping, maybe?

“Obviously when we get a photo like this sent to us the first thing we check for is evidence it’s been tampered with digitally,” explains Joe Collins, of Rotherham Paranormal. “If you check pixel definition you can usually tell and this certainly doesn’t appear to have been altered in any way.

“We’re looking into it but there are rumours the Wortley Arms is haunted – certainly it’s an old building with plenty of history. We’re planning a visit there to investigate.”

In the mean time, the advice to drinkers?

Keep a particularly close eye on your pints. - thestar


What is Consciousness?

Black-Eyed Children

Ghosts and Cocktails

The Tortured Ghost of Jack the Ripper

The Haunted Road

Ghosts and spirits roam free at the Exhibition Grounds

The New NDE

'Psychic Kindergarten' Teaches Budding Mediums How to Explore Their Gifts

Psychic uses sixth sense to help solve crime

Haunted Hinsdale

Exorcist Schoolgirls

Ghost Stories and Haunted Places

8 Rules of Safe Spiritual Work

Spooked in the United Kingdom

Enlightened Rosary

Nowata Ghost Light

Black-Eyed Demon

Shrouded Deathbed Vision

Haunted by the Living

Haunted Sanctum of the Ancient Saxons

Contact From Beyond the Haunted Bunker

Why I Still Don’t Believe in Precognition