In most parts of northern England, ‘dobbie’, ‘dobby’, or ‘dobie’ is a name for a helpful household elf or goblin. In James Bowker’s Goblin Tales of Lancashire (1883), however, there is an account of a sinister spectre known as the White Dobbie, which was said to appear on stormy nights on the coastal road from Bardsea to Rampside. It looked like a gaunt, weary pilgrim, with sorrowful face and feverish eyes, and would hurry along the road without ever speaking to anyone; ahead of it ran ‘a ghastly-looking, scraggy white hare with bloodshot eyes’. The sight of this hare would terrify any dog, and cause it to flee, howling.
One night, after this haunting had continued for many years, the bell-ringer and sexton of Bardsea church was in the ringing-chamber of the belfry, tolling the passing bell to announce a death that had just occurred. Suddenly, though the church door was shut, she saw the white hare leaping about in the belfry, and heard the White Dobbie whisper, ‘Who for this time?’ The spectre stood beside her as she rang, while the hare leapt into the dobbie’s pocket but went on staring at her from there. Eventually two men entered the church, causing the unearthly beings to vanish, but from then on the dobbie and the hare regularly appeared in the belfry whenever the passing bell was rung after dark, as well as continuing to haunt the coast road. The local theory, as reported by Bowker, was that both were ghosts, the dobbie being doomed to wander for the sin of murder, while his victim had become the hare; in other parts of the country, however, dobbies and dobies were differently explained.