In the 1880s, a strange supernatural manifestation was reported to the folklore collector Charlotte Burne as having occurred on a road near Bridgnorth some thirty years previously. A young woman was out driving with some friends when the horse drawing their carriage came to an abrupt halt and would not move, however much the driver whipped it. The young woman got down and took the horse by the bridle, thinking she would be able to coax it forward, but felt herself struck and flung back against the fence by some powerful yet invisible force. A few moments later, ‘a gigantic arm and hand slowly became visible, holding the poor horse by the neck in its cruel grasp, but no more of the monster form appeared.’ Just then, the church clock at Bridgnorth struck midday, and at the sound ‘the hand slowly unclasped its hold and faded away.’ The horse was able to move, though it was never fit for work again.

The young woman had an aunt with whom she was on very bad terms, the aunt having so often been unkind and unjust to her that the two had ceased to see each other. This aunt was living in Paris, and it turned out that she had died there just before noon on the very day her niece had this uncanny experience. Charlotte Burne thought the tale carried implications not only of haunting but of witchcraft, since witches were so commonly said to have the power of halting horses.

In modern times, according to the local writer Christine McCarthy, many buildings in the town are reputed to be haunted. One is the Magpie House Restaurant in Cartway, which has marble busts of a little boy and girl in the garden, and a notice in the hallway claiming that the building has been haunted by a woman in black for over 300 years:

The legend says that she was the mother of two children who, in the 1600s, whilst playing at Hide and Seek, were inadvertently locked in the cellar. The river, which was in flood, burst its banks, quickly flooding the cellar, and the two unfortunate children drowned. The grief-stricken parents erected marble images in memory of the two children which can be seen today in the Terrace Garden.

A previous owner of the restaurant told a local paper around 1980 that she had often heard the children’s ghosts calling out and banging on the cellar door on stormy nights when the river was high; she had also seen the apparition of an old woman, weeping and dressed in black, which entered her bedroom and lay down beside her in bed.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008

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