A well-known phantom in the neighbourhood of Brigg was an apparition called the Lackey Causey Calf (causey = causeway). Sometimes described as headless, it was reported by Mabel Peacock in an unpublished collection of Lincolnshire folklore (1909–20) as emerging from a ‘tunnel’ over a stream between Brigg and Wrawby. After crossing the road, it would vanish.

It might have been a ghost in animal form, as a human skull and bones were said to have been found near the place where it walked. Mabel Peacock writes, ‘There is reason to think that no small number of boggarts are murdered people, or suicides “coming again” in the aspect of cattle, dogs or rabbits.’ According to one account, the Calf appeared after dark with the intention of tricking people into the water, a trait which could connect it with the Tatterfoal or shag-foal, of whom the Northamptonshire poet John Clare writes (1821):

Old Ball – You mean – the shagg’d foal. It’s a common tradition in village that the devil often appears in the form of a shagg’d foal: and a man in our parish firmly believes that he saw him in that character.

A shag-foal is a foal whose baby fuzz is giving way to its adult horsehair, hence the tatters.

Bogey beasts such as these might have been perceived in the Middle Ages as petty demons; in Shakespeare’s time people could have thought of them as hobgoblins, like Puck or Robin Goodfellow, which sometimes manifested themselves as animals. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries such shape-shifting beings were frequently interpreted as revenant spirits, usually of wicked people.

The boundaries between various forms of the supernatural seem never to have been very stable, and the classification of different apparitions as ghost, goblin or demon is largely the work of later interpreters. Bogey beasts can also appear in human shape, or even as inanimate objects: at GLASSENSIKES, Co. Durham, the bogey shifted between human form and white cats, rabbits, and white or black dogs, but also once manifested as ‘a great gulph of fire’, while W. Hylton Dyer Longstaffe, in his History … of Darlington (1854), relates of Norton, Yorkshire: ‘Two gentlemen (one a very dear friend of mine … now deceased) saw near a water an exquisitely beautiful white heifer turn into a roll of Irish linen.’



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