According to W. Hylton Dyer Longstaffe, writing in 1854, the name ‘Glassensikes’ referred to ‘certain closes’ watered by a small stream of this name flowing into the Skerne. Glassensikes was haunted by numerous ghosts who may have been different manifestations of the same bogey: headless men who vanished in flame, headless ladies, white cats, white rabbits, white dogs, black dogs, ‘shapes that walk at dead of night, and clank their chains’.
‘The Glassensikes witnesses are not all thoughtless, and superstitious men,’ he writes:
An old gentleman of Darlington was, at the witching hour of midnight, returning from Oxeneyfield. It was a bright moonlight night, and … he thought that if nothing was to be seen in the day, nothing could well haunt Glassensikes by night … Accordingly, when he came to the place where the road to Harewood Hill now turns off, he … was greatly surprised to see a large animal’s head popped through the stile at the commencement of the footpath, leading by the present Woodside to Blackwell. Next came a body. Lastly, came a tail. Now my hero, having at first no idea that the unwelcome visitant was a ghost, was afraid that it would fly at him, for it bounced into the middle of the road and stared intently at him … [I]t was much larger than usual, and unlike any dog he had ever seen … in the neighbourhood; moreover it was as black as a hound of hell.
The ‘dog’ stood immoveable in his path, so rather than approach nearer, he turned his back and walked on. To this account, Longstaffe adds, ‘Of late years, this harmless sprite has seemingly become disgusted with the increased traffic past its wonted dwelling, and has become a very wellbehaved domestic creature.’