This small village midway between Northampton and Kettering was the scene of a Nine Days’ Wonder. In 1675, Justinian Isham wrote from Christ Church, Oxford, to his father that ‘The report of the Hannington ghost was spread all over Oxford.’
A contemporary pamphlet appeared, entitled The Rest-less Ghost: or, Wonderful News from Northamptonshire, and Southwark. This account had been taken down before witnesses from the mouth of William Clarke, a maltster of Hennington (as it is spelt in the pamphlet), and could be vouched for by William Stubbins, John Charlton, and John Stevens, ‘to be spoken with any day at the Castle Inn without Smithfield-Barrs’, and many others.
Clarke lived at a farmhouse known as ‘Old Pells house’ after earlier occupants. Twelve months previously, a series of incidents began: doors were unlocked or unbolted during the night, flung off their hinges, and windowpanes were broken. Nothing had been seen until about three weeks before when, as Clarke was walking a little way off from the house, ‘the Spirit on a sudden became visible to him, at first in a very horrid, but immediately after in a more familiar and humane shape.’ Although frightened, Clarke demanded in the name of God what it was, and what it wanted. To which the apparition answered ‘with a pleasant friendly countenance and distinct voice’ (and the pamphlet emphasizes this by going into larger print):
I am the disturbed Spirit of a person long since Dead, I was Murthered neer this place Two hundred sixty and seven years, nine weeks, and two days ago, to this very time, and come along with me and I will shew you where it was done.
It led him to the side of a hedge and said, ‘Here was I killed, my head being separated from my body.’ When Clarke asked why he had been killed, he said it was for his estate. He was unable to rest because he had lived in London, at Southwark, and before his death had buried some money and documents there. Clarke asked why, in that case, he had not started his haunting before, and the apparition answered that it had haunted ‘that place’ (i.e. where the money was buried) for several years after his death but that a certain friar had bound him for 250 years by magic, stopping him appearing on earth. Now that time was up, and Clarke must help him by going to Southwark next day or he would give him no peace. Clarke said he could not leave so soon but agreed to meet him within the fortnight on London Bridge.
When Clarke told his neighbours and the minister of this encounter, they said he must keep his promise to the ghost ‘but not to eat or drink in any place whether it should lead him’ (the same taboo as existed against eating and drinking with fairies). So, on 9 January 1675, Clarke went to London and started crossing London Bridge. The spirit appeared before him, in ordinary clothes (instead of the traditional shroud) and ‘with an inviting smile’ led him to a house in Southwark. There, he became visible not only to Clarke, but to those living there, telling them ‘very mildly’ they were his descendants and showing them where to dig.
Early next morning, Clarke returned to the house and they dug on that spot, and about eight feet down found a pot of gold, with documents at the bottom, some of which crumbled away, while others, of parchment, corroborated the spirit’s account by their dates. When Clarke lifted the pot, the spirit reappeared and instructed him as to the distribution of what had been found. When this had been done, the spirit appeared again ‘in a very joyful contented manner’, thanking him, saying that now he could rest and would trouble him no more.