S. O. Addy reports in Household Tales (1895) the tradition that, in the sixteenth century, all the dead in the cemetery surrounding the ancient chapel rose from their sleep in golden raiment. Despite the date, he appears to be talking about an event concerning the communal grave of flood victims, recorded as taking place in 1754 in a letter written by the Revd Dr James Clegg, the Nonconformist minister of nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith. He writes:

… on the last day of August, several Hundreds of Bodies rose out of the Grave in the open day … to the great astonishment and Terror of several spectators. They deserted the Coffin, and rising out of the grave, immediately ascended directly towards Heaven, singing in Consert all along as they mounted thro’ the Air; they had no winding sheets, about them, yet did not appear quite naked, their Vesture seem’d streak’d with gold, interlaced with sable, skirted with white, yet thought to be exceedingly light by the agility of their motions, and the swiftness of their ascent. They left a most fragrant and delicious Odour behind them, but were quickly out of sight …

It is possible that this is an invented story told by a clergyman to demonstrate the truth of the dogma of the Resurrection of the Body. However, it might well be a glamorized version of a true event. As Paul Barber has written in Vampires, Burial, and Death (1988), ‘The tendency of bodies to return to the surface has generated a great deal of folklore in Europe and elsewhere in the world.’ The bloating of drowned bodies, and the shallowness of a mass grave dug in a hurry, would both conspire towards this.



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