South Moreton

This village is the scene for a tale of ghost laying with an unusual twist to it, recorded in 1924 from informants whose memories it went back into the 19th century. The story starts with the suicide in 1804 of a farmer named William Field, who hanged himself in his barn, and then returned as a ghost, to the terror of the neighborhood. By about 1850 the situation had become intolerable, so eleven clergymen gathered in the barn to conjure him down and lay him in a pond in the farmyard. However, there were two workmen on the farm, brothers named James and John Parker, who had decided to spy on the proceedings and so had hidden themselves under a pile of straw in the barn. When the ghost appeared, it demanded to be given some living creature before it would let itself be laid – either the cockerel on the dunghill or ‘the two mice under the straw’. The parsons replied that it could take the cockerel, and at once the bird was seized and torn to pieces. Then they drove the ghost into the pond, and pinned it there with a stake.

An almost identical story is told at Welford, another Berkshire village. The implication seems to be that both the ghost and the parsons were supernaturally aware of the presence of the hidden men; the ghost thought the parsons would be sure to offer him ‘mice’ rather than a valuable farm bird, but the parsons knew what the ghost meant, and were not tricked.



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