Ralph Whitlock’s book on the folklore of Wiltshire includes a macabre tale which his informants said had happened about a hundred years earlier, i.e. in the 1870s. The wife of a wealthy farmer of this parish died and was buried in the family vault, wearing some of her fine rings. The sexton, who had observed the jewels when the body was being laid out, went back into the vault after dark in order to steal them, and broke the coffin open. One of the rings was so tight-fitting that he could not pull it off, so he took out his pocket-knife and cut the whole finger off. At the shock of this pain, the woman revived and sat up, for she had only been in a deep coma. The sexton ran off, terrified, leaving the door of the vault open. The woman made her way home, her hand bleeding as she went, and rejoined her astonished husband, with whom she lived for many more years.
The story so far is one that occurs in several other places in England and abroad, but there is a further development. The woman’s ghost is said to appear every year on the anniversary of the false funeral, walking from the church to the farm and then into the dining room; her finger drips blood all the way. Kathleen Wiltshire was told in 1940 that several maids in the household had seen this ghost; ‘one dropped a trayful of china, another gave notice on the spot, and a third ran screaming home.’