In the early eighteenth century, Talland was perhaps best known for its vicar from 1713–47, the Revd Richard Dodge. ‘Parson Dodge’ was a ghost-layer or exorcist of extraordinary power. Robert Hunt in 1865 told the story of how Parson Dodge was called in by the Revd Abraham Mills of nearby Lanreath, whose parish was haunted by one of England’s ubiquitous phantom coaches with headless horses. The two clergymen kept watch one night on the moor where the coach was usually seen, but it did not appear. Arranging to keep vigil another night, each turned homeward.
At the bottom of a deep valley, about a mile (1.6 km) from Blackadon, Parson Dodge’s horse became uneasy, as if something was moving across the road in front of her. Defying whip and spur, she kept trying to turn round, and finally Dodge threw the reins over her neck and she started back over the moor. There, to his horror, Dodge saw the phantom coach, with his friend Mr Mills lying on the ground and the demon coachman standing over him. But at the mere sight of Parson Dodge closing in on him, the demon cried, ‘Dodge is come! I must be gone!’ and sprang back on his coach, whereupon coach, horses and all vanished and did not return.
In the 1970s, local people believed that Dodge was in league with smugglers and that he had spread a story of demonic apparitions in Bridle Lane, leading up from Talland beach to the church, to frighten away onlookers. The smuggler theory is a common corollary of coastal hauntings: in most cases, however, it turns out on investigation to be either smugglers exploiting an existing tradition or else a latter-day rationalization.
Other well-known Cornish ghost-layers were Parson Woods of Ladock, Parson Richards, curate of Camborne, the Revd Jago, vicar of Wendron, and the Revd Polkinghorn of St Ives, who laid the infamous ghost of ‘Wild Harris’ of Kenegie, setting him to count all the blades of grass at Castle-an- Dinas, Ludgvan.