According to a tradition recorded around the turn of the nineteenth century, on the site of Tring Station, just inside the parish of Aldbury, stood the castle of Sir Guy de Gravade, a legendary sorcerer in the reign of King Edward III.
Like Faust, Sir Guy sold his soul to the Devil in return for the secrets of alchemy and necromancy, and made himself rich by his magic arts. Disaster befell him, however, when one night his servant, John Bond, secretly tried to use one of his master’s spells. Discovering what he was up to, Sir Guy (in the words of a burlesque poem by T. Dyke Nunn):
… gave vent to a fresh invocation,
Which shook the whole [house] from roof to foundation,
And roused for some miles the entire population,
The bolder of whom made an investigation,
And found on arriving at the situation
That nothing at all remained on the scene
Where Sir Guy, house, and John just lately had been.
One day in every year, on the anniversary of the fatal day, the phantoms of Sir Guy and John Bond were said to reappear on or near the scene.
This is a dramatic local variation of the international tale ‘The sorcerer’s apprentice’, which reached its apogee, with the apprentice played by Mickey Mouse, in Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940). This cartoon version is set to the symphonic poem by Dukas, first performed in 1897, which illustrates Goethe’s story (itself based on Lucian, second century AD) of someone who finds he can start a spell working but not stop it.
Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson –
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008