Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Witchery in Lancashire!!!???

The following item is something of a 'blast from the past', but we have recently received a number of enquiries from different people asking if we have ever 'strayed' from the West Midlands area in our ventures(?) While the 'West Midlands' in the group title indicates that we are a dedicatedly 'provincial' concern, we have, on occasion, indeed travelled a little further afield......

First and foremost, it has to be stressed that the visit mentioned in the following account was made a considerable time prior to ‘Most Haunted’ having anything to do with the area in question!!..... So - please - don't ever think that we've taken a reference from that god-awful programme!!! Laugh, laugh!!

Also, the report stands to illustrate the point that paranormal research can often be a gruelling, painful experience!! You people just don’t understand how we have to suffer for our passions at times, you really don’t…..!!

Read on if you dare…….?


Pendle – Lancashire - October 31st 2002

“You shall go hence to the Castle from whence you came, from thence you shall be carried to the place of execution for this County, where your bodies shall be hanging until dead. And God have mercy on your souls”

The Case Of The Pendle Witches: Brief Notes:

In 1563, Queen Elizabeth I introduced an act against witchcraft, threatening a years imprisonment and public ridicule in the stocks for anyone found using sorcery with the intention of causing harm: i.e. in order to damage crops, kill livestock, etc. Anyone found using witchcraft to commit murder would be duly executed.

When the Scottish King James I came to the English throne in 1603, his obsession with witchcraft brought with him even harsher penalties for those found to be using sorcery.

Unfortunately, because of these new statutes against witchcraft, local Magistrates – in an endeavour to please the King – now became increasingly zealous in the pursuit and prosecution of potential offenders……..

In 1612, nine years after James I came to the throne, the petty squabbling of two rival families from the Pendle area – the Demdikes (Southern) and the Chattox’s (Whittle) – would ultimately result in the deaths of 10 people and give English history it’s most infamous Witch Trial.

Both of the families concerned were poor, locally detested and – from the confessions given at their trial – evidently demented. The head’s of both of these clans - ‘Owd Mother Demdike’ (Elizabeth Southern) and ‘Chattox’ (Anne Whittle) – were around 80 years old and both hated and feared in the Pendle area.

Events ultimately leading to the Trial itself would seem to have started with a simple accusation of theft by the Demdike family against one of the Chattox daughters. This matter being brought to the attention of the authorities, it is almost certainly here that the first claims and counter claims of witchcraft began between the warring factions.

It would seem that Alizon Device – grand-daughter of Demdike – was the first person to have been directly accused of witchcraft (charged with causing a pedlar to have a stroke) and it is through her testimony that members of both her family and the Chattox clan came to trial.

Considering their delicate situation and being the well balanced people that they were, practically all of the accused were soon regailing the court with tales of meeting the Devil, suckling familiars on their own blood, murdering people through sorcery and even turning the ale sour at a local tavern!! By all accounts, the proceedings would very much have, at times, resembled a competition to see which family could out-do the other with claims of their own evil deeds!

Owd Demdike, Alizon Device, Chattox and her daughter Anne Redfearn are incarcerated at Lancaster Castle to await trial for witchcraft. On Good Friday, 1612, twenty people are alleged to have attended a Black Mass at the Demdike home and plan to blow up Lancaster Castle. Subsequent investigations at this site recover human bones and a clay image.

Justice Roger Nowell questions nine year old Jennet Device – sister of Alizon – who names all of the people who supposedly attended the Good Friday meeting. The accused witches are sent to join the others already in Lancaster Castle.

Owd Demdike died in her cell in prison, before she could stand trial.

On August the 17th, 1612, the trial begins at Lancaster. (The accused have no defence lawyer). Chattox, Anne Redfearn, Elizabeth, James and Alizon Device, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, Jane Bulcock and her son, John, are convicted of witchcraft and hanged in Lancaster in front of huge crowds……

Pendle – The Visit

Described in the brochure as a ‘Pendle Witch Tour’, it has to be said that the Ghost Club excursion into Lancashire was more like something out of a ‘Carry On…’ film. Due to the total ineptitude of the coach firm concerned – no names mentioned, but we won’t be using HARRY GRAYBOULD TRAVEL again – the entire day was a seemingly never ending display of cack-handedness and incompetence. (We should have guessed that we were in for a bumpy ride when, upon first boarding the coach, we overheard the driver telling some other passengers that this particular trip was ‘Crap’!! As it turns out – from the general planning and execution side of the tour – he was totally spot on!!)

Despite the above mentioned, the day was not a complete loss. It has to be said that this portion of Lancashire must easily be one of the most beautiful regions in the country and anyone who might find themselves in this general area at any point should certainly take time to explore a little.

An unplanned stop in picturesque Clitheroe became the highlight of the day. It afforded us the welcome chance to visit the town’s castle ruins and Museum.

The former mentioned comprises of a 12th Century, Norman Keep and short section of rampart, standing atop a steep, high mound. Gazelle-like, the lithe, athletic members of the Ghost Club party quickly sprinted up the incline to take advantage of the magnificent views the ruins command over the town and surrounding countryside. (Unromantic version: 4 fat blokes take 20 minutes to crawl – mainly on hands and knee’s – 50 yards uphill. Get to top – cry a bit and generally roll around fighting for breath).

The Castle Museum, a hundred or so yards downhill from the ruined Keep, is – at the time of writing - playing host to a ‘Witchcraft’ exhibition, which ran until the end of 2002. (Apparently, this display is based on the highly popular exhibition at the Museum Of Lancashire).

Despite a notice board at the bottom of Castle Hill advertising ‘The Clitheroe Ghost Walk’ – as seen on T.V. (?) – the group could actually find little information on the Ghost-lore of this region. (A member of staff at the Museum told us of a particular haunted manor house situated some miles away). Had we any prior knowledge that we would be visiting Clitheroe, the group would doubtless have conducted research into the ‘paranormal history’ of this area. (We were completely oblivious to the stop unfortunately – courtesy of Mr. Graybould again folks!! Remember the name and run like hell if you see it anywhere!)

Our date with the coach and Tour Guide came all too swiftly and the insanity soon began again! Once our Pendle Witch Tour was under way, some 10 minutes of the guide's narrative was actually dedicated to the aforementioned subject – the other hour and a half being given over to the history of church halls in certain villages; how messy the local cement works were; how nicely the leaves were browning at that point in the year, etc.

Because of the general ineptitude of the tour operators – remember the name folks: HARRY GRAYBOULD TRAVEL – our intended 6pm arrival home now became 8pm…. The final leg of our journey made all the more painful by almost an hour and a half of Daniel O’ Donnell warbling on about his lost loves via the crackly coach sound system; Danny Boy, etc!!

A painful end to a fairly pain filled day…….

Note* For a full list of entertaining, well planned tour destinations – please contact any coach company except for HARRY GRAYBOULD TRAVEL…..

Best wishes to all,

The West Mids Ghost Club

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