The Butter Boggart of Old Lostock

In my review of  Karl Bell’s The Magical Imagination, I mentioned that there was a story from my own area which I intended to look into, So here it is; the story of the mysterious appearance of butter in an isolated country cottage.

The Place

The locality was one of  two cottages known as Knowsley Cottages (the other being unoccupied at the time), lying just to the west of Moss Lane (now Moss Vale Road) which ran from the Barton-Stretford turnpike in Lostock (now Lostock Road) to Gammershaw Lane (now Stretford Road) in Urmston. The lost village of Lostock was divided between the civil parish of Davyhulme (latter part of Urmston Urban District) and the Borough of Stretford toward the end of the 19th century.

Before the building of the Urmston and Flixton railway stations, the villages of Urmston, Flixton, Davyhulme, Lostock, Croft and etc were rural places, where according to Edwin Waugh writing in 1857 “Even now, the scattered inhabitants are mostly employed in agriculture, and their language and customs savour more of three centuries ago than those which we are used to in manufacturing towns”

(http://gerald-massey.org.uk/waugh/c_sketches_1a.htm)

 

Of these locations Lostock was the most underdeveloped, and much of the medieval field system remained. The area remained rural until the mid 1930s when there was a major housing development.

The Personnel.

At the heart of the story lies Samuel Warburton, baptised at St Michael’s Church Flixton on 23 June 1793, and his younger brother William baptised there on 21 October 1799, the sons of William Warburton and his wife Betty Muddiman who were married at St Michael’s on the 19th of October 1784.

Then there is Samuel’s wife Ann Royle, daughter of Benjamin and Betty Royle baptised at St Michael’s on the 27th of July 1788, and whom he married at the Collegiate Church in Manchester on the 12th of January 1815.

The final person in the household is Ann’s great niece Mary Maria Hopwood who was  baptised on 22 August 1841 at the Manchester Collegiate. Samuel, Ann and Mary Maria are the core household, William has come to lodge with them after loosing his job as a schoolmaster in Hulme. The Warburton brothers are devout members of the Primitive Methodist denomination, and the family’s life seems uneventful until the morning of Sunday 22 January 1854, when something very strange starts to happen. The Manchester Times of 4 February takes up the story.

A STRANGE STORY.

During the recent week a number of the inhabitants in the villages of Stretford and Barton-upon Irwell, near Manchester  have had their wonder excited by a report that in a certain cottage situate in the latter township, occupied by persons of quiet habits and of rather advanced age, there had been innumerable instances of butter spontaneously and marvellously presenting itself, on the floor, the furniture, and the clothing, and even the beds of the occupants, for which they could assign no cause, and by which they were very much alarmed.

The news of this spread to Manchester and Salford. Our reporter found the matter exciting the curiosity a of several individuals who had business at the New Bailey (1) on Thursday. One of them, a farmer, who is the owner of land in the vicinity of the cottage, had himself witnessed the circumstance, and was unable to find any rational solution. Police-constable Bent, (2) whose duties lay in the neighbourhood of Stretford, had also visited the place, but although tolerably clever in detecting parties who are in the habit of illegally taking butter away, lie was unable to discover who could be the contributor of it in the case under notice.

With the view of tracing the odd story about the wondrous butter to its source, our reporter proceeded to the place on Thursday afternoon. The topic, he found, was even rife in the railway Carriages between Manchester and Stretford. Half an-hours walk from the Stretford station sufficed to reach the scene of the alleged mystery, and which, it would seem, was threatening to supersede the good offices of that useful animal, the cow, which has hitherto had the sole monopoly of supplying us with butter. The cottage is situate about six miles west of Manchester, between Stretford and Barton Bridge, a little to the right of Moss Lane, a few hundred yards beyond Lostock Hall. There are two double-story thatched cottages adjoining, having gardens and door in front, but only one of these is tenanted. There is no other house within 200 yards, and the others are thinly scattered, and at greater distances.

The cottage, which has a brook running close at his rear, is occupied by Samuel Warburton, a man about 60 years of age (who we understand, has a small income, and weaves  a little cotton plaid in a room within the house), his wife, William Warburton (a brother), nearly 60 years old, and a girl about 12, the daughter of a relative. William Warburton has also a small income, and was, during some part of last year, a schoolmaster in Hulme, (3) but is not now so engaged. On entering the cottage, our reporter found these four persons within, and a very few words sufficed to explain the object of his visit, for that was anticipated, as many had already preceded him to make inquiries. A glance around the apartment revealed the fact that he was in the fat of the land, for butter seemed to have budded from every description of substance from living boughs of holly to dead veneers of mahogany, and even glass.

The door had been closed but a few minutes, when a knock was heard. On its being opened, a gentleman remarked, ” How do you do, Mrs Warburton; I have heard a strange story, and I am come to investigate it.” He was desired to take a seat, and was tolerably silent while the inmates gave an account of what seems to them an inpenetrable mystery. They are all professors of religion, and attend the services of the Primitive Methodist Connection (4). This may not apply to the girl, but she seems steady, and has been several years with her relatives, who have occupied this house about fifteen years. William Warburton, the younger brother, we may remark, was the owner of the house in Urmston where the celebrated Tim Bobbin was born .(5) The following is the narration of the parties: (6)

Samuel Warburton: ‘The first time we noticed anything particular was last Sunday but one. Just before breakfast, we saw several bits of butter on the floor, upon some of which we had trodden. William (the younger brother) had gone out, and we thought he must have accidentally spilled some. Nothing was said or thought of further until last Saturday, in the forenoon, when he again observed little bits of butter on the floor.

Mrs. Warburton: I said to my husband, it must have been done by William (who had gone to Manchester at the time), he must have had his coat amongst the butter, and then have shaken his coat, and so thrown the bits about; for I found them against the drawer, the cupboard, the sofa, the clock, the table, and all round.

Samuel Warburton: The girl sleeps in a bed in our room, and my brother William in another room. On Saturday night, they went to their beds about nine o’clock, but I stayed up with my wife, to have a little talk, and a pipe of tobacco. It would be after one when we went to bed. We noticed nothing on the stairs that night, but on Sunday morning there was not, I believe, a single step without butter upon it. It seemed, in many instances, as if we had trodden upon it  on Saturday night. We followed the track into each room, and there were marks on the, carpets. At first we thought  this had come off’ our shoes, but we don’t think so now. We found a piece upon my brother’s bolster, also on his night cap. Than we examined the bed clothes, and we found some between the two quilts, which were on the top of the bed; and another piece, being the larger, at  the bottom of the bed, where his feet might lie.

He had gone to Manchester, and it kept us busy all the forenoon clearing it away. A piece of paper we found at the top part of the bed by the girl, with butter upon it, but we believe that had only had the butter wiped upon it which we collected, and then accidentally let the paper fall. There were  several bits of butter found in our room, too. On Sunday morning last, my brother got up first, as usual, had lighted the fire. He goes to the Primitive Methodist Sunday school, to teach. I and my wife came down stairs about nine o’clock, and we found that bits of butter were all about the floor, and sticking to the furniture.

Mrs. Warburton: I had occasion to go into the garden, and took my shawl out of the drawer; I saw nothing on the shawl when I went out, but when I came in, after a few minutes, there was a large piece upon it.

Will. Warburton: I found a piece inside my coat, before I set off to the school, in Urmston; (7) and when I came home there was a piece on my trousers.

Samuel Warburton: We kept picking it off the furniture, and still we found it, On Sunday, after dinner, it was again a on the furniture. As we sat by the fire we kept observing it on our clothes. We never saw it coming, an know not how it came. On Sunday evening, I and my brother were going to public service (8), but my wife and the girl, owing to it, did not like to stay by themselves, so we arranged for or my brother to stay with them. When I put my coat on to go there were pieces of butter on it, and my wife took a  number off, and then, when she thought I were partly clean, she said, “Will’t be off, while thou’s decent.” (9)

Mrs. Warburton (appearing very serious): I could not keep straight with it, and I said, “Will’t be off while that only a bit like.”

Samuel Warburton: When I come back from the preaching, they told me they had been standing by the fire, picking the butter off each other’s clothes, They threw it into the fire and it burned.

Mrs. Warburton: At last I said, “Let’s sit down, and let it do as it likes” for I was weary. It never came on our skins, but I found one piece between my dress and my petticoats, and two pieces on my cap, and the girl had some on  her hair,

Samuel Warburton: On Monday morning it continued to appear on the furniture, and instead of burning it, as we had done, we determined to keep it. About nine o’clock, I d collected what I could see, and put it on that piece of pot on the table. I thought that it must be some black thing or other, and I have a  Herbal, and read in this book that holly boughs were good against witchcraft. (10) I thought, “Well, I can easily get them, I’ll try that.” So I got three holly boughs, and I hung them up to the ceiling of the house, and in half an hour there was a piece of butter on every bough So that 1 am satisfied that holly boughs can do no good.

Mrs. Warburton: As we were going to wash, the girl was  putting water into a boiler in a little scullery, and she called me to look at a piece of butter sticking to the side of the boiler.

Samuel Warburton: I weave a little plaid cotton, in a small room adjoining the kitchen, and, on Monday forenoon, when I went to work at my loom there were two pieces of butter on the cloth, and other two pieces on the panes of  glass. I read a passage of scripture every morning; and on Monday I was surprised to find several bits of butter between  the leaves of different parts of my Bible; and they were not in the places where I had read.

The Bible was then shown, and the greasy marks were  visible enough. Of course there was nothing in the stained places referring to the importation of foreign butter, but to satisfy the curiosity of any who might wish to examine for themselves, we may state that the first mark was in 1st Saml. (Chap.6, v.5)  and 1st Saml. (Chap.9, v.2-3); Isaiah (Chap. 57, v.1) and another between the  v. and vii. chapters of Revelations.

It was stated that there had been no obvious accumulation since Monday noon, although a few bits were noted on the furniture on Tuesday morning which were not seen on Monday. On Tuesday the head family invited the Rev. J. Garner, Primitive Methodist preacher residing in Warde Street, Hulme (11) (and who was to preach in the neighbourhood) to take tea with him. The particulars of the unusual situation were discussed, but no explanation could be given.

No clear notion of the weight of the butter thus collected could be ascertained, but as the bits were only from the size of a bean to that of a  nut, it would probably not exceed a few ounces,. although the master of the house said he must have burned hundreds of them.

In answer to various questions, it does not appear that it can be the interest of anyone to frighten them from the house. The house is so isolated, and there are no mischievous boys about, and no one has been near the house.  No broken panes were observed, through which the pellets of butter could be introduced, nor does it seem likely they could have come from without, as they were found in the chambers, and inside two other small rooms down stairs, and at the time our reporter vas present there were fourteen or fifteen bits collected together, a few of which were brought to Manchester, and there can. be no doubt of its really being butter, from various tests; there were four or five bits adhering to the front of the mahogany drawers; two upon a bookcase, one of them on the glass; three on a waistcoat belonging to the younger brother, the schoolmaster, and three on the holly boughs. one it the frame of a sampler, and another or two on the weaving rooms, inside.

That there can be no such thing as butter springing out of  glass, is evident enough; the whole must, of course, be a trick, but it has hitherto been so ingeniously accomplished,  that the perpetrator of the deception is undiscovered. The bits of butter are very varied in shape, and although some of them have an appearance which would suggest the probability of their being sucked in the mouth and then ejected, yet others are so irregularly shaped as to preclude any such  supposition. One thing was noticeable, however, that some  of them had struck the surface obliquely (as drops of rain do when falling against vertical panes of glass), and thus slid along a little, and thus left a mark at the point of first contact. This ought to have been sufficient to have .prevented the idea which the old people seem to entertain, that the substance might possibly grow where it was found.

The young girl does not appear to have anything about her indicative of the artfulness which a series  of’ tricks of this kind would imply. The manner in which the old man and woman speak about the circumstances, and seem to be affected by them, would lead even an observer of the deceptiveness of human nature to acquit them of any participation it the fraud.

Probably the reader of the above will think that the “schoolmaster” is the most  likely person to explain the matter.

 

The rival Manchester Courier and Lancashire Advertiser also published the story on the same day, a shorter piece but giving some additional information.

The Manchester Courier and Lancashire and General Advertiser of Saturday 4th February 1854, p. 7 col. 7.

Mysterious production of butter in a cottage

The labouring population of Lostock near Stretford are in a state of some excitement in consequence of a mysterious and very novel mode in which butter has been supplied to the inhabitants of a cottage in Moss Lane, leading to Urmston from the turnpike and between Stretford and Barton Bridge.

The inmates of the cottage are a couple named Warburton, near sixty years of age, a brother of Mr Warburton who is, we should guess between forty and fifty, and a girl of about 12, a relative of Mrs Warburton. Warburton has some little property and also follows and occupation of handloom weaver; the brother is a schoolmaster, but has been out of employment since Christmas, and the girl takes a share in the homework.

Last Sunday week when Mr and Mrs Warburton got up, they observed lumps of butter varying in the size from the bulk of a bean to that of a small nut and they thought that Mr William Warburton had been getting something to eat, and had been careless with the butter, which it should be stated, he purchases for himself along with other provisions.

The week passed over without any more appearances, but on the following Saturday morning, a quantity was observed on the floor. They thought it belonged to William, who had gone out, but they were puzzled, when in the course of the forenoon, they found it sticking upon the furniture, where they had not observed it before.

On Sunday morning they found it upon the steps heading to the bedroom, upon the bedroom floor in patches as though it had been trodden into the room, upon the beds, and upon various articles of clothing. In some places it appeared  as if it had been patted on, in others as if it had been rubbed on by a finger. The old man and woman are members of the Primitive Methodist Society and the brother is a teacher in the Sunday School connected to the chapel of that body near the house, and on putting on his clothes to go to school he found the butter adhering to his clothes. It was with some difficulty he was put in proper trim to go to school , and when he came home at noon, he found a lump sticking to his leg.

While he had been out the old couple and the girl has so much to do in picking it off their clothes that they had not got the dinner ready, and they were both puzzled and worried. it got into impossible places, between Mrs Warburton’s gown and petticoat, inside the collar of a waistcoat and, on Monday, three lumps were actually found inside a bible. There was another visitation on that day, and on the last time we have heard of, appeared on Tuesday. The only man having heard that holly bushes are a check to witches, thought he would try if they were any good, though he had no faith in them, and got three, but they had not been up many minutes before a lump adorned them. Many persons have visited the house and declare, from having tasted it, that the substance is butter, rather old and “turnipy” but without any flavour of sulphur. It burns in the fire as butter would, and without any blue accompaniment. If any more should make its appearance, we will examine the matter and report more at length.

Despite this publicity neither paper ever referred to the matter again, and one has to presume after the Rev Garner’s visit the events ceased.  No doubt if such a story were reported today it would be ascribed to a poltergeist, albeit a reasonably well behaved one. At the time William seems to have been the chief suspect, perhaps because people thought that a schoolmaster might be a better trickster than a young girl, but the latter clearly fits into Frank Podmore’s stereotype of the bored young girl.

Life cannot have been easy for a girl verging on her teens living with a strongly religious elderly couple in an isolated spot, and that may have been exacerbated by the arrival of schoolmaster William. Perhaps she had to give up her own room to him, hence her sharing a room with the elderly couple.

However as we saw, at the time it seems to have been attributed to witchcraft, or at least to some “dark thing”.

One explanation of the period would have been the actions of a boggart. Boggarts were quite well known in the district, the road at the southern end of Moss Lane, Gammershaw Lane, was the haunt of a notorious boggart, though no-one ever seems to have given a clear description of it. Along the Barton-Stretford turnpike was a house called by the Victorians the boggart house, though whether this referred to an alleged haunting, or was a Victorian euphemism for ‘bugged’, (local term for stupid or ruined) as that was how it was described in the 18th century Stretford Parish Registers.

Mary Maria stuck it out however, she was still there at the time of the 1861 censuses, and when Samuel died on the 25 June 1864, she was the main executor of his will. By 1871 she had gone and her widowed mother Mary Hopwood Snr. had come to look after her aunt.

The cottages remained in existence into the early twentieth century, apparently now run together into a house called locally “The Butterhouse” after the incident, but memories were vague and confused. In one of two histories of the district written for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria but not published until the following year. Richard Lawson, the Head Master of the Urmston Higher Grade School wrote;

“THE BUTTERHOUSE. This farmhouse still standing on the left hand side of Moss Road, was the subject of a supposed mystery, about the year 1848; it was then occupied by Samuel Warburton and his wife. A greasy substance, resembling butter was supposed to have unaccountably appeared on the walls, furniture, pictures but especially the leaves of the family bible; in fact everywhere except Sam’s suite of Sunday clothes. It is generally supposed the author of this ‘mystery’ was Warburton himself, due to mental alienation.” (Lawson, Richard.  A History of Flixton, Urmston and Davyhulme. The author, 1898, p.123)

This area was finally urbanised in the mid 1930s and became an estate of semi-detached houses. No trace of the old cottages remains, and I have not been able to find a photograph of it.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

NOTES

1. New Bailey: the old prison in Salford, opened in 1787 and closed in 1868.

2. Police Constable Bent.  James Bent (1828-1901), In 1853 he was the constable for Lostock and Davyhulme. By 1868 he had risen to the Superintendent at Stretford in the Lancashire Police. He was noted for his work with destitute children, and was author of  My Criminal Life. (1891) He does not refer to the incident in this book, but does confess that as a young man he was much afraid of ghosts and the like, mainly from reading too many “penny dreadfuls”

3. Not traced; in the 1851 census William was lodging with John Owen a farmer at Pownall Fee in Cheshire, probably a distant relative, Samuel and William’s grandfather was John Owen alias Warburton. Hulme was a suburb of Manchester, already it was an industrial area. In 1851 the population was 53,482

4. Primitive Methodist, a radical evangelical and essentially working class breakaway from the mainstream Methodist Movement, starting from a camp meeting at Mow Cop in Staffordshire in 1807. Regarded as ‘emotional’ and ‘enthusiastic’ by its critics. Both its founders William Clowes and Hugh Bourne believed in witches and boggarts. Handloom weavers and petty property owners like the Warburtons were the sort of people attracted. By 1854 the denomination was edging much closer to respectability.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primitive_Methodism and http://www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=opentogod.content&cmid=1619)

5. Tim Bobbin, John Collier (1708-1786) was a Lancashire dialect writer of both prose and poetry, he was the son of a local schoolmaster, and was born in a house in Church Lane (Church Road) in Urmston. However the actual house was demolished by this period, and its exact location was disputed, Warburton presumably owned one of the cottages on the most probable site. For more details on Collier and his house see the Waugh reference above.

6. These purport to be verbatim transcripts, yet they are all in suspiciously standard English, not the heavy local dialect (briefly used in the bit about Sam’s suit.

7. I have not been able to locate this Sunday School

8. Possibly the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Davyhulme Road built in 1853.

9. The couple may have been bilingual in standard English and Lancashire but it is perhaps more probable that the editor has standardised the speech and perhaps altered in other ways.

10. Briefly mentioned in A Dictionary of Superstitions edited by Iona Opie and Moira Tatem Oxford University Press, 1992 pp.200-01 and Steve Roud The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland. Penguin Books, 2003 p.250.

11. James Garner 1809- 1895, was a noted member of the Primitive Methodist Community (born in Leake, Nottinghamshire) and spent much of his career in the nearby Cheshire town of Sale.

* * * * *

The Lostock area was relatively unchanged as late as 1910, and a comparison with a modern map can be found here. http://maps.cheshire.gov.uk/tithemaps/  You should enter ‘Sale’ township and move slowly north-west at high magnification to find the locality.

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Ghost Writers; A Brief Overview. Peter Rogerson

From Magonia 11, 1982

ghost

Ghosts are making a belated academic comeback, with officially sponsored volumes by the Folklore Society (1) and the Society for Psychical Research (3), and a detailed social history (2). So I take this opportunity also to review some volumes which fell through my fingers first time round.

That academics and journalists are both fascinated by ghosts is good testimony to their continued presence in our minds. As Finucane shows, ghosts have a pedigree going back to Greek and Roman times, a point also made by W M S Russell in the Folklore Society symposium. Russell suggests that a culture’s perception of its ghosts depends on its funeral customs; people who bury the dead portray concrete ghosts – ‘raw head and bloody bones’. An excellent Icelandic example of this is provided by Hilda Ellis Davidson, in which the revenant comes from the grave to claim person after person to join the legion of ghosts, as in east European vampire legends. This is symbolic of plague and other epidemics claiming victim after victim. Those who burn the dead envisage smoky, hazy spirits who drift across consciousness.

Finucane traces the evolution of the ghost through various stages of Christian theology. In medieval Christianity, ghosts were far from the marginal entities they are today. They were integral parts of society, enforcing its codes, demanding that justice be done, that debts be paid, that remains be buried properly and that harmony prevail among surviving relatives. Fear of ghosts’ wrath enforced proper respect for the helpless aged. Ghosts could give evidence in court. Most importantly, they enforced the correct theological line, with graphic descriptions of purgatory, heaven and hell. Living and dead were part of an organic unity: Church Militant, Church Suffering and Church Triumphant. (R H Bowyer, in (1), p. 190)

The Reformation abolished purgatory and literally damned all ghosts to hell; spectres refusing to stay there were clearly demons. This theological doctrine clashed with traditional belief and posed the awful dilemma: ‘Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned?’ Hamlet’s ghost may well be reinforcing social mores, but in doing so it leads to demonic tragedy.

The religious persecutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries created a great crop of ghost stories. The trauma of the shattering of the old order created a vast number of ghostly monks; expressions of grief and guilt, and Civil War, tore the nation apart; the ghostly Roundheads and Cavaliers, crimes magnified by the legion of rival pamphleteers, haunted on. History’s wounds were unforgotten and unforgiven, held in thrall by generations of local gossip and tradition. It should be remembered that in the nineteenth century there were still districts where families voted Liberal or Conservative, depending on which side their ancestors had fought in the Civil War.

The Reformation had damned ghosts, partly because it was trying to escape tradition. A society which perceives the world in fairly stable terms might be able to come to terms with its ‘history’ walking around; a society seeing itself in dynamic terms needed to jettison history – it was now necessary to dispose of traditional customs, producing the tensions which also gave rise to increased witch belief. (8)

There were other effects of the Civil War. The farmers and artisans who joined the Parliamentary armies were exposed to the ferment of new ideas, questioning the whole basis of traditional society. Conversely, the gentry and aristocracy, repelled by ‘the mob’, withdrew physically and intellectually to an unprecedented degree. Both sections of society began to reject ghost stories and traditional religion, while the Anglican Church, re-established and protected by penal legislation, looked on in apathy.

In these conditions Puritans like Richard Baxter, who 60 years ago would have considered ghosts as damnable, now began to use them to conduct the campaign against the modern Sadducees. (cf. (9)) Though the intellectual and literate elite may have despised ghosts, the vast majority of their fellow countrymen probably continued to hold traditional beliefs.

These traditional beliefs were taken into the rapidly growing industrial towns by the masses coming in from the country. Finucane does not cover the ideas of the working classes during this period, but some background can be gleaned from studies by Thomas (10) and Hamson (11).

By the mid-nineteenth century the ghost shad receded into a dim figure on the margins of consciousness. The only message that it had to give was the message of survival itself. Ghosts receded from society. From Mackenzie (3) emerges a nice picture of the typical Victorian ghost. The Despard ghost was a widow in black – like the maiden aunt or the widowed sister an embarrassing add-ition to the family.

The anonymous Victorian ghost flitting through the house reflected the breakup of the traditional home held for generations. The Victorian family, drifting from one leased house to another, were strangers in their own residences. The servants often had far more intimate connection with the house than their masters; they were part of the local community and its repository of folk history. As Claire Russell points out in the Folklore Society symposium, ghosts are about the living. In the Victorian period houses tended to become haunted because the local community decided that some fundamental vio-lation of the social mores had occurred.

This could range from anything between murder and leaving the house vacant too long. In many cases, ghosts were the expression of the community’s hostility to new tenants, and the tenants’ alienation from their res-idence. Significantly, many modern haunted houses are council houses or rented properties.

Haunts were not the only ghosts: death-bed apparitions, crisis apparitions, fetches and warnings, testified to the uncertainties of Victorian life – the separation of rel-ations sent abroad to colonial fever spots, the rampant infant mortality. Many of the people who became the centre of crisis apparitions had broken social mores in some way. One suspects that many ‘old and dear friends’ from the colonies who appeared to married women, were lovers sent away in disgrace.

Finucane notes the rigid social distinctions that operated in Victorian psychical research: that the middle classes never lied, that servants were timid and unreliable, and that the ‘peasantry’ were unthinking brutes. This led to some embarrassing situations, as in the case of poor Judge Horby, who found he either had to admit to lying or to sleeping with his wife before they were married.

If the psychical researchers turned their backs on the peasantry and their beliefs, the folklorists put them on pedestals. Romantics, rejecting the industrial revolution, dreamed up a fairytale past of noble peasants in little thatched cottages in a green and pleasant land. Such folklorists as the Dane, Evart Tang Kristensen could take seriously any ghost. These included revolving fiery wheels, or the wagon with three wheels which had the power to paralyse other wagons on the road, like modern UFOs. The folklorists and romantics created a market for Gothic horror stories and gibbering spectres.

The traditional Victorian ghost story reflected a sense of the horror beneath the placid surface of everyday life. They were reminders of the thin veneer of Victorian rationalism. It is hardly surprising that, as Julia Briggs points out, the ghost story as an art form fell when that veneer was wiped away in the trenches.
It is hardly surprising, then, that the heyday of the ‘true’ ghost story lay in the period before the First World War. It is significant that more than half the accounts in Mackenzie’s book refer to the period before the War. If ghosts are products of the human imagination’s response to real or imaginary outrages, then how can they be generated by the truly unimaginable outrage?

The modern ghost may well be more extrovert than his Victorian predecessor. Randy spectres fondling young ladies in council houses are all right in the pages of the Sun or the National Voyeur, but are hardly the right sort of company for the SPR. Modern ghosts are often drained of terror completely. The once-grim messengers are now reduced to competition with space-invader machines as tourist attractions in pubs. No longer even dim messengers of survival, perhaps memories of a lost history.

The poltergeist is the truly contemporary ghost, in its element in the age of the vandal. The poltergeist becomes a symbol of the shattering of society’s rules, the voice of the voiceless. The horror of contemporary fiction is now the super polt, heavy with fantasies of omnipotent destructive power. The quiet, old-fashioned ghost, like the spectre of little Johnny Minty, as described by Mackenzie, weeping endlessly for his mother, may pull at our heart-strings; the polts, evoked by Gauld and Cornell (4) or Rogo (6) can still give us the horrors. The emotion evoked by an attack by a poltergeist is the same as that of an attack by burglars or vandals, one of violation. It is this sense of violation of the home as a bastion against the forces of the wilderness outside, the overthrow of the safe rational world of everyday reason and common sense.

It must be said that the pre-poltergeist worlds of many of the victims do not seem especially safe or rational. The family discussed by Playfair (5) were already under the attention of social workers, and other polt families have had pretty severe problems. It is hardly surprising that both ‘normal’ and ‘paranormal’ trickery take place together; they are perhaps different means of expressing the same crisis.

Gauld and Cornell also describe place-centred polts, places which seem to be hostile. The old term ‘boggart’ seems aptly to describe this centre which generates confused multiform hallucinations and strange noises. Once again, is it not to the neighbours and the local community that we should look for reasons why a place becomes labelled ‘off-limits’? The only ‘message’ here seems to be: ‘Fear, fear’; ‘Get out’; ‘Boggart off!’

Ghosts are on the retreat, their role as dispensers of justice replaced by a modern police, their power to communicate across distances replaced by the telephone and television. Perhaps they have now faded forever beyond the reach of psychical researchers; soon the vandals will drive the polts away. Yet if their disappearance marks the end of our capacity for outrage, then we are in deep trouble. Maybe the ghosts of Belsen, of Hiroshima and of Kampuchea should
 howl and gibber and cry out for vengeance.

REFERENCES

1. ELLIS-DAVIDSON, Hilda R and RUSSELL, W M S (Editors), The Folklore of Ghosts. Cambridge, D S Brewer, for the Folklore Society, 1981.
2. FINUCANE, R C, Appearances of the Dead: A Cultural History of Ghosts. London, Junction Books, 1982.
3. MACKENZIE, Andrew, Hauntings and Apparitions. London, Heinemann, for the Society for Psychical Research, 1982.
4. GAULD, Alan and CORNELL, A O, Poltergeists. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul,1979. E9.95
5. PLAYFAIR, Guy Lyon, This House is Haunted: An Enfield Poltergeist. London, Souvenir Press, 1979. E6.95.
6. ROGO, D Scott, The Poltergeist Experience. Penguin, 1979.
7. RHINE, Louisa, The Invisible Picture – A Studuy of Psychic Experiences
8. MACFARLANE, Alan. Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964
9. WALKER, D. P. The Decline of Hell, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964
10. THOMAS, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. Penguin, 1973
11. HAMSON, J.F.C. The Second Coming; Popular Millenarianism 1780-1856. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979.
12. BRIGGS, Julia. Night Visitors; the Rise and Fall of the English Ghost Story. Faber, 1977

         

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And the Dog Began to Howl. Peter Rogerson

 From Magonia 27, September 1987 


The other day a young man came into my office, seeking the history of his house: who had lived in it and especially who might have died. Was it just curiosity? No, There was ‘something wrong’ with the house, where the baby would not sleep and the dog had begun to howl. Maybe, he thought, it was haunted.

The same day a woman came in trying to discover what occupied the land where her house now stood before it was built. She gave no reason, but on previous occasions this type of query has been stimulated by fears of hauntings. At least once a month someone comes to me with this type of enquiry.

These incidents are from my experience as a local history librarian in a northern town. It is apparent to me that there exist many unreported ‘haunted houses’, and that a powerful factor in this is a fear of the unofficial ‘off-campus’ history of the house. A history of the organic round of birth, procreation and, especially, death, which is perceived by the house’s current occupier as being oppressive, palpable and threatening. In some senses the house, ‘the home’, is an extension of the individual’s body or personality; hence the trauma induced by burglaries. Similarly the house is seen as having been imprinted, one might almost say contaminated, by the previous occupants. The house has borne witness to their most intimate moments.To the new occupant – the ‘incomer’ – the haunted house has a ‘history’ or a ‘reputation’ in a personal, almost sexual, way. The house is not a ‘virgin’. It has been violated by the presence of other human activity, which may afflict and infect the incomer. The sorts of questions which are asked about the haunted house’s previous owners or tenants are the sorts of questions one might ask about one’s partner’s previous sexual partners.

The main terror inspired by these previous occupants is that they are dead, gone, finished; that they are not continuing the organic round elsewhere. They have become part of history, their lives cannot be experienced, only inferred.

One of the cornerstones of sceptical historical philosophy is that historical events cannot be directly known about; all we have access to are the written and structural documents left by past generations, from which history may be ‘reconstructed’. [1] This history vbecomes the formal history, the ‘campus history’, the history taught in schools, the network of kings and dates. Perhaps also a rather mare intimate history reconstructed from diaries, wills, reports, enquiries and the press.

But there is another history, the oral history of folk memory, ballads, songs, stories learned at mothers knee, passed on across generations – ‘off-campus’ history. Unlike the documents of campus history, this still has a power over the living, it can still be experienced. It is a kind of folklore, often at dramatic odds with the documentary history. It is a history which is a present reality, shaping the lives and experiences of its hearers. The ‘history’ of haunted houses, is very much an ‘off-campus, peoples’ history, a folklore of what should be true rather than documentary truth.

At the heart and core of much ghostlore is a belief that certain events taking place in a space or territory forever render that space an inappropriate location for the mundane activities of life. The events remove it from the realm of secular to sacred space.

The Herald of Free Enterprise - It belongs to history and too its victims all else are intruders

It now belongs to history, and to its victims all else are intruders.

To take an example: most people (this writer among them) would consider it highly inappropriate for the salvaged Channel Ferry The Herald of Free Enterprise ever to be used to carry passengers again. Its only morally coherent fate would be for it to be taken into deep. deep waters and scuttled. An analysis of the reasons for this feeling is difficult because a-rational, but would clearly centre on the sense of the Herald’s place as a catastrophic scar on the memories of the living. It now, like Abraham Lincoln, belongs to history, and to its victims all else are intruders.

Here then is another step towards the social history of the haunted house. In popular imagination it is a place where an event has happened which closes the life of the house and consecrates it to a particularmoment of history. This is principally because the community now sees that place as a monument to that event. Even if no documentary ‘campus’ history attaches itself to the building, the sense of moral coherence demands that such history be supplied. Having been consecrated to history, the price to be paid for its violation is for the violator to directly experience history.

Hence the sign of the haunted house is its invisible parallel life wherein history is recapitulated. [2] Furthermore this history is experienced often as wilderness/chaos. This equation between history and wilderness operates because of the pervasive power that history has on us – the lives of all readers of Magonia are conditioned by the fact that, e.g., the Allies won World War II and not the Axis. History is an irreducible fait accompli: a brute, unchanging fact of nature. It has immense power over us, but we have no power at all over it.That is not all, as Gould and Cornell point out. [3] In ‘real’ cases it is difficult to separate out poltergeists and hauntings. Note that in parapsychological folklore poltergeists are associated with the ‘awakening’ of the sexual energies of adolescents, hauntings with events taking place after death. Poltergeist disturbances are thus connected with the emergence of potentialities to create life (before the beginning), hauntings are connected with the fading away of what was once a life (after the end).

Polts and haunts thus mark the alpha and omega of the organic round; together they form a symbol for the creation and destruction of life. Sexuality, procreation, birth and death belong to the wilderness and they are barely contained within the structures of society. The shattering of the family home and property represents the incapacity of the family to tame the raw energies of creation and destruction.

Ghosts, haunts and polts then are the signs of the liminal zones between being and not being: the history of the haunted house is the history of repetitions of this organic round, or its dramatic severance. Amongst the commonest motifs is that of the friendly or, hostile house. The house appears to accept or reject the incomer, and the incomers sense of ease or unease is projected onto the house, aided and abetted by subtle clues from neighbours.

The theme of hostile houses suggests a confusion between people and places: the disturbed house is a metaphor for disturbed family dynamics. For example, one of Mackenzie’s female correspondents reported that her childhood had been made unhappy by a ‘hostile presence’ in her house, centred on a bedroom which made her “pale and thin unlike all the other children”, and which made her reluctant to return home from school. [4] These are typical symptoms of a victim of child abuse. This lady’s mother refused to discuss the incidents, saying her own childhood had been made unhappy by the psychic delvings of her mother.

In another case a woman claimed that a hostile presence nearly caused the breakup of her marriage: her husband laughing at her fears caused her to panic and fall down stairs on more than one occasion – giving hints of suppressed violence.

In a case from Birmingham in 1955, a poltergeist was blamed for the death of a month-old baby. Raps and whisperings were heard in the house, and a four-year-old child saw a ‘dog’ sitting on the baby’s face. [7,8]

At present no detailed studies exist which look at the haunted house from the ‘new parapsychological’ perspective. Osborne’s study of The Woman in Brown’ [5], or Fodor on ‘Ash Manor’ [6] being exceptions. Each such incident may be pregnant with meaning, for the experient, even the story may be selected because it deals with the incomer’s problems.

In the case of ‘The Woman in Brown’, the appearance of ‘the woman’ to the central percipient when a telephone rang, was traced through a network of past traumatic experiences, both real and fantisised, involving sudden death and blankets. In the Ash Manor case, the incidents revolved round a couple’s sexual conflicts.

In such cases ‘dead things which will not lie down’ from the percipient’s personal history, become connected with or projected onto the dynamic of the off-campus history of the territory where the events take place. The ‘objectivity’ and collective nature of such incidents derives from a collective fantasy producing traumas with much drama, the ‘ghost story’ of a property, may, on closer reflection, show some correspondence to the personal concerns of the living. Such stories often involve violation of profound taboos, domestic murder, suicide, infanticide and forbidden passions.

It is difficult to say of course, how many alleged poltergeists are covers for domestic violence. This break-down of traditional family mores leads to a reversal of the home and family as a bastion against the forces of outer chaos. The haunted house is transformed into a wild anti-home, a place to flee from in fear, instead of run to for security. The majority of haunted houses are not the property of the occupiers. The traditional Victorian haunted house was the short-lease house, where the servants come with the property. The archetypal modern haunted house is the council house. Such houses literally ‘belong to someone else’. They are perhaps more ‘used’, have more off-campus history than other, more settled, houses. There is a greater likelihood of a failure of bonding between the occupant and the house.

I have previously argued that the idea of the changeling arose as a mechanism to rationalise child abuse and the failure of parental bonding. The parents’ feelings of hatred, aggression and alienation are projected onto the child itself, turning it into a hostile alien presence. May not a similar mechanism exist for houses: the incomer’s sense of alienation from the house or community, and their failure to experience the house as ‘home sweet home’ are projected onto the house, now regarded. like the changeling child, as a hostile, threatening presence.It is also possible that a sizeable proportion of haunted houses are ‘first time’ homes, wherein young couples are experiencing the strains of marriage and adult responsibilities, and where the home is a source of worry rather than idealised domestic bliss. The problems of the ‘home’, in the sense of family life, becomes projected on the physical structure of the house. Alienation from the home becomes experience of the house as alien. 

The mediums and exorcists who visit such houses know what their clients want and need: a good costume melodrama, full of fire and passion and suffering, which like a TV soap, tells the audience “You think you’ve cot problems…!” Such stories contain stock situations which inform the community of expected norms.

There is a school of sociologists which argues that society needs criminals and deviants to denounce, in order to demonstrate its rules and solidify the community in upholding them. The haunted house is a marking-stone of the violation of community taboos, a scapegoat in brick and stone for all the dark and unworthy secrets of the community. Do the incomers then take upon themselves the traumas of the whole commuity? Do they become involuntary sin eaters?


NOTES AND REFERENCES

  1.  MEILAND, Jack W. Scepticism and historical knowledge (Random House studies in philosophy) Random House, 1965.
  2.  The noises groans and bangings reported in haunted houses are remarkably reminiscent of those of a charivari or rough riding, In this traditional ritual the members of the community whose norms had been violated would parade outside the offender’s house banging pots, making groans and other noises, throwing pebbles at the windows, indeed generally behaving just like poltergeists, to make life unpleasane. The incomer had violated the taboo against entering space reserved for hauntings, Indeed, traditional lore connects hauntings with the violation of specific taboos, such as building houses over graveyards, playing with Ouija boards or dancing on graves, all of which violate the sanctity and separateness of history and the ancestors.
  3.  GAULD, Alan and CORNELL, A. D.  Poltergeists Routledge and Kegan Paul.
  4.  MACKENZIE, Andrew.  Seen and Unseen: Study of Presences, Apparitions and Other Paranormal Phenomena. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1987.
  5.  OSBORNE, Edward, ‘The ‘Woman in Brown; an investigation of an apparition’, Journal of the SPR vol. xxxv, no, 655 (Nov-Dec, 1949), pp, 123-53.
  6.  FODOR, Nandor. The Haunted Mind: A Psychoanalyst Looks at the Supernatural, Helix Press, 1959.
  7.  MOSS, Peter. Ghosts Over Britain. Sphere 1979.
  8.  BRADDOCK, Joseph. Haunted Houses 1956 

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One Measures a Circle… Peter Rogerson

 

circleFrom Magonia 26, June 1987

Peter Rogerson examines the folklore of ‘Balls of Light’ (BOLS), and finds some remarkable connections with UFOs, poltergeists and witchcraft

In the Rio Grand area of the United States, Lights in the Sky (LITS) are well known amongst both whites and Indians as signs of high flying witches. As Pulitzer Prize winning Indian novelist N. Scott Momaday wrote in the Santa Fe New Mexicanof 24th September 1972:”There are witches at Lémy Pueblo, and when I lived there I knew them sure enough. One night I saw some curious lights away in the distance, small points of light moving erratically about at ground level, and I was told them they were witch lights. I thought nonsense, there are some boys running about with flashlights, that is all. And then one of the lights rose slowly and moved like a shooting star across the whole expanse of the sky. I shudder to think of it”

The community believed that witches could fly disguised as gourds, eggs, pumpkins and especially fireballs. People could be abducted by witches, teleported to distant locations. The Cochite describe such fireballs as measuring six to twelve inches in diameter, and consisting of a black centre with a surrounding surface of fiery red flames. Other pueblos believed similar things.Strange tales are told of these lights – two men travelling the road to Chama late one December night saw at about 1 o’clock in the morning a phantasmal light in the distance. At first they thought it might be a campfire of wood gatherers, but on drawing close they saw it change shape and make unearthly motions. Finally it soared upwards and shot across the horizon to the town of San Luis. When the men went to a nearby house to enquire about the strange phenomenon, the farmer claimed he was bewitched and the fireball was his tormentor.

Nicolo Marina of San Mateo saw a fireball descending into an arroyo and on going to investigate he discovered it had changed into a huge rat. As he chased it through tall grass it suddenly changed into a dog, gave a savage growl and disappeared among the willows.

Men named Juan were noted as witchfinders and capturers. An excellent way to capture witches was to draw a circle on the ground. One such man was Juan Chavez of Torré, who lived in the 1890′s. One day, riding from Torré to visit a friend in Casa Colorado, down an isolated stretch of road he perceived a large ball of fire leaping over the countryside in great bounds. Realising it was a transformed witch, he dismounted and drew a circle on the road. The flaming object then flew into the circle and vanished. Juan carried on with his journey. Returning along the same route the next day he found an old woman named Chata, a suspected witch, sitting on the road unable to move unless he held her hand.

The bewitchment that these fiery witches brought was the supernatural attack. A modern case of this sort occurred in 1966 at the Alfaneo Quintana home in El Llan, south of Taos. A barrage of rocks pelted the house during the late night hours, and some witnesses saw weird luminosities. The wife of a local J.P., Mrs Mascarenas described fireballs “about the size of a golf-ball, a strange blue gray colour, not at ail like a flashlight”. They bounded along higher than a man’s head, and disappeared into the trees further down the Santa Barbara road. No footprints were found, and bullets fired into the darkness had no effect. (1)

There are a number of stories connecting strange assaults and ghost-lights in the literature.

In July 1962 a series of strange flashes like neon tubes, which were seen whether the blinds were drawn or not, plagued the Howell home in Clayton, North Carolina. They were red or yellow, about the brilliance of a 200 watt bulb. Parapsychologist William Roll who investigated saw “three clear but not blinding flashes of Iight”. No prowler was found, and it a geared that the lights originate from inside the house. (2)

During the period October 9-14, 1966, poltergeist disturbances, including phantom stone-throwers, furniture overturning and increases in air pressure were reported from the Szlanfucht house in Osceola, St Joseph’s County, Indiana. At the same time strange lights were seen in the sky in the area.’ (3)

In March of the same year similar disturbances were reported at the Reeves home near Toledo, Oregon. The story began when 15-year-old Kathy Reeves and a friend were walking up Pioneer Road and saw a ruddy glow in the distance. As they got closer they saw it was “smoke boiling all around, making a dome shape as high as a room”. No fire was found in the field, however.

From then on the family was plagued with ‘crawling lights’. At one time someone fired at something outside, which retreated,then the inside of the house suddenly sparkled with a multitude of crawling lights. Mrs Reeves woke up, at two in the morning to see:

“my whole bedroom … a rosy glow so bright you could read a newspaper in it … I happened to turn towards the door leading into the living room and I saw this thing like a cloud just hanging there. It was water-melon coloured and you could see through it … It was just a kind  of hazy mass for a couple of seconds, and then it disappeared.”

A chemist friend, Max Taylor, camped out and saw two pulsating spots of light on opposite ends of the house, like a beam of light seen at the extremes. Presumably on the same night a deputy saw an orange light maneuvering, which disappeared after ninety seconds with a high-pitched whine. Strange walking stumps were also seen and marks found in fields. Others saw peculiar objects in the sky. (4)

The Gould farm at South Middleton (Mass.) was, in 1977/78 the scene of a complex series of events, including a landed UFO which left physical traces, a small helmeted being which appeared and disappeared, a faceless prowler, a vague case of cattle mutilation, and poltergeist disturbances. (5)

At Lowell, Michigan, three men of ‘dubious repute’ became paranoid over ‘kids’ in camouflage suits who had the unnerving habit of running on all fours. Gradually they became convinced that ‘they’ were climbing into their house, and fired at them. The men thought they had killed one of the intruders, but no body was found, and the trio were arrested by the police. At Shelbyville, Michigan, a young couple panicked, believing they were being besieged by prowlers or police, wearing SWAT suits showing green lights. There was also a prowler who broke in, who fled when pursued, and a red light like a lens moving up and down the window of a the house. (6)

There are many other cases which fall into this pattern – an isolated farm in Ohio besieged by two giant ‘ape-men’ and something like a hazy, box-like light, a light beam, flashes of light in a wood, and a red light flitting among the trees, as well as cases like Hopkinsville, and even the notorious Ripperstone Farm in Wales.

evansIt was not just in the Rio Grande that strange lights were associated with witchcraft. Similar beliefs were held by several African societies. During his field work amongst the Azande, Evans-Pritchard (left) saw, just once,

“…witchcraft on its paths. About midnight, before retiring, I took a spear and went for my usual nocturnal stroll. I was walking in the garden at the back of my hut, amongst banana trees, when I noticed a bright light passing at the back of my servant’s hut towards the homestead of a man called Tupoi. As this seemed worth investigation I followed its passage, until a grass screen obscured the view. I ran quickly through my hut to the other side in order to see where the light was going … but did not regain sight of it. I knew that only one man, a member of my household, had a lamp that bright, but he had not been out or used it”

Evans-Pritchard was told he had seen witchcraft which had caused the death of a man in Tupoi’s compound. (8)

Amongst the Basuto, witches were accused of turning into fireballs in order to harass houses, and the witches appeared as balls of fire amongst the treetops. Men could extinguish them by using the proper medicine. (9)

What can one make of this apparent connection between LITs, witchcraft and poltergeists? A good clue lies in the cases of ‘phantom attackers’. An historical case mentioned by Westrum offers perhaps the best insight. In 1692 in Gloucester, Massachusetts, an Ebenezer Bapson was plagued by ‘French-men and Indians’ who were repeatedly shot at for three weeks, defying all attempts to kill or capture them. Westrum comments: “the bold appearance of these phantoms, the general lack of concern about the gunfire, their seeming invulnerability when convincingly hit, and their skulking are all familiar elements in these stories.” (6)

The context of this story is dramatic. 1692 was the year of Salem, in the period when the security and very survival of New England was at stake. The Puritan experiment was threatened externally by the French and Indian depredations, which meant that no colonial border was safe; and the charter of 1691 enfranchised dissident Quakers
and Anglicans (10) The external and internal wildernesses were threatening the New World garden. The Indians and French were seen less as humans, than as demonic inhabitants of the howling wilderness (11) – a wilderness now perceived as “less a force to be mastered in accordance with divine plan than a menacing presence that threatened to encroach on their territories.” (10)

The same theme of habitat under siege from the wilderness is obvious. Perhaps the paradigm here is the famous film Assault on Precinct Thirteen in which the embattled inhabitants of an isolated urban police station are surrounded by semi-substantial urban terrorists and hoodlums, who remove the bodies of their dead, leaving little physical evidence.

The social, natural and supernatural wilderness is merged into a single vision of external chaos. The real life victims of such attacks appear to be those in geographical and/or socially marginal situations: inhabitants of the liminal zone on the physical and psychological frontiers of society, exposing themselves to the wilderness. The besiegers are today’s witches and demons, with all their traditional immunity to human weapons. By incorporating the wilderness into themselves they transcend the human condition: as part of the wilderness they are invulnerable to the puny efforts of human technology.

circleThe real life victims of such attacks appear to be those in geographical or socially marginal situations: inhabitants of the liminal zone on the physical and psychological frontiers of society

The central treason of witchcraft is the invitation of wilderness into the midst of habitat. It is not surprising that one of the afflicted at Salem reported that her spectral assailants included French-Canadians and Indians, and that the book which directed their diabolic mission was a Catholic devotional text written in French. (10)

Witchcraft accusations are generally believed to result from quarrels and tensions within the community; tensions which rupture the bounds of habitat, allowing in wilderness. To the Church, every act of sin or deviance placed the sinner in a liminal state, which made them an opening through which the external demonic forces could invade the community.So what can the equation BOLS = Witches mean? In a variety of cultures we have seen that BOLS are equated with the wild spirits of the distant wilderness, far beyond the frontiers of human habitation. They also symbolise the zone of the spiritual: in becoming a fireball the witch has achieved a final transcendence of the human condition.It might well be that if BOLs are associated with seismic activity or ball-lightning they would be even more appropriate as symbols of the wilderness, both perfectly demonstrating the fragility of human habitat, buffeted by the weather, split and shaken by the trembling earth.

A strict application of the psycho-socio-cultural hypothesis would make us hesitate about awarding any special status to modern ‘scientific’ theories making them immune from psycho-socio-cultural analysis. Such an analysis would argue that the modern folklore of earthquake lights, fault-lines and so on, contains profound symbolism. Fault-lines are symbolic liminal zones, gaps in reality where energies might enter.

Whether taken as fact or symbol, BOLs as earthquake lights, harbingers of wilderness, can also be interpreted as spirits of transcendence, reminders that reversion to, or coming of the wilderness is not just a degradation.

****

NOTES AND REFERENCES:

1. SIMMONDS, Marc. Witchcraft in the Southwest; Spanish and Indian Supernaturalism on the Rio Grande, Norland Press, 1974.
2. ROLL, William G, The Poltergeist, Star Books, 1976, (Chapter 6, Strange Lights in Clayton, North Carolina).
3. SMITH, J, ,The Case of the Messy Poltergeist’, Fate (UK), May 1967 p,42 ff.
4. LLOYD Dan, ‘Crawling Lights, a new development’, FSR vol, 13, no, 3, (May-June 1967) pp,29-30.
5. WEBB David F, ‘Humanoids at South Middleton’ FSR, vol, 27, no, 1, pp 23-28 and vol, 27, no, 2, pp. 8-12.
6. WESTRUM, Ron, ‘Phantom Attackers’, Fortean Times, no, 45, pp,54-58.
7. RICKARD, Bob ‘More Phantom Sieges’, Fortean Times no, 45, pp, 58-61.
8. EVANS-PRITCHARD, E. E. Witchcraft Oracles and Magic among the Azande. Clarendon Press, 1937.
9. PARRINDER, Geoffrey, Witchcraft, European and African, Faber 1963
10. WEISEMAN, Richard, Witchcraft, Magic and Religion in 17th Century Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts Press, 1984.
11. DEMOS, John (Ed.) Remarkable Providence, Braziller, 1972.
12, ROGERSON, Peter. ‘Taken to the Limits’, Magonia 23, July 1986, pp. 3-12.