The trials of the Pendle witches in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in British history. Some of the twelve accused and charged with the murders of ten people by use of witchcraft lived in the area around Pendle Hill, which can be clearly viewed from our home here in Whalley. The prosecutor during the trials is now buried in our village’s graveyard.
Instead of handing out candy to the young Halloween trick or treaters knocking at our front door, Sarah and I decided to participate in something a little different last night. Led by local historian Simon Entwistle, we joined other people from throughout the local area on a ghost walk through Whalley. By the end of the evening we learned that in addition to being one of the more desirable places to reside in the Ribble Valley, our otherwise quaint and tranquil village is also a hotbed of documented paranormal activity.
Along with pints of ale, spirits are freely poured within the four pubs located in Whalley. What we didn’t know is that spirits of the supernatural variety have been long-time residents in two of them. The Bishop of Blackburn has unsuccessfully attempted to exorcise The Swan of the ghost of barmaid Mary Lane who committed suicide after her illegitimate child was taken from her. Immediately across the street, the spirit of a white-clad monk mischievously turns off keg lines leading up from the cellar to the beer taps at the De Lacy Arms. This same monk has also been spotted at the ruins of nearby Whalley Abbey, while the apparition of an attractive young nun is regularly observed strolling along the lane outside the abbey’s walls, as well as coming inside and visiting the past and current owners of one of the adjacent homes. An angry poltergeist has also repeatedly broken the windows of the building which houses the village’s Indian restaurant, to the point where local glazers now refuse to return to make repairs. Add to this the ghostly sightings of two young boys who walk along the tracks of our landmark brick railway viaduct, plus the horse-riding phantom of one of notorious highwayman Dick Turpin’s associates, which was once overtaken and "run over" by a crew of firefighters speeding towards an emergency call.
Sarah and I wrapped up this spirited evening walking back to the warm comfort of our home while sharing a mushroom and cheese pizza between us. What was that? Did you hear that? Only some autumnal leaves, rustling behind us in the night-time breeze. Or was it?