Historic Shrewsbury (and indeed the rest of Shropshire) is a haven for lovers of ghostly tales. Down the ages, the county’s many bizarre characters have produced an abundance of myths and legends.
The Brimstone Trail
Close by to Shrewsbury Abbey is the Dun Cow Inn, apparently still a convenient haunt for thirsty clerics, though they be long dead. In 1980, Mrs Hayes, wife of the then landlord, woke suddenly one evening. In the room was a hooded figure. It wore a monk’s habit, though dotted with bright colours – and was bent over her infant daughter’s cot!
Disturbed, the phantom father disappeared, but later visited the child, now aged two again. She woke screaming, frightened by the man in her room. Mr Hayes also saw the monk; guests have glimpsed shadowy figures disappearing through walls and at night…Soft! Are those footsteps in the cellar?
Stay at the Mytton & Mermaid Hotel at Atcham, Shrewsbury on September 30th and spend a wild night with John “Mad Jack” Mytton, who gave his name to the hotel. Mad Jack inherited a fortune and devoted his life to daredevilry, risking it at least once a day and his liver more frequently, drinking up to six bottles of port. Eccentric, too. He is reputed to have kept 2,000 dogs and more than 60 finely-costumed cats. A long time ago, mind. The squire of Halston Hall between 1796 and 1834 died in a debtor’s prison. His funeral procession stopped at the Mytton, then a coaching inn, on the way to Halston Chapel. And as can’t deny a ghost’s rights to visit his old haunts on his birthday. Can you?
The Blood Stained Hand
A man stands on the gallows, defiant, and declares: “Before Heaven I am innocent, though my master’s son swears me guilty. And as I perish an innocent man, may those who follow my murdered lord be cursed”.
So it was the butler of Condover Hall near Shrewsbury met an unjust and pendulous end, condemned by the lies of the son of Knyvett, lord of the manor, who stabbed his father to death, then blamed a poor servant for the murder. As he stumbled, mortally wounded, down the basement stairs, Knyvett reached out his bloodied hand, leaving an imprint upon the wall which defied all attempts to wash it away. No matter how hard the work, it simply reappeared, until finally, the stone upon which it lay had to be chipped clean.
Condover Hall is a fine Elizabethan house built around 1590 by Judge Owen and today it is a residential activity centre.
The White Lady of Longnor
So young, so pretty…and so sad is the White Lady of Longnor. Time was, she would emerge, as if from nowhere, to join in the dancing at parties in the Villa close to the Black Pool. At least one young man, smitten by the beauty and mystery of the young woman dressed in a white wedding gown, tried to woo her. But as he reached out to hold her in his arms she eluded his grasp and vanished.
Faded away would be more precise. Faded away to the depths of the Black Pool, into which she had thrown herself many years before, broken hearted when deserted by fiancé.
No-one dances at the Villa any more, since the beautiful young woman vanished at dawn in the midst of astonished revellers. Even the Black Pool has gone, long since filled in. But the White Lady remains, waiting for her fiancé perhaps…or just the invitation to dance.
At Ratlinghope, should a grand funeral procession pass by at dusk, stand for a moment in respectful silence. Marvel at the grandeur of the cortege, led by the magnificent carriage, pulled by two horses decorated with black plumes, and accompanied by top-hatted bearers.
Watch the procession slowly glide down the narrow lane, over the bridge, past the pub and climb the hill out of the village to disappear from view.
How do we know that the funeral will pass this way? A word, friend. It has done so many times before. Who lies in the coffin and where is the body’s final resting place is, no-one knows. No record of such a funeral exists.
The Devil’s Talon
Outside Minsterley near Shrewsbury, in an old timber-framed house a Christmas Eve party was in full swing. The high-living host had poured his guests after-dinner port when their conversation was interrupted by an evil whistling through the avenue of trees outside. Their silent questions gave way to concern, then blind terror as a piercing scream cut the air. One shouted “Fiends from Hell!” as the guests scrambled for the door. In the confusion, however, the host disappeared.
Only one man was brave enough to return to search the house. The sight which met him chilled his bones. The host lay dead under an upturned table. His face, his clothes and the surrounding furniture were shredded by the rake of a giant claw…the Devil’s Talon!
Shrewsbury Visitor Information Centre offer guided ghost tours of the town centre during October and November. Please contact the Visitor Information Centre on 01743 258 888 for more information.
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