A Vampire Rabbit, a Devil Dog and Other Tales
Strands of mythology, folklore and fiction are common in our historic environment. From a vampire rabbit perching above a doorway in Newcastle to a Printer's devil crouching in a York shop, a supernatural aura can be experienced all across England.
The Vampire Rabbit of Newcastle
Newcastle's 'vampire rabbit' sits menacingly above the ornate arched doorway of a 20th century cathedral. Found beside St Nicholas's Churchyard in Newcastle, the presence of this fanged, wild-eyed, blood-sucking beast is something of a mystery. Local legend has it that the fanged beastie once attacked grave-robbers and sucked their blood. Others say it was meant to be a hare (possibly symbolising spring and the coming of Easter) whose ears were put on backwards.
Printer's Devil, York
On the theme of weird creatures inhabiting uncharacteristic locations, a bright red devil can be found crouching on a corner of No 33 Stonegate in York, which used to be a printers' premised. This area of York was once famous for its book shops and printers and this printer's devil is believed to represent the youngest apprentice in a printing workshop. He got the blame when anything was misspelt, and it is said to be unlucky to look straight into his eyes.
Tales of the monstrous black dog known as the Black Shuck have long been part of local folklore in the towns of Bungay and Blynthburgh. He is said to roam the coast and countryside of East Anglia. The legendary beast first made his mark on 4th August 1577, during Sunday service. He was said to have burst through the doors of Holy Trinity Church to a clap of thunder, taking the lives of a man and a boy. As he left, he scratched the surfaces of the north door, and strange burn-marks can still be seen there today.
Combe Gibbet, Hungerford
Four miles south of Hungerford is the site of a rare double gibbet (a post for hanging people or dead bodies), standing 25ft high on the summit of Inkpen Beacon. Erected in 1676, the gibbet was used to display the bodies of two locals who had been put to death in the 17th century. George Broomham and Dorothy Newman were having an affair and were hanged for murdering George's wife Martha. The gibbet was left standing to act as a warning to others and deter them from committing crimes.
Farleigh Hungerford Castle
Farleigh Hungerford castle was built in the 14th century and was occupied for 300 years by the Hungerford family. Inside the castle are many hidden treasures of the family's past and deep within the crypt you can find Britain's best collection of human-shaped, "anthropomorphic" lead coffins.
Hellfire Caves, West Wycombe
The Hellfire caves are a place where myth and reality are intertwined. This network of man-made caverns is named after the infamous Hellfire Club, made up of high-ranking members of society, noblemen, and politicians, who are believed to have engaged in pagan rituals, orgies, and black magic deep within the caves. The caves now operate as a tourist attraction and are reportedly a hotbed of paranormal activity.
This Halloween, why not go out and visit a historic place, soak up the spooky atmosphere, and learn something about our fascinating history?
Also of interest...
Witch fever swept across the country when witchcraft was made a capital offence in 1563.
The Devil has long featured in British folklore, where his supposed sinister acts have marked the landscape.
Tales of queens and Roman soldiers to artists and evil masterminds, many of whom are believed to have passed away in unusual ways.