Witches and black magic died hard in superstitious East Yorkshire

Vincent Price as Matthew Hopkins in the 1968 film, Witchfinder General.

Some time in the middle years of the 19th century, an East Yorkshireman had grown sick and his horse had died. One night, when the afflicted fellow and his wife were sat by the fire, the kitchen clock began to moan.

Terrified, and convinced they had been bewitched, they called a wise man, ‘J.S.’, who was brought to the house by a coachman.

At midnight, J.S. began a ritual to defeat the witch; he read the Lord’s Prayer backwards, tore the heart from a still-living black hen, punctured it with pins and buried it. Then, as he chanted to evil spirits, he performed a conjuring trick with some “fizzing stuff” that made water boil furiously, an effect so impressive that when he offered to summon the prince of darkness himself, the coachman begged him to stop.

It may read like a scene from a Hammer Horror film, but there is reason to believe the tale is at least partly true. The events, which happened in the ancient village of Kirkburn, were recorded a few years later by a Dr Wood, of Driffield, who had heard it from the coachman. The mysterious ‘J.S.’, from Haisthorpe, was renowned as a faith healer with magical powers. On one occasion he “healed” a woman at Speeton who had been bedridden for years. The grateful woman, gripped by a religious frenzy, led her friends singing and dancing through Bridlington. Continue reading “Witches and black magic died hard in superstitious East Yorkshire”

A cannibal werewolf ‘lived on Read’s Island in the River Humber’

Le Werwolf, by Félicien Rops.

Look out Old Stinker: an obscure legend suggests Hull’s infamous werewolf may have a rival.

The story goes that, many moons ago, a vagabond set up home on lonely Read’s Island, in the Humber Estuary, and scraped a living as a ferryman.

At that time, scores of people from the district went missing in mysterious circumstances.

The vagabond came under suspicion and, acting on information from his passengers, the authorities raided his pitiful shack and discovered piles of skeletons and bones.

He was arrested and accused of cannibalism, but at his trial he transformed into a howling werewolf. Continue reading “A cannibal werewolf ‘lived on Read’s Island in the River Humber’”