Halloween is right around the corner and we thought we’d get in the mood with some spooky tales from around the county.
Rich in legend, myth and mystery, Cornwall certainly isn’t short of a strange tale or two, so we couldn’t help but together some of our favourites. Settle down in your luxury cottage near Padstow, listen to the wind whipping at the window, grab some treats and read on…
A magistrate from the 17th century, the wicked Jan Tregeagle has played a central role in Cornish folklore for centuries. A cold-hearted man who made a Faustian pact with the devil, he swapped his soul for wealth and power. Living a life of his sin, the ghost of Tregeagle realised too late what he had done and came back as a ghost to seek redemption after his death. Set a series of impossible challenges to claim back his soul, Tregeagle was first tasked with emptying the bottomless Dozmary Pool with a holed limpet shell. Understanding the futility of his task, he tried to escape and sheltered in the atmospheric Roche Rock Chapel (which still stands proud today). Alas, it wasn’t long before Tregeagle was recaptured by the devil and set his second task: weaving ropes from the sands of Gwenor Cove.
Once upon a time in Cornwall, the lovely St Agnes unwittingly caught the attention of a giant named Bolster. A dastardly fellow, Bolster wouldn’t leave St Agnes alone, even though she openly refused his advances (and he was already married!). Tiring of his constant attention, St Agnes came up with a plan to get rid of the giant. She told him that if he wanted to prove his devotion to her, he must go to Chapel Porth beach and fill a hole in the ground there with his blood. Accepting the challenge, Bolster took a spot on the beach over the hole, cut into a vein and let his blood pour into the hole. Little did he know, however, that the hole ran straight to the sea, and that no matter how much he tried, the hole would never fill. Waiting in vain for the hole to fill, Bolster collapsed and died, leaving a red stain on the rocks that can still be seen to this day.
If you happen to be in Padstow on a stormy night, you could easily mistake the loud wails that roll in from the sea for the howling of the wind. But if you listen more carefully, you’ll realise it’s actually the cries of a mermaid. With two versions of the unhappy tale of the Mermaid of Padstow, the most popular recounts how Tristram Bird, a local man, went to the beach one day to shoot seals, and instead was distracted by the bewitching voice of a mermaid. As Tristram came closer, the mermaid’s singing stopped and as she caught sight of him, she tried to drag him into the sea. Fighting to escape her grasp, Tristram fired his gun at her, where upon she howled with pain and disappeared into the water. On blustery nights, you can still the mermaids’ song.
Between 1785 and 1909, 55 people were executed for their crimes at Bodmin Jail, and who knows how many more died during their incarceration there. The kind of place that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, it unsurprisingly abounds with ghost stories and is purportedly one of the most haunted places in Cornwall. One of the most eerie reports of ghosts in Bodmin Jail relates to Selina Wadge, one of the handful of women executed in the jail. Arrested in 1878, Selina was found guilty of murdering her own son, Henry. After her death, when she uttered her last words “Lord deliver me from this miserable world,” it is said that Selina never really left the prison and that her ghost still wanders its hallways. Stranger still, sightings of Selina are most often reported by children.
Hitting the headlines in the 1970s, reports of a large black animal prowling Bodmin Moor stirred up a media frenzy. Said to have a been ginormous cat unlike anything ever seen before in the UK, these strange sightings coincided with the gruesome discoveries of mutilated livestock on nearby farms. Even though authorities tried to dispel rumours, many folk were quick to make the link between the sightings and new restrictions introduced by the Government in a bid to crack down on the illegal ownership of wild animals. Could it be then, that a giant wildcat once stalked the wilds of Bodmin?
Years ago, an otherwise ordinary November afternoon turned into an unforgettable encounter for a Mr. Cliff Hockin of Mevagissey. Driving from his home to Truro to visit his wife in hospital, he rounded a corner to suddenly come face-to-face with an old-fashioned stagecoach led by four horses. Steering the coach as it thundered along the lane, a coachman in a striking coat with wide, blue lapels gripped the reigns while a guard in a scarlet coat and black hat sat beside him blowing a posthorn. Slamming on the brakes, Mr Hocking braced himself for the impact of the inevitable collision, but as the deafening orchestra of wheels, horn and hooves reached its crescendo, the noise simply stopped. Peeping through his raised arms, all Mr Hocking saw was an empty road.