Part One of a short series of films made by Bob Fischer and Andrew T Smith for Local History Month.
Each episode also features an original soundtrack written and performed by Oli Heffernan aka Ivan the Tolerable.
“Some artists create a distinctive sound, others magic up an accompanying persona and backstory. Kev Oyston and Chris Lambert have gone one further: their Black Meadow project has seized control of an area of the North York Moors and used it as the backdrop for a deliberately confusing, unsettling multimedia mix of disturbing folklore and Cold War paranoia.
“…the story is set out in the shadow of an early warning ballistic missile station at RAF Fylingdales where a mysterious village, trapped in a pre-industrialised web of sinister superstition, appears sporadically from the mist. “The Village Under The Lake” is a sweeping orchestral overture with banks of synthetic, otherworldly choirs, impressively echoing the cinema work of John Williams. Meanwhile, “Ghost Planes” reverts to haunted type with the crackle of analog MOD communications and the rumble of discontented synths soundtracking investigations into a mysterious aircraft seemingly spiralling backwards through time. “Song Of The Meadow Bird” is a disquieting pastoral delight, all ersatz harpsichords and flutes, the half forgotten theme to some spooky 1970s BBC children’s drama.”
Bob Fischer, Electronic Sound Issue 61, January 2020
Release date 31.01.2020. Available for pre-order here
I read this tale on Bob Fischer’s BBC Tees show last night
There was a house in the village called Croglin Low Hall, the house belonged to a family called Fisher. For reasons of business the Fishers moved to Essex and let the house out to two brothers and a sister. The new tenants got on well with the villagers and were well liked. There stay at the hall was uneventful until the second summer of their tenancy.
One particular evening the brother and their sister had sat outside and watched the sun set and the moon rise and had then retired to bed. The sister sat in bed looking out into the Cumbrian summer night. As she looked she became aware of two lights in the graveyard next to the house. As she gazed at the lights she became aware that they we attached to a figure that was gradually making its way towards the house.
A feeling of uncontrollable horror seized the sister. As the figure got closer she longed to scream for help but the voice was paralysed as if her tongue had been glued to the roof of her mouth. She jumped out of bed and tried to unlock her bedroom door, as she was fumbling with the lock she heard a scratch noise upon the window followed by a pecking noise as the figure picked away at the lead of the window. A pane of glass fell from the window then a long bony finger turned the handle of the window, opening it. A tall, thin hideous creature then climbed into the room through the window. The woman was so terrified that she could not scream, the creature twisted its bony fingers around he hair and dragged her head down to the side of the bed and then bit her violently in the throat.
As the creature bit her she found her voice and screamed. Her brothers rushed to her room but found a door locked, y the time they had broken the door down the creature had escaped. One brother attended to his sister’s wounds while the other pursued the creature into the night. The creature appeared to take giant strides and eventually seemed to disappear over the wall into the churchyard.
The next day the doctor attended the sister and the attacker was thought to have been an inmate who had escaped from an asylum. Over the next few weeks the sister seemed to be recovering well but the doctor thought that a change of scenery might be good for her so her brothers took her to Switzerland.
After a few weeks the sister said that she would like to return to Croglin and carry on with her life so her brothers took her home.The winter passed peacefully until one night at the end of march the sister heard the a familiar scratch sound at her window, looking at the window she saw the same hideous shrivelled face and glaring eyes that she had seem on that terrible night during the previous summer.This time she screamed as loud as she could and her brothers rushed into the room, pistols drawn.
The creature scuttled across the lawn with the bothers in pursuit. A shot was fired and the creature was hit in the leg but still it ran. When it got to the churchyard in vanished into a vault, which belonged to a family who were no longer living in the area.
The next day the brothers summoned the villagers and in their presence the vault was opened. On looking in a horrible scene revealed itself, the vault was full of coffins which had been broken open, their contents mangled and scattered all over the floor. A single coffin remained intact however its lid was loose. On raising the lid they found the same hideous withered, shrivelled, mummified figure that they had seen the previous night, the creature also had a bullet wound on it s leg. The brothers then did they only thing you can do to lay a vampire, they burnt it
Bob Fischer kindly invited me to contribute a weekly item to his Thursday night BBC Tees show. These are the notes from a show a few weeks ago on the subject of death & burial traditions from our area
On the coast it was believed that a person couldn’t die until the tide was out and couldn’t be born until the tide was in.
It was believed that a person couldn’t die on a mattress stuffed with the feathers of pigeons or wild birds.
Following a death all fires must be extinguished in the room where the corpse is kept and any animal that jumps over the coffin must be killed immediately and without mercy.
If a person is drowned, it is said that their body will float to the surface on the 9th day.
When searching for a drowned body it was said that a loaf of bread soaked in quicksilver will swim towards the location of a corpse.
At funerals there was a custom to hand ‘burnt wine’ to the funeral goers in a silver flagon, out of which every one drank. The drink was a heated preparation of port wine with spices and sugar and if any remained, it was sent round in the flagon to the houses of friends for distribution. The passing bell was then tolled at all hours of the night to keep away evil spirits.
Some folk had an aversion to be taken to the church by hearse, choosing instead rather to be carried by hand. The coffin was carried by slinging linen towels beneath it. Women were carried by women, men by men, and children by children
If a woman died in childbirth, a white sheet was thrown over the coffin.
If an unmarried female died, a garland was carried in front of the coffin and hung up in the church after the funeral. The garland consisted of two hoops intertwined, decorated with white paper flowers and ribbons, in the centre was a white glove, often home-made, of paper or fine linen, upon which was stitched or written the name and age of the deceased. A couple of these garlands have been survived and can be seen in St Stephens church at Robin Hoods Bay.
When a girl, or an older unmarried female was carried by hand, the bearers were all young or single women dressed in white wearing white straw bonnets. If the body is taken to the gates of the churchyard by the hearse, the plumes of the vehicle and the hatbands of the carriage drivers were entwined with white ribbons
It was customary to send gloves to the friends of the deceased, white for the funeral of an unmarried person, black for the married.
My friend Graeme Chappell sent me this photo that he took in the York Castle Museum. The photo is of a Cunning or Wiseman’s rattle, another example from the Whitby Museum can be seen here
The rattles are constructed of pine spills and decorated with charms and mottoes. Rattles were often used by shamanic healers. The rattle is often thought to represent the cosmos, the seeds or pebbles inside are spirits and souls of ancestors. Shaking the rattle activates these spirits who will then assist the shaman. (The Shaman. Voyages of the Soul. Piers Vitebsky. DBP 1995)
Below, a short piece that I wrote for the Bob Fischer show on BBC Tees
In past times when ordinary people were poorly educated, many held a strong belief in magic and witchcraft. If someone had problems they would often consult the local Wise Man. According to the late Edna Whelan, the last wise man of the moors died in the 1930’s. His name was Charlie Brocket and he lived in Ellers Cottage in Goathland. Charlie had a good reputation for producing Amulets and talismans against witchcraft, many of which were found when clearing out his house
The most famous wise man in our area was John Wrightson of Stokesley, he was the seventh son of a seventh daughter. Wrightson travelled around the district dressed in a long black cloak bedecked with bottles, jars, herbs and a human skull. He had a powerful reputation as a seer, healer and vet, people would travel from far and wide to consult him.
Blakeborough describes him as ‘a man endowed with marvellous psychic power and with the smallest amount of fakery possible’. However local writer and historian George Markham Tweddle considered Wrightson to be little better than a huge swindler.
In his book Yorkshire Wit, Blakeborough tells the tale of Nathan Agar. Nathan was a sixty year old man who wanted to marry an eighteen year old woman. Wrightson had advised against the marriage and foretold an unhappy future for Nathan, but Nathan was besotted with the woman and the marriage went ahead. Later, Nathan called to see the wise man telling him that his savings, five golden guineas kept in a sock, had vanished from its hiding place in the eaves of his house. Wrightson told him to go home and place a leaf of the bible beneath the front doorstep to his house and then carefully watch to see who stumbled as they entered . Nathan did this, the first person to enter the house was his young lodger, who stumbled, he was followed by Nathan’s wife who also stumbled. Nathan returned to the Wise man to inform him of what had happened. Wrightson told Nathan that he would find his property hidden in the pig-sty along with an old watch that Nathan had not missed. The wise man advised that Nathan should return home, keep his watch, give the five guineas to the couple and send them packing.
Wrightson occasionally fell foul of the law, in 1799 he was hauled before an enquiry in Bedale into the poisoning of Thomas Hodgson of Theakston and in 1808 he managed to get himself outlawed from the town of Malton. Ten years later he was re-arrested and en-route to Northallerton jail took some of his own medicine and died.
I’ve recorded a few short episodes for Bob Fischer, the first one will be broadcast tonight here
I went to Rudston on Tuesday to explore the Wolds landscape and visit Britain’s tallest standing stone. I managed to get hopelessly lost in the winding lanes between Scarborough and Bridlington and arrived just as the sun was setting on a moody day.