The Boggart of Blackley

In 1852, the Manchester Courier newspaper reported the strange goings on in a property in the usually peaceful village of Blackley.

There was considerable excitement amongst the villagers as there an unearthly visitor in a property that adjoined the White Lion public house. The occupier was a William Whitehead, who was a clogger by trade and he had resided in the property for 10 months, without any strange happenings. Mr Whitehead explained to the reporter that the ‘boggart’ had started to act up in the last six weeks. He had heard strange noises, like a hen cackling, a railway whistle and that when any member of his family stood upon a certain flagstone in the back room, a child like scream would be heard. 

This led to Mr Whitehead to remove this particular flagstone and start to dig the earth beneath it. After digging several feet down, he came across a cream coloured jug that that contain bones and limestone.

The villagers assembled after hearing about this discovery and the bones were declared to be human. The elders of the village started rumours that these remains were that of “Old Shaw’s Wife, a local woman who had lived in the Old Hall, which was near to the Whitehead’s residence. Other villagers said the boggart was due to some of the other villager’s wickedness.

The boggart was heard during the night and sometimes in the daylight hours in the week after the discovery of the bones but during the following weekend, it was the loudest it had ever been. This prompted Mr Whitehead to dig more, even taking away the steps in the cellar to gain better access to the floor. The hole was 16 foot long by 4 foot wide and it had a depth of 5 feet. But nothing was discovered during the dig.

The villagers advised Mr Whitehead to set up a trap as he may be able to catch the boggart. Only a few days later, the family went to the kitchen to find that a kettle of boiling water that had been hanging over the fire, was found in the middle of floor. Even an astrologer from Manchester, visited the premises, bringing along his magic book and glasses. The villagers would also visit the haunted building, to see if they could sense who or what was causing these actions.

An older man called George Horrox, who had once lived in the same premises, told of two occasions that he saw the white ghostly figure of a young woman and that he would hear noises like the rumbling of stones. Other villagers who had also lived there gave similar accounts and stated the house had been known to be haunted for at least 85 years.

Mr Whitehead had no fear of the strange events in his home. In fact, he was adamant that he would carry on trying to find out just who or what was causing this activity.

The reporter from the Manchester Courier was rather skeptical over these haunting accounts and appeared to disbelieve anything about ghosts or boggarts and said it was rather astonishing to see people clambering to visit the haunted premises but knew that the local publicans and beer sellers would profit from these visitors.

The local policeman was said to live just a few doors up from the Whitehead’s and due to the amount of people arriving in the village, the police officer had had his duties increased to deal with the large crowds.

Whether Mr Whitehead managed to find the source of this troublesome spirit or not, there were no follow-ups on this boggart case.