South West Tales: A Halloween Special

Gather by the fire, grab a bowl of munchies, pour yourself a drink and get ready for some of our favourite South West tales, perfect for Halloween. Fact or fiction? You decide!


Beast of Bodmin

In the 1970s, sightings of a mysteriously large animal on Bodmin Moor hit the headlines. Believed to have been a phantom wild cat stalking through day and night, rumours were further fuelled by the discovery of mutilated livestock on rural farms. Although authorities were quick to dismiss theories of wild cats, the sightings coincided with stricter regulations introduced by the Government to restrict the private ownership of wild animals at home. It has since been discovered that many illegal pets were turned loose after these restrictions, and so, it is entirely possible that a ginormous black cat once roamed the wilds of Bodmin.

Mermaid of Zennor 

If you go down to Zennor on a stormy night, it’d be easy to mistake the loud wails that reverberate off the cliffs for the shrieking of the wind. But if you listen closer, you’ll hear it’s actually the cries of a mermaid warning sailors to stay clear of the water. Or perhaps luring them closer? With the original tale of the Mermaid of Zennor recorded by William Bottrell in 1873, other sightings of mermaids in the area date back hundreds of years. In fact, if you go into the nearby St. Senara's Church, you will see a 600-year-old carving of a mermaid carved into the end of one of the benches. But wait, what’s that noise?


The Ghosts of Powderham Castle 

Purportedly one of the most haunted places in Devon, the walls of the 14th century Powderham Castle contain a wealth of spooky tales (and ghosts!). Though numerous, the strangest tale of all involves the sombre figures of a mother and her baby, who are said to have regularly been seen around the Guard Tower, one of the oldest parts of the tower, for hundreds of years. Little was made of the stories until a grim discovery was made 200 years ago, when a renovation team started work in the very same part of the tower. Knocking down a wall, they discovered a secret room, and in it, the skeletal remains of a mother and her infant child.

The Devil’s Footprints 

One of the most famous mysteries in Devon’s history, the case of the Devil’s Footprints remains unsolved to this day. During the early hours of 9th February 1855, bizarre footprints were found following a heavy snowfall. Hoof-like prints of 4-inches long, mostly in single file, were claimed to have covered a distance of 100 miles, including 30 different locations. Though some who saw the footprints were a little too eager to assign them to the Devil, the unlikely tracks are nevertheless extremely hard to explain, especially as many traversed steep rooftops, haystacks and even icy rivers!


William Doggett the Vampire

William Doggett was once the steward of a grand manor called Eastbury House in Tarrant Gunville. After getting into serious financial difficulties that he couldn’t resolve, it is believed that poor Doggett turned a gun on himself – but his story doesn’t end there. According to locals who believed that Doggett had turned into a vampire, his presence was said to have haunted the village for decades after his death. Many years later in 1845, work began to rebuild the village church. As the ground around the church was dug, the team came across an eerily well-preserved corpse that looked as though it had just been buried. And who was it? Why, William Dogget himself. 

The Shapwick Monster 

In 1705, the parishioners of Shapwick had an almighty shock when they came across a terrible (albeit rather small) monster near to a farm. Never having seen anything like the monster in their lives, the villagers gathered together for courage, brandishing pitchforks and murmuring about Satan incarnate. Just as they were seeking guidance from the village elder, a stranger with a cart arrived at the scene. Marvelling at the commotion, he declared he was a fishmonger travelling from Poole to Bere Regis and that he had noticed he had lost a crab along the way. As the crowds peeled back, the fishmonger spotted the little chap on the floor and, highly amused, returned him to his basket. And that was the last villagers saw of the Shapwick Monster.


The Bones of King Arthur

Featuring in many South West tales, the legend of King Arthur is a favourite of many. But did you know that Glastonbury Tor is believed to be the Isle of Avalon, the final resting place of King Arthur? A huge tor surrounded by flat planes, the conical top of Glastonbury Tor was, a millennium ago, indeed an island surrounded by glassy water. Later in the 12th century, the monks of Glastonbury Abbey declared they had found an excavation stone inscribed with "Here lies Arthur, King”, along with the bones of a large man and woman, believed to be those of Arthur and his Queen Guinevere. 

The Wookey Hole Witch

One of Somerset’s most haunted locations, Wookey Hole in the Mendip Hills is particularly famous for its impressive series of limestone caves. Extremely old, the caves have been used by humans for around 45,000 years, so it’s not hard to imagine they hold a secret or two! Our favourite though is that of the Wookey Hole Witch, a strangely human-shaped stalagmite. According to local legend, this stalagmite was once an evil witch who was turned to stone by a Glastonbury monk, perhaps to act as an example to others, or perhaps to imprison her forever!

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