A violent ghost haunted The Written Stone, an obscure ancient monument in Lancashire
By Richard Holland
I am very interested in ghostly artefacts – objects with strange stories attached to them or which are said themselves to be haunted. There are more than a few haunted skulls up and down the country, for example (and whose stories I will probably gather together here one day). But one of the largest and most unusual artefacts is the Written Stone, a slab of rock lying beside a lane in Lancashire.
The Written Stone earns its name because it has inscribed on it the following legend: ‘RAUFFE : RADCLIFFE : LAID : THIS : STONE: TO : LYE : FOR : EVER : A:D : 1655′. According to local tradition, Radcliffe had the stone carved to mark the site of a murder and to appease the spirit of the victim. Perhaps a member of his family had been responsible for the murder. At any rate, it would seem the spirit lay far from easy.
For many years Written Stone Lane, at Longridge, near Preston, was the haunt of a ‘boggart’. Boggart is the Lancashire name for a particularly unpleasant species of ghost. The boggart would attack anyone who passed by the stone at night – pinching and scratching them and pulling at their clothes. One night, as a doctor rode past the stone, his horse bolted at something unseen by him and galloped away for two miles. He finally drew it up and then decided to investigate. He coaxed his horse back down the lane. At the Written Stone, he offered a challenge to the unseen thing. To his horror, a ‘shapeless mass’ appeared. It dragged him from his saddle and ‘almost squeezed the breath from his body’. Fortunately, he recovered and was this time more than happy to set his horse at a gallop back down the lane.
On another occasion a local farmer was foolhardy enough to meddle with the Written Stone. He believed he could make use of the great slab in his dairy and ordered his men to remove it. Easier said than done. Six horses and many helpers struggled to drag it the short distance to the dairy. Once the stone was in the dairy, all hell, you might say, broke loose. Mysterious crashes and bangings rang out all night and during the day the stone seemed to find ways to injure people and would allow nothing set upon it to lie still. At last, the farmer agreed to have the stone taken back, although he was fearful of the time and further injuries this operation would cost him. He needn’t have worried. This time it took just one horse to move the Written Stone back up the hill to its accustomed place in the hedge beside the lane.
The Written Stone has remained quietly in position ever since. Perhaps the boggart has gone to sleep, for I know of no recent reports of ghostly attacks. It is quite possible, however, that this is because no one has since been rash enough to risk passing it by night!
[SOURCE: Lancashire Legends by Kathleen Eyre, 1972]
© Richard Holland 2008