As a follow-up to his article on the spirits of wicked men haunting bodies of water, Uncanny UK editor Richard Holland presents a selection of haunted pools from Wales and the Welsh Border where unhappy maidens came to grief.
A Black Pool near Longnor in Shropshire is the haunt of a traditional white lady. She is said to rise from its murky waters and then go wandering off down the road – her sudden appearance has caused one or two car crashes. An old rustic told the author of Shropshire Folklore (1883) about his encounter with the White Lady as she crossed a narrow footbridge over a nearby ford:
“I sid ’er a-cumin an’ I thinks, ’ere’s a nice young wench. Well, thinks I, who she be, I’ll gi’e ’er a fright. I was a young fellow then, yo’ known – an’ I waited till ’er come close up to me, right I’ the middle o’ the bridge, an’ I stretched out my arms, so – an’ I clasped ’er in ’em tight – so. An’ theer was nothin’!”
The White Lady was believed to have been a young woman who “as ’ad bin disapp’inted” and had drowned herself in the Black Pool through shame and grief. This seems to have been the explanation for many such female ghosts haunting areas of still water. Elsewhere in Shropshire, The White Lady of Kilsall haunts the Dark Walk beside a pool in the grounds of the mansion from which she takes her name. She, too, is said to have drowned herself there and for the same reason.
In Monmouthshire, the apparition of a woman dripping wet and carrying her dead unborn infant is said to emerge from a millpond, horrifying passers-by. When I was writing my ‘Wales of the Unexpected’ column in the North Wales Daily Post, a correspondent told me of a woman in antiquated costume she saw one night near Talysarn, Gwynedd:
‘I can see her now – long black dress or coat, a white lace bonnet, red hair fringe along her forehead, and carrying a large shiny milk can. I could even see her shiny shoes. I suddenly realised: how was I able to see the lady so plainly and yet I could hardly see my fingers in front of me, because of the dark night? I turned around to look after her, and I could see her before my eyes going smaller and smaller, until she somehow disappeared into the ground. It was then I realised I had seen a ghost.’
She later learnt from a friend of her mother’s that the ghost had often been seen in that lane and was believed to be the apparition of a woman who had drowned herself in a nearby pool when she became pregnant but was abandoned by her lover.
There are many other similar examples, but an interesting variant legend is attached to a dark pool in South Wales called Pwllhelig, where a grand house once stood. The owners were cruel, selfish people who one fateful day turned away a starving beggar from their door. Divine retribution, or something like it, swiftly followed this uncharitable act and a chasm in the earth suddenly opened up, swallowing up house, occupants and all.
Since that day a woman in widow’s weeds – the ghost of the mean mistress of the vanished house – has been seen wandering round and round the pool, wringing her hands in an attitude of grief. Don’t feel too sorry for her, though – it is only the loss of her jewels she is mourning.