Many folkloric traditions and folktales in Lancashire have their origins in Nordic customs and beliefs. Lancashire is littered with Nordic place-names, especially along its coastline; Heysham is just one place where clues can clearly be seen in a 900 year old church, a hogback stone and a cluster of graves cut into the rock on a cliff-edge. Modern Lancastrians are often blissfully unaware of this ancient history – oblivious to the fact that the Teanlowe Shopping Centre in Poulton is named for the nearby field where the annual Teanlowe or Beltane fires were lit, or that Hackensall was named for Haakon, the Danish invader who chose to settle there.
Then there are tales of witchcraft; of course, Lancashire has more than enough reason to tell witchcraft stories, as it saw the execution of many so-called witches in the 17th century. However, there are also many folk-tales of elderly Mothers who suddenly become apprised of miraculous powers which they use to trick the unwary. In most cases the unwary deserve to be tricked, because they are guilty of infidelity or cruelty to those beneath them.
It seems there is hardly a town or a village in Lancashire that does not have a tale or two of a haunted house, a sad spirit grieving for a lost love or a boggart causing trouble. Locations vary from houses and farms to great halls and manors, from ancient castles to modern-day shops – some ghostly experiences even take place out of doors. Some are repeated down generations, some are reported quite factually in newspapers, even if the author of the piece cannot resist adding a line of two of ridicule. Sometimes a natural explanation is discovered; the White Lady was a scrap of white curtain left in the empty ‘haunted’ house, the sound of music simply the wind through a broken window pane – but that will not prevent the stories from entering into local folklore.
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