You are on page 1of 1

Ghost stories theyre just tall tales . . . arent they?

Annabel Taylor searches for the truth amid one of the loveliest but loneliest spots in Britain.
The North Yorkshire moors is a place of ancient human history and a country tourists idyll, since nature still reigns supreme. Yet secreted beneath its intermittent crown of purple heather are pockets of unsettling energy. There are legends dark enough to curdle the air: a tormented spirit prowling the night, a spiteful goblin hiding in the hills, a frenzied animal appearing from nowhere, frightening drivers into ditches. Here, occasionally, in the sombre chill of morning, a local might reveal that they share their home with a ghost child. Its not the words but rather the steadfast look in their eye that sends each syllable crawling over your skin. On the lonely moortop road to Whitby a picturesque fishing town with its own dark connections, thanks to Bram Stoker youll pass by the Flittin Hob. A modest public house, the interior appears unremarkable at first. Except there is one item of furniture set apart and roped off from the rest because for over 100 years it is said to have been cursed. In 1874, a local farmer named Henry Brook was in the midst of a running battle with a neighbour, Jasper Thompson, over livestock. So the story goes, Henry went out one night and painted his colours on a number of the sheep that roamed the moors. When Jasper angrily confronted him, claiming the animals were his, Henry refused to back down. So Jasper slipped poison into Henrys ale one night, and Henry died in the chair he had been drinking in, but not before raging curses to anyone nearby. The chair wasnt moved to its lonely corner straight away, but when a spate of suicides occurred in local villages, and people began to blame Henry, the landlord quickly took action. Too scared of his own fate if he tried to burn the chair, he simply roped it off and began to warn people. Most readily took notice, but over the years there were those that were too reckless or too disbelieving, prepared to overlook the warning. The consequences were always the same. The pub stayed in the family, and its descendants eventually took to keeping a written record when somebody sat in the chair. To this day, over a dozen souls have their fate scored heavily onto its yellowed pages, and it makes for gruesome reading. It is backed up by other records. There is even a framed newspaper article on the wall above the chair itself, outlining the fates of four teenagers who had a car accident on their way home from the pub. Hours earlier, they had all taken an impulsive drunken turn in the chair. Three were killed instantly; the fourth lived only a few years longer before taking his own life. Outside the pub, when night has smothered day to blackness, a yellow apparition creeps over the edge of the horizon. This glow from city lights shows how close you stand to the vast urban sprawl, the safety of companionship. But when you have been listening to a ghost story told as truth, this comfort feels much too far away. Even a sly caress of wind feels like the chill burst of breath on your neck from an unseen bystander. And if you whip around to check, even as you laugh nervously at yourself, it is easy to wonder if the steady ground of your beliefs has subtly shifted without you even knowing. Do I believe in ghost stories? No. Would I sit in that chair? Not on your life.
Below: Young Ralphs Cross, near the village of Roseby.

Above: Fat Betty legend has it that a farmers wife fell from a horse and cart on a dark night. When he realised and returned for her, all he could find was this stone.

Copyright Sara Foster 2011. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.