That’s Lancashire TV…

As it’s Hallowe’en season, my local TV station, That’s Lancashire TV, asked me to their studio for an interview. I imagined this would be a short piece, talking about my book and the fact that I was going to be at Waterstones in Preston the following weekend. Nope – this turned out to be an entire hour-long programme, just me, talking about my obsession.

This post is a little self-indulgent – I didn’t see the broadcast show myself and had to wait until it was loaded onto That’s Lancashire’s youtube channel, which finally happened today. So, for my own archiving purposes, here are links to the four quarters of the programme, featuring me and Lancashire Folk. Note the fake spider behind my head which seems to have its heart set on getting into my hair…

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four



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How to Buy the Book!, who ‘lost’ my book recently, now have it available again.  You can also order from Book Depository very easily.

However, you can order directly from the distributor, Gazelle Books, and the link below will take you directly to the book’s page. Just click the ‘Add to Basket’ button beneath the cover image.

Also, enter the promo Code GAZFOLK1 when prompted and you’ll qualify for a 20% discount!

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Radcliffe Tower and the sad tale of Fair Ellen


Radcliffe Tower stands on Church Street in Radcliffe, Manchester. This manor house was built in 1403 and it once had two towers and a moat but most of it was demolished in the 19th century. The remaining tower is now, fortunately, a protected site.

An old ballad tells the story of Fair Ellen who lived here and who was killed on the orders of her stepmother, who was racked with jealousy because her new husband loved his daughter so much. She then had some of Ellen cooked in a pie and served it to her father, claiming the meat was venison. A simple scullery boy had witnessed all this; indeed, he had been so distressed that he had begged to be killed in Ellen’s place, but the jealous stepmother would not change her mind.

When Ellen’s father was served with the grisly pie, he said he would not eat until his beautiful daughter Ellen had joined them at the table. The jealous stepmother had guessed that this might happen and explained Ellen’s absence by saying she had gone to live in a nunnery. Ellen’s father believed this tale, unlikely though it was, and was grief-stricken at the loss of his beloved daughter. He swore that he would not eat again until she was restored to him.

Ellen’s father kept to his word and refused to eat, for days and weeks. At last, the simple scullery boy confessed everything to Ellen’s father, including the fact that he had offered his own life in exchange for Fair Ellen’s. Ellen’s father was so incensed that he caused his wicked wife to be burned at the stake for her evil deed, and took the scullery boy as his legal son and heir.

Whilst this legend is almost certainly fictitious, it was memorialised in a popular ballad and so became believed as fact. A family tombstone, made of purest white alabaster and showing a medieval knight and his lady, in the church at Radcliffe, was said to show Ellen’s father and his unfortunate daughter, the whiteness of the stone representing the pure innocence of the pair. The memorial became badly chipped because of the many superstitious people who came to break off a small piece, in the belief that it would bring luck or perhaps effect miraculous cures. The damage was so great that the stone eventually had to be removed and placed beneath the floor of the church, to prevent it being destroyed entirely. When enough time had passed for the superstition to have waned, it was retrieved and rehomed in the chancel.

Today, Radcliffe Tower is said to be haunted by a black dog which, for some reason, is said to be connected to Fair Ellen. If it exists at all, it probably has a story all its own…

© Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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St Peter’s Church Burnley – and Ghostly Pigs


If legend is to be believed, St Peter’s Church should have been built on the spot where the Godly Lane Cross now stands and where religious rites were habitually celebrated. However, night after night the stones set out to build the church were moved from that spot by ghostly pigs, so that the builders were forced to give up and build the church on its present site. On the south side of the church and on the ancient font can be seen carvings of pigs, in memory of this tale. (In truth, the pigs were probably representations of the Paschal Lamb.)

This church was also once the home of a ghostly black dog called Trash. He was said to be huge, with enormous eyes, and although he could be seen, he could never be caught because he would disappear in the blink of an eye. Those who saw Trash were certain to hear of the death of someone close to them, very soon – the damned person’s distance could be guessed from how clearly the boggart dog appeared. His other name, Skriker, comes from an Anglo-Saxon word for crying or screaming and described the noises the beast was said to make.

St Peter’s was also once home to a ghostly organist, according to a letter printed in the Burnley Advertiser, on the 1st September 1855. “Sir – some time has elapsed since our friend visited these upper regions, however, here he is again as lively as ever and most musically inclined. At intervals during the past two days all who live within hearing distance have been entertained to a charming variety of most appropriate (ecclesiastical?) music: we may especially mention as performed ‘con spirits’ O Susanna, Merrily Dance The Quaker’s Wife, and Coal Black Rose. At the moment of my writing this Willikins and His Dinah is pealing forth in tones more dulcet than Mr Robson ever made pretensions to. By inserting this possibly you may be the means of enlarging the Ghost’s audience.”

© Copyright Alexander P Kapp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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A Ghostly Piano at Blackburn Telephone Exchange


Blackburn Telephone Exchange is a relatively modern building but it has long been regarded as haunted; strange noises have disturbed night-shift workers and the sounds of piano-playing and heavy footfalls have been heard. Piano-playing? How could this possibly be?

The site was once occupied by the Grand Theatre, built in 1880 and holding an audience of three thousand. In the early 1930s, management of the Theatre was taken over by William Murray, who boasted involvement in launching the career of one Charlie Chaplin. After William died his son Roy became manager, but like so many theatres the Grand had to close in 1956, the advent of cinema and TV tolling its death knell.

Even before the building was adapted for use as a Telephone Exchange, there were rumours that the building was haunted. Piano-playing would sometimes be heard and stage curtains drew across the stage on their own. Demolishing the building and putting a telephone exchange in its place did nothing to dispel the rumours. Three young men working the night-shift experienced the ghost for themselves. Heavy footsteps were heard upstairs and then they heard the lift in operation, apparently coming up to their floor from the ground floor. The doors opened but there was no-one inside.

The lift was also the scene of a more visible ghost when a cleaner who had worked at the exchange for over twenty years saw a rather ill-looking lady go into it. It was full daylight when the cleaner saw the blonde woman dash into the lift as if she was in a hurry to leave. Yet, even though the doors closed, the lift did not move. Concerned about the woman, Brenda opened the doors again – and the lift was empty. On another occasion Brenda’s colleague was washing her hands in the ladies washroom on the fourth floor when she felt someone brush against her – but no-one else was in the room. The same ladies washroom was the scene of another event when two female night-shift workers visited the room and heard the taps gushing water, when they were both in the cubicles.

The source of these odd happenings is thought to be the ghost of William Murray, the one-time owner of the theatre which once occupied the plot. However, given the above experiences – the woman in the lift, the taps in the ladies’ room – that seems unlikely. Or, just possibly, there is more than one ghost at the Exchange…

Image © Copyright robert wade and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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The Skull at the Pack Horse Pub, Affetside

Pack Horse Inn, Affetside

Strictly speaking, the Pack Horse in Affetside is in Greater Manchester now, but historically this whole area used to be part of Lancashire…

Built in 1443, this old pub is proud of the skull displayed above the bar. The skull is brown with age and indisputably human. It is also indisputably ancient. It is said to belong to George Whowell, and its story dates from the Civil War. However, unlike the majority of preserved skulls in Lancashire, its owner George was no religious martyr; he was a simple man whose tragedy was to witness the murder of his wife and children. Their murderers were Royalist soldiers, in the charge of James Stanley, the seventh Earl of Derby. George’s family were among over a thousand people killed in the Bolton Massacre. Stanley, Earl of Derby was later captured by Cromwell’s soldiers and sentenced to death for the crime of supporting the ‘pretender’ to the throne, Charles II. He was executed in 1651, in Bolton and, fittingly, his executioner was the local ‘headsman’ – none other than George Whowell.

No-one can say for certain how Whowell’s skull came to be preserved and kept at the Pack Horse pub, although it seems horrifyingly fitting that a ‘headsman’ should be remembered this way.

There is evidence that he may have been connected to a local farming family by the name of Butterworth, who later came to own the pub. Or perhaps it was simply one of his favourite watering places. However, the skull, whoever it belongs to, will surely be there forever, as rumour has it that if anyone tries to remove it, it screams…

Image © Copyright liz dawson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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The Clegg Hall Boggart

Clegg Hall

It is lovely to report that this wonderful Hall on Clegg Hall Road, which at one point was very close to dilapidation, has been lovingly restored and is once again a glorious building. The photo above shows it very close to completion. It is in private hands and so cannot be visited, but one can still walk down the lane which runs by it and gain a satisfying view.

Anyone who is familiar with Clegg Hall will also be familiar with the boggart which is said to haunt it – indeed, it is so well-known that it has passed into common parlance as a synonym for someone visiting often; ‘Here I am again, like t’Clegg Hall Boggart!’

This boggart was actually a ghost, the shade of an ancient member of the Clegg family who, some time in the 14th century, murdered his two young orphaned nephews in order to gain Clegg Hall for himself. It is said that he threw them over a balcony and into the moat, where they drowned. He was subsequently stricken with guilt about this double murder and his ghost (not those of the children) continues to haunt the hall and its grounds.

The room where the murders were committed was, of course, the most haunted and whilst many families inhabited Clegg Hall over the centuries, few people ever slept in that room again. Eventually a priest was called upon to exorcise the boggart, with whom he had a mysterious conversation. The boggart agreed to leave but only on the condition that a sacrifice was made of a body and a soul. The clever priest agreed, but substituted the body of a cock and the sole of a shoe! The bargain worked and the boggart departed, but only for a while, for even when the oldest part of the hall was demolished entirely, the boggart ghost continued to walk.

Another version of this tale, in a ballad written by William Nuttall, has the children’s ghosts exorcised by St Anthony, using a relic from Our Lady’s shrine. However, that would imply that there were multiple boggarts, and in the tradition (rather than the embellished ballad versions), there was only ever one…

Image © Copyright Paul Hogg and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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‘Red Clogs’ a Coalminer’s Ghost


Recently, whilst researching for Manchester Folk, I came across an intriguing mention of a ghost known as Red Clogs. No detail was given but with a little research, I discovered that he wasn’t called that because he wore red clogs – although his clogs were indeed red. Red with blood.

The story, brief though it is, says that a poor collier lost his life when working with a mechanical coal-washing hopper, which would wash soil and rock away from the coal and then crush it into chunks using rotating blades at the bottom of the machine. The collier leaned in to clear away an obstruction and fell. His feet were badly mutilated and so, naturally enough, his ghost was always said to be wearing blood-soaked clogs.

Most versions of this tale say that it occurred at Alexandra Pit at Whelley, near Wigan. Miners soon learned to blame any strange occurrence below ground on Red Clogs, and above ground his ghost is said to haunt the area known as Whelley Plantations.

However, Red Clogs is also claimed by Pidgeon Pit, close to Alexandra, Blundell’s pit at Pemberton, Bryn Pit, a pit at New Springs and by Taylor Pit in Wigan where it was said he was hit by a landslide.  His ghost has also been reported in Foundry Lane, Pemberton, where the remains of several mine-workings still lie.

Further afield, in Merseyside, Red Clogs is said to haunt an old pit in Haydock, at Sutton Manor colliery and also Garswood colliery, where the collier is said to have either been ‘chopped up’ by machinery or simply fallen down a lift shaft.

As I continued to dig for information, I found that the ghost of Red Clogs is also said to haunt the brickworks on Walthew House Lane near Kitt Green, where the red clogs are explained as being stained with brick dust. At Marsh Green, children were discouraged from playing in the old clay pits at the redundant brickworks by stories of Red Clogs. At yet another brickworks (unnamed), the story says that the man died in an accident involving a conveyor belt and night-workers reported seeing his red clogs walking along the belt.

And in Lancashire, Victory Park football ground in Chorley is said to be haunted by the ghost of a workman who died whilst erecting the floodlights. His injuries caused blood-loss – and some of the blood stained his clogs. His name was Johnny, so of course he became known as Johnny Red Clogs. I think it’s likely that he was so named after the more well-known pit ghost.

Another, less gory story explains the Red Clogs in this manner… a young Pemberton boy was given some new clogs by his mother but was unwilling to wear them because they were not the usual black leather but red. His fears were realised when his school-friends taunted him about his pretty red shoes but when he complained to his mother she gave him no sympathy. Clogs were the chosen footwear of the poor because their wooden soles did not wear out; the iron patches on the bottom of the shoes could easily be replaced when they became too thin. And as the boy’s mother was indeed poor, she simply could not afford to buy more clogs for her son; he would simply have to wear them. The boy suffered constant bullying until at last he could bear no more and took his own life in Porter’s Wood. He was found by other children, coming home through the wood at the end of the school day.

I can imagine that children were undoubtedly entranced by this story, with which they could identify, especially if they were playing in Porter’s Wood. As time went on and the tale was retold by these children, it once again changed detail and location – Red Clogs was said to haunt a certain bridge in Aspull and children warned each other never to go under the bridge after dark… and more than one grown-up in Wigan remembers believing that Red Cloggs was a ghost who haunted the cellar of Dolly Gray’s sweet shop on Platt Lane!

This is a fascinating example of how a story, which may really be based on a horrible fact (the nasty death of a coal-miner) can morph into a ghost story and, as time passes, turn into an urban legend to rival any I have come across. It has travelled from the Greater Manchester area north to Lancashire and west to Merseyside. Where else does Red Clogs haunt?  Let me know!


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Mysterious Falls From the Sky…


In Accrington, in 1984, over three hundred apples rained from the sky into a garden in East Crescent. The couple who lived there were woken by a horrendous noise – a noise so loud and protracted they thought it must be a freak hailstorm. They were mystified to discover that the noise was made not by enormous hailstones, but by dozens of apples.

It has been suggested that the apples may have fallen from a plane – but the fact is that apples continued to fall for over an hour in the very localised area of this one back garden, so a passing airplane is very unlikely to be the answer. Anything falling from a moving plane over time would be spread across a much broader area. It has also been suggested that a tornado may have lifted the fruit and just as suddenly dropped it again. Tornadoes in the UK are more common than one might think – between ten and fifty are reported every year – but they are never very strong and could not transport anything very far. And surely a localised tornado would have been noticed elsewhere than in this one back garden in East Crescent?

Three years previously, in Reddish, St Elizabeth’s Churchyard was the scene of a similarly remarkable event when coins of all denominations fell from a clear sky. Sometimes a single coin would fall, sometimes a number of them, of varying denominations and over a long period of time.

The first discovery was made by a young girl who said she actually saw the coin fall through the air in front of her, but other children heard coins tinkling as they hit areas of paved ground. The local sweet shop owner, surprised by the steady stream of children visiting his shop, went to speak with the Rector of the church, concerned that perhaps a charity box in the church has been raided, but it was found to be untouched. The Rector himself gathered a number of coins in the churchyard and, noticing that some had embedded themselves in the ground, he experimented and found that he could not make the coins fall in that way, no matter how hard he threw them. He surmised that they must have fallen from a great height. But from where?

All over the world there have been tales of strange ‘falls from the sky’. Two of the most commonly mentioned falling items are masses of ice and dozens of frogs, both of which can be explained – after a fashion. Ice is said to have built up on airplanes and been dislodged by a change in the weather, and it is suggested that the frogs and similar small creatures have been lifted by tornadoes or hurricanes and transported some distance before being dropped again as the whirling wind subsides. Sometimes the ‘falls’ are of dozens of fish, and the idea of a hurricane snatching up a pond full of water and all its occupants seems acceptable.

However, it really isn’t so easy to explain away hundreds of apples and dozens of coins. Of all the ‘strange falls from the sky’, those in East Crescent and St Elizabeth’s Churchyard are two of the oddest I have ever come across.

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BacupUp on the moor near Bacup, there is a pile of loose boulders in an area known as Hell Clough and, as you’d expect, there’s a legend featuring the Devil which explains how this came to be.

Somewhere near this cairn there was once a good-sized natural pool which the Devil was fond of using for bathing.  One day there was a terrific storm over the moorland and the Devil, coming to the pool for his usual bath, found that the heavy rain had so over-filled his pool that the edge was about to give way under the weight of the water.  If that happened, the pool would empty itself entirely down the hillside.  The Devil realised that he needed to construct some sort of dam to prevent this calamity, but how?

The Devil looked around for an answer and suddenly he saw a hayrick in the valley, covered with thick sheeting for protection.  This gave him an idea.

He flew quickly down to the valley, took the sheeting and wrapped it like an apron round his waist.  Then he returned to his pool at a more leisurely pace, gathering boulders as he went from here and carrying them in his apron.  It was a good plan, but sadly his apron could not hold the weight he expected of it.  Before he reached the pool, his apron gave way and all the boulders tumbled out to land in one huge pile on the moorland.  It is this pile which later gave the area its name – Hell Clough.

As for the Devil’s bathing pool, well, as he had feared, the edge of his pool did indeed give way and the whole of the contents poured away down the hillside.  The handy bathing-pool was gone forever and the Devil would have to find somewhere else to wash.

© Copyright Paul Anderson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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