In English folklore, a boggart (or bogart) is a household fairy which causes things to disappear, milk to sour, and dogs to go lame. Always malevolent, the boggart will follow its family wherever they flee. In Northern England, at least, there was the belief that the boggart should never be named, for when the boggart was given a name, it would not be reasoned with or persuaded and become uncontrollable and destructive.
It is said that the boggart crawls into people's beds at night and puts a clammy hand on their faces. Sometimes he strips the bedsheets off them. Sometimes a boggart will also pull on a person's ears. Hanging a horseshoe on the door of a house is said to keep a boggart away.
In the folklore of North-West England, boggarts live under bridges on dangerous sharp bends on roads, and it is considered bad luck for drivers not to offer their polite greetings as they cross.
In one old tale said to originate from the village of Mumby in the Lincolnshire countryside, the boggart is described as being rather squat, hairy and smelly. The story goes that a farmer bought a patch of land that was inhabited by the boggart. When the farmer tried to cultivate the field the boggart got angry, but after much arguing they decided to work the land together and share the bounty. The farmer, however, being greedy, began to ponder a way to cheat the boggart out of his share. When they were debating what to plant, he asked the boggart, 'Which half of the crop do you want for your share, the part below the ground or the part above it?' The boggart thought for a while before answering 'The part below the ground.' The farmer sowed the field with barley. At harvest time the farmer boasted a big pile of barley while all the boggart had to show for his work was stubble. It flew into a rage and screeched that next time it would take what lay above the ground. The next time the farmer sowed the field with potatoes. At harvest time the farmer laughed as he claimed his massive pile of potatoes while the boggart was yet again left with nothing to show for his efforts. Simmering with rage, the boggart stormed off, never to return again.
Boggart Hole Clough is one of the most dramatic park lands in Manchester with its sweeping landscape, mature woodland and fishing lakes. Local residents have been joined by councillors and North Manchester Regeneration to encourage more people to visit the area, however, when darkness falls, superstition takes over. Many local residents are aware of the strange myths, tales and legends regarding the Boggart…
A Boggart is a mischievous spirit mainly found in Lancashire and Yorkshire, they were thought to be responsible for poltergeist activity, and there are many other folk tales about their mischievous pranks. Often lonely places were thought to be haunted by them and other supernatural creatures, and were avoided by the local populace as places of superstition and magic. Boggart Hole Clough - (now occupied by Henshaw Street and St Mary's Way), was also thought to be haunted by a Boggart. Three residents during 1976 reported strange occurrences during the night. The haunted houses go back as far as 1907, now long gone and no records regarding the disturbances survived. It is likely that many northern towns had these haunted places in the 18th century - where the old spirits were still thought to reside as the rapid urbanisation of the booming mill towns smothered the green fields.
The clough was in former times, renowned for its Boggart activity, and there are a number of stories attached to it. Some of these tales probably became attached to the area after they had been written about regarding other similar Boggart infested places. The tale that is most often told about it, mentions a Boggart infested farm, which became so haunted that the farmer and his family were forced to leave. The farm was once owned by George Cheetham. Hence the name Cheetham Hill.
The Boggart could often be heard crying at night with a voice like a baby’s penny trumpet, and even in daytime was responsible for snatching away the children’s bread and butter, or dashing down their milk. In the dead of night the Boggart would walk about with a heavy tread, like that of a person wearing wooden clogs, or would pull the bed-curtains, or even sit on the chests of people in bed, almost suffocating them.
At rare intervals this evil visitor would relent, and churn the milk overnight, or scour the pots and pans, but these kindly interludes did not suffice George Cheetham and his tormented family, who decided to remove themselves from the farm. Everything was packed up, and they were making their way to the new home when they met a neighbour. “So your going ay?” exclaimed the neighbour. “Yes,” said George; “the worry of it was killing my wife”. Instantly there came a voice from the churn which was strapped down on George’s cart : “Ay neighbour, we’re flitting you see”. Damn You! Shouted George, “if I’d known you were flitting to I’d have left the churn back at the far”. “Nay tis no use Molly, we mat as well turn back to the old house.
The Boggart is a type of industrious spirit that in legends churns the butter, and generally tidies up the domestic department; and is usually represented in folk-lore as being highly offended when these services are in any way acknowledged or rewarded. Jennifer Westwood in her book Albion suggests that the story originated in a book by Croften Croker called (Fairy legends) who tells the same story about an Irish Leprechaun. Croker gave the story to J. Roby who included it about Boggart Hole Clough in his book Lancashire Traditions, probably to have a good story to go with the name of Boggart Hole.
Although their nature is much more malicious and less helpful. Witnesses have described the Boggart to look similar to a Brownie which is another mythological creature. The dark and hairy Boggarts are dressed in tattered clothes, with meddling hands and clumsy feet. The presence of a Boggart is betrayed by the unusual number of small accidents and strange noises after dark. They tip over milk bottles, frighten cats, pinch little children, blow out candles, and cause many other mishaps. No one has ever found a way to appease them, and often there is no alternative but to quickly and stealthy move to another home. In Manx folklore, it is called a the Buggane.
The Tale of the Green Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough.
Twice a year, when the moon was full, Owd Hob, the chief of the Boggarts held a meeting which all the Boggarts and their wives, and the Jack o' Lanterns were commanded to attend. Failure to obey Owd Hob's summons was likely to result in a loss of evil powers granted by him. A ring of stones indicated the actual site of the meetings on Anglezarke (Rivington). On the night of the meeting, Owd Hob would be seated on his throne (A large rock of mill stone grit) ready to receive his guests.
On one of these occasions the Green Boggart was getting rather worried, as his total of victims showed a drop and he had noticed for quite a while that his Jack o' Lantern's light was getting dimmer each day, and that his wife's hair and features were turning from a bright green to a yellowish brown. She was also very discontented.
The reason for this was that the forkypeds (the humans) had begun to drain his moss land to raise all kinds of crops and to graze their cattle. The Green Boggart knew that his evil powers were useless on dry land as the forkypeds protected their homes with magical signs, charms and rhymes. Another reason for the Green Boggart to be worried was that he remembered the Yellow Boggart approaching Owd Hob several meetings ago, with the same problem, and Owd Hob getting angry as the Yellow Boggart recited his tale of woe. Owd Hob had been so enraged that from his mouth he blew a white-hot flame which engulfed the Yellow Boggart, his wife and his Jack o' Lantern, and they were never seen or heard of again.
However when Owd Hob heard the Green Boggarts report, he did not destroy him and his accomplices, but told them they would have to do better or take the consequences. The reports from the other Boggart were much the same; the forkypeds were draining the mosses for crops and cattle.
Soon after the meeting of Owd Hob and the Boggarts on Angelzarke, the Green Boggart became worried and restless. His domain was originally all the moss land north of the river Mersey, between Manchester, Warrington and as far north as Wigan. These moss lands included Barton Moss, Chat Moss, Astley Moss, Rixton Moss, Lowton Moss as well as many others. Owing to natural drainage over the centuries and to the cutting of canals for transport as well as drainage, the whole area was beginning to dry out and become suitable for farming and habitation. Places with such names as Warsley (Worsley), Mossley, and Moss Side give some indication of land recovered from the moss.
From the Green Boggart's view this was disastrous. For many weeks there had not been a single Forkyped, or animal trapped in the moss, leaving the Green Boggart and his wife Jinny and Jack o' Lantern very little to eat. The Green Boggart decided he would have to do something about it. He wandered all over northern Cheshire seeking suitable moss land which was unoccupied by another Boggart. As long as he kept away from places and people protected by charms and spells, he was invisible and could move around as he wished.
One day as he was searching in west Cheshire, he must have crossed the border into Wales. He noticed a forkyped of great beauty seated by a small fire. This female was dressed in black and had long black lustrous hair. The Boggart went up to her where she sat in front of a small cave on the mountainside. She bade him welcome and told him to rest awhile and sup with her. She was no other then Morgan La Faye, sorceress, who normally lived with Merlin the wizard at Camelot.
Although the Boggart was invisible to ordinary forkypeds he was quite visible to Morgan La Faye, who asked him why he was wandering so far from his usual haunts. The Boggart told her of all his troubles and worries and that he was looking for new moss land. Morgan La Faye was amused that one of the enemies of the human race should tell her his troubles and seek her advice as to what he should do.
After considerable thought she said that she could give him power to assume the shape of a human when it suited him. Also if it so happened he was to be attacked etc., such as having his head cut off, or an arm or leg severed, he would instantly regain his normal shape. All wounds would heal straight away. She warned him all his powers would be lost if he came into contact with someone protected by charms and spells; also he must renounce his allegiance to Owd Hob and must not in future refer to humans as forkypeds.
After some thought the Green Boggart decided to accept Morgan La Faye's proposals and then they began to discuss the important matter as to where the Boggart and his wife were to live, and how. First came the question of his wife Jinny Greenteeth. Morgan La Faye agreed to rejuvenate her, but she would have to have the colouring of a normal human and carry out all the duties and practices of an ordinary housewife. With regards to living quarters, the sorceress said she would help to build a moated castle for them, if the Boggart could find a suitable place to build it. The Boggart knew the very place, A Clough or Delph to the east of Manchester called Black lee, near Prestwich and not very far from Bury. It was a wild and lonely valley with only one way as entrance and exit. It was well wooded with trees on all sides, and the country around was wild and desolate.
Morgan La Faye agreed that it would be an ideal spot for the purpose. She said she knew the place well and that by the time the Boggart returned to his old moss land the castle would be ready for him and his wife. She also said they would have to leave Jack o' lantern to fade away and die, as there was no further use for him. With regard to food the Boggart and his wife would have to live like normal humans and he would have to use his powers of becoming invisible to forage around the villages and folds for whatever food they needed. The castle was to be named The Boggart Hole, and the Clough, and to this day, is known as Boggart Hole Clough. The Boggart and Jinny lost no time in taking over the castle, and were very soon comfortably settled and only just in time, as the moss land had almost completely dried out.
Morgan la Faye was a frequent visitor to the Boggart hole Clough, and her tales of Camelot enthralled the Green Boggart. In spite of Morgan La Faye's visits The Green Boggart would often get bored, and used to relive his boredom by playing pranks on people and their animals. One trick was to make himself very small and creep into the ear of a horse; frightening it so much it would gallop madly in any direction open to it. This madness in old times was known as "Takking Boggarts". He also used to visit houses where they had not taken the trouble to protect themselves with a charm or spell. He would make himself invisible and enter the house, and then he would instigate all sorts of strange things. Pots and pans, crockery and ornaments would seem to fly off sideboards, chairs would move and water would throw itself onto the fire, and doors would open and shut themselves. He interfered with the farmer's water supplies, and tormented the families, by continually interrupting their sleeping. Children would wake up in the middle of the night to find that they were lying upside down from their original sleeping positions.
The following story tells of a famous Green Boggart prank:
Up to a few years ago there used to be a row of houses in Swan Lane, Hindley Green, which were called the Boggart houses. Owd Moe, a boss of one of the coal pits in the area, whether it was the Bugle Horn, Gawping Throstle, Snotty Jimmy's or Crippens-2-inch is unclear, but he lived in Swan lane. He had a big black cat, of which he was very proud. At night the cat had a habit of wandering around the Boggart Houses.
In one of these houses lived a bad tempered, dirty elderly man who was known as Sammy Stinker, He had no friends and lived alone. One day the Green Boggart, who was at a loose end and happened to be wandering about that part of the country, called at Stinker's house and asked for a drink of water. This of course was just an excuse to get into the house.
In spite of Sam's very rude refusals, the Boggart who had adopted the form of a human edged himself into the house. After a while he managed to overcome Sam's objections by using his Boggart blarney, and managed to get Sam to play a game of dominoes with him. This game lasted for several hours, and during the game, the Boggart told tales of the wonderful and magical things that he had done in his lifetime. The Boggart noticed that there was a beam running across the room with a fairly large hook driven into it near one end and from the hook hung a strong clothesline. After a while the Boggart suddenly said to Sam "Does tha know Sam, that ah wor a Boggart til aw ma mosses dreighed up?"
"No ah didn't know" replied Sam.
The Boggart continued "ah've noan fergetten any o mi owd tricks, and ah've a mahnd t'show thi some o' um". The Boggart indicated the hook and rope, and suggested to Sam that he could hang him (The Boggart) in a real hangman's fashion, provided that he could hang Sam afterwards. Sam thinking it was a real pushover told the Boggart to stand on a chair whilst he slipped a noose around his neck. He then made the other end of the rope fast to a wall bracket, leaving nearly a foot slack in the rope, still on the hook. When he had done this he snatched the chair from under the Boggart's feet and the Boggart's weight jerked the rope tight and left him dangling about six inches from the floor.
When the body had been hanging several minuets, Sam had a good look at the Boggart and was sure he was dead. He stood for a minute or two, and then decided to fetch the taproom lot from his local pub, (The Aleck) and show them what he had done. He went to get his coat and hat from the back place. He returned to the front room and noticed to his horror that the Boggart was sitting by the table. "Well", said the Boggart, "its tha turn neaw Sam"
The Boggart strung Sam up with the rope on the hook and make no mistake; Sam was well and truly dead when the Boggart left the house. After a day or two the neighbours began to wonder about Sam, as no one had seemed to have seen or heard him, so they decided to investigate. When they did they found Sam hanging peacefully dead. One thing they also noticed was that all the chairs had been placed in their proper position with their seats under the table. This puzzled them, because if Sam had hung himself he would have kicked the chair away, So they all agreed it was the Boggart's doing. One or two of them had said they had seen a big, black shape mauling about the houses after dark many a time and this must have been the Boggart. The incident was for a long time the main topic of conversation in the taproom at the Aleck, Especially as people kept reporting they had seen the big black shape hovering around Sam's house, which had remained unoccupied since Sam's untimely demise.
Two characters by the names of Lazarus and Juddy Moddy, who were regular attendees in the taproom, kept on talking over the incident and they finally decided that they would do something about it. So one night they entered Sam's old house, first they made sure that the rope and hook was in place, then they sat in the dark and waited. About midnight the men were disturbed, as there was someone coming into the house, and sure enough there was soon a black shape moving around the room. Joddy shouted, "grab him Lazarus, while ah get the noose". A terrible struggle started, accompanied by a lot of spitting and hissing and other noises that sounded like cursing in a foreign language. After a long and fierce struggle, in which Lazarus got very badly scratched, they managed to get the noose over the shape's head. They pulled as hard as they could on the rope. "That's getten him awreet, let him ger eawt o that". The two men then crept out of the house and went home to bed, where they had a few hours sleep before they had to go to their work at the pit.
During the following day Owd Moe was making a great to-do about his cat that had not been seen since the night before. That night Lazarus and Juddy paid their usual visit to the Alecks and started to brag as to how they had fought and hanged the Boggart in Sam's old house. They invited all the other taproom men to accompany them and have a look at the hanging Boggart. About a dozen or so went to the house and went inside. Hanging from the beam was, not the Boggart, but Owd Moe's black cat. The other men laughed and said "Th'owd Boggart's done it agen anah wouldn't like to be in Lazarus or Juddy's shoon when Owd Moe gets ter ear abeawt it "
Owd Moe was furious when he found out and vowed Lazarus and Juddy would never work at his pit as long as he was alive. Lazarus and Juddy however, firmly believed that it was the Boggart they had hanged, but that due to some magic he had managed to get loose and hanged the cat in his place.
Compiled & Researched by Steve Yarwood.