Whilst we’re trying to keep all our ghost stories in this series as local as possible, we can’t help but mention a few places that are a little further away. Pendle Hill is about an hour’s drive away from Blackpool in Lancashire. There were some pretty dark things that happened there a few centuries ago and it’s said to be extremely haunted. Pendle Hill even features in the Blackpool Tower Dungeon experience!
Politics and Religion
Politics and religion played an integral part in the identification and condemnation of witches at the time.
The area of Pendle Hill in the 17th century was one that was regarded to be rife with thieves and other criminals, so it was thought of as one of the more wild areas of the North West. The closure of the Cistercian Abbey in nearby Whalley had not been a popular move for the locals, many of whom were strongly influenced by the Abbey.
Due to the shift in the religious beliefs of the monarchy at the time, those who practised Catholicism had to do so in private and Catholic priests went into hiding.
James I who was a devout protestant was very interested in witchcraft and also very scared of it. He quickly became certain that his life was in danger. The king traveled to Denmark with his wife and on the way, a storm hit the ship. Convinced that a group of Denmark women had conjured up the storm in an attempt to assassinate the king and his wife, James attended the trial of the North Berwick Witches where a croup of women were indeed convicted and sentenced for using witchcraft to send the storm. Upon James’ return to the UK, he had become so obsessed with witchcraft that he wrote a book about it.
By 1612, the year of the Pendle Witch trials, it was a criminal offense not to attend the English Church and take communion. Each local Justice of the Peace across Lancashire had been given orders to compile a report of all those who were guilty of this ‘crime’.
During the compilation of the list in Pendle, the local JP was presented with the first complaint of witchcraft in the area when a pedlar named John Law told a story of how he had been injured by witchcraft.
Demdike and the First Trial
Demdike was one of the many people to have been accused of witchcraft, however even before the events of 1612, she had been considered to be a witch locally for over 50 years. As a matter of fact, many of the deaths that the other ‘witches’ were accused of had happened many years before the Pendle Witch Trials took place.
On March 21st 1612, an event occurred that would set the wheels in motion for one of the most well documented witch trials in history.
Demdike’s granddaughter, Alizon, was making her way to Trawden Forest. Along rthe way, she saw John Law. Law was a pedlar who came from Halifx in Yorkshire. Alizon asked the pedlar for some pins, but at the time, pins were quite expensive as they were handmade. They were also often used for things that were considered to be magical for example healing warts and for love potions. The pedlar refused to sell them to Alizon for this reason although his son claimed that Alizon was begging for them and hadn’t any money.
Whatever the reason for Law refusing the transaction, a few minutes after they had parted company, Alizon said that she saw the pedlar fall. He did get up again and was able to get to a nearby inn to recuperate. Law felt no reason to accuse Alizon of anything at the time and it is believed today that he had simply suffered a minor stroke. Alizon on the other hand decided that this was the work of her magical powers and she asked to be taken to John Law’s bedside so that she could apologise and confess.
When Alison, along with her mother and brother, were brought to trial on 30th March 1612, she told the court that she had sold her soul to the devil and had willed the pedlar to be struck down after being called a thief by him.
During the trial, Alizon’s mother told that her own mother, Demdike, had a mark on her body. Birth marks were associated with witchcraft at the time as it was believed that they were left there after being bitten by the devil.
The outcome of the initial trial was that Alizon’s mother had successfully accused her own mother of being a witch and Alizon also accused members of another family of witchcraft. It was decided that Demdike and Alizon Device would be sent with two other women, Chattox and Anne Redferne to Lancaster Gaol where they would face a second trial.
Malkin Tower was the home of Demdike and her family. After the trial of her daughter, Elizabeth Device held a gathering at Malkin Tower with 7 other people from the village. An investigation was carried out when the townspeople heard of this and as a result, the motives of the group were questioned. Elizabeth was sent to Lancaster Gaol along with the 7 party guests to join the other 4 people who were already awaiting trial.
When the accused went to trial, the star witness was the younger daughter of Elizabeth Driver. 9 year old Jennet was brought into the courtroom and as she danced on tables and told tall stories about each of the accused, she quickly managed to convince the courtroom that 10 of the the 12 people on trial were indeed witches.
The trial lasted for 2 days and all 10 of those accused by Jennet were found guilty. The day after the trial finished, they were executed.
St Mary’s Church Ghost
Whilst investigating the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Pendle 2 years ago, psychic and medium Christine Hamlett from Northwich took these photographs.
In the photographs, the dark shadow of a girl is visible, sitting near a tombstone.
Hamlett claimed that whilst she was at the site, she felt the presence of Jennet, who played such a big part in the trial and execution of the first execution of her family members as well as other people from the village.
What do you think? Could this ghostly looking face be the ghost of Jennet or one of the Pendle Hill witches? It certainly does look like a little girl with long dark hair.
Hamlett had been drawn to Pendle to research the interesting past and to see if she could feel the presence of the spirits rumoured to still roam the area. She probably wasn’t expecting to take a photograph of what would seem to be an actual ghost.
One thing’s for sure – if you go to Pendle, make sure that you don’t roam this cemetery alone!
The team of ‘Most Haunted’ have traveled to Pendle Hill in the past and several members of the crew claimed to have been injured by spirits around them. Could these really have been the spirits of the hills or was it purely entertainment for the viewers?
Many other people who have visited or lived in Pendle have their own tales of eerie goings on in the area. Some refuse to take a trek into the hills too late in the afternoon so that they don’t find themselves there when night falls. It’s said that locals won’t even discuss the trials out of fear and superstition.