Living Souls in Launceston: Some Local Ghost Stories to Raise your Heart Rate
As Halloween draws in, here at The Maker we’ve been looking into some spooky ghost stories to get your skin crawling. As our October Maker theme is ‘Chilling Encounters,’ we thought it might be helpful to give our writers some ghoulishly good inspiration for potential scary stories. Read on to learn of the spooky local tales in our lovely Launceston.
The Musical Menace
Dockacre House, an old Elizabethan mansion, is now completely (and purposefully) concealed by a thick hedge. In the early 18th century, a married couple named Mr and Mrs Nichloas and Elizabeth Herle moved into the property. As the year closed, the story goes, Mrs Herle was dead and buried in the local churchyard.
The town was abuzz, speculating about whether she was killed by her husband. Yet despite this controversy, Mr Herle soon became the mayor of Launceston and then High Sheriff of Cornwall before moving to London, where he died 14 years later.
After his death, ghostly occurrences were reported in the Dockacre House. Multiple reports of an apparition of Nicholas came in, many claiming the ghostly figure would play a flute with the tune recognisable as an Elizabethan madrigal, the name of his wife.
Was it the ghost of Mr Herle, showing some remorse for the crime he committed against his wife? We will never know and always wonder.
The Incorporeal Inn
Not far from Launceston, in Bolventor, lies the Jamaican Inn; one of the most haunted places in Britain.
Many resident ghosts are said to have shacked up in this building, including a malicious highwayman adorned in a 3 cornered hat who is known to walk through locked doors. The spirit of a young mother with a baby is said to inhabit the mirror in one of the rooms, and a smuggler is said to wander around the Inn’s courtyard at night.
On the hill west of the Inn, the ghost of Charlotte Dymond, a young woman murdered by her lover, is seen on the slope. With such an array of ghouls, it’s easy to believe this Inn is one of Britain’s most haunted locations.
The Witches Tower
During the 17th-century, many witch trials were held at the Assize courts at Launceston. One of the towers at the castle become known as ‘The Witches Tower,’ where witches were said to be burned after they were convicted.
Many horrific tales from the witchcraft trials can be found in local archives. Particularly horrific are the cases of Jane Nicholas and Mary Guy. In 1686 and 1696 respectively, Nicholas and Guy were accused of bewitching two boys, tormenting them to the point that they suffered from fits and vomited pins and nails, which were produced in court as evidence.
The boy at the centre of the case claimed that Jane appeared to him, sometimes in her own shape and at other times as a cat.
The Curse of Mother Ivey’s Bay
Named after a local white witch, the bay is said to be cursed since the 16th-century.
The Bay, owned by a local wealthy family, is said to have been cursed by Mother Ivey to revenge the family’s neglect of the poor and starvation of the local people. They often sold their fish abroad, but when deals fell through they would use the leftover fish to fertilise their land instead of feeding the local people.
Mother Ivey cursed the ground around the bay, saying if the soil was ever broken, death would follow. When the family attempted to plant crops, work halted as their eldest son was killed after being thrown from his horse while crossing the field.
As Halloween approaches, it’s fascinating to see how our local community interacts with traditional ghost lore and how these tales still influence local tradition today. Hopefully some of these stories captured your imagination and gave you some inspiration for some fearful tales to send to The Maker this month.
Written by Anna Craig, The Maker’s digital intern