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Dobb Park Lodge

The following story is taken from ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions’ of Great Britain by John Ingram (1897. 'On the southern slope of a picturesque valley, through which the Washburn pours its waters, stands the ruins of Dobb Park Lodge; a lofty, four-storied mansion of the Tudor period. About half of the original building is supposed to have been pulled down, not to have been destroyed by the slow processes of time, and the remainder to have been left standing though uninhabitable. In its pristine state the lodge must have been an elegant and spacious pile, and even now, ruined and deserted as it is, it is a picturesque feature in the romantic scenery around. There are some singular traits in the building, as, for instance, the fact that, apparently, the only means of access to its interior was by a winding stair in a projecting turret in the rear. Of the southern front of the residence one half remains, and contains square windows of two lights each, divided by a transom. Over the lower, relates a correspondent, is a cornice embracing both, supported by brackets, ornamented with armorial shields, charged with quoits or circular discs. In the centre are the remains of a projecting semi-circular window. Who lived in this strange and romantically situated abode history tells not. Shaw, the historian of Wharfedale, says : "There was a court held in it long after it was dilapidated, called Dog Court, belonging to the Duchy of Lancaster” and that appears to be all that is known of it; although this same authority supposes, omitting all account of its Tudor architecture, that it was erected about the same time as Barden Lodge, a building in existence in 1311.

But if history has neglected Dobb Park Lodge, tradition has not overlooked it; and, amongst other remarkable stories of it, records that the place is haunted by a strange being known as "The Talking Dog." The tale of this marvellous spectre bears a likeness to a well-known Manx, and some other equally famous legends; it has been related to us by Mr. William Grainge, of Harrogate, who obtained it from "a lover of forest lore, a collector and preserver of all that belongs thereto"; but it was taken down in the dialect of the neighbourhood, and to render it comprehensible to the general reader it will be necessary to translate it into the ordinary vernacular. The legend is as follows.

At the foot of the winding stair already alluded to is a doorway (now choked with rubbish) leading into a dungeon. The country folks thereabouts believe this doorway to be the entrance to one of those mysterious passages, so generally ascribed to old ruins, which lead to some strangely terrible cavern, or other abode of horror. Such unearthly noises were heard to issue from this subterranean place that no one ventured to explore its mysteries; until at length a countryman, one of those ne'er-do-wells who are ever ready to risk what respectable people prudently shrink from, determined to examine it thoroughly, and, in order to fortify himself for the arduous task, he imbibed a no small quantum of potent stimulant.

Thus invigorated, the local Columbus seized his lanthorn, bravely entered the passage, and instantly disappeared in its gloomy recesses. His neighbours and admirers lingered about the place in expectation of his speedy return, but his absence was so prolonged that they became seriously alarmed. At length, when they had all given him up for lost, he reappeared, but in a most wretched, abject, and terrified condition. Some long time afterwards, when he had recovered from his fright, he was induced to give a recital of his adventures, and his account was this:

"After leaving the doorway, I went for a long distance, rambling and scrambling, turning and twisting about the crooked passages, until I thought I should get to no place at all. So I began to feel rather dazed and tired like, and had some thoughts of turning back again, when, suddenly, the sweetest music that ever I had heard, in all my born days, struck up right before me. I couldn't have turned back then if I had wanted to ever so much, for the sound charmed me completely.

I had never felt so lightsome before, and feared nothing, and could have gone anywhere. I followed up where the music seemed to come from, thinking I should come to it at last, but I was wrong; I have never seen the players to this very day. I kept following the sound until at last I came to what seemed to be a great, long, high, wide room, as big as any church, and bigger than some. At one side of it was a great lire blazing away as bright as the sunshine; and either it, or something else, made everything glitter like gold.

"Thinks I to myself, this is a grand place, and no mistake! But what struck me more than all was a great, black, rough dog, as big as any two or three mastiffs, which stood before the fire, and appeared to be the master of the place, for not another living creature beside it could I see. I was troubled to make him out; I had heard tell of 'barguests,'but had never seen one, and thought this might be one of them. At last, by all that is true, if the thing did not open its mouth and speak! Not bark like a dog, as it ought to have done, but talked just like one of ourselves. Didn't I feel queer now! I think I just did. That did for me more than all the rest. I wished myself safe out again, and over the mile bridge. It said: “Now, my man, as you've come here, you must do one of three things, or you’ll never see daylight again. You must either drink all the liquor there is in that glass; open that chest; or draw that sword.”

“I looked, and there I saw a strange, great chest, seemingly bound with iron bands, and with two or three great iron locks on it. At the top of that chest was placed a fine great glass, with a long stem, full of the nicest-looking drinking-stuff that ever I saw. Above that, on a peg, or something of the sort, against the wall was hung what he called the sword a great, long, broad, heavy, ugly thing, nearly as long as myself.

"I looked them all over and over, and over again, considering which job to do, for I dursn't, for the life of me, think of not doing what that dog bade me. The chest looked much too strong for me to open besides, I had no tools with me that would be likely to open it with ; and, as for the sword, I knew nought about sword work, I had never held one in mv life, and should be quite as likely to cut myself as anyone else with it, so I thought I would let it alone. Then there was naught but the drink left for me, and I began to feel rather dryish, what with rambling about the place so long, and what with the drop of drink I had before I started; so, says I to myself, 'Here goes at the drink!' I took hold of the glass with my hand, the dog all the time glowering at me with all the eves he had; and, I assure you, he bad two woppers saucers are not so big; thev were more like pewter plates, and gleamed and glittered like fire. "I lifted the glass up to my mouth and just touched my lips with the stuff, to taste before I gave a big swig; when, would you believe it? It scalded just like boiling water, or burnt like fire itself. All the skin's off my lips and tongue-end with it yet. If I'd swallowed all the lot it would have burned my inside clean out, and I should have been as hollow as a drum; but I stopped short of that, or else I should have made a bonnie mess of it. I just tasted the stuff, but what it was I cannot tell; it was not the colour of aquafortis, but it was quite as hot. As soon as ever I tasted it, up flew the lid of the chest with a bonnie bang; and I do declare if it didn't seem to be as full of gold as ever it could cram: I'd be bound to say there were thousands upon thousands of pounds in that very chest. But I 'm no better for that, nor ever shall be, for I '11 never go there anymore. The sword, at the same time, was drawn by somebody's hand that I didn't see, and it glittered and flashed like lightning. I banged the glass down, and don't know whether it broke or not, but all the stuff was spilt. In a minute after all was dark as pitch; the fire went out; my lantern had gone out before; the music gave over playing, and instead of it such a howling and yelling struck up and filled the place as I 'd never heard in my time; it seemed as if hundreds of dogs were all getting walloped at once; and something besides screamed and yelled as if it were frightened out of its wits. Oh, it was awful! I fell down flat on the floor, I think in a swoon, and I could not have done better, How long I lay I cannot tell, but for a goodish bit, I think. At last I came to myself, rubbed my eyes, and glowered about me, and wondered where I was. At last I bethought myself, and scrambled up, and after a great deal of ups and downs, I got my carcase dragged out ; and now, you may depend upon it, you'11 not eaten me going in there any more of a sudden."

Such, says Mr. Grainge, was the result of the search for hidden treasure in the ruined vaults of Dobb Park Lodge. Since that time no one appears to have ven- tured into those subterranean recesses, so that the chest full of gold still remains, waiting for some explorer to brave the terrors of "The Talking Dog" and his surroundings.'

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Ian Topham
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Re: Dobb Park Lodge

The hunting lodge is possibly early 17 Century and may have belonged to Sir Mauger Vavasour.



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