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Bull-Beggar Traditions in Virginia


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Andrew Gable
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It's not really British, but definitely has relevance to a British tale, for those of you who think about the transfer of folk stories with immigrants.  There's also a town in Pennsylvania where the population (mainly Irish) have traditions about pookas and banshees:

In Ghost Stories From the American South, W.K. McNeil recounts a folktale gathered from a man by the name of Mart Rankin:I was batchin' then, up there in Virginia. Been out on my horse, and my little dog had followed me. When I got to the lane -- guess I was about two hundred yards from the end of it -- I spied two men. They was walkin' together purty fast, keepin' step. I watched 'em. They had four times as far to go as I did. I kept on watchin' them an' never took my eye off of 'em till they got to the lane. Then the little old dog jumped a rabbit, and I turned to look.

That quick they disappeared or turned into somethin', one. They was a black thing about the size of a sheep thrashed around an' took up through the field, tearin' up brush heaps where there wasn't no brush heaps an' makin' a lot of noise. It didn't look like nothin' I'd ever seen. Don't know what it was, but they had turned into it..Another book of folktales, Virginia Folk Legends, recounts a tale gathered from Mrs. R.V. Brayhill:My grandfather Pernell had a large farm and in those days the farms all had to be fenced and the cattle run outside [the fence]. And between his farm and the Crysel farm was a haunted woods. The road was a narrow wagon road going through a thick pine forest between the two farms, and often people had seen and heard things as they pass[ed] through this pine thicket. My mother and my Aunt Bittish said that often as they went over this road at night that they would hear the most pitiful cry, as if someone were in distress, and then an animal that resembled a big black bear would brush by them and then it would suddenly vanish.

And one time the fence around the farm caught fire about three o'clock in the morning. And Aunt Bitty saw the fence burning and she come running over to my father's to get him and my brothers to go help put the fire out. And as she was coming through the pine forest there was something that looked like two men came running behind her, and as they passed her they suddenly disappeared. Bitty said she was scared almost to death, but it was closer to my father's than it was back home, and she was through the haunted woods. So she came running to my father's for help. The family left the haunted farm and went to another community.A last bit of information regarding this is contained in An Encyclopedia of Fairies by Katherine Briggs:Its meaning is unspecified, but it did not perish with the 16th century, for there is still a Bullbeggar Lane in Surrey, which once contained a barn haunted by a bullbeggar, and traditions of a bullbeggar who haunted Creech Hill near Bruton in Somerset were recollected by Ruth Tongue from oral tradition in 1906 and published by her in County Folk-Lore (vol. VIII, pp. 121-2). In the 1880s two crossed bodies were dug up in quarrying operations, and crumbled to dust when they were exposed to the air. For some unexplained reason they were supposed to have been a Saxon and a Norman, and after this finding, Creech Hill had a bad name and was supposed to be haunted by following footsteps and a black uncanny shape. A farmer coming home late one night saw a figure lying on the road and went to its help. It suddenly shot up to an uncanny height and chased him to his own threshold. His family ran to his rescue and saw it bounding away with wild laughter. Another night traveller was attacked on Creech Hill and held his own from midnight to cock-crow with the help of an ashen staff. This bullbeggar was considered a bogy or bogey-beast rather than a ghost because two bodies were found.While I'm not certain where in the state these stories were gathered, in Accomack County there is a Bullbegger Creek. This is on the peninsula of Virginia on the eastern shores of the lower Chesapeake Bay. Sightings of Bigfoot and so-called "devils" have surfaced from the adjacent regions of Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Not Pennsylvania or Maryland, but close enough to be irresistible. Just by virtue of the name, I'll be needing to keep my eyes open as to things at Bullbegger Creek.

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Mauro
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Re: Bull-Beggar Traditions in Virginia

Hi Andrew. The bit about the jumping, laughing figure sounds very similar to Springheel Jack which, incidentaly, is often assumed to have made an appearance in New England around 1830, killing a person in the process (and that's what make the sighting dubious to say the least. Jack never seriously hurt anybody during his decades long career in England). Also the infamous "Mad Gasser of Matoon" may be linked to this kind of phenomena. 
The following footsteps part is a worldwide phenomenon. I remember that the Japanese have a simple exorcism for this: if you are walking on a lonely stretch of road and suddenly hear footsteps behind you just stop at the side of the road and say "Please, move ahead Betobeto-san". It may be that betobeto will ask you to borrow your umbrella (if it's raining) or lantern (if it's pitch black) and it's of course good to comply to its request: it will be returned to your front door the next morning.

In Distortion We Trust

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"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-


Andrew Gable's picture
Andrew Gable
User offline. Last seen 4 years 44 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 14 Jul 2009
Re: Bull-Beggar Traditions in Virginia

It does sound similar to Jack, come to think of it;  There was also an attack by a similar entity recorded from Philadelphia in 1905 where he attacked a cleaning woman.  I don't believe the Philadelphia one had the lantern associated with Jack, but was otherwise described the same.

I've also found that while there were two sightings of the Jersey Devil from Philadelphia in 1909, there really isn't anything to suggest that it was that monster; I've wondered if there weren't two more sightings of this Philadelphia Jack.

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Mauro
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Joined: 15 Oct 2008
Re: Bull-Beggar Traditions in Virginia

Yes, I think there a pattern here. Apart from a few isolated episodes these entities always seem much more bent on scaring the daylight out of people than physically harming them.
Reminds me of Phantasmagoria, a poem by Lewis Carroll in which a ghost, small, non threatening and completely harmless, is turned by the imagination of those seeing it in a terrifying, nightmarish creature.

In Distortion We Trust

__________________

"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-




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