The following account is extracted from The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain by John Ingram (1897). ‘In a series of articles on the English Lakes, contributed by Mr. Moncure D. Conway to Harper s Magazine, are many little quaint bits of legendary lore, collected here and there in happily styled ” Wordsworthshire.” One curious story told by our American cousin respecting the manner in which an ancient building near Ambleside is haunted, and the cause of this visitation, must be told in his own words, as there does not appear to be any other available source of information.
“As we gained the height beyond Bowness, on the road to Ambleside,” relates Mr. Conway, “we paused for some time ; and while my comrade the artist . . . passes an hour of ecstasy over the southward view of Windermere, my eyes were dwelling on an ancient farm and homestead over against the northward water, with which is associated one of the weird legends of this region. Calgarth is the name of it, and it is not picturesque enough for the guide-books to do more than mention it. Miss Martineau praises the owner for leaving depressions in his walls in order that travellers may look across his estate to the scenery beyond, and mentions that the arms of the Phillipsons are still there in the kitchen, carved amid a profusion of arabesque devices over the ample fire-place. But none of our professional guides appear to have got hold of the story of the place as it is known to the more aged peasants.
“It runs that Calgarth (which seems to be from Old Norse Kalgarde, a vegetable garden) was a bit of ground owned by a bumble farmer named Kraster Cook and his good wife Dorothy. But their little inheritance was coveted by the chief aristocrat and magistrate of the neighbourhood, Myles Phillipson. The Phillipsons were a great and wealthy family, but they could not induce Kraster and Dorothy to sell them this piece of ground to complete their estate. Myles Phillipson swore he M have that ground, be they live or deead’; but as time went on, he appeared to be more gracious, and once he gave a great Christmas banquet to the neighbours, to which Kraster and Dorothy were invited. It was a dear feast for them. Phillipson pretended they had stolen a silver cup, and sure enough it was found in Kraster’s house a ‘ plant ‘ of course. The offence was then capital; and as Phillipson was the magistrate, Kraster and Dorothy were sentenced to death. In the court-room, Dorothy arose, glowered at the magistrate, and said, with words that rang through the building:
“Guard thyself, Myles Phillipson! Thou thinkest thou hast managed grandly; but that tiny lump of land is the dearest a Phillipson has ever bought or stolen; for you will never prosper, neither your breed; whatever scheme you undertake will wither in your hand; the side you take will always lose ; the time shall come no Phillipson will own an inch of land; and while Calgarth walls shall stand, we ‘ll haunt it night and day never will ye be rid of us!
“Thenceforth the Phillipsons had for their guests two skulls, They were found at Christmas at the head of a stairway ; they were buried in a distant region, but they turned up in the old house again. The two skulls were burned again and again ; they were brayed to dust and cast to the wind; they were several years sunk in the lake ; but the Phillipsons never could get rid of them. Meanwhile old Dorothy’s weird went on to its fulfilment, until the family sank into poverty, and at length disappeared.”
The well-known Dr. Watson, Bishop of Llandaff, was at one time an occupant of Calgarth, and, whilst residing there, in order to satisfy local fears, went through a solemn form of “laying” the two ghostly skulls. For a time, at least, this had the desired effect, and Dorothy and Kraster have remained quiet of late years.
According to legend, the owners, a Mr and Mrs Kraster Cook were framed one Christmas by Myles Phillipson, a magistrate. He planted a silver cup upon their persons when they came around to visit him. The crime was punishable by death and Phillipson gained control of Calgarth Hall, a sixteenth century manor house, but not before being cursed by Mrs Dorothy Cook. After the death of Mr and Mrs Cook, two skulls appeared at Calgarth Hall and they were first noticed at Christmas on the first anniversary of the alleged silver cup theft. Phillipson’s prosperity dwindled and each time they tried to remove or destroy the skulls they reappeared again. Eventually Calgarth Hall was occupied by Dr Watson, the Bishop of Llandaff. he performed an exorcism which apparently calmed the spirits. The skulls were bricked up behind a wall in the Hall.’