There is a tradition dating back to the 17th century in Ottery St Mary, where tar soaked barrels lighted and carried through the Devonshire town. Only those who are born and lived within the town are eligible to carry one of the seventeen barrels which begin their journey from outside the local pubs.
The following account of a strange experience by a young Joseph Wilkins in 1754 is taken from ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain’ (1897) by John Ingram though the case has also been mentioned in several books including ‘Phantasms of the Living’ edited by Edmund Gurney, Frederic William Henry Myers and Frank Podmore.
Out of the dark, supernatural depths of Victorian England one name stands out. Jack.
Not Jack the Ripper, but a more supernatural fiend – Spring Heeled Jack!
Once upon a time there was, in this celebrated town [Tavistock], a Dame Somebody, I do not know her name, and as she is a real character, I have no right to give her a fictitious one. All I with truth can say, is, that she was old, and nothing the worse for that; for age is, or ought to be, held in honor as the source of wisdom and experience.
According to Raymond Lamont Brown in his ‘Phantoms Legends, Customs and Superstitions Of The Sea’ (1972), a ghostly 500 ton landing craft was seen off the Devonshire coast in October 1959. The phantom vessel was flying the World War II flag of the Free French and seemed to be in some distress.
According to ‘The Legendary Lore Of The Holy Wells Of England’ by Robert Charles Hope (1893). ‘On the spot where St. Sidwella is reputed to have been martyred is the well dedicated in her honour; it is situated on the left-hand of the Exeter side of the tunnel leaving the city, at a place called Lion’s Holt.
Robert Charles Hope tells us in ‘The Legendary Lore Of The Holy Wells Of England’ (1893) that ‘Cranmere Pool is believed to be a place of punishment for unhappy spirits, who are frequently to be heard wailing in the morasses which surround it’.
Following a 1585 Act of Parliament, Plymouth Leat or Drake’s Leat was built to divert water from the River Meavy on Dartmoor, seventeen and a half miles to Plymouth. The idea itself dates back to 1559 when Plymouth Corporation asked Mr Forsland of Bovey to make an initial survey for its construction, in order to create a new supply of fresh water. A more detailed survey was completed in 1576.
A Black Dog story is attached to a pool near Deancombe, and James Mackinley in his ‘Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs’ (1893) referred to the hound as its guardian, doomed to haunt there until the pool could be emptied by a nutshell with a hole in it. The following earlier and fuller account of the tale appeared in Notes and Queries, Number 61 (28 December 1850):