The following account of the story is extracted from‘Legends Superstitions of the County of Durham’ by William Brockie (1886). ‘A retired farmers wife at Hedworth, who went by the name of Leddy Lister, was commonly held by the people round about to be a witch. Nobody cared to offend her; neither did they care to be too kind with her; and if anything went wrong in the place it was always put down to her hellish craft. It was said she used to come out at night in different shapes, generally as a very tall woman. Sometimes, too, she appeared as a large sheet lying on the hedge, and when the folks went forward to lift it, it would rise up and walk away before them, in the form of a white lady Then it would suddenly disappear. A young farmer was coming home one night, when the cry was raised “Leddy Lister’s out!” He and some other youngsters, lads and lasses, set off in pursuit at once.
They traced her through one or two fields, until they came to a stile, where the two foremost stopped. Those behind immediately cried out, “She is on the stile, standing close behind you!” The lads of course jumped off, turned round, and seeing her still in front, a little way off, led the chase further on, till at last they were brought almost close to Leddy Lister’s house door.
There the apparition vanished. They knocked at the door, till her “Leddyship” herself came out. She was terribly excited, and panting with rage, and swore she would have them punished, for fastening such vile implications upon her.
The mob saw nothing for it but to disperse for that night, but as not one of them believed a word she had said, in denial of its having been her they had seen, they determined they would continue to watch her, which they accordingly did; and she was afterwards seen and followed repeatedly, but was ever, as before, lost sight of at or near her own door. At length her husband, it seems, got her persuaded not to walk any more after nightfall. He had been too much annoyed by the mobs coming to the door, and kicking up such horrid rows, to be at all pleased with his wife’s nocturnal perambulations. One night only, she ventured out again, when the mob traced her down to a neighbouring burn, and swore that they would drown her. They actually caught hold of her, shook her violently, dragged her home, and laid her on the steps at the door, nearly killing her. That, says my informant, was her last “expert” from home. She afterwards settled down quietly, because she could not help herself, having been lamed through the ill treatment she had got; and she died a year or two afterwards, “to the great comfort,” I was told, “of all the good people round about.” My simple honest informant, I should add, when out one evening, going from the house where she lived to her mistress’s mother’s, met Leddy Lister walking silently past, arrayed in her usual white garb. She saluted her with “it’s a fine night, Leddy Lister.” But the witch, as she was supposed to be, was not even so polite as one would have expected of a vulgar ghost, which most assuredly would have said something in reply, after being civilly spoken to. The young woman chanced to meet Leddy Lister the next day, in broad daylight, when she said to her, “I met you last night as I was crossing the Green, going to Grandmother’s’ (that being the title her mistress’s mother went by). “I spoke to you, but you never answered me, which I thought very strange.” “See me, no,” replied her Leddyship; “You must not believe all you see, if you think you saw me, for I was never out.” I suspect, for my part, that the poor woman must have been a sleep walker, not a witch at all.