Olney Houses & Devil Legends
The following stories associating the Devil with homes in Olney were published in ‘Olney, Bucks’ (1907) by Oliver Ratcliff. ‘According to legendary accounts the Devil seems to have frequently favoured Olney with his presence. At one time the clatter of his chariot would be heard on the high road, at another he would take upon himself the mortal coil and visit them in the flesh, going so far as to take up his residence here. I cannot say what his motives were, for on this point tradition is silent. Probably he wished to draw the folk aside from the path of virtue, or it may have been that he bestowed his attentions upon the inhabitants as a reward for faithful services.On one of these occasions when he (the Devil) was residing in the town, in a large house, the site of which is now occupied by three cottages in High Street, bearing the Nos. 121, 123A, 125A, he was greatly annoyed by an old woman living opposite, who used to put her head out of the attic window and watch his movements in his own rooms. After bearing with the old dame‟s inquisitiveness for some time he determined to put an end to her curiosity. So on one occasion when she had taken up her usual post of observation, he caused a pair of gigantic horns to appear on her head, so that she could not draw it in at the window until he chose to remove them. This cured the lady and she respected his privacy ever after.
In the house above mentioned, there were some fine plasters in relief, which were executed at the expense of Mr John Brunt, one of the King‟s messengers. Tradition says that this gentleman was on his way to Castle Ashby with a message from the King, when his horse stumbled and threw him. He was taken into a doctor‟s house which was thought to be a Doctor Grindon‟s. This cannot be correct as the Grindon family do not appear to have been connected with Olney until about 1694, some 70 years after the accident. His leg was found to be broken, and subsequently amputation became necessary.
It is said that a Dr John Faust once lived in this house, and that he terminated an unhappy existence by having his head dashed against the ceiling by the Devil. Of course the presence of blood stains were necessary to lend probability to this story; and when these were pointed out to the spectator he was solemnly assured that no amount of lime washing or scouring would remove these stains. The house earned the reputation of being haunted; and many declared that they had heard sound by night, as of chains rattling, proceeding from the chamber in which the deed was perpetrated.
This house in which the Devil lived was afterwards occupied by a man who appears to have had a clean conscience, a stout heart and a strong nerve. This worthy retired to rest one night after having duly adjusted the curtains. On getting into bed he found that the moon shone on his face. This rather surprised him as he felt certain he had properly arranged matters. So stepping out, he drew the curtains again and sought his bed once more, but only to find that the moon beams fell on his face as before. He said to himself that the Devil must surely be at the bottom of the affair, and got out again to re-arrange the offending drapery.
To his great astonishment he saw his Satanic Majesty seated on a chair. Nothing daunted he took another chair on the opposite side of the window, and as often as one of them drew the curtains aside, the other pulled them in the opposite direction. Here the account abruptly terminates just where the story becomes most interesting. But, however, we will hope that the man‟s persistent attitude was sufficient to rid him of his disreputable visitor and enable him to resume his slumbers in peace.’