Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Why You Should Never Give A Gift To A Boggart

Boggarts. Devilish little creatures found in deep, dark woods in parts of the North of England. Their sole rajson d'etre appears to be to frighten, maim and kill humans - whom they call 'forkypeds'.

It seems that while other, more southerly, folk cultures had their 'house elfs' who took care of things, homes and humans, the hardy northern folk were surrounded by much darker forces. Almost every home, it seemed, had its own boggart, out to cause mayhem and serious damage.

So what - or who - is a boggart?

In Northumbria, there is a tradition that helpful spirits such as 'silkies' could turn bad, and when they did, they became boggarts. In Lancashire, boggarts were mostly evil to begin with. They were said to live outdoors, in holes in the ground, lurking there to trip the unwary, or in marshes, where they would suck unfortunate travellers underground. They would abduct children, kill and eat animals, creep into a house at night and place a cold, clammy hand over the sleeping inhabitants, spreading sickness with their touch.

One famous legend tells of the infamous Grizlehurst Boggart who made his first appearance (in print at least) in 1861, when an elderly Lancashire couple related his story. He was they said, buried at a crosroads nearby, under an ash tree, together with a cockerel. Yet, even though he was buried, he still caused much trouble. They said a farmer's wife, known to them, had experienced doors banging in her house one evening. She heard raucous laughter, saw three candles burning with a blue light which illuminated a grotesque figure with cloven hooves and flaming red eyes, as he leaped and danced around. The following morning, she found many tracks of cloven hooves outside her farmhouse.

The couple also maintained that their own horse had been unhitched inexplicably, and their cart overturned, on more than one occasion.

Then there is the infamous boggart of Boggart Hole Clough - yes he even had a place named after him! He lived in a hole outside until one particularly cold winter when he decided to move into a nearby farmhouse. There, he proceeded to cause all kinds of mischief and malicious mayhem.  He snatched the food from the children at table, dashing their bowls to the ground. He would tug curtains, and attack the children while they slept. Eventually, so harassed were the farmer and his family that they decided to move out. Unfortunately, that did no good. Once a boggart has made his home with you, he will travel with you. You're stuck with him for life. When this became clear, the farmer and his family moved back into their old house. Naturally the boggart came too, but for some reason was never so malicious again. 

Boggart Hole Clough - geograph. org.uk
It seems though that not all boggarts start out evil. I've mentioned the Northumbria 'silkies', but another tale - this time from Barcroft Hall, in Cliviger, near Burnley in Lancashire - tells of a boggart who started out as a helpful housekeeper. Very much on the lines of a house elf. The farmer's wife would find all her chores done, laundry washed and ironed, floors swept. The farmer himself was grateful for the help he got bringing in the sheep on a snowy winter evening. He heard the creature's voice, but never saw it. He was determined to rectify that and made a small hole in the ceiling of the room where the boggart performed most of his household tasks. Sure enough, his patience was rewarded by the sight of a small, wizened, barefoot old man who began to sweep the floor.

Barcroft Hall
Surely his feet must be cold against the stone floor. The farmer thought so anyway and decided to make him a pair of tiny clogs and left them out for him. His son saw him pick them up and heard him call out: 

 "New clogs, new wood,
T'hob Thurs will ne'er again do any good!"

From then on, the era of good works was over. The boggart began to hound and hurt his family. The animals got sick, the farmer's prize bull was somehow transported to the farmhouse roof. Household items were smashed indiscriminately. Things got so bad that this family, too, felt forced to flee. But the boggart had other ideas. "Wait there while I fetch me clogs and I'll come with thee."

And this is why you should never give a gift to a boggart - for they cannot harm you unless, and until, you do.

Also, never be tempted to give a boggart a name. If you do, then be prepared for the full force of the boggart's malice to be visited upon you.

In Lancashire and Yorkshire, there are many place names associated with boggarts. In addition to Boggart Hole Clough, you can find Boggart Bridge in Burnley - another Boggart Bridge can be found in Ogden, near Halifax (West Yorkshire). Then there's Bee Hole Boggart. Burnley also boasts Sweet Clough Boggart and Barcroft Boggart. Rochdale has Clegg Hall Boggart, and Matlock boasts Standbark Boggart. Roads on a council estate in Leeds are prefixed with Boggart. In fact the estate itself is called Boggart Hill.

Boggarts answer to only one master.  Owd Hob - the archetypal devil with cloven hoofs, forked tail and horns.

How can you protect yourself from a boggart invasion? The best method is to place a horseshoe over your front door and a pile of salt outside your bedroom.
And just be careful when you're walking over the moors and marshland of Lancashire and Yorkshire. The majestic, bleak beauty of the Pennines hides many mysteries - and there may just be a boggart or two lurking, unseen, ready to pounce...

 NB: Now YOU have a chance to win a copy of What Waits In The Shadows - four Gothic horror novellas in one book, including my Linden Manor - hot off the press. But hurry, competition ends October 12th! Just click this link for free entry : What Waits In The Shadows - Goodreads Giveaway


  1. Cat, my dear they could replace zombies as the next in thing. Brill post. xxxxxxxx

    1. Thank you, Shey.. yes I'm rather taken with them myself. lots of possibilities - and, indeed, liberties to be taken no doubt

  2. Yeah... I suppose they'd have to be secretly gorgeous. Oh and greatly misunderstood. Unless you are going to fight them with someone who is secretly gorgeous and greatly misunderstood. Either way there's possibilities. I expect this to be your next book now doll.

    1. But if I write about them, there will be nothing gorgeous about them at all. In fact, my role model would be a more sinister version of the little chap at the top of this post, and his master would be the chap with the dodgy dentures and worrying skin condition at the bottom...

  3. That's awesome thank you reminds me of Dobby in the south and Joseph Delaney s boggart in the north xx

  4. That's awesome thank you reminds me of Dobby in the south and Joseph Delaney s boggart in the north xx

  5. I just had a dream of a tiny boggart but my eyes were open, and seamed quite friendly, in my dream he's was cleaning a jewellery front, not taking any jewellery but just cleaning around it n pointing to a white gold or silver one on the bottom shelves with my birthstone on it by 3, Part of our room was lit up but I couldn't speak until suddenly our bedroom went totally dark n I woke my hubby up.. if I had Ve got up I would've walked into the wall of my sons room and woken him as it's 3:12am here in Marsden, Queensland, 4132 AUSTRALIA (near Brisbane) I have a dream catcher n don't feel harmed by the tiny lil guy as he seamed friendly not aggressive... am I just dreaming or did it really happen

  6. Great post. I was down at boggart hole clough in Blackley today with my nephew and dog. Amazing place, lots of steep valleys, huge trees, streams and lakes. I was telling my nephew about the story of the boggart when we suddenly heard a strange grunt and as though a stone had been thrown. There was no one around. It was probably some wildlife but we like to think it was maybe the infamous boggart causing it's malevolence! Spooky!

    1. Definitely boggart activity ;) Thanks for commenting!

  7. I love any thing fairy tales i just got done reading a book on a faery hand bok and i came acrossed this article and it was very healpful