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Beware the town boggart

IF you happen to be wandering around Horbury late at night and a fetid smell wafts up from underfoot or a cupped hand reaches out from the undergrowth grabbing you about the face, you know you've encountered the Horbury boggart.

The boggart, a skeletal and partly-decomposed human with red or green staring eyes, was first seen in 1917 when a young visitor to the town was attacked in Watson's Yard.

Watson's Yard isn't listed on any modern maps, but it is believed to have been on a cobbled area of land just off High Street, and to have serviced the properties at the bottom of Queen Street.

The young man was Jacob Shaw and he suffered burn marks around his neck after the attack, yet said the hand that had touched him felt icy cold.

Shaw's account might have been put down to stuff and nonsense had it not been for the testimony of Horbury lad John Gibbon.

He was walking home from a pub some weeks later when he stopped off in the yard to answer the call of nature and also encountered the ghastly boggart.

He said he saw a great hairy beast with big red eyes and smelling of dead meat staring at him from the darkness.

Some people said both men were mad and others said the fearsome sight was the result of drink or terror, but no-one knows for sure whether the figure was a figment of their imagination and the mystery is unlikely to be solved.

Similarly, no one will ever know what came out of the shadows one eerie night at Horbury Bridge.

A woman who kept a shop there lost her mother when she was just 16. She went into service and was treated abominably.

One night she ran to her mother's grave and spoke of her sorrows. While kneeling by the graveside a vaporous apparition rose out of the ground and told her to hang on for a while because things would soon be well.

The girl was sure the ghostly figure, which she described as being made out of fog and moonshine, was her mother and just as predicted, her life took a turn for the better soon afterwards.

Local author Sabine Baring-Gould, who lived to the age of 90, wrote more than 85 books before his death in 1924.

Famed more for his marching song Onward Christian Soldiers than his ghost stories, he tells a rather sinister tale in his book of folklore.

The woman mentioned above was in her house with a friend when another creepy incident gave her cause for concern.

A woman had died in the house and the body was put in a coffin in a room above where the women were sitting.

Suddenly the women were startled by a crash upstairs, followed by footsteps on the floor.

They rushed upstairs and found the corpse intact but the linen it had been wrapped in was disturbed and the flowers that had been placed on the corpse's bosom were gone.

These eerie tales and many more ghostly Horbury encounters can be found in Local Ghost Trails by Clive Kristen, A Book of Folk Lore by Sabine Baring-Gould or at www.theosophical.ca/DevilDarkness.htm.