4 Creepy stories of British folklore

Next time you leave your front door be sure to watch out for the common British púca, Wiltshire's cheeky moonrakers or the ghosts of a long-forgotten church…

Mother Ludlam's Cauldron, Surrey

Mother Ludlam's cauldron Surrey
The cauldron still sits in Frensham Church. Image via Wiki

In a small cave embedded in the sandstone cliff of the Wey Valley in Surrey, there once lived a white witch named Mother Ludlam. This good witch used to lend things to people who were in need of her help, particularly cooking utensils, as long as they promised to return them within two days. This generosity earned her a good reputation in the county and many came to rely on her help.

One day a young man paid the witch a visit and asked to borrow her cauldron. She kindly obliged, but when the young man failed to return it as promised, she flew into a rage. Terrified, the young man sought refuge with the cauldron in the nearby Frensham Church. 

Another version of the myth claims that the young man was actually the devil. Mother Ludlam recognised him from his hoofprints in the sand and hid the cauldron away in the church where he would never be able to get it. 

The legendary cauldron actually remains in the church to this day (see above) although most people agree it was probably used for brewing ale rather than cheating generous witches.

Read more stories of British folklore



Cold Christmas ghosts, Hertfordshire

cold christmas church
Image via Flickr

In a tiny Hertfordshire hamlet called Cold Christmas, there is an old abandoned church. Built in 1086 but demolished in 1853, today only the 15th-century tower and graveyard remain. 

The church was unpopular from the time it was built. It was said to have been built with the wrong alignment, North to South rather than East to West which in medieval times was considered a sign of the devil. Now covered in graffiti and largely in ruins, the church is rumoured to be haunted and is regularly visited by troops of paranormal enthusiasts

The church is frequented by more than one ghost and there have been several different spottings over the years. Here are the more common claims:

  • The graves in the churchyard allegedly belong to very young children. One Christmas, when the village turned especially cold nearly all of the local children died. This tragedy supposedly led to naming the village Cold Christmas, so that the inhabitants would never forget the tragedy. Their ghosts still haunt the graveyard and local hamlet. 
  • Witches regularly visited the church to perform rituals. It was also used by devil worshippers for practices of the occult. 
  • Many people have reported growling or heavy breathing sounds coming from the tower itself as well as the graves themselves.
  • In 1978, a lady walking past the church reported that she had come face to face with a roman army. They allegedly came out of the door of the tower and marched across the field and straight through her.

Haunted or not, the church is very beautiful and well worth an exploration for any paranormal enthusiasts. 

Read more: 10 of the world’s spookiest ghost towns



The Moonrakers, Wiltshire


Placed ideally between the south coast and middle England, Wiltshire was the perfect base for Britain's contraband alcohol smugglers between the 13th and 19th century. 

A particularly brazen group of West Country farmers used to hide barrels of French brandy in a pond in Wiltshire and then use rakes to get it up to the surface and move it on.

One night, customs officials came by to see what they were doing. The men replied that they were simply trying to rake the cheese from the moon that was reflected in the pond.

The officials thought the men were nothing more than stupid yokels and left them to their business. They then got the French brandy out and made their fortune!

The exact location of the pond is disputed to this day, but any trip to Wiltshire will bring the folklore to life, as many locals still proudly refer to themselves as 'Moonrakers'. 

Read more: 10 Recipes for a Halloween feast



The Púca, Ireland

Púca britain
An illustration of the Púca. Image via Marie Goes to Ireland

These Celtic sprites can be a blessing or a curse. For rural and sea-faring communities their presence will bestow either good or bad fortune. Shapeshifters that usually take on the form of black horses, they might poison the berries that local children eat or cause trouble for unfamiliar travelers.

They can be helpful too, however. In one story, a young Irish farmer's son spots a Púca and calls out to it by offering his coat. Appearing in the form of a young bull, the spirit told the boy to visit the mill at night. From that time on, a group of them would arrive at the mill each night to secretly work for the boy to repay his kindness. 



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