2020/01/17

Croglin Grange

Vampire Woodcut
Image by Jason McKittrick

Back in Cromwell's day, the Fisher family left their ancestral home in Cumberland and moved south to more spacious accommodations. Loath to sell their old farmhouse called Croglin Grange, they leased the one-story home to Amelia Cranswell and her two brothers.

The Cranswells enjoyed a peaceful first winter in their new country home.The summer came hot and damp, and on one especially stifling night, the family retired at moonrise to sleep through the heat.

Amelia lay atop her bed sheets, hovering on the edge of sleep, when a strange fancy moved her to sit up and look out her window. A pair of lights like red fireflies flickered in the dusk through the grounds of the old Norman chapel adjoining the grange.

The young lady sat anxiously spellbound until the twin lights vanished near the churchyard wall, only to reappear on the near side. Amelia's unease grew as the red lights darted through the small copse of trees between the wall and the yard. The spell broke, and Amelia lay back down in the hope of putting the unwholesome vision out of sight and mind.

Sleep still eluded Amelia. Still, she resisted the growing urge to rise from her bed until the scratching of sharp claws on glass sounded from her window.

Amelia sat bolt upright. The sight that greeted her outside her window moved her to dash from bed to her chamber door. A swarthy scarecrow of a creature stood hunched outside her window, scrabbling at the panes with the long nails of its bony fingers. Its crimson eyes burned blue afterimages into the young woman's vision.

Faint but definite clattering reached Amelia's ears from across the room. Terror froze her at the door as she realized that the nightmarish visitor was picking away the lead that held the mullioned panes in place.

The chime of breaking glass roused Amelia from her trance. Her numb hands fumbled with the lock as she watched a clawed withered hand reach through the opening it had made and unlatch the window. With predatory speed that belied its shriveled form, the intruder lunged across the room and sank its teeth into Amelia's neck.

Their sister's scream woke Amelia's brothers, who raced to her room, only to find that in her fog of fear, she'd actually locked it. By the time they broke down the door, Amelia lay bleeding on the bed, and her attacker was fleeing across the lawn.

One brother remained to tend his sister's wounds while the other gave chase. The intruder outran him in the gathering dark and soon disappeared into the churchyard.

The thwarted pursuer returned to the house where, thankfully, he found Amelia lucid despite her serious wound. She recounted the grisly incident, speculating that she'd fallen prey to an escaped lunatic.

The Cranswells decamped to Geneva to aid Amelia's recovery. While there, she engaged the services of a Swiss gunsmith to obtain a pair of pistols and a number of bullets. The iron of the region bore large traces of copper, giving the pistol balls a novel green hue.

When Amelia recovered, the family returned to Croglin Grange--but not before she issued a pistol to each of her brothers with instructions to keep them by their bedsides. They passed another placid winter at the grange, but one night in March, Amelia spotted a grimly familiar pair of red lights flitting through the neighboring graveyard.

This time, Amelia immediately summoned her brothers, who burst in when the shabby creature broke into the room as it had before. The intruder took flight, but not before one brother shot it in the leg.

All three Cranswell siblings set out in pursuit of the housebreaker. Spatters of blood led across the yard, through the trees, and over the wall. The red trail ended at the closed doors of a crumbling crypt.

Amelia advised her brothers that the wounded ghoul wasn't going anywhere and to defer further investigation till morning. At first light, the Cranswells returned to the churchyard and breached the ancient crypt.

Several coffins lay jumbled about in the tomb's musty confines--only one intact; its lid ajar.

The brothers opened the coffin, and there lay a blackened, desiccated corpse.

With a bloody wound in its leg, from which Amelia's brother dug the same telltale green ball he'd fired into his sister's attacker.

The body was summarily taken from the crypt and burned, and the Cranswells enjoyed many years of peace at Croglin Grange.


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11 comments:

  1. Brian

    Thanks. A really fascinating wierd Catholic tale.
    So the copper killed the ghoul. Interesting.

    xavier

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    1. England and Geneva in the 17th century were most definitely not Catholic ;)

      As for what killed the monster--ah, that's been the subject of controversy for centuries!

      Some say the creature was a vampire that had lain dormant for years uncounted--perhaps since the Norman conquest. More likely it had been a member of the Fisher family awakened by its descendants' departure. The bullet was merely used to identify the culprit, and the fire dealt him his final death.

      Others say that Amelia's first theory was right, and that an escaped lunatic had taken up residence in the crypt. After he was shot, he dug the bullet out of his wound and inserted it in a corpse's leg before fleeing the scene. Fiddling with his gunshot wound around a dead body probably caused it to become infected, and he most likely died of gangrene in a ditch somewhere.

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    2. Brian

      Thanks for the correction.
      Very interesting.where do you lean on the story?

      xavier

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    3. I heard the story from Lionel Fanthorpe on Coast to Coast AM. He read the tale in The Story of My Life by Augustus Hare, who heard it from Captain Fisher.

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  2. When I was a boy, I thought witches, vampires and other horrors were real. When I was young man, I thought they were superstitious nonsense from ancient ancestors who were lesser than me because *current year*.

    Now I look around, and I see witches everywhere and evidence suggests we are lesser in many respects to our ancestors. Why then should I doubt the possibility of vampires?

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    1. If we met our ancestors from just 400 years ago, would they not seem to most like supermen--or monsters?

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    2. Brian
      Naaaa. I'd regard them as down to earth and far more commonsensical than us. Wiser too

      xavier

      xavier

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  3. A terrific story, Brian.

    What is the significance of the copper in the round? In folklore, is it similar to cold iron?

    If there is one flaw in the story, my Cop Brain wonders why the windows were shut and latched in the stifling heat, in the age before AC. But there may be some cultural or regional norm I am not aware of.

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    1. I'm delighted you enjoyed the story!

      The significance of the copper is the unique green coloration it gave the bullet. It's how Edward Cranswell was able to match the ball pulled from the corpse to his pistol.

      As for the closed bedroom window, it's seemingly incongruous details like those that give stories a ring of truth for me.

      If I were writing this story from scratch, I'd never fabricate the detail of the vampire picking the lead out of the closed window. It's inefficient and detrimental to pacing from a storytelling perspective. I'd take advantage of the story being set during the summer to justify the window being open. That's not what we see here.

      The tale of the Croglin Grange Vampire was passed down in the Fisher family for generations. These were people who knew the house well and whose ancestors knew their tenant Amelia. My read on the lead-picking incident is that it speaks to some inside knowledge only the family would have--either about the grange itself or Amelia. She does seem like an unusual individual.

      Perhaps she preferred the heat to letting bugs in. Or perhaps she wanted to keep something else out. While researching the story, I came across one mention of "several incidents" at Croglin Grange. There may have been prior events that inclined Amelia to take caution, and we're only privy to the final two.

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  4. The house might have been cooler with the windows shut, if it was masonry. Damp and stifling, but cooler than the hot air outside. Picking apart the soft lead holding small panes, then opening the window, calls for a scary amount of cunning. It did that before. Smashing a window makes noise and raises an alarm.

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    1. Augustus Hare's account set the Croglin Grange Vampire story in the early 19th century. Charles G. Harper visited Croglin in 1924 and found a two-story house called Croglin High Hall that bore no resemblance to Hare's description. There was a nearby building called Croglin Low Hall which had one floor like in the book, but it had no chapel. On that basis, Harper dismissed the whole tale as pure folklore.

      Then in the 90s, Lionel Fanthorpe did some more digging around Croglin. At the local recorder of deeds, he learned that until the early 18th century, Croglin Low Hall had been called Croglin Grange. Furthermore, he turned up evidence of an old Norman chapel adjoining the property that had been demolished during Cromwell's reign.

      Fanthorpe concluded--rightly, I'm convinced--that either Hare or Captain Fisher simply got the year wrong. If you move the setting back to the 17th century, all the pieces fit. It may even explain why the chapel was destroyed, since the vampire was said to have hideously desecrated it.

      And yes, Croglin Low Hall has masonry walls.
      https://hoboandthevagabond.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/croglin-grange-1907-1024x599.jpg

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