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  • Fairies and Golf Balls February 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Beachcombing had a melancholy moment this morning. He turned up a report from the mid nineteenth-century (a letter) of a forgotten bit of fairylore from the county of Leicestershire: a county (for those in less happy lands) in the English Midlands.

    In the lordship of Humberston, on the estate of Mr. Poohin [try looking for that on Google: horrific experiences], of Barkby, and about a mile N.W. of the parish church, there is a stone which is interesting from the traditions in the village concerning it. These traditions, though now almost lost, relate that fairies dwell in and near to it; that any injury done to it was sure to be followed by misfortune to the injurer, for that it was holy. This supposed sanctity is intimated by the name (Hostone) of the plot of ground where it is located.

    The letter writer indulges in a little idle but interesting speculation about why a holy stone – Beach has his doubts about that etymology btw: the high stone? – should be connected with fairies: he makes much of the connection between fairies and stones in Cornwall. Then there is a description.

    The stone is of the granite, or rather syenite rocks of Mountsorrel, about six miles distant, and seems to be one of the blocks which geologists term erratic blocks, many of which have been found in the lordship of Humberston, as also in the intervening distances between Humberston and Mountsorrel. This stone appears to be larger than any others now known. At present it is covered over by the turf of the field ; but about a hundred years ago it stood in a surrounding hollow basin, which the then owner of the land filled up, and broke off fragments from the stone, so that the plough might pass over it. The threat against injuries of the stone was certainly fulfilled in this instance; for the man, though born heir to a good yeoman’s estate, became a vagabond, and died in the parish workhouse.

    He had it coming! Seriously, some residual belief in fairy belief in nineteenth-century Leicestershire?

    In any case, Beach went running to his precious ordinance survey maps and was pleased to follow the instructions as closely as possible: a mile to the north-west of the church. His fingers ran carefully across the map and then, and then… He came to a golf course.

    Tears did not exactly stream down his face, but what a fate for a fairy stone. Either it was dynamited to make way for the little white balls. Or it was left in place for the little white balls to bounce off.

    Did the maker off the golf course become a vagabound and live of the bounty of the state? Or did he become fat on handicap-hungry visitors wanting a day out? We suspect the second.

    The fairies, who were likely gods old beyond telling when the druids danced in Lincolnshire, have now left the land and there stones, rocks and memorials have gone with them. In their place there is the purring of min golf cars and shouts of ‘fore’!

    Can anyone tell Beach the fate of the fairy stone of Humberston: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com 


    Hallelulah! Invisible writes in with the news that the Fairy Stone is still standing. ‘To the north of Humberstone village, next to a roundabout and close to the Porsche Garage, is a standing stone – Leicestershire’s only ancient monolith known today as the Humber Stone’ Throughout history the stone has gone by many names, Humber Stone being the most recent, named after the closest village. The village being named after the stone is a common misconception.’ Thanks Invisible!

    31 March 2012: Southern Man writes in with this extract from Colin Wilson’s Poltergeist. A huge ancient stone called the Humber Stone, near my home town, Leicester, as similar legends associated with it. It is also known as the Hell, Holy and Host stone, the last two suggesting it was once used for ritual purposes. It is believed to have been washed down the valley of the River Soar by an ice-age glacier. At the time of writing (1981) the Leicester planning authorities are thinking of building a housing estate around the site of the stone, and the Old Humberstone Historical Society has been approached about the possibility of excavating it and superintending its removal. In the Leicester Mercury, Mrs J. Bailey of the Society is quoted as saying that the Society doesn’t want to excavate because of what has happened to others. She speaks of a young man who placed a clock on top of the stone – and it promptly stopped; a clockmaker could find nothing mechanically wrong with it, but it still refused to start. Mrs Bailey had an interesting suggestion about moving the stone: ‘Talk to it. I believe that if you told it that it would be removed to a safe place where no damage would come to it, there would be not trouble. I believe there would be disastrous results otherwise… The article mentions events that sound similar to the ‘curse’ on the Irish stone circles: in the nineteenth century, William Pochin of Barkby investigated the Humber Stone, and then had an accident with a firearm in which he blew off half his hand. The farmer who owned the land allowed his plough to break off parts of the stone in the eighteenth century; legend has it that he never again prospered and died in the workhouse. A curate who covered over the stone (it was almost totally buried in the ground in the early nineteenth century, as it is again today) was thrown from his gig shortly afterwards. Another issue of the Leicester Mercury specifically suggests that the stone is associated with ‘supernatural’ forces. A ten-year-old boy named Billingham startled his art teacher by drawing a creature with a goat’s head, long curving horns, a man’s body and cloven hoofs. He explained that it was a thing he often saw at the end of his bed. The house he lived in was close to the Humber Stone. The boy’s mother subsequently decided to move from the house, alleging it was haunted; the people who took it over also moved within two months . Mrs Billingham said that she and her husband had once heard crying when the children were in bed; they went to investigate and found they were quietly reading. ‘My husband and I saw a cat which jumped on our bed. We searched for it but couldn’t find it. We never owned a cat. I felt I was never alone in that house’. In this case, the Humber Stone seems to affect several houses in the area. When they told their neighbours why they were moving, the neighbours described waking up in the middle of the night and seeing a monk in an attitude of prayer in their bedroom. Two exorcisms had been carried out in nearby houses. A few days later the Mercury followed up the earlier story. Mrs Billingham’s parents still live in the area, and they contacted the reporter to report their own experience. On one occasion, they stayed in the house overnight, looking after the children while the Billinghams were away.  On the night in question we went to bed about 11 pm and fell asleep. However, I was roughly awakened, feeling that my life was being choked out of my body. Although I couldn’t see anyone in the darkness, I suffered the terrible sensation of being strangled and could actually feel someone – something – exerting a vice-like grip around my throat , so much that I was forced back into the pillow. It was not a nightmare. I was fully awake, but unable to scream. I shook my husband from seemed a trance-like slumber. He immediately switched on the light, and although we couldn’t see anyone in the room, the temperature had dropped considerably. I was unable to utter a word… [I don’t know] whether it was because I am slightly psychic that the presence was drawn to me. I only know that I could sense evil in that house. Her husband, like Mrs Billingham’s, never experienced anything unusual, but ‘did witness the extremely disturbing effects on his wife, daughter and grandchild’. Thanks SM, particularly for the typing!!!