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Kobolds and Lights in Derbyshire July 19, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

Beach is particularly proud of this one. It came from the pen of a spiritualist and relates to an experience c. 1860.

It is now some few years since, being in the neighbourhood of a lovely valley called Dovedale, in the County of Derbyshire, England, I heard my kind host and hostess, Mr and Mrs Hart, expatiating upon the singular phenomena they had witnessed in the cottage of an old labourer (then passed away to the better world), called Clamps; I think, if I recollect right, he had worked for Mr. Hart, who was interested in the mines adjacent to Dovedale. My friends informed me that Clamps had resided for over fifty years in a ruinous old farm-house, only a small part of which was habitable. The place was on the edge of the mines, where the old man in his youth and prime had worked, and where, as I believe, he died. During his long residence of half a century in this place, old Clamps and his associates were accustomed to see strange globular lights, which year in and year out would come and go with all the familiarity of household ghosts. Mr Hart, who was somewhat of a sceptic on the subject of my ‘spirits’ [author a spiritualist of sincere but rather tedious type], as he termed it, declared that if Clamps’s lights were spirits of ‘humans’, they must have been those of deceased lamplighters or gas men—for they never appeared by day, and generally chose the long winter nights, or particularly dark evenings, for the periods of their visitations. Old Clamps called them his ‘glorious lights’, and was very particular about returning to his shanty early every night, so that he should not miss seeing them. They came out, or seemed to come, as my friends alleged, from a firm wall, fashioned of rock, and the blocks so solidly cemented together that not a crack or cranny could be discovered. They generally came from two or three to seven or eight in number. Mrs. Hart said that one very cold winter’s night she saw as many as ten of these lights. They seemed to fill the little room, and hovered about the fire as if gratified with its pleasant warmth. ‘They came,’ said my informant, ‘out of the wall, some about two feet from the ground, others as high as three feet, but none more than four, and all remained the same height during the time of their stay.’ They shook, trembled, or fickered the whole time, as if they were quivering with fear or cold. They had been seen for years and years, longer, indeed, than the memory of the ‘oldest inhabitants’ of that region could trace them, except the venerable octogenarian Clamps, who affirmed they had always been there as long as he could remember. Their coming was generally preceded by crackling sounds, or direct knockings, and many of the neighbours declared they saw the figures of little men…  ‘black as a coal, and polished as a boot.’ One of the neighbours, a woman who had often visited the cottage of Clamps with her children, described the appearance of the little men as being short, chunky, destitute of hair, polished all over, and bearing about the region where the heart lies in human beings a large globular light about the size of an ostrich’s egg. It was this light, she said, ‘which the folks saw’, and it was by this light that she and her children saw them. She added, they did not walk, but jumped about, and their incessant restless motions caused the flickerings which the lights always exhibited. My friend Mrs Hart always beheld the dim outline of little figures accompanying the lights, but the distinctness with which these creatures were seen seemed to depend upon what in our philosophy we term mediumistic endowments. Other forms had been seen at Clamps’s, such as dogs, horses, and even wild beasts, but as the cottage was inaccessible to horses, and no other animals of any kind were kept or known to frequent that neighbourhood, these accounts were set down to superstitious exaggerations.

I might fill a volume with the stories related to me of this region, and the matter-of-fact narratives which many of the most intelligent of the miners and their families furnished me with seemed beyond gainsay or denial. Shortly before my visit to that section of country terminated, my friends the Harts proposed to give me an opportunity of witnessing for myself some of the marvels they had discoursed about. They told me old Clamps had passed away; that the cottage he had inhabited had been tenanted for some years by a very decent family of poor peasants, but as the children grew up the elder members of the family, fearing the continual manifestation of preternatural sights and sounds would make them ‘skeary’ and superstitious, had at length moved away, and the place had been abandoned. It was the opinion of the few labourers who had been accustomed to see and had grown familiar with Clamps’s ‘glorious lights’, that they. would never come out except a fire was lighted there; and as the place was deserted and very far remote from other inhabitants, my friends proposed to take me to a still more distant neighbourhood, and one where, as they knew by experience, my curiosity might have a good chance to be gratified. Starting early one fine October morning we drove about ten miles from home, intending to visit the mines, which commenced about the end of Dovedale Valley, but terminated in the direction my friends pursued. Arrived at a wild and most romantic glen, we left our horses and carriage at a poor tavern called ‘The Miner’s Rest’ perched on the very top of the mass of rocks which reared up their craggy heights like sentinels guarding the entrance to the charmed region. Our path was continued for more than two miles aping a rough road broken out of fallen trees and crumbling rocks by the wheels of the heavy wagons used for conveying the mineral from the mines. A more wild, weird, and toilsome journey I never in my life undertook, and in truth I became so fatigued during its progress that we had some doubts whether I should be able to muster strength enough to accomplish our pilgrimage. It was twilight before we gained our point of destination, and glad enough I was to see the glowing fires of what looked more like a little encampment of gipsies than a village, although it was really dignified with that title. My friends guided me at once to a hut more pretentious than the rest, and introduced me to a family who had formerly been servants in their household. It consisted of a man, his wife, mother, and two fine lads, all of whom were employed in different ways in the adjacent mines. As we stated that we had only come to inspect these mines, and that the lateness of our visit was occasioned by the difficulties which attended our journey, the good, hospitable people were at once apprised of the necessity of providing us with some accommodation for passing the night. The women, after busying themselves to provide us with some boiling water for our tea – for we had carried provisions with us – agreed to retire to a neighbour’s hut with their boys, whilst the father, who was on duty in the mines, left us soon after we arrived. The shanty was to be at our disposal, then, during the night.

Mr Hart was to be ‘stowed away’ in a cave at the back of the house, hewn out of the rock, and filled with sweet, fresh hay, for the use of the horses employed by the miners, whilst a rude but clean bed was assigned to Mrs Hart and myself. When all was done the women piled up the logs on the hearth, where a cheerful fire was burning, and prepared to quit us. Just as they were bidding us good night, the logs, which they had arranged with some care, suddenly tumbled down and rolled over and over on the floor. Deeming this a mere accident I took no notice of it until I observed, whilst Maria the miner’s wife, was in the act of replacing them, several small, glimmering lights flickering over the wall against which the logs were piled. This might have been the phosphorescent light occasioned by the decay of the wood, I thought; but lo! the logs were no sooner piled up again than down they toppled, and that apparently without any cause. I then observed significant looks passing between the mother and daughter, and an evident disposition to linger and make some explanation as yet unspoken. At this moment a succession of loud knockings was heard on the wall at the back of the room, which I should say, by-the-by, was of stone, and little more than a cave, having been partly formed out of the solid rock. ‘Is not that some one knocking?’ I inquired, ‘perhaps it is Mr. Hart. We had better see what is the matter.’ ‘No, ladies,’ said our hostess, with some hesitation, ‘it isn’t anybody – that is, no one in particular; it’s the way of this place.’ ‘But what, then, is the way of the place?’ asked Mrs. Hart, merrily, and with an evident wish to encourage the poor woman. But before they could answer, down came the brushes on the wall, the frying-pan, and sundry other things that bad been hung up on shelves and hooks. The rude door shook violently, and knockings now resounded from every side of us in quick and irregular showers. ‘The wind is rising,’ said my friend; ‘I fear we shall have a stormy night.’ ‘Don’t be skeary, ladies,’ said our good hostess, encouragingly, ‘but I s’poose as how I’d just bett say them’s not the wind, but just the little hammerers; you knows who, marm,’ she added, nodding mysteriously to Mrs. Hart. ‘Oh, yes! I know all about them, Betty,’ said my friend, addressing the mother; ‘they won’t hurt us, but they seem rather rough to-night. Don’t they like our being here?’ ‘Lord love ye, marm,’ replied the old woman; ‘it’s all along of they’s joy to see ye that they’re making this to-do. I think they be mortal glad to see the young lady. Only look’ee there, marm!’

I did look, and there, to my astonishment, and I must confess with a thrill of deeper awe than I could account for or control, I saw a row of four lights as large as the veritable ostrich’s egg which adorned the mantle shelf of the humble shanty. These lights were directly behind me, and I did not see them till, attracted by the woman’s explanation, I turned round and faced them. They were bright, globular in form, vapoury in substance, and nebulous, thickening towards the centre, and deepening in colour almost to a dull red. The faint outline of a miniature human form appeared in connection with each light. They were of different sizes; none of them, however, were higher than four feet. They jumped up and down, and threw out something which resembled hands toward me, and as they moved the lights danced and shimmered. These wonderful things at length retreated into the solid wall behind them, and the place where they had been was illuminated only by the light of the wood fire. For two hours the women (who stayed with us at our earnest request.), Mrs. Hart and myself, watched for the reappearance of these spectral lights in vain. In the interim the knockings continued, and a. few stray gleams like stars shone out from the other side of the apartment, but immediately vanished. A kitten which was attempting to sleep in the warmth of the cheerful fire, would raise its head at the sounds of the knockings, and occasionally make a dart at the shimmering lights, which, as if perceiving the animal, would retreat quickly back into the wall. I repeatedly passed my hand over these walls to ascertain if they were damp, or whether any chinks were there from which phosphorescent emanations could proceed. The walls were dry, solid, and smooth, and whilst I was pursuing my examination the knockings would thrill the solid stone beneath my very hand. At the expiration of two hours an exclamation of the elder woman called my attention to the hearth, where two large globular lights were hovering midway between the floor and the table, and just above the little kitten, who, with back and tail erect and eyes gleaming fiery red, manifested the most pitiable signs of terror and amazement. Once again, and this time far more distinctly, I saw the little men I had before but imperfectly beheld. They were grotesque in shape, with round, shining heads, destitute of hair, perfectly black, and more human about the head than the body. I saw their faces, and recognised a sort of good-humoured expression in them, and saw them throw somersaults several times as if for my amusement. A strange duck with each little head ended the performance, and then they sank into the ground made of planks laid down upon the rock of which the house was built. ‘There,’ cried the younger woman, ‘they won’t mislest ye again, ladies. When they goes down, they never comes again the night. It’s the end of their game to sink down like that.’ The woman was right. Though at our entreaty both mother and daughter remained with us all night, sleeping soundly, curled up on shawls and garments, and though we, lying awake, and – must I confess it? – shivering and trembling from head to foot, kept our eyes open, straining them in every direction, and with bated breath and ears sharpened by fearful anticipation, listened until we could hear the deep silence of that long, long night—we neither heard nor saw any more of the ‘little hammerers’. The morning came at length. Oh! what an age it was coming! Mr. Hart joined us as we were waiting for the morning meal. He had heard knockings, be said, but concluded it might be the re-echo of the labourers’ hammers from the mines so close to us. The miners were not at work, and no hammering came from them, our host told us, with a significant smile at the rest of his family.

The adventures of the night were now recounted and talked over. They were not strange, nor even alarming to the miners. The two lads declared they had ‘fine fun with the hammerers’ lanterns,’ though they acknowledged they had never seen the little men, but plenty of others had, they said, and ‘they wouldn’t part company with them for nothing.’ for they were famous guides to the spots where the richest lodes of metal lay. The women, too, spoke of their appearance with indifference. ‘They came often,’ they said; ‘and though they cut up now and then, throwing things around like, they were only in fun, and never did any harm, except to the animals they had.’ They thought somehow they did not like dogs or cats, for they couldn’t keep any; they either ran away or died suddenly. They didn’t expect, they added, to keep this kitten long.” I agreed in this opinion, for, judging of the terror the poor little thing displayed on the previous night, I was not surprised to find it moping in the morning, and averse to touch the food the boys prepared for it. I found, although these lights and knockings were common enough in the mines at times, they only seemed to come at special periods, and did not frequent or haunt any other house than the one we visited, and that of old Clamps, many miles distant. There seemed to be many evidences that these apparitions, be they what they might, either attached themselves to or made themselves manifest only in the presence of mediumistic persons. The family we visited were far too ignorant to understand anything of mediumship, although they were not unacquainted with the idea and theory of ‘ghost-seeing’. They were not afraid of their well-beloved ‘little hammerers’, but they were all ‘terribly scared’ by the occasional manifestations of a spiritual character, which they narrated to me with a simplicity which impressed me with a conviction of their veracity. I have never seen this family and never visited that region since. My experiences, however, in this connection, do not begin nor end here.

What is going on here: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

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39 July 2012: Amanda suggests these could perhaps be Earthquake or Earthlights. Here’s a few links that might be of interest: cowflipper, fortean-times, pauldevereux, indigogroup, earthlights, inamidst and jimolight. Invisible writes: I sat here, mouth agape, at the Kobolds of Derbyshire. This tale has it all: Spook lights/earth lights/orbs, kobolds/fairies/apparitions, plus classic poltergeist moves in the rappings and household items being thrown/falling. If this was being reported today you’d find investigators trying to communicate with “sentient orbs” and the ghosts of dead miners with perhaps a nod to Michael Persinger’s earth lights/portal areas/temporal lobe epilepsy triggered by magnetic fields in the mines. The truly advanced investigator might suggest hallucinatory gases seeping out of the rock a la Delphi. And, because of the regularity of the phenomena, Dovedale would become a major ghost tourism destination. Thanks Amanda and Invisible!