jump to navigation
  • Phantom Rabbit Monster: Rochdale, Lancashire January 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    baum rappit

    Beach has recently been looking for the stranger monsters of British mythology and with some pride he comes today to the Baum-Rappit, a monster from Rochdale in Lancashire. What was the Baum-Rappit? Well as the name suggests it seems to have been a diabolical rabbit. Wright in his incredibly useful dialect dictionary comes up with this small dialogue:

    There is a passage in Rochdale leading to St. Mary’s Church called ‘The Baum.’ A man went through this passage late at night and afterwards this dialogue took place: ‘Wot dost’ think I seed last night? I seed a rappit.’ ‘That’s nought, a rappit’s common enoof.’ ‘But this were a baum-rappit.’

    Now what to make of that gnomic passage? Beach has not the slightest idea, but we seem to be dealing with a Rochdale boggart. It would be tempting to take this as a joke boggart: ‘Oh God, the rabbit’s coming’, not least because Wright quotes a correspondent: ‘The phr. [Baum Rappit] is in use at the present time when a person says he has seen an appearance of some kind, which is thought unlikely or merely imaginary, ‘It’s nowt but a baum-rappit’ (S.W.)

    But two considerations: first, the worst bite that Beach has ever had from an animal was from a rabbit; and, second, Wright quotes the following passage from the Manchester City News ‘I have twice met with those who believed in the baum-rappit, i.e. the phantom rabbit that is supposed to haunt the cloughs’, Manchester City News (18 July, 1896). This newspaper is not, unfortunately, scanned so it has proved impossible to check it: at least for the purposes of this post.

    Why were grown men and women frightened of phantom rabbits in the nineteenth century? This is one of seven or eight rabbit examples on file. The only insight Beach can give is that boggarts in the countryside, though not normally in cities, changed into different animals, typically coloured white: white calf, white dog etc. Was the fearful Rappit just the main mask put on by this urban bogie? There is also the point that witches changed into hares and rabbits, something visited previously on this blog in relation to the funniest witch trial in history. Was the Baum Rappit something to do with Lancashire’s numerous populations of cunning men and women. Perhaps…

    If anyone can help, do please get in touch: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Particularly if you find rabbits scary.

    First, Bruce T writes in with an important addtion. There is a Baum Rappit video! Absolutely brilliant.

    And it gets better, Bruce continues:

    It seems the terrifying Baum Rappit has long history around that church. In the meager amount of info available on the net it seems it’s been scaring the folks of that village since at the least the mid-17th century. It’s said to have 125 year cycle of appearance, but it seems to make exceptions. There’s a fellow on youtube who’s claimed to have seen it twice in his lifetime, but I haven’t taken time to watch the vid. I liked the provincialism of the storyteller in your report. The Baum Rappit was the best bogart in the land, all others be damned! I’ve got a feeling village loafers having been milking strangers for a couple of pints with versions of the Rappit tale for centuries. Also note: In 1979, Jimmy Carter, then President of the United States, went fishing. While fishing his jonboat was attacked by a swimming rabbit that Carter had to fight off with an oar. As the press corps in those three network days covered Presidential vacations heavily, there are photos of the rabbit both approaching and fleeing from the boat. As a “Baum rappit” was type of bogey that the correspondent would put up against any “witch, spirit, or bogart” in the county, what other kind of rabbit would take on the most powerful man on the face of the earth? None other than a Baum Rappit in the flesh. We’re set for life Beach, we’ve proven the existence of the elusive Baum Rappit.

    David O: Hey, you’ve probably seen this mysterious Britain on this: The name of the church being “St Mary’s in the Baum”  supports the idea that baum is the name of a plant, not a passage. Maybe the “18th century local herbalists” that used the Lemon Balm are your Lancastrian cunning men and women? Do you get bonus points if your herbs come from consecrated ground?

    But on the other hand, I keep hearing the poem at the end of the page in Elmer Fudd’s voice (“kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit”), and then I can’t help but think the whole thing’s a local joke. I’m struck by how rabbit-like the behaviour in the first link is – lookout pose on hind legs, cleaning the face, scrabbling in loose soil, going ears-up at the sound of cats, even not being bothered by the sound of a gun (in my experience, short sharp sounds like fireworks don’t bother rabbits much). That all sounds like someone observed a live rabbit’s behaviour to me, plus they’re crepuscular, so you’re most likely to see one on the way home from the pub. There’s also the fact that nobody describes the rabbit as being bigger than normal – ghostly animals (I’m thinking Black Shuck here) so often seem to be larger-than-life. The obvious explanation is “albino rabbit”, but those guys have a life expectancy of about -5 minutes in the wild – they have a rabbit’s natural inclination to hunker down and hide, but they don’t realise they practically glow in the dark. And you can spot them a mile off – no way is an albino rabbit going to “disappear into thin air”.

    Here:  is an example of an albino cropping up in the wild, so they do happen occasionally.

    Chris S writes: Perhaps the phantom rabbit was a pooka, “A fairy spirit in animal form, always very large. The Pooka appears here and there, now and then, to this one and that one. A benign but mischievous creature. Very fond of rum pots, crack pots, and how are you Mr. Wilson?”

    29 Feb 2016:

    Lehmansterms writes ‘Doc, I was surprised no one suggested or quoted from “The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannoc” scene in The Holy Grail by the sublime Monty Python in response to your Phantom Rabbit Monster blog entry. This would not be the first time I have discovered an erudite morsel hiding somewhere within a bit of otherwise self-sufficient seeming Python silliness. They often employed actual items from history – or occasionally obscure current affairs – as a springboard to creation of scenes like this which do not quote – or quote only obliquely – from the original sources and depend on the viewer’s level of recognition of obscure references. https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=holy+grail+killer+rabbit&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001 There are a number of segments of varying length you can view at the above URL.

    Ruththeunstoppablycurious: Well, a further thought on this one, though it has been bothering me since the first time I read it and I finally realized why. The word Baum is an old German word for tree, which I’m assuming these people would have been familiar with. Not in the sense of being familiar with German, but some words come down through the ages and usages relatively unchanged and with the same meaning. I would swear I remember learning somewhere that English has many roots in common with some of the Germanic language?

    Bruce T writes: In the mountains east of me, there’s a hare that is called the snowshoe hare, due to its large feet, an adaptation to deep snow. The snowshoe hare has one other adaptation to the snow, it turns white in the winter. Our snowshoe hare has a European cousin, the European mountain hare, or Irish hare, that shares the winter color switch. Where is the southern limit of the native range of the mountain hare in Great Britain? A “hair” south of Manchester. The European mountain hare has another distinguishing characteristic, it’s extremely fast. It can top out at around forty miles an hour. Here we have a color changing hare, probably always rare in the Manchester region that seems to disappear in an instant. What better for a bunny bogey?