Northumberland has a well developed market for ghost hunting and there are countless anecdotes of the appearance of all sorts of weird and wonderful things in the area, with plenty of places and organisations making money out of it. Here is a little story from over 200 years ago, found in old newspaper cuttings and documented in a local history book. You may think that there are parallels with stories about ‘hauntings’ in more modern settings. I know I do!

 

Lark-Hall, a small farm later known as Burradon Banks, is no longer standing, having long since fallen into ruins and been demolished.

In 1800, however, it was the home of Robert Turnbull, a butcher in Rothbury. He was the tenant of William Walby, of Burradon. It was also the scene of a famous ‘haunting’ that was widely reported in the press of the time, both nationally and locally. The following is the account that appeared in the Newcastle Courant in an article relating the history of Burradon:

“In January 1800, an invisible and mischievous apparition played many wonderful pranks at a place called Lark-Hall, near this place. The trick (and we may venture to call it such) was conducted with such surprising address as even to puzzle the sceptic, and to set conjecture at defiance.

Lark-Hall is a small farm, belonging to Mr. William Walby, of Burradon, and was then rented by Mr. Turnbull, a butcher, in Rothbury, who kept his father and mother, two old decent people, at the farm, with a hind and his family, whose characters were more dubious. The two families were divided by a partition, formed by close beds, leaving a narrow dark passage between. The garrets above were kept locked by old Turnbull. At the time mentioned above, knockings and noises were heard in Tunbull’s house; the plates, glasses and tea ware, left the shelves and were broken; the chairs and tables danced about the room in the most fantastic manner; scissors, bottles, wooden dishes, &c. flew in all directions and sometimes wounded the confused and terrified spectators: a poor tailor was assailed with a tin pot full of water, yet he still had the temerity to stand his post, till a large rolling pin descended from the laths and hit him a blow on the shoulders. But one of the most curious tricks was played in the presence of the Rev. Mr. Lauder, lately a dissenting minister at Harbottle, and who came to administer some spiritual comfort and consolation. He had been but a short time in the house when a bible moved from the window in a circular manner into the middle of the room, and fell down at his feet!

These singular and incredible facts, with many more which we have not room to mention, are certainly true, as they were attested by a host of reliable witnesses. Twenty guineas were offered for the detection of the fraud, but without success. Two professors of Legerdemain, besides many intelligent gentlemen, examined the premises with accuracy; but nothing was discovered that could lead to detection. Mr. W. W___having a reputation for skill in the sciences was suspected. His visits to Lark-Hall were frequent, but some of the most wonderful phenomena took place when he was certainly absent.

Some suspicious circumstances, were, however, discovered. Nothing was injured in the garret; the hind’s bottles and earthenware were respected,; a small iron rod was found in the passage, which fitted a hole made in the back of his bed; and the ghost left the premises shortly after communication between the families had been nailed up. The affair still continues the subject of wonder to the credulous in almost all parts of the county. The hind’s daughter, who acted a very conspicuous part in this wonderful deception, exhibits the most uncontrollable rage when any attempt is made to bring the subject forward in discourse.[1]

A poster was printed at the time:

THEREAS, between the 22nd and 29th of January last, some malicious and ill-disposed Person or Persons have alarmed and terrified JAMES TURNBULL AND HIS WIFE at Lark-hall, in the Township of Borrowton, by means of noises made at different times, and frequent knockings performed so artfully as to impose upon Persons of their advanced years, and have broke Pots, Kettles, and other Furniture of that kind, by secretly conveying into them certain Chymical Preparations, as well as Demolished all the small Furniture of the said JAMES TURNBULL ; with a view to impress upon their minds the ridiculous and absurd belief of their House being HAUNTED by a GHOST or some Invisible Being and thereby terrify them from their present situation. THAT such Daring and Wicked Offenders may be Punished according to Law for their attempts against the Lives and Property of two Harmless, Inoffensive Old People, as well as against the Peace of the Country. GEORGE TURNBULL, Tenant of Lark-hall, will, on their conviction, give a reward of TWENTY GUINEAS to anyone who will give him such Information as may lead to a discovery of them.

Thropton, Feb. 7th, 1800.

The most likely explanation for this incident is that the hind wanted the old people out of the house and his rent reduced!

[1] A historical, topographical and descriptive view of the County of Northumberland, Elias Mackenzie, 1825