Ghostly tales of the unexpected

TONIGHT is Halloween – the spookiest night of the year. Features editor Joni Ager takes a look at some of the ghost stories linked to Northamptonshire places.

The Red Pepper restaurant in Market Street, Kettering, is thought to be one of the town's oldest buildings.

Legend has it that in the 18th century a party of soldiers was staying in The Duke's Arms, which stood opposite where the Red Pepper is now. There was a young drummer boy with the soldiers. He wasn't used to drinking alcohol and became drunk, getting involved in an argument with one of the soldiers. He was dragged outside and stabbed to death in an alleyway. That alleyway is now the entrance to the Red Pepper and the boy's ghost is said to haunt the building.

Several owners of the building have reported feeling uneasy in the premises and have noted strange occurences, including mysterious noises, especially in the stock room, and sudden drops in temperature.

Skulking Dudley

Dudley was a landlord and a bully in the village of Clopton.

After inheriting Clopton Manor House, Dudley managed to insult and intimidate all his neighbours, including a wealthy landowner who promptly challenged him to a duel.

On the day of the duel, though, Dudley took to his bed and feigned illness, sending his own daughter dressed in a suit of armour in his place. When his opponent discovered her identity he spared her life and later married her.

Dudley got his comeuppance when a harvester he was whipping fought back in self-defence and struck him on the head with a scythe.

In another version of the story Dudley killed his own cousin in a duel over the village's manor house. He won but never got to enjoy his prize because he started aging suddenly, becoming a withered and shambling old man. He died soon after.

For centuries after his death he would reappear at night to frighten the descendants of the villagers who he believed had crossed him during his life. The villagers got fed up and asked the Bishop of Peterborough to perform an exorcism in 1905. Dudley has not been seen since.

The Battle of Naseby

The battleground, just off the A14, is the site of one of the most significant battles of the English Civil War, which ended with victory for the Parliamentarian forces and the execution of Charles I.

For more than two centuries after the bloody clash at Naseby in 1645 there were many accounts of villagers witnessing scores of ghostly figures continuing to fight it out on the fields. Years after the battle locals would sit on the nearby hills and watch the battle occur once again, complete with the sounds of men screaming and cannons firing.

The Bearded Monk

Everyone has heard the ghost story about getting into your car at night and driving off, only to discover someone hiding in the back seat.

The legend of the Barford Bridge monk is not that different.

The railway bridge over the A6003 near Corby is said to be haunted by the ghost of a bearded monk.

In 1984 a police sergeant and a woman both reported seeing a man's face in their rear view mirrors.

Some believe these happenings are connected to the former chapel at the vanished hamlet of Barford, which was served by a monk from nearby Pipewell Abbey.

This theory is reinforced by the sightings of some motorists travelling alone down the tiny and secluded slip road towards Geddington who have reported seeing a ghostly clerical figure suddenly appearing next to them in the passenger seat.

Dutch Doll

In the early 1900s the then headmistress of the charity girls' school in Finedon, Mary Ozier, had a wooden doll made to represent a schoolgirl of the time the school was built, 1717.

It was about 90cm tall, painted and it had a frighteningly realistic piercing stare.

Nicknamed The Dutch Doll and placed above the door on the inside of the school, the girls became petrified of it. They were terrified of its unemotional yet evil-looking face and started circulating accounts of seeing and hearing it walking around at night.

After the school's closure it was mounted on a wall in the church, though by this time someone had taken a saw to its feet in an attempt to stop it walking around.

On the night of January 18, 1981, it was stolen from the church and has never been heard of or seen since.

Mary Queen of Scots

Perhaps the most famous of Northamptonshire's ghost stories is that of Mary Queen of Scots.

When Mary was beheaded in 1587, her executioner is said to have slept the night before her execution at The Talbot Hotel in Oundle.

The hotel is said to be haunted at night by the sound of a crying woman, who also sometimes appears in a long white dress standing at the top of the stairs.

The staircase was brought to the hotel from Fotheringhay when the castle was demolished. It was at the castle that Mary received the news she was to be beheaded the next day and she had to walk down the staircase to her execution.

Sometimes her face appears at the hotel windows and on one occasion a hotel guest was kept awake all night by the sound of a woman sobbing bitterly next door, yet in the morning she discovered the room had been empty the previous night.

The date was the anniversary of Mary's death.