The Reiver and the Burning Man
Haughton Castle sits on the banks of the North Tyne and is a well-known area for fine trout fishing. The castle overbears the neighbouring village of Barrasford and is an impressive building. The castle, similar in design to the fourteenth century tower built at Chillingham, is inhabited and parts of the castle are have been modernised.
The following ghost story occurs during the previously mentioned time when the Border Reivers or Mosstroopers would attack English land, quite legally and then return to their tribes in Scotland.
Sir John de Widderington, at that time was the Lord of Haughton Castle and known for being a good and gallant person who fought for peace during the Border battles.
During Sir John’s rule at Haughton, the King appointed weak-willed Lord Dacre of Gilsland as Lord Warden of the Marches. The task of the warden was to ensure peace on the Borders and deal with troublemaker tribes such as the Armstrongs and Kerrs, as well as the Scots from the North. It was only a matter of time before Dacre began to accept bribes, ignoring the troubles and causing the law to collapse.
Dacre, to make matters worse courted a female of the notorious Armstrong clan, the very sister of the leader of this murdering family troop of reivers. On hearing this news, local landowners formed an alliance to protect their rights and report Dacre’s deeds to the King.
While Cardinal Wolsley visited York, Sir John decided to meet with Wolsley with two delegates from the landowners association. On the night before the meeting, Sir John’s men fought and captured a reiver rustling cattle in the local meadows. The Lord put the man in his dungeon at Haughton Castle, so he could deal with him when he returned.
To reach York by horse in Sir John’s days took two days of hard riding. On arrival to the city, Sir John realised he had the key of the dungeon in his pockets and that worse still he had neglected to leave instructions with his staff to feed or water his prisoner.
In a state of desperation and fear, Sir John turned his horse around and headed back to Haughton Castle, by the time he reached Durham, his steed dropped dead with exhaustion. When he reached his castle forty-eight hours later he feared the worse.
“How fared the prisoner?” Sir John asked his servants.
The servants replied that the man cried and moaned, then he began to scream but the noise died down, and nothing had been heard since.
Sir John unlocked the cell and found the reiver dead.
The spirit of the prisoner returned to haunt the castle months later, night after night the sounds of the prisoner cries and moans would echo around the surrounding countryside. The screams would keep awake Sir John and his staff through the night. Servants left the service of Sir John and the village of Barrasford demanded that he take action.
The Rector of Simonburn was called in to exorcise the ghost; this he did immediately and nothing was heard no more. To comfort Sir John, the Rector left with him the Black-lettered Bible from which he read during the exorcism.
Curiously, when the Bible was sent to London for re-binding the reiver’s moaning and screams returned to haunt Haughton Castle. Orders were given to return the Bible quickly from London and lay the spirit of the ghost once again.
Interestingly in the 1970s Paul Devereux discovered while researching his ground breaking book “The Ley Hunter’s Companion” that a ley line runs through the village of Barrasford and on to Haughton Castle.
Further more that in the 1800s Barrasford’s village inn burned to the ground in a mysterious fire that killed one of the villagers. Over the years many visitors to the area have witnessed the sighting of a burning man running through the fields running from Barrasford to Haugton.
I have written before about the trackways of ghosts and this is an even more intriguing insight into “field theory” (my own belief on how ghosts work) – how or why are ghosts such as the burning man following ley lines or why does the Repton monk follow the line of an alleged tunnel? Here we seem to be swinging to and fro from local consciousness (the tunnel) and earth energy (ley line) – could there possibly be a link between the two?