Ghostly Treasure & The Older Woman

by MJ Wayland

Some of the oldest beliefs about ghosts are that supernatural entities protect or are connected to ‘treasure’. One of Britain’s oldest treasure tales is the Golden Ghost of Mold. In North West Wales, the small town of Mold has an interesting ghost/fairy story.  In 1833, John Langford had purchased land nearby and commissioned workmen to flatten a bank of earth on his land. It soon became apparent that they were not digging an earthen bank but actually a prehistoric tomb.  The workmen and Langford discovered bones, beads but at its centre, a gold corselet – a golden poncho.

Connected to the mound is an interesting ghost story, the following letter comes from the Reverend Clough who was in the parish at the time of discovery.

“Connected with this subject, it is certainly a strange circumstance that an elderly woman, who had been to Mold to lead her husband home late at night from a public house, should have seen or fancied, a spectre to have crossed the road before her to the identical mound of grave, ‘of unusual size, and clothed in a coat of gold, which shone like the sun,’ and that she should tell the story in the next morning many years ago, amongst others to the very person, Mr John Langford, whose workmen drew the treasure out of its prison-house. Her having related this story is an undoubted fact. I cannot, however, learn that the there was any tradition of such an internment having taken place; though possibly this old woman might have heard of something of the kind in her youth, which still dwelt upon her memory, and associated with the common appellation of the Bank ‘Bryn-yr Ellyllon’, (the Fairies’ or Goblins’ Hill) and a very general idea that the place was haunted, presented the gold effigy to imagination.”

The first in my series of “Ghostly Treasure” articles looks at how many ghostly treasure or windfall stories are linked, just like the above story to old women. One example of how ghosts and treasure are linked with older women took place in Wigan.

In the late 1800s, there was a raft of ghostly treasure stories in the British press, in 1890, the mealy titled, “Thetford & Watton Times & People’s Weekly Journal” published in February that year a story of hidden treasure.

“the greatest excitement has existed in the neighbourhood of Marsh Lane, Wigan, which is a little street leading from Standishgate. The story is told by the neighbours. A month ago a tenant of one of the cottages, known as ‘Margret the Miser’ died. The old lady whose name was Margaret Simm, had attained the ripe age of 85, and her reserved and eccentric manner had been the subject of comment during her lifetime.”

After Margaret’s death her possessions were removed from the house by her family and the house relet to a young, newly-wed couple.

“The wife was alarmed the first night they slept there by a light tapping on her shoulders and a ghostly appearance of a woman, who pointed to a flagstone in the room. Upon the stone being removed the following day, it is asserted that £400 was found by the new tenants.”

The story continues that due to the ghostly activity of Margaret, including loud coughing and the ‘characteristic disturbances of spiritual visitants’ the couple fled the house – with £400.

This matter was raised with the family who asked the local police and a solicitor to get involved.

The story is circulated by the neighbours, and several of them are prepared to corroborate the statements of the wife, who played so prominent a feature in this mysterious affair.

While this article isn’t an investigation piece, I did check the census and archives, and indeed Margaret Simm did live in the area and was likely to be around 89, not 85 when she died. So there is an element of realism here.

I wasn’t expecting to find a follow-up story, but the Lancashire Evening Post published ten days later an update on the police investigation.

The Wigan Ghost Story

After nearly a week’s searching, the Wigan detective department have succeeded in finding the young couple who are said to have found £400 under a flagstone in a cottage in Marsh Lan through the visit of a ghostly appearance and then fled. They now reside in Whetley, which is a mile from Marsh Lane. In an interview with the chief constable (Mr Webb), they both denied either having seen an apparition or having found any money at all in the house they have left.

I could leave it at that, but there could be two things happening here, either the wife lied about the ghost and the money, which backfired, after all, £400 in 1890 is worth around £53,000 today. I can imagine the rumour that the couple had £400 would have caused undesirables to take an interest, hence the quick move.  Or, did they really experience the ghost and find the money, and in the interest of keeping their ‘treasure’, lied about not meeting the ghostly Margaret? We will never know.

The Miser Ghost Story

I found several parallels with this story and a ghost story in York that I’ve told many times on ghost tours around the city.  All Saint’s Church (which is haunted by a ghostly white lady), in the early 1800s it was surrounded by tenements packed with families in every room. On one floor lived an old woman miser who told everyone she was very poor and lived in terrible conditions.

However, her neighbours knew that she was hoarding money somewhere. The miser was ill for a long while, and concerned neighbours tried to help her but she said that she wouldn’t be dying yet and would fight death for her soul.

Apparently she did – but lost.

The story goes that one night she cried out for hours on end shouting at invisible forces that had come to take her to the next world. Hour after hour this battle continued and a sizeable crowd hung around outside, about three in the morning, all fell silent, and the miser lost her battle.  Knowing she had no family, the local broke into the house and while her still warm body lie there still, they search her drawers and mattress. It is believed they found her money, a fight broke out and the crowd was dispersed by the local police.

However, a few days later, the miser returned, once again re-enacting the battle she had with death, her death throes heard across Coppergate and indeed All Saints Church.  Over the years her cries lessened, and have been hardly reported, where she lived is now part of the Coppergate complex that includes the Jorvik Centre. While we don’t know exactly where she lived, in the 1980s, the staff at Top Shop clothing store reported to the local newspapers that one day after they locked up, they could smell something stale and pungent, they looked to the dressing rooms and stood there was a small, very dirty old woman in brown clothing. The manager approached the lady where she promptly vanished.

Who knows maybe the miser is still there, not in sound but certainly in spirit.

In my next article, about The 1930s Ghost Treasure boom, I’ll discuss how the ghost experiences of an 80-year-old woman sparked a treasure hunt in a quiet Sussex village.

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