Who was the Croglin Vampire?

by MJ Wayland

Since the mass popularisation of the internet, this medium has blown new life into old myths. The Croglin Vampire case is no exception. Explained and investigated by many, the case simply refuses to go away. In 2002 I visited Croglin and investigated some of the claims that have appeared over the years.

Visiting Croglin Grange

Just twelve miles southeast of Carlisle, Croglin water is a lonely stream, Wordsworth’s poem sets the scene “Down from the Pennine Alps, how fiercely sweeps Croglin, Eden’s tributary!” Croglin, although a small village, has been habited since Bronze age times, and many artefacts found have confirmed this. Since Norman times a church has stood in Croglin and its rectors can be named since 1294.

Later in 1346, the Scots burned the village to the ground. Passing through Croglin (blink and you’ll miss it) a sign for Croglin Low Hall will take you to the farm that may have inspired the Vampire story.

Hare’s Croglin Vampire Tale

Augustus Hare was primarily known for his travel writing, mostly European travel (Italy, France, Spain). He was also a famed raconteur of eerie tales and ghost stories many of which were reproduced in the 1894 volume “The Story of my Life”, in which appears the tale of vampirism in Cumbria,

The tale is claimed to have originated from a “Captain Fisher” who told Augustus the story on the eve of Fisher’s wedding to Lady Victoria Liddel. Hare had delivered some alarming ghost stories at dinner and Fisher seemed compelled to deliver his own about Croglin Grange, a property held by the Fishers.

In 1924, Charles G. Harper, basing his assertions on a visit to the area, challenged Hare’s book. Harper could not find a place named Croglin Grange. Though there were two other buildings, Croglin High Hall and Croglin Low Hall, neither fit the description of “Croglin Grange”.

There was no church, the closest one being over a mile away, and no vault corresponding to the description of the one opened by the brothers and their neighbours. Harper’s own account was challenged at a later date when F. Clive-Ross visited the area. In interviews with the local residents, he determined that Croglin Low Hall was the house referred to in Hare’s story and that a chapel had existed near it for many years, its foundation stones still visible into the 1930s.

Clive-Ross seemed to answer all Harper’s objections.

Colin Godman wrote “There is a church in Croglin….however it is almost two miles from Croglin Low Hall, high on a hill above Croglin water, a prodigious run for the healthiest vampire.”  Colin also stated “Allowing that Hare got his geography and his dates wrong, the existence of the three tenants and the vampire has still to be substantiated….how did Fisher find his vampire?”

Is it possible that Fisher, may have enhanced the story so that his aristocratic friends realise that he came from humble farming stock or deliberately misled them to give his family a stately origin? And seemingly the description of Croglin Grange matches that of Fisher’s home in Surrey – the Thornecombe estate.

Vampire Inspiration

The Victorians loved macabre stories, often printed in “penny dreadfuls”. These stories often mixed songs, ballads and melodrama to capture the public imagination.  Varney the Vampire appeared in 1847, the product of the successful author, James Rymer. Inspired by other Victorian stories such as Frankenstein and “The Vampyre”, no other vampire stories had appeared in Britain. Investigators comparing Varney to the Croglin have found amazing similarities.

Both Varney and the Croglin Vampire stories mention a vampire forcing their way into a heroine’s bedroom by removing a small pane of glass. The vampires each release the catches on the door and wrap the girls hair around their bony fingers. Then the vampires tilt the girls neck, plunge their teeth into her; a gush of blood and a sucking noise follows.

Montague Summers quoted both texts in his book “The Vampire in Europe” and neglected to comment or observe the similarities between the stories, maybe deciding not to stop the Croglin Vampire tale.

Clive-Ross discussed the case again with residents of the area. He was told that there was a significant mistake in Hare’s original account: the story took place, not in the 1870s, but in the 1680s, almost two centuries earlier. While this fact would definitely place the events prior to the publication of Varney the Vampyre, it also pushes the story far enough into the past to turn it into an unverifiable legend.

We suggest that you visit this little Cumbrian village and its pub “Robin Hood” to experience the real Croglin and decide whether the truth lies in the quiet graveyard outside or in the pages of James Rymer’s books.

Photo © Copyright Peter McDermott and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

You may also like