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The Devil visits Grosmont

There are so many stories and tales about the Devil’s visits to Herefordshire and Wales that we thought we would share another one with you. And if you think he always travelled alone, you would be wrong. Sometimes he brought his wife too!

Our story this week takes us just across the Herefordshire border to Grosmont, a couple of hundred years ago. To the rectory to be precise, where the vicar at the time had reported some strange occurrences. He had frequently heard tapping and knocking which he or his family could not account for. His furniture was moved about the house and if that wasn’t enough he also experienced the disappearance and appearance of small objects, much to his frustration and annoyance. This had been going on for a few weeks, so when a couple of sailors passed through Grosmont and heard about the vicar’s troubles, they decided to approach him with a proposition.
The two men were worldly and well travelled. They purported to have seen many a strange thing and advised the vicar that they could rid him of these ungodly occurrences. To be able to do this they would have to stay alone in the rectory overnight. They had some other demands too, two months payment in wages, a roast goose for dinner and enough cider to sustain them through the night.

Happy with the terms of their arrangement the vicar organised for a goose to be put in the oven and a barrel of cider to be delivered to the rectory. The sailors settled in for the night, happy to have a warm and comfortable place to stay and all the food and drink they could desire. The next morning however the vicar and his family returned to the rectory only to find the kitchen window smashed, furniture overturned and the two sailors slumped and snoring in their armchairs. It looked like there had been a tavern brawl. At this point the Vicar’s heart sank and he was bitterly disappointed that he may have been taken for a fool, until the two men awoke and explained what had taken place.

The reported that before settling down to eat they had explored the rectory to make sure that nothing was amiss and there was no trickery afoot. At around 10.00pm the goose was ready to eat so one of the sailors headed down into the cellar to fill a flagon with cider for dinner. As he made his way down the steps, he had an eerie sense that he was not alone. Cautiously he moved nearer to the barrel but as he did so the hairs on the back of his neck rose up and a real sense of dread overwhelmed him. There before him sitting on the barrel of cider was the Devil himself, grinning and looking rather menacing. The sailor was rooted to the spot and promptly fainted with sheer fright.

The other sailor who had been carving the roasted goose began to get impatient with his friend. How long did it take to fill a flagon with cider? So he went down to the cellar to see what was taking so long. As he rounded the corner he too came upon the Devil. However instead of fainting like his friend he approached the demon saying loudly, “By your leave, a flagon of cider I must have.” He then pushed past the Devil and poured himself a generous helping. Still not deterred by the presence of the Devil, he carried the flagon and his friend back to the kitchen.

The sailor who had fainted began to come round and was duly given a large mug of cider, which he glugged down as if to ease his shattered nerves. His friend continued to calmly carve the goose when all of a sudden a terrible crashing sound broke the silence. It seemed to be coming from the chimney. As they stared at the chimney breast wondering what was going to happen next, down came a frightening figure which stood before them. It was the Devil’s wife herself! As if nothing untoward was occurring she called down to the cellar, “Mr Longtooth, Mr Longtooth. The goose is cooked.”

The brave sailor was having none of this, he was looking forward to his goose dinner and turned to her shouting, “There is no goose for you this night.” Her eyes turned to his and she stared into his soul for what seemed like a lifetime. Unsure of what she might do next, he was surprised to see her climb back up the chimney and as quick as she had appeared she was gone.

Thinking the worst was over the two sailors ate their goose and drank enough cider so that they were mellow and weary. Looking forward to a good night’s sleep they headed upstairs and soundly nodded off. But not long after they were awaken by a terrific noise coming from the kitchen. As they headed downstairs they could see the Devil and his wife having a rye old time playing football. They were scattering and upending furniture as they went, causing a right old mess. The sailor who had taken them on earlier dived in between them and brought their destructive game to an end. In doing so the ball ended up smashing the kitchen window and with that the Devil and his wife vanished into the darkness of the night.

Heaving a sigh of relief the two sailors refilled the flagon with cider and proceeded to watch over the rectory should the troublesome twosome return. To their relief they did not. Their story you may think is far fetched and unbelievable. But the vicar was known to have reported that the hauntings had indeed ceased after their stay.
We’ll never know what really happened that night but what we do know is that things always look better after a flagon of Herefordshire cider!

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